Are you eligible for a grant for your writing project?
Julieann Wrightson called me excitedly last week, saying she had managed to squeeze into the Writers Grant Info evening being conducted by the NSW Writers Centre.
Wrightson, who is in the last stretch of writing a book on Food Intolerances, had applied for entry to the free info session which was open to the public (with preference being given to Centre members), and to the speedy. The session was fully booked to capacity within 24 hours of being advertised. With the company of about 50 other writers (possibly 60, says Julieann if you count those standing at the back), it was a chance to hear information freshly delivered from the heads of the Australia Council of Arts (Wenona Burne), the Copyright Agency (Nicola Evans), Create NSW (Toni Close) and the CEO of the Writing NSW (NSW Writers’ Centre), Jane McCredie.
All these organisations have numerous grants for a wide variety of artistic projects, and sifting through the information on individual websites is a research project in itself. Therefore – information that is targeted for emerging authors? – bonanza.
This is the kind of event that NSW Writers Centre seems to do so well: an intimate evening being addressed by people who are the most able to provide vital and up to date information. Below is a question and answer segment with Julieann (btw – Julieann and I work together – she is writing a book on Food Intolerances and I am providing regular editing/coaching as she progresses).
Afterwards, I interviewed Julieann who was mightily pleased with the level of information and clarity she obtained in little less than 90 minutes.
The evening, how did it go?
Julieann: The place was full of people like me – emerging authors with limited experience in either publishing or applying for grants. In fact one of the tips I took on board was that there was a grant-writing workshop being held by Fairfield City Council [note: which is in Julieann’s corner of the Sydney woods]. However, most seemed to be fiction writers, whereas I am undertaking what I can now confidently call ‘a writing project’ (that is, a project that is more factual/wellness-based rather than creative fiction). Everyone was pretty excited, including me.
How did the workshop unfold?
J: Jane Mcredie chaired the panel and each organisational head gave an overview of their grant structure and mission, and the types of grants that are suitable for works in progress.
What did you get out of it?
J: What I realised is that there are quite a large variety of grants made available from quite a few agencies – and some of those are definitely for emerging writers. That is, people like me with very limited publishing experience and who don’t have a track record of written works out there.
I now know that my book would be considered a writing project, and for that category there are specific grants and criteria.
It seemed to me that the Australia Council of Arts (ACA) was the agency with the widest variety of grants suitable for emerging writers, with a few Fellowships also available. The Copyright Agency seems to cater more for established writers – requiring a minimum of two published books as basic criteria. Create NSW seems to have a professional development approach with priority given to people and organisations focussing on indigenous, regional NSW, outer western Sydney, and special projects like science (eg there is a grant for writers working with scientists).
There are several different rounds for grant applications with each organisation (Julieann provided the links below for each organisation).
Overall there are millions of dollars available each year for artists, writers and organisations catering for them. There are four rounds of grant application processes per year, and it is important to stage your grant to meet the requirements of your work (and vice versa). Something like 100-150 grant applications are submitted collectively to the agencies, and around 10-15% are successful. There are grants for groups, events, self development, Fellowships, assistance at various stages of a project.
And for you in particular?
J: For me – I know I will apply in the October round with the ACA – targeting the grant for assistance with writing projects. Specifically I will ask for funding to help with the marketing and layout costs of the book. By that time the book will be finalised. From what I understand of the grants, a show of good faith and effort – that my project is well-advanced – should put me in good stead. I can show that my contribution has been serious and substantial. By October I will have completed the book. I will be able to demonstrate how much work has gone into the editing and mentoring (via Sydney School of Arts) and my own efforts in taking a public speaking course (in preparation for giving talks at Wellness groups and conferences). So the grant will be for very specific practical assistance in promotional costs and layout, readying the book for publishing.
I spoke to one of the panel members at the end of the session, and I think she was impressed that I had taken a great deal of initiative in working with an editor. To them I think it shows that I have invested in the project already. Plus I am building an audience via my blog, website and by engaging with wellness groups and events.
Will you self-publish?
J: Yes, as the book progresses I am thinking this is the most likely outcome. My book does not easily fall into any one category. It is about Wellness, but also about physical health, and has a cook-book section (which I think is vital to demonstrate that living with food intolerances need not be a culinary death-sentence). I understand that conventional publishers need to have track record of sales before they invest in a publication, and mine will be forging a new path. Also, I require a great deal of specialised promotion for this type of book. With some financial assistance I can ensure it reaches the right audience and book shops.
What is the track you will follow?
J: I started writing this book on food intolerances (which I have suffered and studied for over 20 years) – to help others. But also thinking I could knock it out in a few months. [Much mutual laughter here – Julieann has been working on her book, chapter by chapter for the past year – and week by week we have pored over each chapter editing and discussing as it has evolved.] Every step of the way has informed the next step, and the course of the book has created itself. I never realised it would be such a deep process, this writing. That has been a surprise. I never thought I would have to delve into so many of my personal experiences – but I realised this was pivotal to making the whole project make sense.
And of course building my audience, working on blogs, attending conferences and groups that will be conduits for reaching the people who would benefit from reading the book, that was organic. But surprising as well. Suddenly I realised that I would need to polish up my public speaking skills, and it terrified me. I had a little melt down, and now I am stepping up. I have signed up for a Toastmasters course, and heading towards the October deadline for the grant application at ACA. If successful, the funding should kick in in time for me to layout and then publish and market the book.
Links for Grants
For the curious – how Julieann and I work as author and editor:
Julieann approached the SSOA in early 2018 with a satchel of research, an introduction, and a sketch of how she wanted her book to look. She had a big vision and a truck-load of inspiration and determination. I was assigned as Julieann’s editor/writing coach by Dr Christine Williams, the SSOA director. For the next year, as Julieann wrote each chapter, we would sit together, editing the words, discussing the flow, the shape, the tone of the book as it evolved. By the beginning of March, Julieann was almost finished in terms of gathering tables, research, the interplay of personal and ‘scientific’ information, and she had an idea of how she wanted the book to look and feel for the reader.