Tuition for CUNY Writers Institute
I'm looking to fund the $9000 tuition for what is arguably the best writing program in America, the CUNY Writers Institute's yearlong immersion with NYC's top editors. I am one of twelve accepted for the 2017-2018 program. I’ve lost much of my earnings since diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2011. I have no cognitive impairment so far, but my career had to change. I had led teams that engineered and managed complex projects, like The Yale Climate Institute's secure, scientific collaboration tools, but with tremors and voice/hand hesitations, my role as Lead became problematic. I was also an illustrator (for The New Yorker, among others) and had to learn a new way to draw. I was a designer (won a CLIO, became a CLIO judge), and I still design (books). But when I shifted from technical writing to creative writing (and editing), I found not just a low-tech career I can mange physically, but in fact my One True Art. I had two one act plays produced, one off-Broadway at the Makor, and began working on what has become a finished memoir.My manuscript—whose excerpts earned me this opportunity—is good, but needs astute, experienced editing. As do all first efforts, and in particular books about difficult events.
So why me? Why my book? I grew up in a home of regular and severe abuse, culminating in six weeks in jail at 14, in 1970, for being an incorrigible runaway, where I was sexually assaulted repeatedly, with the collusion of corrupt guards. I required surgical repair. Despite this, I became a single father at 20, raising my daughter for nine years before remarrying. With two more daughters, and with great effort, I truly broke the cycle of abuse. My children are successful and grown now, fierce and strong, beloved and independent. (One is a writer, one’s a professional artist, and my youngest is a forensic psychologist.) But a lifetime of hyperactive overwork, of denying and ignoring my childhood, caught up with me. Put on powerful brain drugs for my movement disorders, I finally crashed.The only way forward was to tell what happened, and re-inhabit my whole life. My memoir thus changed from a Young Adult book about single parenthood to a raw, ultimately fearless look at surviving the longterm effects of severe trauma, while learning how to be a good parent. With the help of a compassionate therapist, and a workshop with Bessel Van Der Kolk at the Garrison Institute, writing emerged as the best way to understand and accept my lifelong fear and grief, my hypomania and PTSD, and to recover, however imperfectly. “Healed” is not quite what happened, but I engage in healing activities every day. Compassion and mindfulness help me endure.
The Writers Institute puts twelve good writers with senior editors from The New York Times, The New Yorker, Esquire, The Wall Street Journal, The Paris Review, Granta, Time, Alfred Knopf, Bloomberg, Norton, FSG, among others. Over the course of a year there are two 12 week sessions. We meet once a week, after-hours, in the editors’ offices, and we use our manuscripts, new work, and each other's writings to grow from good writers to great. Some editors make formidable demands. All expect absolute top-level ability, professionalism, and a generous, receptive spirit. Unlike most writing programs, where one meets with writers/teachers and focus on new and creative, CUNY's program puts you in the editors’ cross-hairs. For writers of a certain calibre, who are reaching for the stars, this challenge is just the thing. I am humbled by my selection and a little nervous, but eager to begin.The Writers Institute gives me a unique opportunity to make my work ready, and to fulfill my potential as a writer. And perhaps, when published, to shine some daylight on the corrupt facility that permitted those assaults, on me and hundreds of young boys.
I’m asking for the $9,000 tuition. Additional funds would cover transportation (I live two hours away) and miscellaneous expenses. Anything beyond that would let me devote myself more fully to the considerable work of this program, by reducing the amount of freelance work I’ll still need to take on while attending. Thank you for reading this and for supporting my project!