On November 9th, I was officially accepted into the Green Olive Arts residency program in Tetouan, Morocco, for a one month residency where I will focus exclusively on writing short fiction. For all my readers and friends, here are some of the developments that led to this wonderful opportunity and what it means for myself and my supportive community:
I was having a difficult time deciding whether or not to attend a graduate program in the coming year–as they are expensive, unless fully funded–and very competitive. An MFA in creative writing also does not guarantee anything, except usually regret at having spent so much time paying for something that many writers have taught themselves. My other option was to continue on the track that I began last year, which is working a paying job enough to grow my writing career and filling up the rest of my time with everything and anything related to writing and supporting a writing community. Many of you know I volunteer as the senior prose editor at Kanas City Voices and on the board of their parent non-profit publisher, Whispering Prairie Press, both of which have extended my understanding of the mechanisms behind non-profits as well as the unending creativity of the larger community. This year marked a turning point for me when I published the article, The Empress’s New Clothes in July. The wide and surprising circulation of this piece gained the attention of individuals and organizations I would not have previously become connected with. When I was approached by the editor of The Pitch to write art criticism for the weekly paper, I thought, “this is among the top five things I never expected to come out of this”. You can now find my published reviews here.
There are many ways to become a writer and give yourself time to pursue a self-directed education, many of which are hidden unless you look deep enough inside your own goals and dreams and commit to the oft difficult task of constant writing. I’ve decided to postpone any MFA applications for now and let my new opportunities in Kansas City lead me places I could not arrive at simply by holding a new degree. That said, I have taken my education into my own hands, writing and reading and practicing everyday until my lifestyle is inseparable from my goals. One way to continue to do this with uninterrupted time is to attend a residency. I applied to five residency programs this year and Green Olive Arts was the one that came through. Gaining admittance to this residency is a huge step for my career as a writer, as I have never been allowed a complete month away from daily responsibilities to focus exclusively on my work. With the support of grant organizations, friends, family, writers, readers, and believers, I’m hoping to raise the money I need to pay my travel expenses from May 8th-June 5th while I attend Green Olive Arts in Tetouan, Morocco.
I am not attending this residency as a tourist. Global conversations require a new approach–one that is not dictated by the outrageous political figures or religious fanatics. While these men are fighting to be heard louder than their opponents, Muslim women are being overlooked entirely. This conversation effects their lives, but they are not permitted to have a voice in the male-dominated debate.
Morocco has been a famous haven for expatriate writers–all men, who have enjoyed a certain amount of male privilege in the US and abroad. As a woman traveling alone, I will see a side of Morocco that has not been romanticized or glossed over.
During the month in Morocco, I will write and refine my growing collection of short stories, which will act as a kind of self-directed thesis, in lieu of grad school.
Here is a break down of my budget for the one month time period:
Lodging: $800 ($200/week)
Studio Fees: $960 ($240/week)
Traveling expenses: $900 round trip plane ticket (or cheapest possible)
World Nomad Insurance: $125
Food: $300 ($10/day)
Home expenses–I will be holding my apartment, paying student loans and bills, health insurance, etc: $800 (not my monthly budget, this is just for bills)
This total represents the minimum funds I must raise to have a productive and successful residency, covering my basic needs and peace of mind.
This amount factors in Murphy’s Law, allowing flexible room for any unexpected expense that may occur during my time in Morocco. I have lots of traveling experience and I know that no matter how well you plan and how fixed your agenda, something is always thrown into the mix. Maybe I get stung by a jellyfish, maybe I lose my shoes, maybe I take the wrong train, maybe I make the wrong currency exchange. Who knows? It happens.
Since my paid work is directly connected to being present in Kansas City, I will have no flowing income during my time in Morocco. I average about $1,200/month in income (which is a pretty substantial pay cut for a girl in student loan debt). Even if I saved the $200 a month I use as flexibility money just for the residency, I would still come up short. I have not created a campaign yet to help relieve some of the pressure of these expenses, because with the right amount of grant money, the amount I would need to crowd fund would drop. If and when I decide to make funding public, I will let you know right away.
Writing is my life. It’s all I do. It’s all I want to do. It’s the only thing I don’t mind doing for complete days at a time with no payment. My future and my joy is directly connected to the task of writing and satisfaction of a story completed and shared with the world’s readers. This exciting opportunity for me to focus inward and practice my voice, my nuances and empathy, is one of a kind. Thank you to everyone who has supported and believed in me for this long, and thank you to those I have never met but somehow turn up at my website and read my fiction. Thank you for everything.
Here is some work I am proud of. Your support during this time is greatly appreciated, and not all support is financial! Read and enjoy, talk about and respond, and never discount the importance of creative exchange through fiction.
And a brand new story, before any hard edits: Survivors