School of New Resources, New Rochelle campus
Instructional Staff, Letters
It's always great to find the student who is inspired by the readings and takes the coaching to heart. That's the best part about the job.
Sing Sing Correctional Facility and the town of Ossining loom large in the imagination of David Goewey.
The School of New Resources instructor grew up in the Westchester County town, where his grandfather, father, and brother would all work for the notorious maximum security prison, which opened in 1826. "It was the big industry," said Goewey, although now it's almost hard to find.
For much of the 1990s, Goewey lived in Los Angeles, earning a bachelor of arts degree in English at California State University in Northridge. But his hometown followed him all the way across the country. In 2000, his brother, who had retired from Sing Sing, sent him a packet of material about a 1941 escape from the prison.
"He thought it would be a good screenplay," Goewey said. He also tried to make a go of it as a novel, but that wasn't working out. He mentioned the idea to a writer friend, who introduced him to an agent. With the help of that agent, Goewey shaped his material into a nonfictional, historical true crime book that blends in the history of New York City, Irish immigrants, and holdup men.
Crash Out: The True Tale of a Hell's Kitchen Kid and the Bloodiest Escape in Sing Sing History, tells the story of immigrant kids who pulled off big heists before being sent up the river, where they plotted a daring escape that killed four men and ruined the reputation of the country's most famous warden. The gripping historical epic was published in 2005 to rave reviews.
Goewey had moved back to New York by then, earning a master of fine arts degree in fiction writing from the New School, and in a happy, fortuitous coincidence, ended up living just around the corner from where his main character once lived in Manhattan.
Goewey has returned to Sing Sing since then, in writing and physically. A practicing Buddhist, Goewey wrote a story for the magazine tricycle about a handful of inmates who practice Zen meditation every afternoon. That piece occasioned an all-day tour of the facility, which has a population of 2,400. "It's an amazing place," Goewey said, "with two of the largest cell blocks in the world."
These days, teaching full-time keeps Goewey plenty occupied. He first taught at SNR as an adjunct in 2006, then full-time at Co-op City and Brooklyn before moving to the New Rochelle campus. Before that, he was an adjunct at LaGuardia Community College, where he taught writing and English as a second language. "This place keeps you busy," Goewey said, especially with SNR's renewed emphasis on improving student writing.
"It's always great to find the student who is inspired by the readings and takes the coaching to heart," Goewey said. "That's the best part about the job."
Also filling Goewey's schedule is an 18th-century Colonial home in Connecticut his wife inherited, which they are restoring. "It was the reason we came back from L.A.," Goewey said. The property has its own literary history, having been the setting of the Stillmeadow books, a series of stories by Goewey's wife's grandmother, Gladys Taber, about city folks buying a house in the country. The couple also have their hands full with a 5-year-old daughter.
But Goewey says he's got at least one more book in him, and that one will be set in his hometown, even though he hasn't visited in recent years and doesn't have family there anymore. "A Faulknerian take on the whole place," he muses. "There's a gothic strain to it -- an old, old town, with old places from when the Dutch arrived."