“Being sentenced to ten years in the California State Prison at the age of fourteen was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”
Imagine my surprise upon hearing this coming from twenty-five year old debut author, Terry L. Wroten. At the age of ten, Wroten who was a resident of South Central, Los Angeles joined the infamous 4trey gangster crips street gang. At the age of thirteen, Wroten was shot six times by rival gang members. At the age of fourteen, Wroten was taken into custody and charged with three murders, robbery and assault. Inevitably he was exonerated of the three murder charges but was sentenced to the California Department of Corrections for a period of ten years for the other charges. At age twenty-five, Wroten is the most anticipated street literature author coming from the West Coast.
At the time of his incarceration, Mr. Wroten was illiterate. He would have to have cell mates read him letters from his mother and also write his letters to her. He was unable to even address an envelope. He spent the first two years of his incarceration in a juvenile detention center where he began to learn how to read and write. A few months short of turning sixteen, Wroten was transferred to Tehachapi State prison. Here, the older inmates would help Wroten with his reading and writing. Sometimes the guards would even give him a hand. An older cellmate taught him how to use a dictionary at which time he learned how to look up words he couldn’t understand and inevitably expanded his vocabulary. Wroten reports that his comprehension skills seemed to almost immediately become enhanced upon learning how to utilize the dictionary. After being stabbed while engaged in prison riot at the age of eighteen, where inmates and correctional officers were injured. Wroten was placed in the Segregated Housing Unit (SHU) for term five years for battery on a peace officer. It was at this time he read the book entitled “Gangsta” by K’wan and thought that he could write a similar tale. This is when he started to write.
In 2007 at the age of 22, Wroten was released to a half way house in order to become un-institutionalized and learn how to find his way back into society. He had a counselor which he reported to daily. After several meetings the counselor told Wroten that if he could not find gainful employment soon, he would be revoked and sent back to the penitentiary. When the counselor questioned Wroten about what he was able to do or what kind of skills he had, his reply was, “I don’t know how to do shit but read and write.”
Wroten’s counselor then asked to review some of his writing. Upon completing eight years of his ten year bid, he had approximately seven manuscripts completed. While being placed back in custody on a parole violation, Mr. Wroten had the opportunity to finish his scripts for a total of twelve completed novels upon his release. His counselor was extremely impressed by the content of Wroten’s stories and felt as if his writing was comparable to other urban street lit. authors.
Wrotens counselor decided to try and help him find a publisher. After being incarcerated at the time of the internet boom, Wroten was completely unfamiliar with how to use a computer or the internet. The first thing the counselor taught Wroten was about the social networking site, My Space. It was there that they reached out to the inspiration behind Wroten’s writing, author K’wan. K’wan recognized the talented young man’s writing skills and for two years the two corresponded while preparing for the release of “Natural Born Killaz”.
Now that Wroten has signed a book deal under K’wan’s publishing house Black Dawn Inc. he is hoping to open some doors for others on the West Coast. As of now, the East Coast has a strong-hold on the urban fiction-street lit. genre. Wroten also aspires to show kids in urban communities that may be going down the path that he once did, that illegal hustling, selling drugs and gangbanging isn’t the only way. He currently does free motivational speaking at high schools and community centers in the Los Angeles area. Also, Wroten has penned an anthology; out now, with authors K’wan, Jrod Nider, JM Benjamin and Randy Ski-Thompson titled “The Massacre”. His debut novel by Black Dawn Inc. entitled “Natural Born Killaz” is also available now.
Mr. Wroten is also hoping to break into the film industry. He is currently in the process of writing screen plays and continuing to work on manuscripts. He also wants naysayers of urban fiction to know that had it not been for the gritty street tales urban fiction portrays, that he most likely would have remained illiterate and a lifelong menace to society. Wroten went on to point out that most characters in urban street lit do tend to redeem themselves at the end of the novel. “This is something we can relate to, not Judy Blume, Stephen King or JK Rowlings. This is what life is. I’m just bringing it to the frontline,” he stated humbly.
As the author of this article, I do have to say that Mr. Wroten humility was a pleasant surprise. Having a little bit of background information before speaking to Mr. Wroten, I assumed I would be talking to a rough and gruff thug; however, Mr. Wroten was kind, soft and well spoken whose passion and desire to write, not for fame and fortune but to find a way out and to inspire others was made evident throughout the entire interview. His gratitude and thankfulness to author K’wan for giving him an opportunity to fulfill his goals is inexpressible. His desire to be a role model and help others is also like nothing I have ever seen before.
If you would like to contact Terry L Wroten, you can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook
21st Street Urban Editing & Publishing, LLC