Friends, it is not very often I get to share news this big, and I’ve been sitting on it for nearly four months, so here goes.
I’ve been teaching and designing online writing courses for the Elizabeth Ayres Center for Creative Writing for almost three years now. The Center is independent, founded in 1990 by Elizabeth in her own home, and exclusively online and expanding since 2000. It’s wonderful work and I’ve been so happy doing it. On this past New Year’s Eve, Elizabeth called me to say she wants to retire to follow a lifelong dream of hers (this incredible woman has many, many dreams), and she offered me the Center: to take it over, run it, grow it as I see fit.
After I picked myself up off the floor, I accepted her offer. She and I have been working closely together these last few months as I transition into this new role, and that work culminated in a visit to her home in Maryland two weeks ago, where we worked, read poetry, took walks on the beach near her house, talked about Buffy (her favorite show, too!), broke bread, bird-watched, and toasted to our respective new paths.
As of this week, I am the new director of the Center for Creative Writing.
Elizabeth wrote a sweet farewell to the Center, which I published as a blog post earlier in the week. I also wrote my own statement as its new director, and in it, I share a little about my background, how I came to find the Center, and what it means to me.
What I alluded to but didn’t outright say in my statement is that finding this job was a personal triumph for me on several levels, and it has everything to do with domestic violence.
My application to the Center was among the first I sent out after my escape nearly three years ago. For the person who abused me, my writing life and ambitions were huge points of contention. A controlling man is threatened by his partner’s ambition, success, intelligence, really anything that doesn’t concern or benefit him. If I feel any shame whatsoever about having been abused, it’s because even as I defended to the ground my right to write, I did stumble a bit. I hid my work and my goals, wrote on the sly, stopped sending submissions, withdrew from a lit community I was only just starting to feel part of. I didn’t own my accomplishments. My little bit of hard-won confidence took a huge hit. I still wrote, but I made myself smaller to try to avoid conflict. It didn’t work; I was just smaller, which is what a controlling man wants.
What I want is to own this moment, this feeling of bigness and excitement.
I want to own it with gratitude and humility, because I genuinely feel grateful and humble–about what I’ve worked for as much as what has been offered to me. It’s not easy for me to own, or even to say I want to own it, but stating a goal is as important as achieving one when you have a history of being silenced and shamed.
Thanks for listening and reading, if you’re doing so, then you’ve probably supported me in some way these past few years, so thanks for that as well. I hope you will visit the Center’s website and consider referring anyone who might benefit from taking one of our courses or working privately with one of our wonderful teachers.
And I hope you are out there owning your own accomplishments!