Sustainable Arts Foundation Writing Award & a New Story

Cayuga_Lake by Stilfehler

We had a GREAT time on Cayuga Lake last weekend, very relaxing, but now it’s back to work.

I’m working on applying for the Sustainable Arts Foundation Writing Award.  They typically give out 5 awards of $6,000.00 and 5 “Promise” awards of $1,000.00.

You must have a child under the age of 18 (which I do) but there’s no application fee and it’s all done online.  The application is due by 5 pm (Pacific Time) on August 31st, which is Saturday.

I’ve applied for other grants before, so I already had half the work done.  They just want 4 samples of  work so I’m submitting two short stories, an essay and a memoir piece.

I made the mistake of not paying enough attention to what they were requesting otherwise so learn from my mistake.  I had combined my biography and letter of intent into one thing for another grant application and didn’t realize I need to write them separately for this one.

They want a biography, an artist statement that gives a “concise description of your work and goals as an artist,” a Curriculum Vitae (in other words, an artist’s resume that tells them where your work has been seen and what workshops you’ve attended) and a letter of intent that tells how you would use this award if you win one.

The thing that’s giving me the most trouble is the biography.  A lot of what I write is biographical in nature so it’s hard to know where to stop.  How much or how little should I say about myself, my life, my writing and my family?  The only direction they give is to include how your family life inspires or challenges your writing, if it’s relevant.  Well, yes, it is relevant, but what else do I include?  My mind went one way, focusing on my writing throughout my life, but I’m trying to keep it concise.  I mean, they didn’t even give me a word count maximum –  I could ramble on for ages!

So I went through and edited the writing pieces I’m submitting, yet again, then edited the resume, artist statement and letter of intent.  Then I realized I need to pull out a separate biography.  I’m almost there.

(Just went and looked at last Spring’s winners. I’m glad I didn’t look before.  It’s a little discouraging.  Everybody who won seems to be very accomplished.  Oh well, it’s worth a try.)

I’ve also been editing my entry for the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Contest.  Then I started getting this idea for a story about two angels and a demon that would be GREAT for the longer genre contest.  Unfortunately, that’s only two weeks away so I don’t know if I can have it ready in time.  It’s a good story so I’m pursuing it and if it’s not done, I’ll hold onto it.  I’m a little loath to send something I just finished writing into a contest anyway.  I prefer to let things set for a bit and edit again.

We had an unexpected day off on Wednesday because our power went out so I took myself down to the local coffee shop to write for a bit.  It was incredibly loud and I was getting a little annoyed but I decided to just listen and found that I was sitting next to a group of people talking about their Catholic religion.  My, how inspiring for my story since one of the characters is a priest!

So, I flagrantly eavesdropped and made a few notes.  They were telling religious jokes and laughing uproariously but they also hit on a few more serious topics.  Not sure if it has any relevance for what I’m writing but it did inspire me to think about my story and make some progress.  I’ve got a good idea of who my characters are and why they are there.  I also have the central question of the story, the theme and where it’s going, to guide the plot.  Now I just have to make sure all my scenes reflect and build on that.

It just seems like there has been a lot of great creative energy in the air lately, for my whole writing group at least.  Hopefully that is true for everyone out there.

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The Butler (movie) and Biography vs. Historical Fiction

My husband and I went to see The Butler, starring Forrest Whittaker, yesterday.

It was riveting.  I admit I cried several times.  Never once in the two hours did I wonder how much longer we had to go just… what is going to happen next?

It was a fascinating journey that spanned nearly eighty years.

I left the theater wondering if this was an actual person’s life or an amalgamation of people and events?  It seemed like too much to have happened to one person.

It was.

I found this article from The Slate, “How True is The Butler?” that discusses the differences between the life of  Eugene Allen and the movie.  It’s a lot.

It makes me wonder – should they have done that?  It’s one thing to make up a minor character or an event, but this was pure fiction inspired by the fact that there was an African-American butler who worked in the White House through many administrations.   It was good, but it was fiction.

On the one hand, I admit I felt a little bit hoodwinked by learning that he was a real person but then learning that they made up nearly every dramatic point in the movie.

On the other hand, I’m glad he didn’t personally go through all that, but somebody certainly did, many people in fact.

It’s exactly what I thought it, an amalgamation of events and lives.  It was a good movie, well acted, and I enjoyed it very much.  I just wish they’d left it at that and said it was fiction instead of making the connection to the real person as if it were about his life.

It feels disrespectful to this man whose life it was based on.  It’s like they said, your life isn’t good enough.  I think if they had focused on the drama of what he experienced in the White House, that would have been enough for a good movie, but they had to sensationalize it to make a “BOX OFFICE SMASH!”

As a writer, I know and expect that memoirs are subject to the vagaries of memory and perspective.  I also appreciate that the best historical fiction and science fiction are born out of fact.  When it comes to fiction, I staunchly defend the author’s right to write the story they have to tell.

This is different.  This was someone’s life that was subverted into a drama for the screen and sold to viewers with the idea that it was based on his life.

What do you think?  Is it too soon?  Was it disrespectful to change his life so much?  They aren’t claiming all the events really happened to him, so why does it feel so… disrespectful?

A Couple Grants and Contests for Writers

WilliamAdolpheBouguereau

Well, I’ve actually been getting a fair bit of writing done and I’m planning to enter a grant competition at the end of the month.

I’m working on a short story for the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Contest, 1,500 words maximum, getting one bit each night.  I’m really pleased at how it’s coming along.  It may be utter garbage but just the fact that I’m producing and having ideas is the best feeling.  (The British term “chuffed to bits” comes to mind.  I wonder if that would be a proper application of it?)  Anyway, the deadline for that is in November so I’ve got some time.

As I said, I’m working on a grant application at the same time.  It’s for the Sustainable Arts Foundation Writing Award.  You must have a child under the age of 18 and they do give preference to people who live in the San Francisco area but there’s no entry fee so I’m going for it!

Besides the application, they want 4 writing samples and they prefer you’ve written them since you had your child.  Well, I’ve got quite a few things on my Yahoo! Contributor Network board so I’m trying to choose four from that.  I’d LOVE to have anyone’s input who cares to take a look and comment.

I am thinking to choose between –

Memories and Choices  http://voices.yahoo.com/memories-choices-12079419.html

Devolution: The Beginning  http://voices.yahoo.com/devolution-beginning-11335874.html?cat=44

Regrets: A Confessional Villanelle  http://voices.yahoo.com/regrets-confessional-villanelle-11335696.html?cat=47

27 Minutes  http://voices.yahoo.com/27-minutes-11439900.html?cat=43

Faith Hope and Love  http://voices.yahoo.com/faith-hope-love-10777773.html?cat=43

Biomalware  http://voices.yahoo.com/biomalware-11149566.html?cat=44

I’d like to include the two that were featured on Yahoo!, Regrets and Devolution, because they got really good feedback.  However, Memories and Choices, Faith Hope and Love, 27 Minutes and Biomalware all have more to do with being a parent than those two.

To further complicate manners, novelization of Biomalware is my current project and novelization of Devolution is my next project so those might be good choices to show them where I’m headed.