Help Sam Finish His Book

Photo caption: I have wanted this since young 

The Gist

Definitely read this: My 22nd Birthday just passed (my golden birthday!) and it's also the second semester of my last year in college. If you saw me around, you might buy me a drink or a cake or a meal. That's wonderful. I love you. But this year, I'd much rather you help me take this huge leap in my life. For those of you who really believe in me, and believe that what I can put into the world will make a difference, I'm asking you this year to take the couple bucks you would use to treat me and put it towards something that would be truly, truly meaningful to me: my creative writing career.

I mean, you should probably read this: To be able to write, I need to research, travel, learn, live, and I need time. Lot's of time. I'm going to use this money to make possible an adventure of re-education and creation. I want to travel the world as much as possible, seek out untold stories, and tell them. I will grow as a human and a thinker, and build a porfolio I can be confident in.

(If you want to see what I've been working on so far, check out my writing blog at

Obviously, this fund is not going to be my single source of life. I also plan to cut costs as much as possible, use some savings, and work my butt off as well. The details of my trip (where I go and when, etc.) will wholly depend on how much money I can raise and what opportunities I find. 

What about fellowships and oversees programs and stuff, you say? I'm not ruling those out for the future, but right now I've only found a few (which I am applying for but not counting on) that I'm qualified for AND offer me the kind of freedom I want. After this trip, I WILL be qualified. 

I guess you should read this: Please don't feel pressured to give.  The closer I get to this dream, the more I doubt myself, so your support and kind words mean just as much. Also, if you personally can't help out in this way, but no someone who can, forward them this link!

And now read on, if I still have your attention:

The Sob Story (AKA why it matters to me)

I've wanted to build worlds and tell stories since I was able to comprehend what things and places were. Some of you already know that I banned copyrighted material during recess playtime. So no, we will not play "Spy Kids," we will create our own original characters in the spy genre and anyone who thinks otherwise can leave! Okay, I wasn't that demanding as a child. All the time. But I did always demand a lot of myself.

Over the years, what started at recess playtime became a full fledged hobby, an obsession, and now an aspiration. Despite the intense academic pressure of my Naperville public schools experience, I filled journals and computers with character descriptions and maps, short stories, and long, detailed breakdowns of fictional government entities and their succeptibility to infiltration. At this point, I've imagined more cities than I've ever been to and some of my characters are as real to me as any of you. 

I did well in school, but only because of my ravenous imagination. Remember when I aced AP Gov? That wasn't because I love the US government. It was because I was looking for material for the detailed breakdown of a fictional government entity and its succeptibility to infiltration.  All of history is my box of legos. All of literature. Math and Science can hang out, too, I guess. Yes, fine, sometimes math and science can be pretty cool (see my 8th grade adaptation of SohCahToa into a fully illustrated children's adventure). 

All this to say, world building and storytelling have consistently been my passions since as long as I can remember. But those dreams were kind of smashed out of me by the mind-numbing press for college, and then in college, the soul-crushing press for a stable job in the real world.  I didn't remember how happy and fulfilled I was doing what I love until Junior Year of College when the only thing that kept me sane was going back to the high fantasy world I created in first grade and re-booting it for my current tastes (racebended the characters into people of color, added in an ancient language or two or three, threw in a couple revolutions, you know). That semester, I realized I couldn't be anything but an artist. I was built for it. This process of inhaling wonder and exhaling creation is -do I really have to say it? Really? Ugh fine. It's like breathing to me. 

So I went to all my professors and declared to them I was going to write short stories instead of papers. And after much insistence, pretty much all of them let me. Now I'm working on a 85,000 word Children's Fantasy novel for my Capston/Creative Thesis in American Cultural Studies. It's insane and I love it. (Though to be honest it might turn out terrible, but hey I'm learning). Honestly, I can't imagine not doing this for the rest of my life. And maybe one day turning books into screenplays and TV shows and videogames. I want to take over pop culture, is what I'm saying. I'll be like Walt Disney, but, you know, not at all like Walt Disney. 

The Rousing Speech About Art and Pop Culture
(AKA why it matters to you and the world)

Ok, but why Sam, should I give you money so you can frolic and write about magic and history and also sadness? What has that ever accomplished? 

Waaat? Only everything. I believe Ang can change the world. I mean Art. And if you don't, you should think about how much time you spend watching Netflix. Because guess what, someone is generating that content you are watching, and I would like to see you deny that these shows and movies you watch, and books you read don't have a profound influence on how you see the world. 

And it' so much more than that. I know a lot of you are doing real life things that make an impact every day, and sometimes I doubt myself for trying to enter a field which seems so disconnected from the reality of the world. I mean, I literally want to write fantasy. I've thought a lot over the years about wether I would be of better use to God and the world in a place where I am on the front lines fighting oppression directly. But while I admire with all my heart those of you who are going that route, that's not how my soul was forged. 

I've always been preoccupied with the long game: not how can I decrease world suck right now, but what does a world without suckage even look like? And why should we long for it? Why should all of us long for it? Not just, how can I destroy oppressive forces -but once an oppressive force has been destroyed, how do we heal? What do we fill that vacuum with? That space that's just been dealing with survival. How do we treat that

These questions don't mean I'm in the cloud waiting for oppression to end. I'm in the fight, too, just in a different way. I won't be directly working to fix a broken education system, but I'll be the one telling kids in the system that they matter, no matter how how abandoned by society they've been. I won't be dismantling wars, but I'll sure as hell be riling up the peace keepers. I won't be taking down oppressive systems, but I'll be exposing them to audiences that wouldn't otherwise be reached. Reading about superheroes? BAM Systems of Oppression! 

What I'm saying is, I'm here for massive cultural shifts. Art has that power -maybe not to move legislations or troops- but to move hearts and minds.  I can't do that unless I really know what I'm doing, though. I can't be effective unless I have the time and resources to master my craft. And if I want to bring medieval period African Civilizations to the forefront of American Consciousness and dismantle colonialist ideas about a "dark continent" and "the white man's burden" through engaging and fantastical, but also well researched and well thought out stories, I definitely need time and resources. 

The Breakdown (AKA where your money is going)

In short, I need funds for lodging, food, and travel.  I may also need to pay off student loans. I'm treating this like a scholarship and you all as my donors, so I'll be transparent about every dollar I spend and update you all on every leg of my journey as often as I can.

I'm looking at one year of travel across North America, the Carribean, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Isles. Don't be alarmed, this is only my starting scope. A continent or two may drop off the list as I make plans. I'm picking places that are reasonably accessable for someone traveling extensively like this for the first time. Also, a Slam Poetry tour will be part of this, if possible. (I am looking at ways I can travel and lodge for free, work seasonally, etc. so if you have any ideas, please let me know.)

The dream is to go to a few cities in the US, spend time in the Carribean, hit England [Spain and/or France and/or Italy] and Greece, ISTANBUL for certain, HONG KONG also and somewhere else in China [Korea? If I can find someone to go with me?] and then maybe French Polynesia. That's insane. It's not all going to happen, I know. But some version of it will. If anyone wants to join me for any leg of the trip for fun and/or to help me cut costs and/or as a language guide, please let me know. 

I also realize that $6,000 is barely scratching the surface, even if I do find money in other places, so if this campaign is successful, I'll raise the ask amount as I see fit. I chose this amount because it's a pretty typical amount given for a year long research grant of this nature, or a small-time scholarship. Again, I'm treating this money like it is a scholarship for my re-education, I hope you guys think of it that way as well.


I'm asking for help because if I went to random arts supporters right now they'd see I have not much of a resume, not much of a portfolio, and definitely no experience in the world. Every writer starts here. 

But you know me. And you've believed in me (or now believe in me hopefully) and that's brought me to this point in my life where I'm hungry for a kind of growth only I can sieze for myself. I'm terrified, but also very, very ready. 

You're not just supporting a random kid roaming the world, you are supporting me on an important step in my education. You remember me: My passion for this knows no bounds. My drive, no borders. My sense of curiosity and wonder hasn't dulled in 22 years (it's only gotten sharper). And I'm ready to write for my life.
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Sam Lai 
University City, MO
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