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Rain Shadow Review

A literary journal that gives voice to inmates of Arizona State prisons and throughout the United States

read the journal


Rain Shadow Review is a free annual literary journal showcasing the creative talents and work of current and former prisoners of various correctional facilities, and occasional contributors also impacted by the criminal justice system. 

The journal is a result of the Creative Writing Workshops directed by Gillian Haines at Arizona State Prison Complex and Richard Shelton at the United States Penitentiary in Tucson, Arizona.

Both the Creative Writing Workshops and issues of Rain Shadow Review have been funded by grants from the Lannan Foundation, Sante Fe, New Mexico, and in partnership with the University of Arizona Poetry Center.

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monthly workshop newsletter


In response to the pandemic, in 2020 Rain Shadow Review began producing monthly newsletters that offer poetry and prose exercises and sample writing for currently incarcerated people who are unable to attend the prison Creative Writing Workshops. These are available for anyone interested in increasing their creative writing skills.

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contributing artist david palmer


submission guidelines


Award-winning author and former Richard Shelton student Ken Lamberton oversees submissions throughout the United States. Most contributors have been participants of various creative writing workshops in Arizona’s state prison system, and, except for the occasional invited contributor, all work is produced by currently and formerly incarcerated inmates of various U.S. correctional facilities.

Creative writing and artwork submissions published in Rain Shadow Review range from the work of fledgling writers and artists to those who have become widely published, award-winning, and nationally recognized.

send your best writing for us to consider

If you are or were incarcerated and you write fiction, nonfiction, or poetry of literary quality, please let us consider your work for possible inclusion in a future issue of Rain Shadow Review. Artwork is also accepted.


Either email us or mail us a print copy by including a stamped, self-addressed envelope if you want your work to be returned.

Do not send your only copy.

Mail to:

Rain Shadow Review

PO Box 85462 

Tucson, AZ 85754-5462


rainshadowreviewwork at gmail dot com

untitled by garen zakarian

I live off leftovers
scattered along a dusty highway
stretching twenty thousand miles behind me

I live off memories
which hunt me down
at every turn

I live off scrapings
of a luscious meal
served at the parties of experience

I live behind a one-way mirror
watching the world
I live on pages
of unwritten books
and songs unsung

I live off vivid smells
spring grass
cherry blossoms
aphrodisiac violets

I live off smiles
engraved on retinas
unsaid goodbyes
abandoned on the sidewalks
chasing the tinted windows
of a departing bus

I live off the future
That is left behind
Hand Drawing

get it in print


Subscribe to Rain Shadow Review in print for free.
You don't even have to pay for the shipping.

Your free subscription is possible thanks to the Lannan Literary Grant. 

Rain Shadow Review is published once a year and is mailed out to subscribers in the spring. We respectfully request that used issues not be resold, but instead be donated, passed along, and shared freely.

print issues from the archive

Print copies of past issues may be available at your prison unit library and at The University of Arizona Poetry Center Library in Tucson, Arizona.

how it started



Richard Shelton was a young English professor in 1970 when an incarcerated man named Charles Schmid—convicted of multiple murders and dubbed the "Pied Piper of Tucson" in national magazines—sent Shelton his brooding verse and asked for feedback. The exchange began what would become for Shelton a life-long commitment to helping prisoners express themselves.

That same year, Shelton began directing his first prison creative writing workshop in Florence, Arizona. Decades later and with support from the University of Arizona Poetry Center and the Lannan Foundation, the program has thrived. Many of Shelton's students have gone on to publish the works they created while incarcerated. Gillian Haines now leads two Shelton workshops in the Tucson Arizona State Prison Complex and serves as a consultant for inmates who submit their work for publication in the Rain Shadow Review

In 1989, Shelton produced the first issue of Walking Rain Review, giving voice to scores of previously unknown important writers like Jimmy Santiago Baca, Michael Hogan, William Aberg, and Ken Lamberton. Shelton's wife and long-time UA Poetry Center Director Lois Shelton, who passed away in 2015, devoted over thirty-five years to typing and copy-editing the handwritten work of men in several Arizona State Prisons for their workshops and for submission to publications. That small gesture made a big impact on budding writers in the program. For the majority of these contributors, who are not allowed access to typewriters or computers, the Rain Shadow Review is the first time they see their work in print

Walking Rain Review was renamed Rain Shadow Review in 2011—and remains a free literary journal showcasing the creative talents of current and former inmates. Many of these writers have won prestigious awards, establishing themselves within a greater literary community. We are proud to have played some small part in the writing careers that these creative writers have carried with them beyond prison.

go behind the scenes in
Crossing the Yard


Read about the journey in Richard Shelton's book Crossing the Yard: 30 Years as a Prison Volunteer. In this gritty memoir, Shelton offers up a chronicle of reaching out to forgotten men and women—and of creativity blossoming in a repressive environment. He tells of published students such as Michael Hogan, Billy Sedlmayr, Greg Forker, Ken Lamberton, and Jimmy Santiago Baca, who have made names for themselves through their writing instead of their crimes.

Shelton also recounts the bittersweet triumph of seeing work published by men who later met with agonizing deaths and the despair of seeing the creative strides of inmates broken by politically motivated transfers to private prisons. And his memoir bristles with hard-edged experiences, ranging from inside knowledge of prison breaks to a workshop conducted while a riot raged outside a barricaded door.

Reflecting on his decision to tutor Schmid, Shelton sees that the choice
"has led me through bloody tragedies and terrible disappointments to a better understanding of what it means to be human.”


Crossing the Yard is a rare story of professional fulfillment—and a testament to the transformative power of writing.

Our Team

meet the editors


Richard Shelton



Gillian Haines



Ken Lamberton


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Dora Rollins



contact us


To subscribe to the free print journal, send us your name (or recipient's name) and current mailing address using our online contact form here. 

You can also mail your request to:


Rain Shadow Review

PO Box 85462

Tucson, AZ 85754-5462

Or email us at:
rainshadowreviewwork at gmail dot com

Thanks for submitting!
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contributing artist ken lamberton

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