PDP Stories: North Carolina Writer Belle Boggs on How PDP Changes Lives

2013 is a landmark year for Creative Capital—we’re celebrating the tenth anniversary of our Professional Development Program! In that decade, we’ve worked with more than 5,500 artists in 150 communities. In honor of each of those artists, we present the new monthly series PDP Stories, in which we’ll share our participants’ accounts of how we’ve impacted their careers and lives.

This month’s PDP story comes from Belle Boggs, a writer from Pittsboro, NC, who took the Core Weekend workshop through the North Carolina Arts Council in 2011. A year after her workshop, Belle wrote to us:

I realized today that it has almost been a year since my life changing Creative Capital workshop, and I thought with excitement about the lucky North Carolina artists and writers who will be participating this year. I wanted to share with you some of the ways that weekend has changed my work and my life.

When I began the workshop, I was exhausted from trying to balance a writing career with teaching a demanding five-­course load at a charter high school. I thought that I had somehow ruined my career by teaching high school—that ­no university would want to hire me—­and was trying very hard to build my C.V. while maintaining the job that I depended on financially (and loved, in many ways). But the balance wasn’t working; I was only writing in the summers and on holidays, and I found myself missing important opportunities. Every sick day I could manage, I used to attend workshops, give readings, and travel for my book. I knew that something had to change, and that feeling grew stronger as I listened to the Creative Capital workshop leaders present about valuing what truly feeds your work (and your life). I signed up for a one-on­-one conference with Colleen Keegan because I knew she would tell me I needed to quit my job. She did—using exactly the supportive, smart words I needed to hear.

Not long after the workshop, maybe two weeks later, I was notified that I had been awarded a fellowship from the NEA. Using some of the strategies I learned from Creative Capital, I negotiated a new, greatly reduced schedule for February–June, when I officially left the school (on good terms; I am still a consultant there). In the meantime, with the extra space to write and promote my work, my career started to take off. I published a story in Salon, had a story performed on Selected Shorts (and got to see it live!), and published an essay about infertility in Orion. This was around the same time I had my follow-­up phone meeting with Sue, who encouraged me to pursue my nonfiction writing goals. Using Sue’s advice, along with some of the suggestions I heard at the Creative Capital workshop, I promoted this essay myself, emailing people whose work I admired and telling them that I was proud of my essay and wanted them to read it. I also told Sue that I was interested in writing an essay about North Carolina’s eugenics program for Harper’s, and she counseled me on how to make that happen.

Not long after our phone call—again, maybe a couple of weeks later—I heard from Orion that my essay was being reprinted as the lead readings piece in the May issue of Harper’s. It was also mentioned in New York Magazine, chosen as an editor’s pick by Longreads and Longform, and I was invited to discuss the piece on the Diane Rehm show. Editors approached my agent with interest in a book, and I outlined a series of essays about infertility, reproduction and choice that I hope to work on. With more time to write, I’ve also finished the draft of a novel (which I’m now revising), written additional nonfiction pieces (for Slate, Orion, Oxford American and Southern Living) and have done research for the eugenics piece that I am currently pitching to a magazine (again, I used Creative Capital’s advice and sought help from another writer on my query, which has made the process much smoother—the editor I emailed is proposing the story to the staff).

Thanks to the North Carolina Arts Council, I am also able to continue my work as an educator through their teaching artists program. I’m traveling to two North Carolina communities this fall to teach a workshop on science writing and memoir.

I am incredibly grateful for the personalized, passionate advice and counseling I received from Creative Capital. I use the strategies and ideas I learned in the workshop daily, and feel that I always have the reasonable, smart, encouraging voices of Beverly, Sue, Aaron, Jackie, and Colleen in my head as I conduct the business of being a writer. I am more excited about my writing career than I have ever been in my life, and more confident that it can take a different form than I once imagined.

You can learn more about Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program on our newly redesigned website: http://creative-capital.org/pdp.

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