Be different. Leave a trail.
The Story of Chaz Hayden
I grew up in New Jersey and was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a form of Muscular Dystrophy, when I was three months old. Doctors told my mom that I wouldn't live to see my first birthday. My strength and motivation were definitely harnessed that day, even if I had no idea what was happening. My mom
was undiscouraged, and has fought for me every day since, bringing me to
doctors and physical therapists who wouldn't give up or take the easy way out.
I got my first powered wheelchair when I was two years old and never looked
back. I went full throttle in a split second.
Of course, the fight didn't end there. As a child I battled illnesses and surgeries
and always came out the other end a stronger person, because I knew
that—despite my disability and the roadblocks I’d face—I was meant to live and
experience life just like everyone else. And I knew that there were lessons I’d
want to share.
Growing up, sports was a huge part of my family life. My brother played everything and my dad coached, and I was right there with them. I used to tell people that sports was my middle name. Whatever I couldn't do physically, I made up for mentally, learning the ins and outs of the game. What I'm trying to say is that I always found a way to get involved. I never felt like there were hardships in the way, but puzzles I had the pleasure of solving.
Before starting high school I knew I’d need to find a non-traditional route, as the school in my town didn’t have access to the technology I’d need to be an independent student. I’d heard about a program at the community college near my house that offered students the ability to attend part time while also going to public high school, and I asked my mom to drive me there so I could learn more. There were several placement exams I had to take, but the kicker was that it was all on the computer—when the college faculty casually asked what software I’d need to take the test, my mom and I honestly thought we were on a hidden camera show.
Long story short, I started college at the age of 15. At the time, I was hellbent on one day working in the NFL and chose business as my major. I’d always enjoyed reading, but writing wasn't on my mind…yet.
I graduated two years later and ended up transferring to the University of Arizona,
since I’d been accepted to their honors business school and I could be closer
to my grandmother, who lived in AZ. But I also wanted to move to a new part of the
country and experience a different culture. Of course, my mom came with me.
While in Arizona, I interned for the football team as we won the PAC-12 South
and played in the Fiesta Bowl. At the age of 18, I graduated (with a degree in finance)
like a lot of young people…without a job and moving back home.
Since I can't do much physically, I tend to spend a lot of time in my head,
and it was during the 10 months of endless job applications that I started
to think up stories, and started to write them down. I liked to think that
other people had experiences like mine and I could tell those stories,
not just about disability but about friendship and love and all the things
that a young person hopes to experience. In the summer of 2016
I landed a finance internship in NYC and my mom and I spent six months
trying to survive the brutal commute. I made a name for myself
in the thirty story building, but something didn't feel right. The internship
ended and I landed a full-time job, still in the financial world, but this time
in New Jersey.
So while I worked my 9-to-5 I sharpened my skills, writing short stories and novels and joining critique groups with my regional SCBWI chapter. My dream is to have a career as an author that can live outside of the books I write. I want to engage and interact with readers of every stripe.
My debut novel, The First Thing About You, feels like the perfect way to
introduce myself to the literary world. It’s slated for publication in September 2022
by Candlewick Press.
Wow…that turned out to be much longer than I expected. Sorry!
For something shorter, this bio sums me up pretty perfectly: I ride around in a
sick wheelchair. Besides that I'm a chicken nugget eating, football watching,
music loving, tattoo collecting, writer of young adult novels.