The Journey to Juniper


Every summer, writers come together at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst for the Juniper Institute, an immersion program into the life of a writer, and this coming summer, one of our very own alumni hopes to spend time at the institute.  Chebrya Jeffery ’16 has a passion for poetry; Juniper is the next step toward her dreams.  But she needs our help.  Read on to see how you can support Chebrya–especially through her Go Fund Me–as she raises support for the Juniper Institute:

For me, poetry was the impetus for declaring a creative writing minor, but I didn’t get around to the course until my senior year. When I finally took advanced poetry it was under Heather Christle, the Dixon Professor of Creative Writing, last spring. What a stroke of luck! I learned about the Juniper Institute through Heather, and she encouraged me to apply.

When I was accepted, I was paying my way through Witt and knew I wouldn’t have the extra money to go, so I made a Go Fund Me account. I ended up raising $465. Although that was more than enough to be grateful for, I was short of my $1900 dollar goal ($1550 for tuition, $368 for room and board, not including round-trip transportation and meals), and wasn’t able to make it.

For those who don’t know, the Juniper Institute is a week-long immersion in the “writer’s life,” hosted by the MFA program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. At the heart of the institute are daily workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction, where work is generated and shared among small groups.

In addition to the workshops, craft seminars, manuscript consultations, Q&As, and evening readings are held all week long. (and, one of the writers in residence is the author of It Is Daylight, a book I recently read and loved). In short it’s an opportunity too good to miss, twice.

When I applied to Juniper, I referenced one of my favorite children’s books, Are You My Mother, in my personal statement. The book’s about a little chick’s quest to find its mom. He approaches dogs, cats, boats, and even machines, asking “are you my mom?”

These interactions fall flat as each prospective mother denies the chick, and so he moves on. Eventually, though after falling into some danger (spoiler alert), he finds her.

Idealist that I am, I would love to say I’m going to Juniper because I know poetry is my life’s purpose, and that I’ve decided, beyond the shadow of a doubt, to pursue writing with my life. The truth is, I’m more like the chick. I’m out in the world, looking for my “mother,” and I’ve got this feeling that Juniper can give me some clues.

I applied again in February and was accepted a second time. This year Juniper is June 18-25, and I want to go, but the financing is an obstacle. Of course, the post-grad financial life of an individual with a self-designed major in what may as well have been called Go to Grad School, Joblessness and Impracticality (at least in the beginning), should be a little tricky.

Thus, I am trying my hand, again, at fund-raising for my tuition and boarding expenses, which, minus the $465 I raised last year, comes to $1435. That’s $14.35, to this page,, from one hundred people. I think it’s do-able. Would you help me?

– Chebrya Jeffrey

Click here to read one of Chebrya’s poems, “You Might Also Feel Dizzy.”


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