Read and Write with Natasha

She helped a murder suspect escape and wrote about it

April 17, 2024 Natasha Tynes Episode 53
She helped a murder suspect escape and wrote about it
Read and Write with Natasha
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Read and Write with Natasha
She helped a murder suspect escape and wrote about it
Apr 17, 2024 Episode 53
Natasha Tynes

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Toby Dorr, is a former prison librarian who made headlines in 2006 for assisting convicted murderer John Manard in a daring escape from the Lansing Correctional Facility in Kansas.

Toby, who faced legal consequences for her role in the escape, shares her side of the story, shedding light on the events that captivated the nation in her new memoir Living with Conviction.

Hear firsthand about the choices she made, the consequences she faced, and what life has been like since her involvement in this infamous prison break. 

Don't miss this in-depth conversation with a central figure in one of recent history's most talked-about prison escapes.

Support the Show.

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➡️ P.S: If you find my content useful, you might want to check out my Substack newsletter, in which I talk and vent about the writing life:


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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Toby Dorr, is a former prison librarian who made headlines in 2006 for assisting convicted murderer John Manard in a daring escape from the Lansing Correctional Facility in Kansas.

Toby, who faced legal consequences for her role in the escape, shares her side of the story, shedding light on the events that captivated the nation in her new memoir Living with Conviction.

Hear firsthand about the choices she made, the consequences she faced, and what life has been like since her involvement in this infamous prison break. 

Don't miss this in-depth conversation with a central figure in one of recent history's most talked-about prison escapes.

Support the Show.

****************************************************************************

➡️ P.S: If you find my content useful, you might want to check out my Substack newsletter, in which I talk and vent about the writing life:


Speaker 1:

So I think, though, today we live in a beautiful world where people it is possible for people to self publish their books and get them on Amazon, and there are a lot of opportunities for people, and so I've started helping some women because I have the you know, the digital background computer layout with, because I did all my workbooks myself, laid them out. I use Adobe Illustrator and Adobe InDesign, so I've started helping other women prepare their manuscripts so that they're ready to be self-published.

Speaker 2:

Hi friends, this is Read and Write with Natasha podcast. My name is Natasha Tynes and I'm an author and a journalist. In this channel I talk about the writing life, review books and interview authors. Hope you enjoy the journey. Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of Read and Write with Natasha. I have with me today Toby Doerr, who dared and think of her. What she did was she liberated a handsome younger man, a convicted murderer, from Lansing Correctional Facility and, since completing her time in federal prison, toby has achieved two master's degree and rebuilt a broken life. Through her memoir Living with Conviction, you will feel all the heart-pounding, tear-jerking, heartbreaking, eye-opening experiences that touch the most primal human needs, the need to be significant. So, toby, thank you so much for joining me today.

Speaker 1:

You're welcome.

Speaker 2:

Wow, what a story. This is like a Netflix show.

Speaker 1:

It is. Yeah, it's a pretty crazy story, that's for sure I love crazy stories.

Speaker 2:

You hear my stories, but yours are crazier, definitely. So I'm going to get my coffee and I'm going to kick back and I'm going to listen. So, toby, thank you for joining me, and I think we're going to start by the start of your story. So what happened? You know, I am assuming you fell in love, but just tell us how your unusual story started.

Speaker 1:

I did so. You know, I used to tell myself I had the perfect white picket fence life, and I think I told myself that because I wanted to believe it. Okay, but in 2004, I was diagnosed with cancer, and so that kind of makes you stop and think and I realized I really hadn't done anything to make a difference in this world. I've just been taking up space. So I felt called to do something that would make a difference. And so in 2006, I started a prison dog program, and that was 2004. I started the prison dog program and I took dogs from shelters into the prison, and they was 2004. I started the prison dog program and I took dogs from shelters into the prison and they lived with inmates and inmates trained them and then I took them out to adoptions, and you know, that was something that was really making a difference. I was saving the lives of dogs that were going to be euthanized, but I was also saving the lives of the inmates, and I didn't even realize it that that was going to happen. But you know, when you take a dog into a prison and give him to a man who has maybe been locked up for 10, 20, or 30 years and has never even had a visit. And now they have a dog that they can hug and hold. It just changes the world. And hug and hold, it just changes the world. And so that prison dog program became my life.

Speaker 1:

But in 2006, my 2005, I'm getting my years mixed up in 2005. My dad was dying of colon cancer cancer, and it was just a devastating event for me and I kind of fell apart and one of my dog handlers noticed that I was struggling and and you know he asked me what was wrong, what was going on in my life, and and it felt so validating to have someone notice that I was struggling in some way. And you know, it kind of opened my eyes and eventually I fell in love with this dog handler and when he decided that he wanted to be with me outside of prison and thought escape was his only option, you know, at first I thought that's a dumb idea, there's no way I would do anything like that. But I eventually thought, well, you know, maybe I could do that.

Speaker 1:

And so I found myself doing the craziest thing, which was helping a convicted murderer escape from prison. And up until then, you know, I had never even had a speeding ticket, I had never had any kind of trouble with anything in my whole life. I never even was grounded in high school because I always did everything my parents wanted me to do, and I kind of just came apart all at once in an international headline grabbing way. How did you help him escape? Well, he hid in a dog crate inside of my van when I came to pick up dogs for dog adoption.

Speaker 2:

Oh wow, and nobody noticed? No, nobody noticed.

Speaker 1:

Actually he was in the crate and some inmates brought the crate down and put it by van and you know, with some extra equipment we were trying to get out of the prison. So the officers were expecting it. They just weren't expecting that there was going to be a person inside. How big was that crate? It was a pretty big dog crate, but it wasn't big enough to hold a six foot four man. I don't know how he fit in there, I have no idea, but you know it was a bigger dog crate that you could have put a, you know, a German shepherd or some large dog in Pretty good sized dog crate.

Speaker 2:

Okay, so you put him in the dog crate, you drive off. What happens next? What happens next, what happens?

Speaker 1:

well, you know. So we, we had this plan, uh, to go to this cabin in a remote area of Tennessee and just hang out for a month or so, and then we didn't have any plans. You know, we spent a lot of time planning the escape, but we didn't plan what you were going to do after the escape and um you know, after weeks they figured out where we were the FBI fugitive team and they set up a trap for us on the hot on the interstate.

Speaker 1:

And we had a high speed car crash, you know, 100 miles an hour, with all these police cars chasing us, and we went through the woods and we went into other lanes and it was a crazy, crazy thing. But we ended up, john ended up losing control of the truck and we hit a tree head on at a hundred miles an hour. It was a pretty wild and crazy ride, that's for sure, and you know so. Then we were kind of just ripped apart. You know, john went into one police car, I went into another, we went to two different jails and that was it, we were gone. I was a mess. I was just a emotional broken mess because, you know, I was so filled with shame and I was so embarrassed. And here I was, you know, going to court, and this person who'd never even had a speeding ticket, and and I, it was kind of shell shock because I never pictured myself being in that position, which was ridiculous because of course I was going to get in trouble. You know how old were you?

Speaker 2:

How old were you?

Speaker 1:

I was 48.

Speaker 2:

Were you married at that time.

Speaker 1:

I was married yeah. I was married, you know and I had two sons who were grown. They were both in college.

Speaker 2:

OK, ok, so you wanted to leave your husband for that month?

Speaker 1:

Yes, yes, Okay, I did At that time. I did, and you know that maybe wasn't my brightest decision, but it definitely forced my life in a different direction. So I ended up with a 21-month state sentence and a 27-month federal sentence. Luckily for me, they let them run at the same time, so I only had to serve 27 months, which was a long time. It felt like forever, but in the whole scheme of prison sentences it's not very long. So I was, you know, blessed to have a rather doable prison sentence.

Speaker 1:

And so, you know, in my life before this, I had a million things going on all the time and I wanted to check things off my checklist every day and I thought a good day is if I could finish 17 things. But here I found myself in jail and there's nothing to do. I mean not anything to do the entire day and the entire next day and the entire next day, there's just nothing to do. You just sit there.

Speaker 1:

And so I really struggled with that, because I was a person who did things. I had projects, I got things done, and I realized that this was going to be a big lesson in patience. And I also realized that for the first time in my life, I had a gift of time that I could spend on myself and I could take that 27 months and use it to look back and really analyze my life and figure out the things that needed to change in my life and figure out the parts about me that were working well and focus on making those stronger and work on healing the parts that were broken. And so my 27 month prison sentence really was a gift of time that I could use, to you know, heal myself and figure out who I really was and what I wanted to do with my life. And so you know, actually I look at my time in prison as a blessing, because it really was the only time in my whole life I've ever been able to just focus on myself and what was in my head.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and do you think it was maybe like a midlife crisis? Oh yes, absolutely yeah absolutely it was.

Speaker 1:

You know, and my husband and I got we started dating in high school, we were both 15. We got married when we were 20. And I think, you know, we weren't fully cooked yet, we weren't people yet, we weren't adults, and and we continued to grow after we were married. But we kind of did this kind of a thing and you know, he went in one direction and I went in another and we didn't have any common interests or any common activities, except for taking our sons to their activity. And then when my sons were out of the house, it was just so blatantly obvious that I didn't even know this person who was sitting in the recliner in my living room. I didn't know who he was, I didn't know what was important to him and I couldn't relate to him in any way. And I think we just really grew very far apart during our marriage. As we both grew up, we just grew in different directions.

Speaker 2:

So you go to prison. What was the reaction of your community, of your kids, of your son, of your husband? Your neighbor, neighbor since you lived kind of like the suburban cliched life so you know it was.

Speaker 1:

It just kind of blew my mind because I was on the news all the time. It was like every time I'd go to court I'd be on the news shuffling into the courthouse and it was like how can that be a story over and over and over again? It's a good story it is a good story.

Speaker 2:

I mean, I'm a journalist and if I see a suburban mom falling in love with an inmate and putting him in a crate, yeah it's, it's a great story. Yeah, and everybody that's.

Speaker 1:

That's why yeah, yeah, that's true. And um, you know, course, my husband was so embarrassed and hurt he didn't see it coming and we lived in Kansas City, kansas, but it's kind of like a small town. Everybody knows. Because you know he told me, what must the world think of me if they think that, if they look at me and think that you left me for a convicted murderer, that makes me like trash, and I can understand that he would feel that way and I know that it really hurt him and embarrassed him. And you know that really wasn't my intent.

Speaker 1:

And my sons they were embarrassed, their mom's running away with the younger guy, you know, and it's all over TV, and my sisters were embarrassed because everybody wanted to talk about me and they were tired of talking about me in my case, and so you know it was difficult for people in my life.

Speaker 1:

I think there were ones who just stepped in and loved me unconditionally and then there was a whole bucket of people who just felt embarrassed and didn't want to be connected with me in any way and it was very much a jolting crossroads in my life, I guess. So you know, when I came out of prison I had to rebuild relationships and in some cases, let go of relationships that just weren't going to work, and find my new life, find my new purpose and make a new, whole new path. Because you know, when I got out of prison I really didn't have anything. I went to live with my mom, but my husband, of course, divorced me while I was in prison and I didn't have a home to go home to. I didn't have, I didn't have anything. So I just literally really started over.

Speaker 2:

So how did you start over? How did you start over, Like with a record and all of that? How did you apply to jobs? How, how did you, how did?

Speaker 1:

you get a job. You know, I kept applying for jobs and I couldn't get a job because nobody wanted to hire a felon and the places that would hire felons wouldn't hire me because I was too high profile of the case and they didn't want the media coming around, you know, asking questions in the parking lot. So I really struggled with finding a job. So I ended up, you know, just, I knew how to build websites. I had played around with doing some website work before I went to prison. So I just started my own business and started building websites for people.

Speaker 2:

And so you started. And how did the business go?

Speaker 1:

You know it supported me. I wasn't very, you know, richly rewarding, I got by, I supported myself, but but it was a whole different life. So you know, before I went to prison I'd had a corporate job and my husband was a firefighter and and we always had whatever we needed. And so after prison, you know, I had to start over really with nothing, and and rebuild and and there really is never been a point in my life since then where there's some kind of cushion to fall back on. It's been, you know, keep working, keep scrambling, keep pushing through. So it's been quite a different way of living.

Speaker 2:

So what did your experience in prison teach you? How did it change you?

Speaker 1:

My experience in prison taught me how much I could love someone else and I'm talking about the other women in prison I met had the. I had the most profound deep relationships with these other women in prison because, you know, we're all at our most vulnerable and we're all at our lowest plate, and so you know, we would lift each other up on days when one of us would fall and I've never had that strength of a platonic relationship with anybody and it was just the most beautiful thing that I've ever experienced, that sisterhood that I felt with a lot of women inside prison. It was also a time where I really got to know who I was and got to know what was important to me and figure out, you know, how I could make a difference in the world, how I could go out and use this story to try to inspire other women to work through whatever they're facing or perhaps to make a better decision if they're at a precipice of, you know, making a decision that might throw their life away.

Speaker 1:

So I just found purpose in prison and I guess I found peace in prison. You know peace in my own head. So you know, I learned how to accept things that were difficult and I learned how to work through them and come out on the other side.

Speaker 2:

So I read that because of all and you mentioned that at the beginning of the interview that you had a lot of time on your hand and that gave you the idea to help Like when you, when you got out of prison, to help Like when you, when you got out of prison. How did you make this your?

Speaker 1:

purpose is to fill the time of inmates by helping them. When I got out of prison I knew I was going to write a book, because everybody wanted to know why did you do it and and how did you survive it, and you know. So I knew I was going to write a book, but what I didn't realize is that there was more I could do than just that, my memoir, just telling that story. So I went to a conference in Chicago and it was a woman starting movements conference and it got me thinking. You know, I use that time in prison really as a gift to myself to rebuild my life and build a strong foundation on which I could, you know, rest for the rest of my life. And but I realized that a lot of the women in prison that I knew maybe didn't have the skillset to know how to do that.

Speaker 1:

So I created a workbook called Butterflies Unleashed and I created it with women in mind that were in prison and it just kind of takes them through. It's a 12 week program and it just kind of takes them through a series of exercises to build strength of character, you know, like perseverance, and know how to set boundaries, and discernment and gratitude, and have a vision and, you know, learn to be strong in your faith. And it just had different exercises. And so, you know, I felt really good about that.

Speaker 1:

But then I realized, well, what about women who are getting out of prison? Or they're getting out of a halfway house, or they're getting out off of parole or they're leaving, they're in a battered women's shelter, they're trying to get out of a poor situation? Because community is so important. We are the community we keep, and so it's important to be a productive member of a healthy community. And so I decided well, I'm going to write a workbook to try to help women find and create a healthy community, and so I call that Be Unleashed. And then I created a third workbook called Dragonflies Unleashed, which is for women who feel a calling to do something with their life, but they can't really pinpoint what it is.

Speaker 1:

So it's just some exercises to try to help them, you know, define their vision. And actually these are the workbooks right here, so there's three of them, but Butterflies, bees, bees, dragonflies and bees, so so.

Speaker 2:

So you, you're going out to prison and and give them a wait, or do you mail them?

Speaker 1:

well, I I well, covid hit, you know, right after I got these done. So I had lined up some prisons and some halfway houses that I then the halfway houses I was going to come in and actually teach these courses. And I had lined up another volunteer program in a women's prison locally who was going to take these and put them into their existing curriculum and use them inside the prison. But then COVID hit and so, you know, no volunteers could come in and in fact they're just now starting to let volunteers back in the prisons. It's been a long time.

Speaker 1:

So really what I'm trying to do is to reach out to prison administrations and show them these books and reach out to other volunteer groups who already are in the prison doing a program so that they can, you know, take these programs and use them. So I don't see myself going into the prison and teaching these courses, although I would love to, but I don't really see that as a possibility because I was a volunteer who helped someone escape, so I think a prison might be pretty reluctant to let me come back in as a volunteer. So I think the avenue I need to follow is with other groups that are already established.

Speaker 2:

Plus there's only one of me. Yeah, but even after you served your time, you know. So they still won't let you. Ok, no, no, no. So how?

Speaker 1:

is your life now. You know my life is so rich. Now I have I've created these three workbooks. I wrote my memoir. I published a book of poetry that I wrote while I was in prison. It's poems from prison I have I'm working on two other book projects.

Speaker 1:

I've started my own podcast called Fierce Conversations with Toby, where we really address difficult topics, all the topics that we avoid talking about you know, like how to deal with a traumatic and sudden death of a child, or how to how to approach someone who's had a miscarriage and help them through that. Or you know how to survive a wrongful prison conviction and come out on the other side and do something positive with your life. Or you know how to. I just recorded an episode with a young woman who's a college student, who has battled an eating disorder and has been suicidal, and how she's worked through that. So we just talk about really you know difficult topics that most people don't ever talk about, because I feel like we should be aware of them and if we have these conversations now, then at some point in the future, when you know heaven forbid some tragedy happens to someone in your life, you might be a little bit more equipped to deal with it and help them through it.

Speaker 2:

And do you live alone? Do you have like a partner?

Speaker 1:

I got remarried about a year and a half after I got out of prison. So I am remarried, yeah, okay.

Speaker 2:

So how did that happen, like how was the date, how was the dating scene? Well, we didn't even date.

Speaker 1:

You know, it was just funny. So we were good friends and we were both starting over and Chris, who's my husband now. But he suggested why don't we rent a two bedroom house together? We're both trying to start over, you know, and he knew about my past and he was trying to work through some things in his past and he said why don't we just rent a two bedroom house together and we can share expenses and then when we're and we can, you know start rebuilding our lives, and when we're ready, you know, we can each go on our own direction. It'd just be a good time to help each other through, and so we did. But then our relationship kind of grew during that time and we ended up getting married. So we really never dated, you know.

Speaker 2:

We just kind of, yeah, you were friends and then from friends, that's nice yeah. And how old were you when you remarried Like you remarried in your 50s.

Speaker 1:

I was I guess I was 52 when we got married. Yeah, and he's nine years younger than me. So I'm going to be 66 in a couple of weeks and Chris is going to be 57 in December. So there's a little bit of an age difference, but it hardly matters at this point in our lives. So Chris has a son. He had one child and his son was very much a part of his life and we actually live with them now. So they created a separate living space in their home, so we have our own apartment here and we live with them, which is great because they have two kids who are our grandchildren and and we just love them and they're right here in the house with us. So it works. You know that we can be here for them and have this extended family. So it's it's really been a blessing.

Speaker 2:

That's nice. So how is? Are you still in touch with your sons or your kids?

Speaker 1:

No, my youngest son died of cancer about a year after I got out of prison. So that was. That was so sorry. Yeah. Yeah, that was a pretty tough time, and my older son has chosen not to be involved in my life. Okay so, okay. So, you know, maybe someday we'll find a way back together, but you know that's his choice and I give him a space.

Speaker 2:

I'm sorry to hear. It must be tough on you. So I mean, for me, hearing this story is that is how you moved on, how the story of resilience and how you forgave yourself and yes, yes. And I want to talk about your journey of, or have you, you know, forgiven yourself or? Yes, I have.

Speaker 1:

It took a while I have forgiven everyone and everything in my life that might have had an influence on getting me in any direction that I've been. I believe that it's the darkest valleys in our journey where we have the opportunities to learn the most. So, you know, I thank God for all the rough places and all the hard places that I've been, because it really made me a stronger woman and I love who I am today and I wouldn't change anything about my life because I think where I am is the place I was meant to be and I'm doing the work I was meant to do.

Speaker 2:

And what was the reaction to your memoir? When did you exactly publish the memoir?

Speaker 1:

I published it in June of last year, 2022. And I you know I've gotten a lot of great responses from it and I've got, you know, I get emails all the time, you know, from women that I don't know who said I just read your book, or I just saw your episode on Dateline, or I just heard you on this podcast and I just wanted to reach out to you and tell you. You know, I know how you feel, I know what you went through and you give me hope that I can get through this too. And that's what I'm all about, you know reaching those women who need hope.

Speaker 2:

You were on Dateline during what happened or after? Did they interview after, after or just after I was on?

Speaker 1:

Dateline about a year and a half ago.

Speaker 2:

Two years ago, I guess. Yeah, two years ago in June, the episode out yeah, okay, I'll, I will make sure to check it out. I'm a huge fan of that, yeah yeah, yeah, andrea Canning did my episode.

Speaker 1:

Uh, I remember what it was called, but it's on my website. There's a link to it on my website ah, okay, I'll definitely.

Speaker 2:

I'll link to it as well in the show notes. Yeah, okay, yeah, so wow, this is fascinating. So I actually just finished reading a book called the Many Lives of Mama Love. I'm not sure if you heard about it. It's another memoir of a woman who was incarcerated for identity theft and then how she rebuilt her life and now she's a literary agent. She's publishing books. Oh really, yeah, interesting.

Speaker 1:

I can send, rebuilt her life, and now she's a literary agent.

Speaker 2:

She's publishing books.

Speaker 1:

Oh, really yeah Interesting.

Speaker 2:

I can send you her info.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, send me her info. That's great yeah.

Speaker 2:

The book just got published, I think a few weeks ago. Okay, and my book club, we picked it for my book club, so I just finished it.

Speaker 1:

Oh good, yeah, I mean, I'm an avid reader. You can see, I'm just surrounded by books. There's a whole wall of books over here too, so I completely relate. Yes, I can see that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, Now let's see. So how was your publishing journey? Did you self-publish? Did you find an agent? How did it go? Well?

Speaker 1:

my publishing journey was quite interesting and I think that you know, I think there's so many excellent stories out there to tell and I think the world needs to hear them and I feel there are a lot of different opportunities for people today. I got an agent right off when I, you know, finished my memoir and sent out queries. I got an agent pretty quick and I was so excited to have an agent I just jumped right on it. But then COVID hit and the world just changed. And after 18 months or two years and nothing had happened with the agent, I just felt like I needed some fresh eyes on it, I needed to try something different. So I left that relationship with an agent and then I needed to wait six months, because there was a period of time where I had to give you know space, because if another agent approached the publisher that this agent had approached, then she would have gotten credit for it, and so I felt like another agent wouldn't be too willing to take me on until that six month period was up.

Speaker 1:

So I decided to just take a six month break and, you know, go back and look at the manuscript and see if I what changes I wanted to make, and just come at it again. And during that time I went to a women in publishing seminar. It was an online digital seminar, online a virtual seminar, and it was a several day program and I was one of the speakers in that program. So one of the sponsors of the seminar was a publishing company and they heard my story and they reached out to me and offered me a publishing contract with them. So I ended up going with them and I you know, I didn't have an agent at all then.

Speaker 1:

So that's how it worked for me, but you know I didn't have an agent at all then.

Speaker 1:

So that's how it worked for me, but you know, I have a lot of friends.

Speaker 1:

I've become part of a group of women who are all authors and writing and working on their memoirs and other works, and it's so difficult, really, to get an agent because there's so many people writing books out there and, unfortunately, you know the books by Prince Harry and all these other big names, that's the one that agents want to jump on, but if you're a brand new, first time author, it's a lot more difficult to get it.

Speaker 1:

You know, get the attention of an agent and a big publishing company. So I think, though, today we live in a beautiful world where people it is possible for people to self-publish their books and get them on Amazon, and there are a lot of opportunities for people, and so I've started helping some women because I have the you know, the digital background computer layout with, because I did all my workbooks myself, laid them out, and I use Adobe illustrator and Adobe in design. So I've started helping other women prepare their manuscripts so that they can they're ready to be self-published, and I find that that's kind of a fun little niche for me, because I believe all of our stories should get out there into the world and if I can help other people get their stories out there then you know that makes me feel good about the work I'm doing Fascinating.

Speaker 2:

So you're helping them for for like a fee or for free, or how are you offering For now?

Speaker 1:

I've helped women that were friends of mine and I've helped them and I haven't charged them, but you know I I would do it for a fee at some point, probably because I just enjoy that kind of work, formatting the books and designing covers and things like that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's yeah, because I actually hired someone to help me lay out my book.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, now I know how to do it myself.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, especially if you use Amazon KDP, all these specifications it drove me crazy. I was like I can't, it's like I don't have time for this now. So it was easier to outsource it, but now I know how to do it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, that's what I use for the friends of mine is Amazon's KDB program, which really is pretty easy to get your book out there. But if you don't understand margins and bleeding and you know how how to create the cover with the right size of spine and all that yeah, it can be intimidating it can be, but not, yeah, now they have something called, I think, kdp create and yeah, and it helps you with all that stuff.

Speaker 2:

It made it much, much easier. So that's something to think about. So how did the book do? How was I? I mean, if you're okay sharing with me, yeah, I'm fine with it.

Speaker 1:

So I wrote my book because I believe that there's women out there who need to hear my story and I want to inspire them and give them hope, and so, for me, the measure of how well my book is doing are those emails that I get you know several times a month from readers who say your book has changed my life. That's why I published this book.

Speaker 1:

And so that's how I measure my success and you know, I think this is like the third or fourth interview I've done this week, and two of them I didn't even know I was going to do. So you know, my story continues to have interest out there, and so I view it as a success. As far as the number of books sold, I'm satisfied with the number of books sold. Of course, you'd always like to sell more, but compared to you know how many authors out there and how many copies of their books they sell I think I've done pretty good so, which is excellent. You know, I didn't sell a million copies, I didn't even sell 10,000 copies, but I've sold several thousand copies and I, you know that's great with that yeah, that's great, that's great.

Speaker 2:

I mean, it's, tell me about it. It's. It's really tough, yes, to sell books. And yes, you know, for me eventually, if, like, it doesn't matter now how many books I sell, you know there's more books to do I just enjoying the conversation. Yes, yes, especially the conversation with the readers. I think that's. That's really. Yes, I think that's great.

Speaker 1:

And I've had. I've had a couple of book clubs who've chosen my book as their you know they're what they read couple of book clubs who've chosen my book as their. You know their what they read. And I offer to book clubs that if they use my book in their book club then I'll do a zoom call with them at the end of their reading of it so that they can ask me questions that maybe they had that didn't get answered in the book, or if they want to know, you know, more than what the book had in it. So I've done that once and I have another meeting scheduled for October and then I have one scheduled for April of next year. So that's really fun and I really enjoy that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I've done it twice. I think it was really fun.

Speaker 1:

I did it via Zoom it's really great to hear what the readers think you know and people who don't know you because you know when. People who don't know you because you know when you ask your friends to tell you what your book's like. They know you and they know your story. But these are people who knew nothing about me and and it just is it, that's the reason I wrote my book. For those, yeah.

Speaker 2:

So, in terms of marketing, what worked best for you in terms of selling your book? I mean the reason I ask, because there's lots of aspiring authors listening to the show. So you know, I always ask this question just so that we can help writers, I think marketing is the hardest part.

Speaker 1:

You know, we wrote the book and everybody thinks writing a book so hard and it is. But I'm telling you, getting out there and selling it is even harder. Because, you know, as writers, maybe marketing isn't our thing, but you know, I did some book signings at you know some Barnes Noble stores.

Speaker 1:

It's harder to get in Again. It's just like the publishing thing If you're just a person, bookstores aren't so willing to have you come in. But Barnes Noble likes to feature local authors. So I've gone to several different Barnes Nobles in the area, in different cities around me. But social media has to be the tool that you take advantage of, and so I have really delved into social media and I make a social media post every day, and every day it's about something related to my book. So, like on Wednesdays, I talk about women. I call it Wednesday women, and there are women who've done something to make a difference in the world and there are women that we've never heard of, maybe because you know. You could talk about Eleanor Roosevelt and Harriet Tubman. Everybody knows who they are. But I go find Clara Hale and Virginia Hall and some women, that whose names are not household names and I share their stories. So that's my Wednesday post. And then on Fridays, I call it felony Friday, but I post a lesson that I learned.

Speaker 2:

I like that. Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

And you know, then I talk about things related to my book. I talk about there's a day of the week and I forget which day, but I post something about criminal justice, injustice, criminal injustice, something that's broken in our criminal justice system, and so each day I try to come up with a different kind of a theme. But it all ties back into my book. But it isn't just saying hey, buy my book, here's my book. I'm trying to, you know, educate people about the topics that my book covers. And then one day a week I put a you know a plug out there for one of my books, or the card deck that I published too, and and just remind people that those are out there.

Speaker 2:

So what channel, what channel do you think you're more active, you're most active on, and that it's with the highest ROI? Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

I think I get the most feedback from Instagram. Yeah, instagram for authors. But I use LinkedIn because I've delved into this deep community of criminal justice reform people in LinkedIn. So if I want to talk about a topic that's related to statistics, or you know prison statistics, or you know some particular case. I always go to LinkedIn for that kind of post.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, have you tried TikTok.

Speaker 1:

I haven't tried TikTok at all and I know I should. Everybody says, and it's like how many social media platforms can one person manage? You know, I know, I know, Cause I have Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter or X and Instagram, and so I haven't gone to TikTok, but I know I should. So that's on my list for 2024.

Speaker 2:

So what I do is the same, like reels that I create for Instagram.

Speaker 1:

I just post them on TikTok yeah.

Speaker 2:

And I get some engagement from new audience, different audience. It's interesting, but that's something you know to consider.

Speaker 1:

I mean.

Speaker 2:

I'm I'm like you, like dabbling with different platforms, but honestly, now my favorite platform is podcasting, because of the intimate yes because of the intimate conversation, that yes.

Speaker 1:

I love it. Yeah, and you know, I release my podcast in audio version on all the podcast platforms, but I also release a video version on my YouTube channel and I get a lot of feedback on the YouTube channel.

Speaker 2:

Ah, that's good to know.

Speaker 1:

Way more comments than I do on the podcast.

Speaker 2:

Ah, interesting, because I post mine on the YouTube and the engagement is not that great. Any tips on how to improve it, or do you have? Is it the thumbnail?

Speaker 1:

I promote it on my social media. So one day a week, you know, tuesdays is my day to promote my podcast, either on the YouTube or the podcast itself, and so I don't know, and I'm you know, I'm kind of feeling my way through this. I just started my podcast in April of last year, of this year and um, but I've already got interviews recorded to last me through March of next year. So I've got a lot of a lot of interest in it.

Speaker 2:

So yeah, I mean I told you it's, it's a, it's a, it's a, it's a great story. I mean it's a tough what happened to you, but you know how you survived is very inspiring. Yeah, so there was in the news, I think a few years ago. Sorry, I was in a fog with all the little kids in my house so maybe I didn't pay that much attention, but I there was a story about, I think, a woman, a prison guard, a female prison guard, vicki White.

Speaker 1:

Yes In.

Speaker 2:

May of 2022. Yeah, that she helped two inmates escape correct.

Speaker 1:

Well, no, that was Joyce Mitchell. In 2015 in New York, she helped two inmates escape. Yes, yeah, the story that was in May. And they did the movie Escape from dan mora about her, about the joyce mitchell story and actually the joyce mitchell stories at the end of my book, because it was when she helped those two people escape that I realized I'd kind of come to a crossroads in my life. Either I need to embrace the notoriety of my story and go out there and tell it, you know, or I need to just build a separate, quiet little life. And I decided, you know, to embrace my story. And you know I've been on Anderson Cooper and Inside Edition and you know all kinds of people have come and wanted my input, and so, you know, I've embraced those opportunities, input, and so, you know, I've embraced those opportunities. But then last May, you know so Joyce Mitchell was a big part of where I am today. She's the one that brought me out of, you know, my safe space.

Speaker 1:

But last May, vicki White, who was the deputy in a prison, helped Casey White escape. And when I saw that headline, it just devastated me because I knew exactly what was going on and I knew exactly how she felt and what she was going through and I, you know, and once again the media came and wanted to know why would she do that? And I followed that story so close and I was had every intention of being there to help Vicki White through this, because we knew she'd get caught at some point and you knew she was going to go to prison and I wanted to be there and offer her support and let her know she could do this. You know, I intended to try to be a really strong part of her life and be somebody she could lean on and and and who would be there for her.

Speaker 1:

But she died in the capture. You know, she killed herself, she shot herself in the head and I was devastated, just devastated because Vicki White was such a good person and I think she had so much to offer the world and, oh, I was just devastated because, you know, that could have been me. I felt myself in her story so much to offer the world and, oh, I was just devastated because you know that could have been me. I, I felt myself in her story so much and, um, that's heartbreaking.

Speaker 2:

So she I sorry I'm not familiar with her story so she fell in love with an inmate and she escaped with him. Yeah, and you, during the capture, um, she, she shot herself. Yes, okay, that's horrible.

Speaker 1:

Yes, it was just devastating, and it showed me so clearly how my story could have been.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, wow. And did the media contact you after these couple?

Speaker 1:

of stories? Oh, yes, yes, a lot. Did that trigger some emotions in terms of did it really did? Because during that time when you're on the run and you're with this person that you've fallen in love with, I mean there's euphoria for being together, but there's also this crushing paranoia that someone's looking for you and you know, oh, did they? Did? They see us? And you know it's just, you can't even put into words the pressure of that time when you're on the run, because it's just you're expecting the worst every single second. So it's hard to just live. You know, it was really a weird kind of a time warp couple of weeks because you couldn't really be a person more.

Speaker 2:

Couple of weeks because you couldn't really be a person. You know, it was just that was just an odd place to be. Yeah, so what happened to his name is john right, the inmate that you fell in love with. So they caught him. What?

Speaker 1:

happened to him? Yeah, so he got 20 years added to his life sentence okay, and he's still there still in prison are you in touch with him?

Speaker 1:

uh, yes, off and on I am. Uh, he'll email me once in a while and we'll just have a period of a few months where we exchange emails regularly and then he'll drift away and then someday he'll pop back in with an email. So we do stay in touch. And actually my husband and I have gone to visit him in prison and that was really a valuable and necessary step in my journey because, you know, we never really got closure.

Speaker 1:

You just kind of get ripped apart and you kind of got to find your own way out of this relationship, but going to visit him in prison, you know, I could give him a hug and I could tell him goodbye and I could feel closure and I could just move on with my life. So it was a really valuable experience.

Speaker 2:

Do you think it was genuine love or was it? I do think it was no.

Speaker 1:

I do think that he loved me and I know I loved him. I do think it was genuine. I don't think it could have lasted. You know, I think there were so many things against that relationship that it wouldn't have lasted forever, but I do think that it was authentic.

Speaker 2:

And he was in jail. For who did he murder?

Speaker 1:

Well, he didn't actually kill someone, which is also factored into my decision to help him, but he was convicted of murder under the felony murder rule. Didn't actually kill someone, which is also factored into my decision to help him, but he was convicted of murder under the felony murder rule. So if someone is killed during a felony, then anyone that's involved with the felony gets convicted of murder. So they were stealing a car and there happened to be a man sleeping in the car and his buddy shot this man that was sleeping in the car as they got in to steal the car. And so that's how. And he was just 17,. You know, he was just a kid and he didn't think he could get convicted of murder. So he wouldn't even talk to his attorney about the case, and you know, but he was.

Speaker 1:

He was convicted of murder and given a life sentence and the. You know, the sad part of his story is that if his crime had been committed in a neighboring county he probably would have gotten eight or 10 years sentence. But he just happened to be in a county that was really tough on crime and didn't tolerate crime at all. So things against him and you know, part of me felt bad that he got such a crappy deal in his sentencing, you know, but that wasn't my place to try to fix it, but I did, you know, I did try.

Speaker 2:

Wow, have you seen the movie Empty Comedy? But it's raising Arizona.

Speaker 1:

I don't think I have.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's just, it's an old movie and she's a prison guard who fell in love with one and I'm not sure if she helped him escape or she waited for him to serve his sentence and then she married him and then two inmates escape and they come to his house to stay with him. It's a comedy, it has a Nicolas Cage, but it's interesting for you to watch and to give your comments and maybe that would be a good social media post.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I'll put it on my list. I am going to watch it and see.

Speaker 2:

But that would be a good social media post.

Speaker 2:

There's a line in it that I always quote, which is so I was born in Jordan, in the Middle East. Right, you can tell from the accent. But so she's telling her husband that you know we cannot have those inmates here in the house. They escaped and he was. They escaped and he was like and he goes like in his voice and I think it was nicholas cage he's like but honey. It was like but honey in arab land. They would put out a plate. It was like you should. You should accept the guest, regardless of what their background is. So now, whenever, like, anyone comes to my house and people like don't want to serve, just like but honey in arab land.

Speaker 1:

That's funny yeah, it is funny, but that was yeah, see I'm I'm wearing this as well oh, yeah, yeah, that's cool in arab land, but yeah, so that.

Speaker 2:

So it'd be interesting for you to yeah.

Speaker 1:

I'll watch. I put it on my list here. We'll watch it yeah, yeah. So I also do book reviews on my, uh, social media. So okay, so you know, you know, I just kind of mix it up, so it's not like every day it's the same thing, it's just different stuff. But I have a stack of books about topics that are near and dear to my heart and I'm going to do book reviews of those books that have.

Speaker 2:

So you should definitely have the many lives of Mama, love and maybe you should actually have her on your podcast.

Speaker 1:

I think that'd be a great idea. I'm going to make a book.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, she just published it. I think she served a year in prison for identity theft. She was addicted to heroin and led her to make all these bad choices.

Speaker 2:

So this has been amazing. Toby, I salute you for your courage, for your, you know ability to reinvent yourself, for inspiring others and, you know, for just showing us that you know we can make mistakes. We. You mentioned that shot herself, that it could have been you, but how you survived and that's the good story that we want to hear is that we're all humans. We all err, we all make mistakes.

Speaker 1:

You know for society to for us to forgive ourselves and for society to give us a second chance as well yes, yes, because you know, one of the things I like to say is that none of us is our worst mistake. We're a whole conglomeration of a lie. We're not just that one worst mistake correct?

Speaker 2:

yeah, I mean, I and you know who of us is is perfect and who of us is gonna cast a stone on others. You know yeah.

Speaker 1:

My husband likes to say we're all felons, we just haven't got caught. You got caught.

Speaker 2:

Exactly, there's a felon in all of us. Yes, that's right. That's right, that's true. So, toby, any final words? I'm going to make sure to watch the dateline episode tonight, but, um, any final like about?

Speaker 1:

you know, I just think it's so important for all of us to tell our stories because I think the world needs to hear them, and I think it's so important for women, especially as they approach midlife, to really take a healthy look at their lives and see what prison they need to escape. So in my life it was perfectionism and duty, and you know my workaholic-ness, so I think we all have something we need to escape from in our own lives and you can do it in a healthy way.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, this is amazing and for anyone who's listening or watching, they can find your books on Amazon on your website and Toby doorcom.

Speaker 1:

All five of my books are on Amazon, and the two that I'm working on will be out there as soon as they're published, so yeah, Excellent, well for anyone who is listening or watching.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for joining another episode of Read and Write with Natasha and until we meet again, thank you.

Speaker 1:

Thanks, bye, natasha.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for tuning in to Read and Write with Natasha. I'm your host, natasha Tynes. If today's episode inspired you in any way, please take the time to review the podcast. Remember to subscribe and share this podcast with fellow book lovers. Until next time, happy, happy reading, happy writing.

Living With Conviction
Finding Purpose and Community After Prison
Resilience and Forgiveness Through Life
Publishing Journey and Self-Publishing Opportunities
Marketing Strategies for Selling Books
Social Media Engagement and Personal Stories