The Current

'Like a religious moment': The gift that gave Camilla Gibb a new life

Two decades ago, Camilla Gibb had set herself up for what she thought would be her dream job in academia — only to realize the realities of the ivory tower didn't sit right with her. Then a man she barely knew gave her a gift that would change her life.
Author Camilla Gibb shares the story of how a $6,000 gift gave her the kick she needed to write her first novel. (Kayla Chobotiuk)

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Two decades ago, Camilla Gibb had finished her PhD, racked up a mountain of student debt, and was applying for the academic jobs she'd geared her life towards. But she'd realized that what she wanted to do was write fiction.

Sitting in the university quad where she worked, a man she barely knew asked her why she looked so miserable — and what she needed to fulfill her dream of becoming a writer. A week later, he gave her a beautiful box filled with $6,000 in cash and a note saying "No strings attached."

"It's like a religious moment," says Gibb, laughing. "I see the sunlight shining down and illuminating this box."

Gibb took the money, quit her job, and started frantically writing, quickly producing a novel that was published the next year.

After receiving a gift of $6,000 from a near stranger, Camilla Gibb quit her job, gave up her apartment and lived in her brother's trailer to start writing. (Courtesy of Camilla Gibb)

But the real gift went beyond just cash.

"He gave me the kick I needed," says Gibb, "which was to say, 'If you think these are the obstacles before you, and I eliminate them for you, you have no choice, you simply have to face it, as terrifying as it is.'"

"And it was terrifying."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Karin Marley.