I won a writing competition and thus will be dropping everything in my life to move to Portland OR next month to take a writing workshop with Chuck Palahniuk. I’m one of 16, chosen out of ~200 applicants, to spend 3 months workshopping some writing with Mr Palahniuk. I was in complete shock when I read the email, posted the news to Facebook, and a huge amount of support and generosity came from friends, family, and old acquaintances posting, texting, and calling me encouraging I set up a GoFundMe to make it happen. I feel a little weird about this, and the only thing I have to give in return is writing, but here we are.
The current and future state of my employment is super unclear, but my employer knows that I am going regardless of if they will take me back or not when I return. What’s most scary about that is not knowing what kind of financial mess this may leave me in come springtime, but, my outlook on the whole thing is simply this.
Lucky, the only debt I have is student loans, and I have enough money in my emergency fund (this counts as an emergency, right?) to cover those bills while I’m away. So I’m only worried about paying for rent and food. I’ve spoken to a bunch of folks on AirBnB, found a good deal and I’ve got a small space to stay. Anyone wanna help me sell a kidney? That should cover everything.
I submitted to the application pool on a whim, because I thought it’d be nice knowing my favorite writer spent 30 seconds reading something I wrote, fully knowing I don’t live anywhere near Portland so I had no expectation for this to go anywhere. In the email telling me I got in, Palahniuk said my writing was 'exceptionally unique', and I could not get that nugget of overwhelming emotion out of my brain until it hit me that there is no choice but to go. Quit my job, sell my shoe collection, secretly live in the Portland library, whatever, it’s happening.
(Left, 2011, Right, 2016)
In 2011 I drove to Philadelphia in the middle of the night to stand in an ice storm outside of a library for a few hours with strangers while we waited for them to let us inside to start the line for a book signing. I was second in line, got my 30 seconds with Chuck, and then on my way home spun out in a snow storm in the middle of nowhere on a trucking road in a blizzard and ended up stranded-ish. (I called my dad and he helped me find a hotel and talked me though driving in the white out, it was a nightmare, he loves telling the story at parties.) In 2014 I drove out to upstate New York for a small reading and again was seccond in line to meet him. In 2016, I camped outside of a bookstore from 2 a.m. until the signing at noon so I could be first in line to greet him. When I graduated with my Master's in writing, I wore a dress I hand made out of fabric I custom made to be the pages from one of his books. I sound obsessed, but there’s a reason I’m so wide-eyed about the guy:
I didn’t learn to read until much later than most kids, I'm dyslexic, and I never read a book cover to cover let alone enjoyed it until I found his writing. It completely changed my perspective on my own writing and creative worth and I wouldn’t be where I am today without that, so to be chosen for this is something I have to pursue at whatever cost.
I have talked to my superiors at work about a potential leave of absence, but I don’t know if that’s going to be approved and I’m not super optimistic about it. I love my job, I feel very supported and encouraged by everyone in my department to create worthwhile meaningful work, and so I’m extremely hopeful I'll still have a position when I return in the spring. But being gone for 3 months is a lot, and theres precedent involved, and I get that, so there’s a good chance I’m going to have to quit. But right now the powers at be are discussing and will go over it with HR and we’ll just have to see what happens. As much as I love the place and what I do, I’m only 23 and I can start a new path if I have to. It’s a risk, a big honkin gamble, but I’m ready.
(Left, highschool grad cap, right, undergrad grad cap. All Palahniuk book quotes.)
Lastly, all I have to give in return for support is writing. Any dollar amount 10 and over gets a poem or short story with one word per dollar. ($10 = ten word poem, etc.) I don’t think I can write a decent piece in less than 10 words, so any amount under 10 gets a hug, high five, a doodle, I dunno I’ll figure something out.
In 4th grade I wrote crappy poems from random prompts I’d pull from a box Ms. Bozack would pass around. These days, I’ve been able to publish a piece of writing every few months for 5 straight years. If I didn’t have the support of you folks, the spaces you provide for performing, the encouragement and challenges, the borderline harasment to set this page up, I wouldn’t be planning an entire lifestyle flip around to go workshop my stuff with my favorite writer.
If you want to read my writing, some of it is on NJTPoetry.com. I should be reading at The Gerund a few more times before I leave, too.
(The graduation dress made from Diary I wore when I got my Master's in Writing)
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