Thursday, May 30, 2013

Baking My Way to Bronxville

I have situational ADD.

In a mere 23 days I'll be boarding a plane and flying to New York City to attend Sarah Lawrence College for the Summer Seminar for Writers. Every day feels like it's three times as long as it really is. I have no focus. I can't wait to go and learn and write and be surrounded by people who are writers too, and people who write creative non-fiction like I do, even if it's only for a week.

My writing inspiration, Jo Ann Beard (everyone should read her memoir The Boys of My Youth) teaches at SLC in the MFA of Writing program. I emailed Jo Ann to see if she'd be on campus during the Summer Seminar for Writers because I'd love to chat with her (and of course, have her sign my copy of The Boys of My Youth). She replied to my email and said she wasn't going to be on campus this summer and she was sorry to miss talking with me. She also said the Seminar is a wonderful experience, and she has students from years she taught it that keep in touch with her and each other. Even though she won't be around, it made me look forward to it even more.

I almost didn't apply for the Seminar for two reasons. (1) it was very last minute and four days before my vacation to New York. I wasn't sure I could have all my application materials ready and sent before I had to leave. And (2) it was going to be an extremely expensive week if I got in. The money was the biggest thing holding me back.

The Sunday before applications were due, the day I took to really consider if I should apply or not, I spoke with a lovely, wonderful, kind woman I know named Liz Wood. She said she'd been thinking about me and really thought I should write more, and more seriously. I told her about the Seminar and that the money was holding me back. She looked me square in the eye and said with no uncertainty, "If you apply and get in, the money will come. And you'll be surprised at how it does." We were at church. She had to be telling the truth.

I walked home after my talk with Liz and decided I'd spend the rest of the day preparing my application. I chose a chapter from my memoir to fine tune and submit. I edited it 3 times before I printed it. I wrote a biographical sketch, wrote a check for the application fee, and wrote a letter to apply for a partial tuition scholarship. The next day I took it to the post office and sent it Priority Mail. It arrived the day before it was due.

And the rest, they say, is history.

The director of my office is extremely supportive. She wanted to fundraise for me to help ease the financial burden. Rebecca, whom I call my 'work sister', suggested a bake sale. I knew I could raise a little money with my baking skills. They're highly developed. But I also knew a traditional bake sale was going to be expensive and time consuming up front, and there was no guarantee I'd even make back the money I spent on ingredients to bake a bunch of treats.

So I thought and I thought and I searched the internets.

And came up empty until the night before my fundraising meeting with Norma. I was lying in bed (because that's where and when I do my best thinking) when it hit me. I'd do a 'bake for hire' bake sale.

I ran the idea past Norma: people order whole desserts from me for summer parties, reunions, dinners, holidays etc. They pay when they order and give me a delivery date. They can choose from a menu of my ten best desserts, each one priced to cover the cost of materials and help offset the costs of the program. I'd then bake the dessert and bring it to them the day of or before they need it. Norma loved it. So I sat down with my sister and we planned out the menu. Next we looked over recipes and decided on price points. I was nervous about the prices. They seemed high to me.

I went home and created a menu and an order form. I sent a rough draft to my sister and one to Norma. Norma said my prices were too low but the menu looked excellent and very professional. I sent it out to my CSW colleagues. When Liz and I created the menu we thought maybe I'd crack $500, about half my fundraising goal. I was okay with anything, because anything, any little bit, would help. I sent out the email with the menu attached a week and a half before the deadline for orders.

I was completely astonished at the response. Not only did I crack $500, but I met and exceeded my fundraising goal. Exceeded it by enough that I still met my goal and had money left to buy the ingredients for the desserts I'll be baking for the rest of the summer.

I work with the best people.

And I've gotten checks from some of the ladies at church who think I'm so darling and my writing is so great they want to support me.

I am surrounded by the best people.

My longtime best friend Jamey gave me the title of my fundraiser (and the title of this post).

I have the best friends.

And my sister is amazing. She took me to get all the non-perishable (ish) supplies on Saturday. We went to two stores and Costco, on a Saturday, and all she required of me was a donut from Dan's. Plus she's better at a few items than I am so she's baking those.

I have the best sister.

My dad donated 40,000 Skymiles so I wouldn't have to pay for my plane ticket.

I have the best family.

(Sarah Lawrence awarded me a partial tuition scholarship too.)

It's really comforting to feel like I'm finally doing what I am supposed to do. For so long I've been continually frustrated by things not working out, plans falling through, dead ends and no clue where to go next. A bunch of little, seemingly insignificant things happened to get me here, and for someone who unrelentingly believes that everything happens for a reason, that's a big deal.


  1. OH MY GOSH I can't wait, I'm SO excited for you!! I'm so glad you took the leap to apply, and I think your fundraising idea is incredible! You are meant to write. The world is meant to read your words and feel their hearts caught up int he emotion of your novels. I will be first in line for your book. Love you cuz. xoxo.