Good news from the Indiana Arts Commission: they've approved my project modification. This basically means that the funds that would have gone, in the original proposal, towards my workshop tuition -- now covered by the Ali scholarship (thank you, thank you, FAWC!) -- will now be used in other ways.
I feel like I've been walking around in this state of wide-open gratitude for the past couple of weeks, since finding out about the grant. Really, I've been feeling pretty darned grateful ever since May when I found out about the scholarship. It is amazing to me, and kind of scary too, that people who don't even know me can take a look at some of my work and believe in me enough to make this kind of an investment. It makes me want to work really hard, to put myself on the line a little bit more than I otherwise might. I guess that's the whole point of it. Ultimately, I have to write because of what comes from inside me: I have to motivate my own self, not depend on encouragement from others. Writing is ultimately a pretty solitary act. But damned if the occasional encouragement doesn't give me a good and helpful kick in the pants. :)
So here's a quick rundown of the project I proposed and for which I'm getting the grant. The main thrust of it is to get my #$%*! book manuscript banged together, finally. To that end, the grant is covering travel & housing expenses for my workshop next week, which is a revision workshop -- the review panel really liked that I'd specifically chosen to focus on revision at this stage of the game, and my hope is that I will try to think about how revision might feel different as I begin to work with a bunch of poems as a body of work, how the poems might inform one another as I work to revise them.
Then I will be packing my bags again in October and heading off for a ten-day writing retreat. (I haven't applied yet, but I have someplace in mind; gotta get that application in now!) I want to take stacks of poems, and scatter them around the room and put them in piles and spend the time constructing that manuscript. Of course I'll revise poems as needed, and maybe write new ones as I find places where I need new ones in the manuscript. I also plan to take a big stack of books and get a bunch of reading done, and I'd be very surprised if I don't also draft a lot of new poems just by virtue of having that sacred time and space set aside & surrounding myself with words. But the main goal will be to come away from the retreat with a workable draft of a book-length manuscript.
Then I've also got a little chunk of money in the budget for contest and submission fees. Optimistic, huh? :) I should be able to send it out to about ten places. I'm not thinking about that part too much yet.
Finally, in March or April of next year, I'm going to do a big bang-up gala reading. I plan to invite a couple of other local poets to read with me. I'm nervous about it, because I've never "headlined" a reading before -- usually I just read with my poetry group or as one of a lineup in someone else's event -- I wonder whether anyone will actually come? I guess we'll find out.
One of the requirements for the grant is that there should be some "public benefit" derived from my project. This is sort of interesting, because the ultimate outcome would be to get the book published and maybe that benefits somebody besides me (sort of), but if that happens it won't happen during my grant year. I'll get it submitted during the grant year, but I doubt I'll hear back from most of the places before the funding cycle ends. The spring reading is part of my "public benefit" component. The other part: blogging! I plan to blog about the whole process -- managing the grant, going to the workshop, wrestling with the manuscript, sending it out. My hope is that other poets will be able to learn something from my experience, even if it turns out to be "how not to do it." *grin*
It was interesting putting together the grant application. I went to a workshop for potential grant applicants, at which a couple of Indiana Arts Commission staff members explained the process and answered questions; that was so helpful and if you're thinking about applying for a grant and have the opportunity to attend something of that nature, it's well worth it. Besides the "public benefit" part, one aspect of the proposal that they stressed was that it should represent taking the next step in your artistic career. That meant I had to spend some time thinking about what that might mean for me. Even if I hadn't been awarded the grant, that process would have been so helpful to me: asking myself what I was ready for, what could I do to really push myself, what seemed equally feasible and terrifying? Because I'd thought about just asking for a really nice laptop, and I could certainly use a new laptop to replace my on-its-last-legs one, but would that make me a better poet? Nah.
So that's the basic road map for this grant-funded year. It all feels like a very big step to me, but (and I hope this doesn't sound too ego-y) it also feels like a logical step. It's about time I got cracking. I'm forty-six years old; if I want to have a book published before I'm fifty, I don't have a lot of time to waste.
It's pretty funny being this open about the whole process, saying out loud "yes, I am working on a book manuscript and I'm going to try to get it published." I hope I'm not jinxing it. This is all going to be an interesting experiment....