The Rhode Island Writer’s Colony saved me. I can write that sentence without equivocation, or hyperbole. When I applied, I was living in Oregon, depressed, and hadn’t written a poem in about a year. I applied because I found the call on tumblr, and saw it was a space for Black writers to get together and write without apology, explaining, or fear. When I wrote to Brook and John, I told them that they might as well accept me, because Rhode Island was small, and I was starving for other Black Writers in my life. I told them that if they didn’t accept me, I’d show up anyways, and sit in the cold until they let me in. I’m extremely thankful it didn’t come to that.

The RIWC changed the way I wrote. Even though I was the only person there working on a poetry project, having the space to write and really interrogate my work helped me blossom. The work I did at RIWC got me into Cave Canem the next year. It became the foundation for a full length collection. It was a beautiful two weeks of writing “hard” poems and working next to people who were serious and driven about their craft. It opened up a new family to me.

I also wanted to take a moment to write specifically about Brook Stevenson. I got to Rhode Island broken and bitter. Brook saw the spark in my work from across the nation and pulled me out of my misery. He encouraged me to really push for the work and to live a life that made me happy. He made me promise that I would send work out, that I would try to find a way to get out of the job that made me depressed and physically ill. He made me promise to be honest about my work. Brook reminded me that I deserved happiness; something that I hadn’t heard or felt in an extremely long time. His laughter, encouragement, and honesty pushed me to be a stronger and more fearless writer, person and friend. Brook reminded me what living was.

Thanks to the RIWC, I have a family of incredible writers backing me, a new body of work I’m beyond proud of, and a fire inside myself that would not have been possible if I hadn’t found Brook, John, and the space they made for me. It encouraged me to actually live an honest life full of love and work I enjoyed. It gave me space to find ways to more fully love other Black writers. It gave me my laughter back.

I kept writing, deleting, and re-writing this. It’s hard to talk about a moment that dramatically shifted your life path. I consider the Rhode Island Writer’s Colony some of the more fulfilling weeks of my life. I am beyond grateful for the space, the time, and the love. I encourage you to look towards it with love.
~Crystal Boson, PhD, 2015 Artist-in-Residence