John J. Lennon headshot.
Photo by Christaan Felber

John J. Lennon

Creative Nonfiction Writer, Journalist

2024 Fellow


John J. Lennon (he/him) is a prison journalist in Sullivan Correctional Facility in New York, where he has been incarcerated for twenty-two years. After entering the prison system at age twenty-four with a ninth-grade education, he started his career in a creative writing workshop at Attica. His first essay was published in the Atlantic in 2013.

A singular storyteller, Lennon has published major features about gun control, prison reform and rehabilitation, mental illness behind bars, day-to-day life in prison, and the pandemic experience while incarcerated. His 2018 Esquire article, “This Place is Crazy,” was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing and anthologized in the Best American Magazine Writing 2019. Lennon’s essay “The Apology Letter” was featured in the Washington Post Magazine’s special prison issue, which won a National Magazine Award in 2020.

In 2023, Lennon was the first incarcerated person to be awarded the Galaxy Gives Artmaker Fellowship for his work with Freedom Reads and the Prison Letters Project. He is a contributing editor at Esquire. His writing frequently appears in the New York Times, the Atlantic, and the New York Review of Books. Lennon’s forthcoming book, The Tragedy of True Crime, will be published by Celadon in 2025.