Acceptance Speech

I’ve been asked to share what inspires me and how I’ve achieved my success in the world of the arts. Well, when I was growing up my mother had a button on her dresser that read “Fuck the Real World, I’m an Artist.” That did get my attention but it’s been her decades of survival in the real world as an artist that created the template, proving to me it was possible. In my house, art trumped money and the pursuit of creative fulfillment beat the pursuit of security. The freedom to read, write and make art of every manner was superior to the art of balancing the checkbook or the ability to use each of our utilities on a consistent basis.  

I learned by example but I also learned by trial, error, my own mistakes, failure, despair, waiting tables, cleaning hotel rooms, hitchhiking, getting engaged to the wrong wranglers and experimenting with every addictive substance I could get my hands on. I’ve hit mental, emotional, physical and spiritual bottoms and gotten laid off, finding myself confused, lost and miles off the path I imagined for myself. All of those things, experienced and examined, have given me a lot to write about.

I turned to writing and teaching because it healed me. Because it turned my lows and brokenness into stories, because writing is the alchemy by which we can turn the shit of our lives into gold. I have turned down full time jobs at the cost of health insurance, savings accounts, security and IRA’s. I have spent my last dollar more times than I can count. And it has paid off. Because I have become filthy rich in terms of community, connection, words and stories.

I am inspired by the writers, teachers and truth-tellers who raised me with the power of their narratives and by my own writing students, young and old, who are brave enough to share their stories with me and who allow me to share my stories with them every single day.  

I want to thank my family for loving me at my worst while holding out my best, my friends who walk the walk, my husband for being crazy and brave enough to marry a writer and Style Weekly for giving me my first byline when I was hungry and enthusiastic but inexperienced and green. I want to thank Ward Tefft at Chop Suey for providing my writing classes a home and Bird Cox, my business wife and partner in crime at Richmond Young Writers. Thank you all for taking a chance on me.