You didn’t get a grant…now what?
By Lindsay Zier-Vogel
It’s grant notice season, and while some writers will be happy dancing all over their kitchens (if you are one of them, this column is for you!), some of us, well, won’t be dancing in the kitchen. Some of us will be sobbing into our keyboards AND THAT IS OKAY.
Statistically, not getting a grant is the norm. In the 2021-22 granting season, there were 10,222 grants submitted to the OAC and only 3,715 grants were awarded. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
So what do you do after you find out you didn’t get a grant?
Go there. Be sad, disappointed, jealous, feel your feelings! It’s hard to put your work out there and be hopeful and want something, and it’s okay to be disappointed if you don’t get it. And if your writer friends are sending you confetti canon emojis and posting photos of their acceptance letters, it’s okay to not reply. It’s okay to ask for some space.
Writing is vulnerable, and rejections can hurt. Don’t let one peer jury determine your worth as a writer. And make sure to take care of yourself as best you can.
And once you’re ready, it’s time to…
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If you already have text to work with and the project is still in the works, REAPPLY! But instead of copy and pasting the exact text into the portal again, see if there are some changes you can make…
Check the category (on Canada Council notifications)
If it’s a Canada Council grant, get out the category: there are three - Acceptances, Recommended, and Unsuccessful grants. Acceptances means you get the money. Recommended means it exceeded the minimum score in each of the three assessment categories – artistic merit, impact, and viability, but wasn’t high enough in the ranking to receive funding, and “Unsuccessful” means that the application didn’t meet the minimum scores in the three assessment categories. This info is helpful to have for when you reapply.
Call your grant officer
Though you can’t get feedback on a past grant, you can call an officer before the next deadline and run your project past them. Ask questions! Take notes! See if there are different angles you need to clarify, or budget notes you can be clearer about. Don’t be shy! That’s what they’re there for!
Review your application
Though I write grants for a living, my own grants are not my best work and I always ask a writer friend for an edit. (My friend Julia and I often edit each other’s applications and it’s invaluable!) Inevitably, some parts that are crystal clear in my mind aren’t clear at all on the page.
(Also, you can take a look at some of my other suggestions here and here!)
Reviewing Canada Council applications:
For Canada Council applications, ask yourself:
- if a mentor or editor would help with the project;
- if you’re paying artists (including mentors and beta readers!), make sure you’re paying them professional artist fees that are industry standards or union rates (I like to use the Writers’ Union of Canada’s editing fees);
- if your project includes interviewing people, consider paying them an honorarium for their time;
- have you broken down your work plan into clear plan – research, developing a character, conducting interviews, focusing on pacing, etc. And are you giving yourself enough time with each of these tasks? Be realistic with your timelines! It takes more than a couple weeks to do a substantive edit on a novel! Whipping out fifty poems in a month is pretty rare!
Note: You don’t have to complete a book with a Research & Creation grant. The funding can support part of the book writing process!
Review your support material
Is your support material connected to your project? If it isn’t an excerpt from the project you’re asking for funds for, ensure you’ve made it very clear to the jury how it is connected to your proposal. If it is from your proposed project, is it the strongest section? Does it connect with all of the themes and ideas you wrote about in the project description? (And if not, find a section that does!)
Balance your budget
This is only for the Canada Council writing grants, but make sure to add in the request amount into the revenue section of the budget form, and ensure the expenses and the revenue zero out.
Just before you press submit, put yourself in a juror’s shoes and read your application using the juries’ rubric:
1. Artistic merit: this includes your project proposal and support material – do they relate to each other?
2. Viability: your work plan and budget – do they reflect each other? Are the detailed and clear?
3. Impact: this includes the impact on your artistic career, and where it sits in the larger ecosystem of your form/genre
And then you’re all set to reapply
Smash the submission button! You’ve got this!
For the first entry in this two part series about grants, check out Lindsay's latest on what happens when you DO receive grant funding.
The views expressed by Open Book columnists are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Lindsay Zier-Vogel is a Toronto-based writer, arts educator and the creator of the internationally acclaimed Love Lettering Project. After studying contemporary dance, she received her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto. Her writing has been widely published in Canada and the U.K. Since 2001, she has been teaching creative writing workshops in schools and communities. Her hand-bound books are housed in the permanent collection at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto. As the creator of the Love Lettering Project, Lindsay has asked people all over the world to write love letters to their communities and hide them for strangers to find, spreading place-based love. Lindsay also writes children’s books. Because of The Love Lettering Project, CBC Radio has deemed Lindsay a “national treasure.” Letters to Amelia is her first book.