Granted - Writing a Picture Book ain't easy

Around winter a year ago, I was blessed to be awarded a  CAL Creative Industries Career Fund grant. There was much rejoicing and disbelief then more rejoicing. This was duly followed by quiet hand clapping, frantic paper shuffling, pencil sharpening and then excited conference booking. Several spread sheets, dozens of workshop notes, zillions of manuscript drafts and one grant acquittal later, I am happy to report that I am creeping ever closer to the conviction that granted, writing a picture book is not as straightforward as a walk in the park even when that walk includes the most beguiling, fluffy-eared, impeccably behaved pup displaying all the necessary attributes to make passersby stop and swoon with delight, but it is one hundred per cent worth it.

In fact this is a notion I've been clinging onto for some years now, rather like a the proverbial dog with a bone. But as any progressing author (I tend to shun the term 'emerging'. I mean I've been born, already.) will tell you, without the merchandising funds of your latest, in fact your only, published work to sustain you, finding replacement leads for your pencils, let alone inspiration to continue writing gets a bit tricky.
So I decided to step up my speed and purpose and ask for a helping hand. I applied for many funds and fellowships with the same commitment and determination as I had when entering competitions and awards in the past. And I lucked out. How to go about choosing and applying for grants is an art unto itself. Getting the timing right can be as exacting as submitting a manuscript. But the fact is, there are many organisations, associations and funding bodies that offer regular opportunities for you to seek financial assistance for your writing or illustration project no matter what it might be.

For those ready and interested, this re-blogged post of Charlotte Wood's is an extremely useful and detailed look at how to go about the grant writing process (for literary funding). The article hits every nail on the head. Of course I happened across it after already applying for mine. But nonetheless, it provides great reminders for the next time and time after that.

So what have I learnt?
  • Know exactly why you want a grant. Have a clear project goal with attainable objectives but don't be unrealistic.
  • Invest in your self and your work, put in the hard yards first. In other words, commit to your craft. It pays to accrue some industry experience, credentials and publications. I waited several years before applying.
  • Cultivate your author persona and almost as important, be aware of those around you.
  • Do your homework. Study what's on offer and determine which fund, grant, award or fellowship will best suit your project requirements at this stage of your career.
  • Be prepared, ordered and methodical when completing grant applications. Follow application guidelines to the letter.
  • Details matter. Take time to work on a realistic budget (they may want to see how you intend to spend the money they offer you). Work on supplying quality support material, this may include samples of your own work and or letters of recommendation from those in the industry.
  • Acquit your grant in a timely and professional manner. This is when you report back to the funding body at the completion of your grant period, once you've been awarded it. Because you will get one. It's only a matter of time...
Why did I seek funding?

Because I'd been walking around that park with my picture book pup (actually a whole pack of them) for a long time. Enjoyable as that was, I felt like I was going in circles. Structured mentorships had been unattainable to me before but with the CIC fund I finally had the opportunity, impetus and (great sigh of relief), resources to embark on one. This I did with the awesomely patient and wise, Dee White. The year that followed, attending conferences, stockpiling information and working with Dee one-on-one on my manuscripts was the most incredible rite of passage.

So what did I gain?

Well, you'll have to tune in again next time when I outline what a grant did for me and how you could benefit too.

Granted, you may not quite be at this stage yet, so simply file this information away safely. You will be one day.

Thanks to Sheryl Gwyther for first bringing Charlotte's wonderful blog post to my attention.


Karen Tyrrell said…
Hi Dimity,
Congrats on winning a grant. Thanks for sharing all your tips.
You mentioned you're developing a picture book. Are you launching one this year? ... Karen :)
DimbutNice said…
Hey Karen, thanks for visiting. Developing, working on, coveting, nuturing - launching? Not - quite - yet.
Dapoppins said…
Hello! Wait- there is a GRANT for this??? So. I need to start at the beginning. WHERE is the best place to look for a grant for writing children's picture books? What are the legitimate places?
DimbutNice said…
Hi Dana, I think we met on LinkedIn. I have left details there of various places to begin your search for the perfect grant for you. But I would urge you to start your search with associations such as SCBWI. This is an international association and offers a selection of award and funding opportunities. Depending on your location, there would be other Government bodies (Arts arms) that offer a variety of grants too. These would be a good place to start looking. I am not sure of the exact set up in North America.
Susan Whelan said…
Thanks for sharing this Dimity. I haven't ever thought of applying for a grant, but the frustration of not having the resources to attend workshops and writers' festivals and to access mentoring services is getting very frustrating. I need to set aside some time to look into what is available.
DimbutNice said…
Hi ya Susan, Yes go for it. There is plenty available. I agree, we get to a point with our writing but unless avenues magically open up to embrace it, it can become a silent frustrating dream. It needn't be. Grants are simply another avenue of resources to explore to help manage your writing goals better.

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