Monday, 22 February 2010


Well, I will natter a bit about this lovely grant I have been awarded, from Arts Council England, funded by The National Lottery.
I often looked at individuals awarded these grants, and wondered all sorts of things - How? Why? What? When? and Where? mostly. What were they spending this money on? Was it pints of cider down the pub while drowning their sorrows at not being able to write today?

Now I know – so I can pass it on. Every penny has to be very carefully planned. Your activity needs to be set out in a very detailed proposal, which covers what you would like to do, why, how it will benefit you, and the public (that’s a hard one to answer!), and how it will be funded. You must set out in minute detail what funds you are asking for, and also the funds you will be supplying yourself via various means. This is a must. Including help in kind. If awarded, each of the pennies must be accounted for, exactly as the proposal.
So – if you are expecting pints of cider, they need to be requested up front, and just may not get a grant…. (!)

Here you go – this is my What.

My grant is to fund working with an experienced novelist. She will act as sounding board and mentor, while I polish and reshape the first draft of the novel. I am lucky to be working with Maggie Gee , a novelist whose own work I enjoy for lots of reasons. But in the context of this activity, it is her clarity of structure that draws me. As well as her themes – her seeking to make sense of things through her work… if that makes sense to anyone out there!

What I love about the conversations we’ve had so far, is the understanding that this is my piece of work. That I am in the driving seat. And for a novelist whose last novel is called My Driver that seems rather appropriate. I’m about to send my first draft – with all the issues I have picked up over the last fortnight… voice issues, bagginess issues, structural issues, aaaagh… to this lady. I have ironed out the inadvertent wifeswappings and home removals discovered in the last two weeks.

The list of questions I’m sending is almost as long as the novel!
Maggie was featured in The Guardian last weekend…HERE in pre-publicity for her forthcoming memoir, My Animal Life – an account of her life as a writer. This comes out in March and I am bloody lucky that she is finding the time to work with me. Here’s the Amazon page for My Animal Life.

And here’s what Claire Tomalin has to say about this book:
'Exceptionally interesting and brave - Maggie Gee's account of her life as a writer cuts to the bone as she relives triumphs, rejections, despair and renewal. It's a wonderful book, for its boldness and vigour, and for its piercing honesty.' Claire Tomalin

So, there you are. This is what I am being funded for -working with this amazing writer. Oh - and - eight days stay at Anam Cara Writers and Artists Retreat, in Ireland, to break the back of the work, later on. Any questions, fire away!


Sophie Playle said...

Good stuff. Out of curiosity, how much does a stay at the writers' retreat cost?

Vanessa Gebbie said...

It depends on the room, Sophie. The one I like is 100 euros a day. Full board. Some are less.

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful news, Vanessa. I am so glad for you - and a bit envious, as Maggie Gee is one of my favourite writers + whenever I've heard/read her interviews, she's always struck me as both very profound and very warm (rare combination, that!). I recall seeing her sit on a panel of lit judges, and was impressed by her generosity and gentle touch.
Hooray for you, her and yer bewke!

lyuba said...

I'm interested to read this,V. Regarding the point "how will the mentoring etc. for your novel writing benefit the public" would it be terribly rude of me to ask how you replied to this? I'm planning to apply for a grant myself and trying to work on my own proposal, so I'm not just being nosy-more "picking your brains" on the subject.

Good luck with meeting your mentor and getting the novel into shape:I'm sure you'll find it hugely enjoyable, as well as beneficial.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

I dont mind at all. It did exercise the brain, that one. I think it is far easier to answer for a performance-related proposal, with projected audience figures, for example.

I quoted sales information published by Salt on their website, which had my current books in their top 20 sales lists. So, indications were that there was a market for my work... evidenced by my publisher's own figures.

I also concentrated on my teaching, and how it would be broadened thanks to the experience, benefitting future students. I looked at attendance rates for my workshops - most are sold out, thankfully. Any quantifiable indicators.

Bridget Whelan said...

Congratulations Vanessa and what a good idea to share nuts and bolts information about applying for the grant. Here's my experience (from 2007). One - it is essential to talk to appropriate Arts Council staff - they want you to because they recognize that form filling is a difficult business and one size does not fit all.
They have to fund work that is in the public domain so you need to present a convincing case that your novel will emerge from the computer one day. That was a problem for me as I didn't have a publishing contract at the time. But I did get my agent and the writer Lavina Greenlaw to write on my behalf and I am sure that was a major factor. I basically asked for living expenses - my share of the mortgage etc - to buy me time to write. (If Ihad known about Anam Cara then I would have gone -- it is definitely worth every euro.)

lyuba said...

Thank you for that, Vanessa. I can see that your prior success with "Glass Bubble" etc will have helped in convincing the sponsors (And, Bridget, the support by your agent & a respected writer would've helped, too.) Also, I'm assuming they're looking for something that'll benefit the max. no. of people-this is where your teaching comes in, presumably? Did you have to include anything to indicate your project would benefit another group, B, might I ask?

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Bridget is also a writing tutor.

I will be talking about the process of applying as well - B makes a very good point about contacting the human beings - not just relying on bits of paper....or indeed websites, as the application porcess is in the throes of change.

Rachel Fenton said...

This post is brilliant - I have been wondering what funding there is over here in NZ - I am still caught between countries though it seems. Can't enter comps here bacause I haven't been a resident for three years! If one's a resident, why does it make a difference if it's been one year or three? Anyway....

I wonder if one has to have had a novel published to get funding for another?....

anyway - going to look into it all now! Thanksa!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Rachel - that 3 year rule does seem a bit hard - do they also insist that New Zealanders spend more than 50% of their time in the sountry before they can enter, too?

I obviously cant answer your last point, except to say that I havent written a novel. And neither had bridget Whelan, (who joins in the conversation above) - I dont think.

her website is here:

Rachel Fenton said...

Hey, thanlls for this...I'll hop over to Bridget's and pester!