I’m having an extremely busy month. I’ve had articles to write, plus work on the novel, and I’ve spent a lot of time in the pottery studio, because most writers do need a fallback job, and mine’s pottery.

In addition, it’s grant season again, and while asking for a grant is no guarantee of getting one, if ya don’t ask, ya definitely don’t get. I’m in the process of filling out applications for Canada Council and for the Writers’ Reserve programme at the Ontario Arts Council.

The first time I applied for a grant, I found the process intimidating. But I believed in my work, and also I needed to pay some bills, so I applied, and waited. I fully expected to receive a grant with that first application, and I was seriously disappointed that I didn’t.

But I didn’t quit. I made five applications before I got my big grant, and by then I’d already received a couple of smaller ones. Those little grants went a long way to keeping the lights on and groceries on the table. More than that, they encouraged me to believe that I wasn’t the only one who saw something in my work.

If I can get a grant, I’m sure most serious, diligent writers can, too. Here are some tips.

1) Make sure you’re applying for a grant that fits your work. I know quite a bit now about writing grants from the OAC, but at the beginning I read everything several times, making sure that I wasn’t about to do something dumb, like apply to the wrong programme.

2) Remember that failure to get a grant first time out doesn’t mean your work sucked. There isn’t money to give every applicant a grant, and there isn’t even money to give every deserving applicant a grant.

3) If you have any doubts about the quality of your application or the support material (sample pages) you’re sending, get some advice.

For application questions, call the office. People at the OAC and Canada Council offices can’t advise you on your writing, but they can help you with the application itself. I’ll bet this statement could be made about every single granting agency.

For help with your pages, find people you know and trust who will critique your work and will not simply uniformly tell you, “This is fantastic!”

4) Before you seal that envelope, check the small stuff. On my very first application I put my name on the title page,  a huge mistake; the entries were supposed to be anonymous. Because I double-checked, I caught it.

5) Persistence pays. Those who get a grant in a particular programme usually can’t re-apply for a set period. I can’t apply for a Works in Progress grant until June 2012, two years after the application that won me a grant. Your oh-so-close application might win the next time.

Prepare your application, present it on time and with due regard for the rules, and persist, persist, persist. There are no guarantees but this one: if ya don’t ask, ya don’t get.

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