Crisis. I don’t like word. I don’t like the circumstances. I don’t want to ask for help; I’m in need of help; I feel bitter if no one helps and embarrassed if anyone does. Let me back up because this began four years ago.
After fighting in court against a fraudulent mortgage, my husband and I lost our home to foreclosure in April 2012. Over the next few years I watched my husband unravel. Last year I began in earnest to get him in the US Veterans Affairs (VA). Even though his knees were destroyed by the time he was 25 years old (a hardship we’ve dealt with on our own since 1988), the VA finally recognized his disability in 2015. To this date we still don’t have an appointment to evaluate his PTSD.
After we lost our house and Todd took a job in Idaho (where he lived in a motel for 6 months), I helped a human rights movement in rural northern Wisconsin where I was living in the spare bedroom of family. I was finishing my first novel, Miracle of Ducks, about a military wife left behind when her husband re-enlists. Here’s me at a protest rally in Ashland, Wisconsin May 2012 (I’m in the purple Vikings t-shirt):
I’ve known how vulnerable we are. It’s expensive to rent. I typically have earned between $1,000 to $1,500 a month through writing for clients. However, it’s fiction that is my love.
That’s why I started Carrot Ranch. It’s an imaginary playground, a place to meet up and encourage other writers, a place to dream out loud, a place to share stories and ideas, a place to support intelligent literature or clever prose or silly creativity. Carrot Ranch has a diverse group of writers from different countries, genres, interests and backgrounds. I’ve made incredible friends here, many who have encouraged and inspired me. I hope I’ve encouraged and inspired others.
Last May, my best friend, Kate, died of ovarian cancer and I tail-spinned into grief. I pulled every last weed on this property (though the weeds mock me and have returned). As I began to adjust, I renewed my efforts on Rock Creek, my third novel in draft, thinking of the three it had the best chance at getting published. At that time, several opportunities came up, including some options for income.
One was a client project that I thought would give me the extra money if we self-published the anthology. I set up all the work, delivered part of the project and…it was cancelled with no payment. The other gig was writing for Go Idaho. The editor was recommended to me by my book editor. I was excited to work with a great editor and she agreed to let me write at least one history article a month, which tied into my novel genre. I received my first paycheck December 28. It was the only one I received.
Then, the end of March we received notice of the owners intent to sell this place. My home. What’s most vulnerable.
The owners want to sell, which is entirely their prerogative. We looked at buying it but because of our past, we don’t qualify. I had a meltdown and Todd deployed to a job in Reno, Nevada. “Deployed” is the phrase our VA advocate uses and it makes sense. When Todd thinks we are in dire straits, he feels the need to go on a mission to relieve the situation.
The day he left, I began researching my publisher. That’s when I discovered he was a serial con artist. He owes me $2,000 and he’s still publishing. Todd returned from Nevada because they decided not to hire a full-time aviation mechanic. The final kick in the pants came when the owners of our rental decided they could better sell the place empty. On May 17th we were served a Notice to Vacate in 30 days.
I wrote a plea in response. I’ve made certain to always pay my rent. We’ve not damaged the place nor have we committed bad behavior like running a meth lab in the horse barn. I’ve created a blog about this place and taken care of the resident cat!
Their response? Last week, May 31 they simply emailed: “the owners need you out.”
We scrambled. Asked the VA for assistance given we are now facing homelessness. We are definitely “at risk.” The VA sent us on a goose chase of phone numbers. Of two organizations that can help, they won’t because we don’t have a court-ordered eviction. The lawyer we contacted says there’s nothing in our lease that protects us and that our Notice to Vacate is legal. The VA says our Notice to Vacate is not legal until the sheriff escorts us out.
Other organizations have said, “Sorry, folks,” while they tout posters on their walls that proclaim “End Veteran Homelessness.” Guess it’s just a catchy phrase.
I’m exhausted. I’ve had to downsize an already downsized household. All the calls, driving to organizations, the cleaning, the trying to find a rental, 30 days is hardly enough time. We had a garage sale last weekend and I met three homeless vets. That’s not exactly hopeful. I met another vet who said he lives in an ex-pat community in the Philippines and invited us to join him. Ah, why couldn’t it be Montana? Or Scotland?
I want Carrot Ranch to be a safe environment for writers, an incubator for creativity. My Big Dream is to create a platform that benefits many authors. I want to make Carrot Ranch a non-profit to create travel scholarships for writers. I want to publish annual anthologies that both contribute to such scholarships and provide an income for contributors. I want to build more contests that support worthy causes world-wide. I want to teach flash fiction as a writing tool. I want to do small group retreats and host large workshops (nature writing and western writing). I want to travel, to research, to do readings and open mics. I want to publish my own books and create some way of attracting a wide audience of readers to Carrot Ranch and all its writers.
I’m not quitting. But I am asking for help and this is hard. I also want to be fair in expectations. A Go Fund Me campaign was suggested. I thought about this and decided against it. First, the organization takes a huge chunk of donations and it generates spam. Second, most people who will contribute will likely know me or know someone who does so why not just donate to Carrot Ranch, right here.
Housing is our crisis mostly because of our vulnerability. Rentals aren’t available this time of year in our area. I found a place September 1, after the summer vacationers and seasonal residents go home. We have a friend who is loaning us a tent. I really want a camping trailer for a better bed. Yet, a trailer is mobile and opens up the possibility of travel. I could even go to Rock Creek, Nebraska for the annual reenactment of Hickok shooting Cobb! Of course, I’ll have to tell them they have it all wrong.
I’d rather ask for contributions toward the cost of setting up Carrot Ranch as a non profit, publishing our first anthology and possibly self-publishing Miracle of Ducks. I have the notion to change my character’s crisis to that of homelessness. I can’t believe this is really happening. If you want to help us out in our current circumstance, know that any financial help will go toward securing a camp trailer, gas, food and a future rental. And keep in mind I do have a monthly income and no longer have a high rent payment.
As for work, I’m available for marketing consultations and editing. I’m a big-picture person and my strengths are in assessments and strategy. I’m good at connections and with ideas. I’m not good at line edits unless they are less than 20 pages. My fees are $50 an hour and anyone interested can contact me at email@example.com. I would invoice (rather than use the donation button). I’ve had some people in the past buy hours and gift them to someone else. I can provide a gift certificate. I’m also rethinking how to create a way to get more readers and if I do, I’ll open up some sort of support like Patron of the Literary Arts.
I hope to resume normal activities here after the craziness of moving out.
Thank you to all the lovely Ranchers who make this worthwhile. Thank you for your help. If you are so inclined, please use this button and indicate any preference on your contribution. If you are interested in hiring me for an editing or marketing project, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.