Strapped in the Donor Chair this evening is the founder of The Patchwork Project, Douglas Burchill. I could tell you about The Patchwork Project, but I would much rather draw it out of him…
AJ: Who is Douglas Burchill?
DB: Who is Douglas Burchill? That’s a damn fine question. I’ve been trying to track that guy down for thirty-seven years. Every time I think I’ve got him, he changes.
But seriously, let’s see. I’d have to say it depends on when you catch me. I’m a husband and a father, and those duties are the ones that occupy most of my mind. My audiences tell me that I’m pretty good in both of those genres, so I can’t really ask for much more.
I’m a guy that works retail. That’s my day job. I’m working at liberating myself through writing gigs. I’m a creative writer for a video game company called Frogwares, a job that I really enjoy. I get to write about characters and creatures and then see them come to life, move about, speak dialogue that I’ve written for them. It’s a kick. I’m also a video game journalist, writing freelance articles for a magazine called Fun Online Games by Beckett Media. I’ve had the opportunity to interview game developers from Israel and China, as well as the United States. I guess you could say I’m a fellow who likes to talk to people.
Some may tell you that I’m a horror author. I’m still not used to that, yet. Douglas Burchill set out to write some scary stories (because that’s what he likes to read) and see if anyone bit. They bit. They started calling me an author, which was funny to me because I was reading my fan mail on my breaks at the store. At the end of the day, I just consider myself another worker. Maybe when I get my first novel done, I’ll feel differently.
I want to think that I’m a humanitarian. You may have heard of The Patchwork Project. It’s a collaborative effort of horror writers, editors, artists, publishers, fans and domestic abuse services. Even though I don’t have as much time as I’d like to devote to it anymore, it’s become it’s own beast. It continues to get hits from around the world, and seems to keep on living under its own will. I’d like to think that I made a difference in someone’s life by getting it together, but then I look at people like Jan Brown who founded the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women. People who make it their life’s work to help others. Suddenly my contributions seem very small.
But I suspect who I really am, is the guy that I meet in the wee hours of the morning when sleep eludes me. The Douglas Burchill that hopes and worries for the future. The Douglas Burchill who remembers that his daughter almost died when she was six weeks old. The guy sitting there on those dark hospital nights, watching the heart-rate monitor, wishing he could pick her up from her nest of IVs, and sensors, and tubes. I’m the guy that felt her tiny hand close around my thumb as if she was telling me everything would be fine. I’m the guy that got to find out that she was right.
AJ: Wow. First of all, I’m glad your daughter is okay. That’s a scary thing to have to go through. Second of all, giving back, no matter how small, is never insignificant. With that in mind, tell me a little more about The Patchwork Project. How did it come about?
DB: The Patchwork Project started as a health-class project in my last few semesters in college. We had to choose some kind of activism project about a subject we felt strongly about. Several members of my family, my friends, and co-workers were survivors of domestic violence and abuse. It seemed to be a prevalent problem that didn’t get the exposure it deserved.
I had my cause, but I had no idea what I would do to promote it. My time was already stretched thin between classes, a full-time job, and family life. I had been selling stories (when I found time to write them) for about two years. So, the idea of some kind of story to promote awareness of domestic abuse started to germinate. It didn’t seem to be enough, though. Gradually, the idea of a website with stories, art, and information began to develop.
My only contacts were pretty much within the horror genre. Horror and domestic abuse seemed like a good fit on some level. But my biggest fear was that people might feel it was in bad taste, or just wouldn’t get it. I started sending out queries to some of the authors, editors, and publishers I had met. The response was overwhelming. I mean literally. I couldn’t keep up with the stories and offers of help that came flooding in.
Right about this time, a wonderful lady that I worked with was murdered by her own son. That cemented the project, and there was no turning back. It got to the point that I quit sleeping just to keep up with Patchwork. The grade became secondary, as I quickly found out just how much the project meant to other people. I started hearing from survivors (some of whom were the authors themselves). The response was great. No one questioned the horror connection. Everyone understood exactly what I was trying to do.
I paid a price, though. I became obsessive, and perhaps a bit too dedicated. I suffered a physical and mental breakdown from lack of sleep, a lack of everything except completing the project. I started to hallucinate, became severely depressed, constantly sick. So, you could say there is a part of me in the project. Maybe that’s why it’s taken on a life of its own?
I submitted the project. The instructor was blown away, but… how do you measure a grade against people’s lives?
What I take from it are the people that I met and the people that got involved. And even if it just pointed one person to the help they needed, it was worth it.
AJ: Again, wow… I think you hit it on the head with your own question: How do you measure a grade against people’s lives? There’s no measurement, however, I hope you received high marks for the project. Why did you choose the name “Patchwork Project?”
DB: Originally, the name came about from a character in one of my first rejected stories. The Ragboy was a patchwork being of sewn-together fabric remnants and stuffing, animated with the imprisoned soul of a child. Oddly enough, it was a tale of supernatural domestic abuse, as the Ragboy’s father was an evil magician who planned to use the child’s soul in a dark ritual, and had “saved” it within the animated patchwork body.
As the project went on, the name kind of took on other meanings. Survivors of domestic abuse sew their lives up as best they can, but the scars are always there. Always. And there were such a wide variety of people who got involved: straight, gay, young, old, men, and women. Everyone contributed a different “fabric.”
AJ: Ragboy sounds like an interesting read and the sewing together fabrics of lives is appropriate for domestic abuse survivors (or really survivors of any horrific event). I hope someone picked Ragboy up. Where can folks find The Patchwork Project?
DB: People can check it out at www.patchworkproject.com.
AJ: What about Douglas Burchill? Where can we find some of his works?
DB: Well, you can got to www.carriondreams.weebly.com and check out some published and unpublished stories. Or go to www.necrotictissue.com and dig through the archives or order their anthology Malpractice: An Anthology of Bedside Terror. I’m in there, along with a bunch of other great writers with disturbing stories.
AJ: Douglas Burchill thank you for your time. We wish you the best of luck in your writing endeavors and, more importantly, we hope The Patchwork Project touches many people. As you stated, if one person is helped by it, then it has been well worth all of the work…
(Herbie’s Note: If you or anyone you know has gone through domestic violence or any other kind of abuse, please seek help at your local abuse centers, hospitals and police stations. You’re not alone, but no one can take that first step for you. Only you can.)