the elusive grant

Monday, 9 November 2015

A little while ago, I learned I had won my first grant. I put on a blue dress, heels and a peach paper crown, and ran around the house while pink sparkles popped all around. It was a lovely, lovely thing--thank you, ArtsACT!

This Grant was awarded to serve as an income for six months' work on my very first self-illustrated book, and it's meant I'll be able to truly put my head down and focus instead of teaching, speaking, running workshops, editing, writing articles, hosting book signings, and the myriad other things most creators do to earn an income (other than, er ... create).

So, yes, it was HURRAH! time, and the pressure I've felt over creating this book (for very many reasons, not just income) has been immensely lessened. I'm so grateful to ArtsACT for offering creators this kind of support . . . after all, as Winston Churchill once said, if we don't have the Arts, then what are we *fighting for? (*Thankfully, we are not at war, but regardless, the Arts are well worth fighting for!)

If you are keen to put your own sweet head down--either inches from the keyboard or the canvas or your tap shoes or whatever else you dream of creating--then here are my ideas for grant-shopping. Just be sure to dust off that peach paper crown in anticipation.


Seek out as many grant options as you possibly can. There are grants in places you'd never imagine, but a good place to start is with your own state writers centre. Some universities also offer support such as residencies.

Look at your local government's site and don't forget government-funded bodies like the National Library of Australia, who offer fellowships.

The Society of Book Writers and Illustrators {SCBWI} has a wide variety of awards and grants for creators, as does Illustrators Australia, the Australian Society of Authors, the Copyright Agency and the Australia Council.

The Australian Federal Government has funding opportunities. Remember, too, that publishers and art centres and even other creators frequently run prizes and competitions. Check websites for frequency and currency.

I highly recommend subscribing to industry newsletters for news and updates on all these opportunities--such as Pass it On and Buzz Words.

Residencies and fellowships are another great way to make contacts and have creating time funded. They are also quite a prestigious thing to win. Some pay for full board, others offer a contribution. Some pay for meals, others don’t. Some run for a few days, others weeks.

Again, there are many opportunities you can search for online, but here are a few for both authors and illustrators, to get you started:
May Gibbs
Peter Blazey Fellowship
Katharine Susannah Prichard Residencies
Pinerolo Children’s Book Cottage


Grants take time and effort--sometimes A LOT of time and effort--and it's felt on both sides. The creator puts in a lot of work, and the grant-givers put in a lot of work.

Don't waste your time (and theirs) by applying for a grant that doesn't fit nearly with the project you want funding for. Read guidelines very, very carefully and if you're still unsure if your work resonates strongly with the guidelines, or if it will even stand a chance, phone the appropriate contact and talk to them about it. I've done this before, and it was well worth it.

Many organisations will provide tips on how to produce the best application, so do spend time reading them.

Read the grant application guidelines very carefully and take notes before you even begin. Once you start work on the application, take great care that you're following and answering all you need to.

Go over your application again and again and again and again. Have someone else proofread it and then let it sit awhile before going over it again. You've put a lot into this application--the last thing you want is to be rejected over a handful of typos or a lack of clarity or missing one important question.


In my years of editing manuscripts, one thing I've learned is that it's very easy to get wrapped up in the story in our own head--and oftentimes, that story doesn't translate well to a reader (and that's why we need editors). Oftentimes, it can be downright confusing for the reader.

So, explain yourself in a way that assumes the reader knows nothing about you or what's in your head . . . because they don't! Be clear and concise and en pointe. Don't waffle. Don't be cryptic.

If you've said enough in answer to one question, stop. Don't be tempted to fill in a 300-word count if you only have 207 words to say. You don't HAVE to keep going. Sometimes less is more.


Write your application with your own voice. Don't be too formal or informal--just be you. Try not to use cliches and words like 'dream' and 'passion'. Think outside the square and be open and honest. Explain what this project means to you and how this grant will allow you to achieve it.

If you aren't asked directly, try to factor in how your project will benefit your community as well as your career direction.


Show your enthusiasm and joy for your project but keep focus on that project and not what's going on in your life elsewhere (unless, of course, it's critical to the actual project). Everyone experiences tragedy and setbacks and challenges--while it might be tempting to reveal you're broke or going through a bad breakup, make it about your project and how creating it will be a positive, fulfilling thing, not how the grant will rescue you.

I know you don't want to hear it, but here we go . . . dust yourself off and try again.

Most organisations will offer feedback on applications and you should absolutely take advantage of that. Panels WANT you to succeed, and are willing to invest that time in advising you how to do it better next time.

Again, it's hard to hear, but grants are hotly contested, especially larger grants from bigger bodies like the Australia Council. Often, the call for funding will outweigh the available funds by as much as 100 times, so don't be disheartened if you miss out. Many others did, too.

Perhaps start small--go for smaller funding amounts or via smaller funding bodies until you have gained the confidence and experience to go for the big ones.

8. MORE . . . 
See my post on Writing a Literary CV for grant applications and many more informative posts in my Resources for Authors and Illustrators section.

Also see Dee White's fabulous advice on:
10 Tips on Applying for Funding
Applying for a Grant

My Fantastical Flying Creator e-workshop has a section on grants and residencies, among many other things that can help foster your career. Learn more about it here.

1 comment:

Zanni Arnot said...

Thank you! What an excellent and useful post! I will be bookmarking this one :)

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