Thursday, March 31, 2016

Taking nothing for granted

I submitted my first ever application for an arts grant this week. What an interesting experience!

It is a pretty exacting process. You have to make sure that you submit exactly what the funding body requires as part of the application, right down to the number of copies, the size of the paper and the colour of the ink.

I actually quite enjoyed the experience. Part of the package the funding body required was my writing CV, including all of my publication credits, all media coverage I have received and all of the training and education, related to writing, I have pursued.

It was a lot of work, to be honest, but the final product was a bit of an eye-opener. I guess I have lost track, over the years, of just how much I have accomplished as a writer.

The only problem, at least from the stand point of the application, is that the funding body wants to know what category of writer I fall into and then to receive evidence that I meet the criteria they have established to qualify as a professional writer in that particular genre.

In constructing my CV, I came to realise that I am a writer of middling accomplishment in three different "artistic" genres -- literature, poetry and script writing -- as well as several genres of writing for which they do not provide funding, such as legal texts, magazine and newspaper articles.

And, while my grant application is intended to attract support for my proposal to adapt my Christmas novella into a play, I would most likely qualify as a professional writer only in the category of a writer of fiction (literature).
If I recall the standards correctly, someone who has published 10 poems would qualify as a professional poet. Someone who has published a single collection of stories or a single novel with a known publisher would be considered a professional literary writer, no matter how many copies their books sold. And a person who has written a single play that has been mounted by a professional theatre company might earn the title of professional dramatist.

So, while I have written 9 published poems, an award-winning short story, a legal text book (in two published editions),  parts of four other legal text books, four collections of children's stories (self-published but quite successful), a self-published novella, a coffee table book and two plays that have been produced at an amateur level and video-taped for training purposes, as well as literally hundreds of articles in newspaper and magazines, I may not qualify as a "professional writer" for the purposes of this grant.

Strange. I can only hope that the jury that considers my application will be willing to recognise the breadth and depth of my writing accomplishments across these genres in making its determination as to the merits of my application.

And funny. The most important thing I've written recently is a grant application that, if successful, would put me in a position to adapt my well-received Christmas novella into a stage play.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Writing: You don't have to do it alone

So now, after my brief brush with fame, it's time to get back to my own writing.

Yes, it was an amazing experience to get a chance to "work with" the likes of Jonny Harris, Fraser Young and Graham Chittenden of CBC's Still Standing last week (and I put the quotation marks around "work with" because, let's be honest, I did work with them in the sense that I went down and was interviewed and took part in the show but I really didn't work with them in the sense of writing with them in any way, shape or form) but now I have to settle myself back into life as a writer of middling success.

And try very hard to improve on the "middling" part of it.

I am very fortunate to have the chance, in my current writing pursuits, to work with some great people. I had long thought of writing as a solitary pursuit but, as this Abigail project in particular has progressed, I have learned the importance of creating a vibrant writing community around yourself.

On the Abigail stories, for example, I have always enjoyed the participation and input of my sister Lynn (who is both artist and designer for the books), my partner Patti (who is an exceptional editor and a wonderful sounding board for creative ideas) and some excellent reviewers (like Patty, Lola, Verne and Mary).

And now Mary O'Keefe has joined me in writing the stories themselves and I couldn't be happier. Mary is an upbeat, optimistic person with a wonderful writing voice. As a native of McAdam, she has insights into the community and its history that I simply do not bring to the table and, as an experienced writer herself, she is a great source of input and inspiration.

Mary and I met yesterday for a working lunch. Our goals: set down the basic structure of the upcoming fifth volume of Abigail stories, agree on some book-long plot arcs and start to settle on the plots for each of the individual stories.

It was a fun and productive meeting. In this next collection of stories, Abigail and the folks at the McAdam Railway Station will move in interesting new directions and face fun new challenges. We'll introduce some new characters without losing the innocent, playful joy of the first four collections of stories.

I can tell Mary was as excited as I was by our meeting: she's already sent me a long email, filled with the thoughts and ideas she's generated since our lunch less than 24 hours ago.

On the other projects, I am very lucky to be working with Nancy Lynch, who is as energetic as she is creative. She's working on several film projects of her own but still has the time and enthusiasm to push me to work on the scripts for The Station, our proposed web series.

And then, over coffee the other day, she looked across at me with a twinkle in her eye and said, "I think we need to get back to working on the Abigail play."

Creative colleagues can push you to be better and they can push you to be more productive. I'm very fortunate to have so many such colleagues in my life who are pushing me to the best writer I can be.