First Joe Plumeri Fellowship

I am thrilled and grateful to have won the inaugural Joe Plumeri Fellowship for my forthcoming first novel, The Weight of Him. The fellowship is in memory of Joe Plumeri’s son, Christian, and is awarded to writers pursuing a book project at the broad intersection of food and health, either a work of fiction or creative nonfiction.

The fellowship – a writing residency for the month of June, 2016 – carries a stipend of $5,000. The Wellstone Center is surrounded by a grove of redwoods and four stunning acres, a few miles from the Pacific Ocean and near Santa Cruz, California. I will spend June in the Zen Suite with a balcony overlooking forests and mountains and, in the distance, Monterey Bay.

At Wellstone, I will complete the final edits on my first novel, The Weight of Him, which will be published by St. Martin’s Press on February 14, 2017. Set in a contemporary Irish village, The Weight of Him tells the story of Billy Brennan. At four hundred pounds, Billy can always count on food. From his earliest memories, he has loved food’s colors, textures and tastes. The way flavors go off in his mouth. How food keeps his mind still and his bad feelings quiet. How it comforts, pleasure and sates. Makes him feel like a giant. Makes everything better.

At least food did all that until the day Billy’s beloved son Michael takes his own life. In the wake of his son’s tragic death, Billy determines to make a difference and to stop suicide. But it is only when Billy confronts the truth of his suffering–pain and grief that go back long before his son’s death–that he, his family and the lives of countless others will be truly changed.

My novel fits the Joe Plumeri Fellowship because it is not only about the intersection of food and health, it is also a story about family, fatherhood, loss, addiction, body issues, the rejection of the self, and more. Ultimately, The Weight of Him is a call for self-love. I believe in the healing and transformative power of telling our stories. I believe we can make a difference, word by word.

Joe Plumeri, a New York-based philanthropist and former CEO of several Fortune 500 companies, shares in his national bestseller The Power of Being Yourself how his son Chris suffered from anorexia starting at age 13. At the time, the early 1980s, anorexia and other eating disorders were stigmatized and poorly understood, especially with regard to boys. Chris went from issues with eating to issues with alcohol and drugs, and he passed away in November, 2008. In sponsoring this writing fellowship, Joe Plumeri hopes to encourage writers with the passion to bring greater understanding to the nexus of food and health.

Thank you so much Joe Plumeri, and Steve and Sarah Kettman, the founders of Wellstone Redwoods Center. I plan to make the most of every moment at Wellstone, much-needed time away from the city and everyday busyness so that I can fully immerse myself in my novel, and in the solace and inspiration of nature.
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