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Help Me Finish My Book At Prague Writing Workshop!
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Finishing the book inspired by my long journey through breast cancer will, I hope, be meaningful to others on a similarly difficult path. The Prague Summer Program & awarded scholarship has renewed my spirit & is an opportunity of a lifetime!

My name is Valerie Anne Burns, and I have been on a two-year journey with breast cancer. It's involved six major surgeries due to complications from two life-threatening staph infections, causing a total of 55 days in the hospital thus far.

It has turned my world upside down and on all levels... including financially.

My mother died of breast cancer when I was three, and I feel I've come full circle to honor her painful plight and early death by surviving.

The bright spot in all this is the book I'm writing, as well as the accolades I've received...and how my authentically raw writing will hopefully be of meaning to others on a heart-wrenching path. It is a book of memoir essays titled, "Caution: Mermaid Crossing", An indomitable spirit finds that beauty and grace, like the magical mermaid, help her overcome the harsh challenges in life.

Here is a Santa Barbara Noozhawk article on my journey just published June 16th, 2016:http://www.noozhawk.com/article/santa_barbara_woman_begins_authorship_journey_following_breast_cancer_ordea 

Encouraged by positive feedback, poems published, and my first personal essay submission accepted by a NY publication, I applied to the Prague Summer Writing Program. I was not only accepted, but awarded a $1000 scholarship. The group workshops and one-on-one guidance during this month-long program will give me the further tools I need to finish my book before I face my final surgery in September, 2016, followed by another long recovery,

I'd like to take advantage of this great honor given to me by the founder of the Prague summer program. To be able to take a break from the medical world and pursue my creative destiny would truly be a magnificent gift, but I would have to raise the rest of the money for the program as well as covering monthly expenses at home while away and upon return.

Campaign Goal: Once I apply the $1000 scholarship, the remaining cost of the month-long program is $3,600 (recently & generously discounted to $2500 by founder supporting me in this journey) plus daily expenses such as food and excursions would be an additional $1500, and $1700 for flight.. As suggested, I've also accounted for the 10% fees taken out from Fundrazr & WePay. Additionally, I'd have to be sure I'm covering costs at home while I'm away for a month and then immediate needs of monthly expenses again when I return home in August where I will be launching into to pre-op preparation.

A big part of my inspiration to manifest this opportunity is what the Prague program founder/accomplishedwriter/English professor said in my acceptance letter regarding my ten-page writing submission: "I wasn't sure if your two pieces were fiction or nonfiction, but on some level it doesn't matter...writing is good writing. Your writing from sentence to sentence is graceful and effective. The piece about your (or a) mother's passing and the kittens' deaths is haunting, as is the Venice piece (probably the most hauntingly beautiful city on earth). We offer you a Vaclav Havel Scholarship worth $1,000; this amount will be taken off the cost of the program."

I believe my authentic and raw-to-the-bone honest words will resonate with others going through great difficulties. My dream is to tour with the book and speak to groups. If my words can be of meaning and resonate in a way that help others going through painful struggles, then I will have gone through all of this for a true purpose.

I appreciate your donations to help me reach my goal and discover magic and meaning on the other side of a traumatic road. Thank you for reading my story and donating!

BELOW is an excerpt of one the personal essays from my book of memoir essays titled, "Caution: Mermaid Crossing" ----

                                               Venice Vision

     All the colors I most love were floating in my dream as I was floating down the Grand Canal. Rich, but worn colors of orange, pink, golden yellow and blues went by one by one. The water I was floating in was a pure Caribbean aqua…clear, tropical and warm. It was not the dirty water one would expect in the canals of Venice, but this was a dream, my dream. I was in a blissful place viewing romantic beauty in architecture while floating and swimming beneath a vivid sapphire Italian sky. I felt released from struggle, free to spread far and wide filling all my senses with ecstatic wonder.

     Admiring the extraordinary possibility of a floating city that continued to stand, I reached my arms out wide in front of me as my body moved through water graceful as a mermaid. Unaware of my body being ravaged in the dream, I was shapely and confident in my swim attire. I could feel the warm ripples of water swirling as my hands pushed forward in a breast stroke.

  I turned looking back to my right discovering a man swimming in the same style as me. Just behind him was a sweet boy gliding though the water as well. I looked at the man as we exchanged a smile and a knowing secret of being in a lovely dream together. It was euphoric and I wondered in that split

second of exchanged smiles if this man and his boy would be the family I longed for. I looked back ahead continuing my liberating swim forward and then once again gazing to my left upon the perfectly aged sun gold and salmon pink grand structures of Venice.

     And then, in that instant of this parting image, I woke only wishing to fall into the dream over and over. It has stayed with me for a long time now just as clear as the morning I woke from this Venice vision. I hold the idea that it’s due to creating a blossom of hope in my heart. In fact, I hold it closer to me since enduring a harsh assault to my physical self and fragile spirit. I’ve turned this vision on prior to surgeries and at night when I would lay in bed with drains spread out like wings of a bird. 

     This vision was a contrast I often needed to rely on when lying on a gurney soon to be rolled into the freezing cold efficiently run operating room. Through all of it, I had to hold on to something so beautifully alluring in order to not allow my sensitive soul drawn to mystical allure to drift away into a black hole of nothing but earthly survival. I described the dream to a close friend so easy to recall as if a film running in my head where she responded by saying, “You want it all, don’t you?” After all, she was referring to swimming in clear tropical water in the city of Venice. Without a hint of modesty, I simply replied, “Yes!”

     I aspire to being surrounded by beauty in art and architecture while feeding my greatest bliss in clear, tropical turquoise water fit for the finest mermaid. Yearning for a partner and family, there is a man close enough to direct a dazzling big smile just for me. Although I’m at an age where a little boy would be a grandson, it speaks to a subconscious truth. Sharing the same watery dream, I consciously decide in the dream that this man with the smile must share my desires and longings. Like all humans that inhabit this planet, it’s connection we crave…love in all its forms.  The dream, although fantasy in its most exquisite state, continues to fill me with hope, love, and appreciation.

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