Now that I have successfully acquitted my first grant, I have time to reflect on exactly what it meant, what I gained from it and whether I'd do it all over again. So here we go, my top reasons for granting yourself permission to shine:
What did it mean being awarded a grant?
- Freedom.To expand on my writing goals and bring more of them closer to fruition.
- Resources. To perfect my picture book projects. I undertook a structured mentorship with Dee White to facilitate this.
- Choice. To use funds to make decisions that positively influenced, affected and improved my craft.
What did I gain from funding?
- A sense of acknowledgement. Somebody was willing to take a punt on me. That's an awesome feeling. It drives you to deliver.
- Pride. I was financially better armed and more determined than ever to perfect (picture book) manuscripts that had for too long languished about in files and second place, just out of publishers' cross hairs. It felt like I was taking (better) ownership of them again.
- Accessibility. I was able to actively participate in and attend festivals and conferences that had erstwhile been just out of my reach.
- Intensive mentoring. This was a marvellous rite of passage for me as a writer. To work one-on-one with a mentor who gets you and your work yet still strives to push you beyond your comfort zone is not always as fun as eating cake but I personally found it just as moreish. It raised the challenge of self-editing, writing harder, thinking smarter and remaining honest to myself to exhilaratingly new levels. This was something I hadn't always got from writing group appraisals or buddy critiques alone. Mentoring meant I had somebody permanently there, watching my back, ready to lend a supporting hand whenever my words fell into a pot hole and needed pulling out.
- Achievement. I feel I have really learned something after another year of workshops and exposure to industry professionals. Perhaps I would have attended those courses anyway in due course, but through mentoring, I've been able to consolidate that knowledge; really get to know it and apply it in a way that feels more akin to second nature than ever before.
- Publication. Well, not quite but ever closer. One manuscript is still with a prospective publisher as a result of months of rewriting and work on it. Maybe they'll be the next 'somebody' willing to take a punt on me...
You betcha. While the whole process of tracking down the best funding opportunity for you and your project and subsequently applying for it does chew into a fair chunk of your writing time, it is at the same time a liberating and gratifying experience, similar to getting your stories on the page in the first place.
Many other grant recipients I know have gone on to produce and or publish fine works with the monies (and time) they've received through funding bodies. Having dreams is fine. Relentlessly pursuing them is great. Not being afraid of asking for help when your dream pool dries up now and then is simply a sensible (and not uncommon) business decision.
Regardless of what direction my personal publishing success takes, I will continue to apply for further funding. And I remain compelled to connect with my (young) reading community, because I feel this is a crucial component of my job as a writer for children, and therefore a patron of children's literature.
In the words of Yann Martel:
If we citizens do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams.
Make your dreams count.