Write on the Money

The seminar grant that brought our group together in July of 2006 also came with follow-up money: $1600 of it. The purpose of this money was to assist participants in bringing their projects to completion and publication. Some seminars make the money available so that participants can apply for “mini-grants”—three hundred bucks to get them to a conference, for example—and other seminar groups give themselves a deadline incentive—a hundred bucks when your paper gets submitted for publication. But what did we want to do? Something different. Something surprising. After all, we are writers and we don’t like to be predictable.

Then one of us—all right, it was Al Haley—came up with this idea: We divide up the money evenly, a hundred bucks each. Then we do something useful with it, and write about what happens.

The trick, of course, is defining “useful.” We wanted to do something that would somehow multiply the money—literally, figuratively, imaginatively—beyond the original amount and beyond ourselves. We wanted to do something surprising in keeping with our seminar’s title: “The Truth’s Superb Surprise.” And that’s where the fun began.

You, visitors to this site, are welcome to keep an eye on what we are up to. The project begins September 1, 2006, and will conclude (or at least pause for breath) on June 1, 2007. We will report on the project right here.

For more details, read on.

Inspirations for the project
• The parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30)
• The minister who took $5000 and gave church members $100 each to spend in ministry to others (this has become something of a trend in churches)
• Andy Crouch’s Christianity Today column “We’re Rich
• The film Pay It Forward
• The Pay It Forward Foundation

• To provoke us to pray for divine guidance and wisdom
• To cause us to see opportunities and needs we might not have noticed and respond to them in the spirit of Christ
• To lead us to write about a common experience
• To enable us to share our words and thoughts with one another and the public

Phase One: Work in Progress
1. Each writer receives $100 by September 1, 2006
2. Writers communicate with each other through our seminar blog.
3. We establish a web presence announcing and describing the project to the public. We promise an update on the project in the spring, at the midpoint of our project and some presentation of results by June 1, 2007.

On September 1, the clock starts running. The $100 may be spent on anything. What we have to keep in mind is that we will write about what happens to the $100. Of course, what other Christians judge as “faithful” use of the money most likely will be well received; however, frivolous failures can be instructive as well (e.g., the fool who built his house upon the sand…) and are not precluded—so one of us could spend the money on a pedicure and massage or a couple rounds of golf and write about whether it brought her closer to God or the gods of vanity. One of us could spend the $100 on Jerry Jenkins’ writing workshop (would it help him double his talents as a writer?). Our guiding principle is that the use of the money be creative and startling to ourselves. This is where we will try to rely on prayer and God speaking to us through daily circumstance (as Marilynne Robinson reminds us so well in her Sojourners interview

During Phase One, we pledge to document what is happening. This could be a matter of jotting down notes about ideas for spending the money, early results, doubts, plagues of insomnia, etc. Some of this we will share with each other on the blog. All of it will be fodder for our final public web presentations in June.

Phase Two: On the Web
By June 1, each of us will have thought of a creative way to publicly recount or meditate upon our personal journey with the $100. This can be in the form of words, video, sound or some other amalgamated medium that can be posted at the website. There is no expected standard product or word limitation. The project may inspire a poem, a sermon, a short story, Rev. Lamblove-style jottings on the back of a cereal box, a musical mash-up, personal memoir, or… The books we’ve read for the seminar and the conversations we had during our time together will be figuratively smiling over our shoulders and suggesting a rich array of creative possibilities.

Phase Three: Beyond the Web
Once results are in and posted at the website, one or more writers may wish to develop the collective story further by writing magazine articles about the activity, making presentations at conferences, using the episode as a part of their teaching, or… It could be particularly instructive for others to think about how this sort of project intersects with more than one community—the community of writers who are working together on the project, the individual communities each of us have returned to and where the $100 is spent.

The text on this page is adapted from Al Haley’s original project description created for seminar participants.

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