My friend and fellow writer, Kerry Neville, has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for Ireland for the Fall Semester 2018 and has been invited to teach in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Limerick. (Announcement! https://frontpage.gcsu.edu/article/news/georgia-college-creative-writing-professor-wins-prestigious-fulbright-ireland). As you know, funding for education and the arts has been cut under the Trump Administration, and a Fulbright grant can no longer cover full funding.
Additionally (I know Kerry doesn’t mind my sharing this), she does not have the financial resources to cover the gap as she has significant child support obligations and is responsible for all transportation costs for her kids (who live in Pennsylvania during the school year) to visit her in Georgia (opposing counsel successfully argued that she “abandoned the kids for professional pursuits” by moving to Georgia for her tenure track position). If you know Kerry, you know this is not true. If you are in academia, then you also know the realities of the job market: this was the only job offer Kerry received after having applied to more than 60 over 3 years. And if you are a woman, you know that the necessary and purposeful ambitions of women are often seen as suspect, as secondary to that of men. And if you are a mid-life woman, you know the enormous difficulties of trying to reenter the workforce after taking a temporary break.
Let me tell you about my friend, Kerry, though maybe you already know her from her critically acclaimed short story collections, Remember to Forget Me (https://www.amazon.com/Remember-Forget-Me-Kerry-Neville/dp/0998966738) and Necessary Lies (https://www.amazon.com/Necessary-Lies-Kerry-Neville-Bakken/dp/1886157561); or maybe you know her from her recovery focused essays (like this one! https://www.ravishly.com/why-i-speak-without-raising-my-hand); or maybe you have been a student blessed to be in one of her classes or in one of her transformative writing workshops; or maybe you just know her from her heartfelt, funny, honest, politically engaged posts on Facebook which touch many of us because she has used her own struggles with and recovery from Bipolar Disorder, an Eating Disorder, and an addiction to share her message of hope. “Hold fast to the horizon,” she says, “and a larger, more joyful, more just life is waiting.”
But there is more to her story that you might not know: In 2010, she left her tenure-track teaching position (on the cusp of receiving tenure) because her bipolar disorder and eating disorder were life threatening; she decided to try wholeheartedly for health and stability over professional pursuits, went on Social Security Disability, and dedicated the next several years to regaining stability and health. But she didn’t disappear! She wrote about her recovery experience in her blog (http://mommamaybemad.blogspot.com/) hoping to help others who might be similarly suffering and feeling isolated in their illness.
Like the Phoenix, she rose from the ashes, and in her recovery, has vaulted wholeheartedly into an independent, fierce, unruly woman--a truthteller and survivor-thriver. Her writing is fierce and unapologetic: she holds all the shameful, dirty, black bits of her struggles into the light of language, in search of truth and empathetic outreach. Perhaps she has touched you in this way.
She told me she felt shame about accepting help in this way, but then, with gratitude, has embraced this GoFundMe campaign because she, too, has campaigned for so many of you, offering help and support in your struggles and successes, and knows that asking for help is not humiliation but an act of humility: accepting the grace of community in support of her dreams.
Your support will help cover the salary gap and airfare for her kids to visit her in Ireland. Won’t you help send her into the world, to Ireland, bridge the gap between (what feels like) impossible hopes and possible dreams? And if you know Kerry, you know she always pays it forward.
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