Hi folks–it’s still Mike here, Beth will be back on the job soon. Meantime, thought I’d share a letter of appreciation she wrote to the National Endowment for the Arts, which funded her stay at the Vermont Studio Center — it gives a pretty nice summary of her time there.
April 19, 2013
Dear National Endowment for the Arts,
I am writing from the Vermont Studio Center (VSC) to thank you for awarding me a Creative Access fellowship. My Seeing Eye dog Whitney and I have been here a month now, and it’s been a privilege to share ideas with the 50 other poets, writers and visual artists who have come here from all over the world to work on their own projects.
It has also been a privilege to devote time to my writing in the quiet living and studio space the Vermont Studio Center provides. I take breaks from time to time, too: three times a day my clever three-year-old Labrador/Golden Retriever Whitney leads me down a path from our writing studio, over a river, across a highway, and up to the Red Mill building for meals. Trust me, the chef and his staff here make it well worth the journey! Sharing those lovely meals with Vermont Studio Center staff and resident poets and visual artists is a joy, and listening to their stories has expanded my appreciation for the arts.
Vermont Studio Center runs an ongoing arts program with Johnson Elementary School, and Whitney and I spent a lively afternoon there sharing my children’s book and answering questions about writing and what it’s like to be blind and work with a guide dog. VSC also sponsors lectures by residents for the community, and their reading resident night gave me an opportunity to try out new assistive technology with a friendly audience. The technology worked, and that success will encourage me to try it out at the talks I give at libraries, schools and other civic organizations when I get back to Chicago.
I lost my sight when I was 26 years old and took to writing after that. Over the years hard work, supportive friends and family, and the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act have combined to help me create a busy, fulfilling life.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have two books published, I have a part-time job moderating a blog for Easter Seals Headquarters in Chicago, I write and record essays for Chicago Public Radio, I speak at schools and conferences about blindness and guide dogs, and I teach three memoir-writing classes for Chicago senior citizens every week.
I’ve been thinking about writing a book about all I’ve learned from the writers in these classes, and now, thanks to this Creative Access fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, I’ve started writing that book. In one month at the Vermont Studio Center I’ve accomplished far more than I ever could have in my busy life in Chicago, and I’ve developed some good writing habits I plan to take home with me as well.
It has been a real privilege spending every day here in a quiet studio space. I am composing this note from my usual perch here: a cozy chair right by the window. From time to time I take a break, turn off my talking computer and open the window so Whitney and I can stick our noses out and enjoy the fresh air and listen to the river rush by outside. I’m black and blue from pinching myself so much.
Thank you, National Endowment for the Arts, for awarding me the Creative Access fellowship. Look for a copy of my new book in the mail once it gets published!