Chelsea Bieker is the recipient of a 2018 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award and the author of two forthcoming books, the novel Godshot (Catapult, May 2020) and the story collection, Cowboys and Angels (2021). Her writing has been published in Granta, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Catapult, Electric Literature, Joyland, The Cincinnati Review, No Tokens, and others. Her work has been supported by the MacDowell Colony and the Tin House Writer’s Workshop. Currently she lives in California with her husband and two children where she teaches writing and is at work on a narrative nonfiction project.
The Value of Support
"The value of the support given to me by the Rona Jaffe Foundation is immense and multifaceted. First, of course, there's the practical use for money when you are a writer. For me, with two small children, plainly, I need money for childcare. I need childcare so that I can write. Having this gift reduces the amount of extra jobs I have to take on to afford this, in addition to my full-time teaching job, and the hours I spend writing books each day. The gift of saying "no" to a freelance assignment and working on my art in place of that, is unmeasurable. Then, there is the emotional piece. Having the foundation believe in my work enough to award this tremendous honor sends a message that my art as a woman, as a mother, as a person-- is of value in the world. It allows me to contribute financially to my household with money earned by my art. It helps me feel seen in ways that can be difficult when you are alone in a house mothering and writing and struggling day in and day out for years, and then someone comes along, and says, 'here, let us make things easier for you.' That is powerful.
Women artists constantly receive messaging that what we do is cute, or a hobby. The Foundation stands against that and says, no. This is your work. This is of value. We see you. I've never received any greater gift than that as a writer. Much of writing is done in solitude, and so for me at least, something magical happens when my work touches the outside world and receives a positive response. I feel encouraged to continue the work, I feel inspired, and I feel like I am part of a literary community that continues to hold me up and offer a place I can 'go' that is extremely meaningful. The act of contributing to that community is very satisfying. I am grateful for the way the Rona Jaffe Award has brought so much peace and freedom to my life as a writer. Women's stories will be heard and the Rona Jaffe provides this beautiful space for that."
Since receiving the award, I sold two books—a novel and a collection of short stories. My novel will come out May 2020 with Catapult. I also published a short story with Granta and had an essay come out with Electric Literature.