From Prison Library to Prison Library

Craig Stanland
3 min readFeb 2, 2022

My memoir, “Blank Canvas, How I Reinvented My Life After Prison,” has gone full circle.

This week I received the email below from an inmate in Federal Prison:

“I hope that this email finds you well. I’m currently serving a 41-month sentence at the camp located at U.S. Penitentiary Leavenworth in Leavenworth, KS.

I wanted to reach out as I recently read your book ‘Blank Canvas’ and truly found it to be inspirational and motivating. I am hoping to open up a dialogue with you about your journey and learn more about your life since publishing your book.

I’m working on putting together a course for inmates here at the camp and would like to make your book part of the course syllabus (with your permission).”


I started writing “Blank Canvas” inside the Otisville Federal Prison library using those black and white composition notebooks we used in high school and a Bic pen.

I had no idea what I was doing; I only knew that I had to do it.

My goal, my desire, my hope, the fuel that propelled me through six years of work and around 1 million words written was to,

“help one person.”

Now “Blank Canvas” resides inside Leavenworth prison (and many other prisons, including where it was born, courtesy of Jeff Grant and the White Collar Support Group.)

Of course, my answer to this request is “Yes.”

My fingers are crossed the Bureau of Prisons approves the course and the book.

And, hopefully, Blank Canvas helps one more person.

We have no way of knowing how something we create will impact another; we don’t know how our hard work will be received, we don’t know a lot of things.

But this, we all know:

That unwritten novel burning inside you…

That business you want to create, but you’re afraid…

That charity you want to start, but you don’t know where to begin…

That symphony playing in your mind, that so desperately wants to come out…



Craig Stanland

I write about my journey from corporate success to federal prison and finding joy, mission, meaning, and fulfillment beyond professional and financial success.