By Alysee Shelton Duluth News Tribune
Nikki Bollman, 30, has a strong passion for writing stories about magic and dragons.
Now, with the help of the Internet and maybe a few hundred online strangers, she's trying to turn that skill into a way of paying for her six-week maternity leave.
Bollman's job as a full-time preschool teacher at Happy Time Day Care Center in Duluth does not offer her a paid maternity leave.
She loves the work, but she worried that her growing family would be strapped financially without the added income.
"I have worked at the center for a year and a half," Bollman said. "It is such a good place and I love it. However, they aren't required to pay me during my maternity leave."
That's when Bollman, who was due July 29, and her husband, Chris Bollman, 27, decided to create a "crowdfunding" campaign online to raise money to cover her maternity leave.
The campaign began July 21, and the Bollmans have raised $415 from family, friends and strangers.
"It is our first time doing something like this," Chris Bollman said. "It wasn't something that immediately came to our mind, but sure enough, someone brought it to our attention and we thought it was a good idea, so we started a campaign."
"It's crazy," Nikki Bollman said of the amount raised so far. "I wasn't expecting to get this much in such a short amount of time."
Crowdfunding -- also called "crowdsourcing" -- is a way for people to seek money to pay for a particular project.
Individuals who donate money can receive rewards or perks. In recent years, crowdfunding has seen rapid growth.
People have funded everything from home mortgage loans to launching music projects and comic books. Some of the more well-known examples include the site Kickstarter, and the successful project to turn the canceled television series "Veronica Mars" into a full-length movie.
While Bollman's ambitions aren't at the level of a Hollywood blockbuster, she does hope her creative fiction finds an appreciative audience.
She is selling her e-book short story "The Washery Mage" for $1 and her e-book novel "Dragons of Arethia Book One: Tesa's Journey" for $5.
For $100, Bollman will name a character in her book after the name of a generous contributor.
Bollman said she also includes hand-knitted items such as socks as one of the perks.
"I'm pretty much addicted to knitting," Bollman said. "My friend gave me a knitting book in college. I picked up a few skills and have been knitting ever since."
The couple said their campaign has received both positive and negative feedback from the public.
"I had someone say, 'Well if she is doing this, then can I raise money for a new kitchen?" Bollman noted.
"However I have had more positive comments than negative ones," she said. "Most people think it is really cool. One woman thanked me for doing this and said, 'Women shouldn't have to choose between paying rent and carrying a newborn.' "
It's also a way to keep Bollman motivated with her writing.
"I really do enjoy writing," Bollman said. "I've been doing it for a while but recently picked it back up. My mom was reading my stories and said, 'I didn't know you could write like this. It is great.' At first I thought she was just saying that because she is my mom, but it feels good to know she genuinely likes my stories."
Bollman hopes to continue to write as a way to help provide for her family. She's considering using crowdfunding again in the future for a different project.
"My goal is to have a creative project to fund ... like a book," she said. "I think it would be a cool idea for the future."
To view one of Bollman's short stories or novels, visit indiegogo.com/projects/crowdfund-my-maternity-leave.