Tuesday, 23 February 2010
The human side of applying for an ACE Grant
I'd say it is a good idea to get to know the person in your area responsible for your ‘sector’ within the Art’s Council. I was able to meet with the Literature Officer for my area, and talk about the novel.
I actually emailed first, and was invited to drop in a copy of my short story collection, Words from a Glass Bubble and a CV to the regional offices. I added a copy of the Flash Fiction text book. I was meaning to ask about something smaller, something completely different – finding out whether there might be a grant available for travel to a conference. This nice guy breezed down to collect the envelope, and whisked me out for an unscheduled breakfast meeting in Costa.
It turned out that this was too small a sum. The Arts Council do not look at proposals for less than £1000.00. 'And anyway,' he said, 'these conferences are rather meaningless. An excuse for a jolly.' Hmm!
The conversation over a rather delicious cappuccino and almond biscuits turned to the novel. And to some of the ups and downs along the way – of which there have been a few. It was a very open, good conversation, telling him a lot about the various bits and bobs that have happened to some of the sections, mainly good stuff. This conversation was hugely supportive. It came round to the question of what I most needed help with, to finish it. Wow. This thing I’d been battling with for three years began to look solid. So what did I need most? Structure, definitely. Coherence?
I have to say, I am incredibly grateful for that meeting. It was his idea to focus on a mentoring process in which I would have a sounding board while I reshaped a finished draft. Did I know anyone I’d like to work with? Yes. That bit was easy.
The message was - OK, now go through the application process. He warned me clearly that there was a lot of competition for grants, and I may not be successful. But encouraged me to try.
The Arts Council website is stuffed with information. They are in the process of changing to online applications – but for me, you could check your eligibility online, forms and details could be downloaded, the guidelines (a 40 page book!) and you could ask for the application pack. Which was basically all that stuff in hard copy.
There are constant mentions of help available from the ACE staff. Phone numbers to ring, web addresses and so on. And it works - I did ring once to check whether I could apply to go to a writer's retreat outside the UK. Answer, 'yes'. And also, whether the proportion of 'in kind' and other funds was appropriate for the size of grant I was asking for.
The guideline book sets everything out systematically. If you follow the instructions, you will be fine – but they are complicated, lots of twists and turns as they cover each possible facet from all sides, often more than once. I found the budget section very hard!. You do need to have your wits about you and a second pair of eyes, at least.
My second pair of eyes was writing buddy Andrew Marshall, who is going to help evaluate the activity. And my daughter-in-law, who used to be something in the City- helped as well, especially with the budget.
And you only have 1000 words to spend on your proposal, which has to be quite detailed.
The forms were sent off, duly completed. After a while I got a call, from the Literature Officer I had had that breakfast meeting with – asking for a lot more information. The proposals had been sent to him, to assess.
I redid the proposal, ignoring the word limit, as advised. Adding in a lot more about me, about my proposed mentor, and why this choice. I suspect that the low limit is to help them sift the applications– and they ask for more if they want to know… but that’s just me supposing.
And a month later got the nice news. Again, any questions, fire away.
I mentioned this blog on the proposal – ‘an honest look at the ups and the downs’, . This grant is a definite ‘UP’! And it seemed a great idea to tell people about the grant process - good practice, or summat.