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You Write Well, Part 2

Now, it’s not as if I had no experience writing grant proposals. With my return to college to study music, I wrote winning essays for scholarships and fellowships from organizations such as the Leopold Schepp Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This allowed me to leave my part-time work as a Desktop Publisher for a lock company, and study music full-time. My entire graduate school career was practice in the fine art of grant writing, and I was fully funded for the six years I spent at Harvard. I would not have been able to get my doctorate, nor have had the opportunities for travel, or the (extra-curricular) study of baroque dance, theater and mime without such funding. Once out of graduate school, I returned to NYC, and started The Maria Antonia Project, my opera company dedicated to getting operas composed by women out of the archives and onto the world’s stages. I sought to leverage all I knew about winning grants to bring this start-up to fruition, and had modest success with it. However, since the monies given to individual artists–even fiscally-sponsored ones–are nowhere near what full-fledged organizations receive, I found it rough going. I even attempted to write the odd grant proposal for friends, but the results were never satisfying. During this period, I also wrote articles for Classical Singer magazine and other journals, and program notes for concerts. What I discovered about myself and the art of writing was that when I wrote about something that connected with my heart, the flow was easy, and the result was generally well-received. I wondered what this meant for my writing “career”. You see, the things that interest and move me are, shall we say, off the beaten path. At that time, my horizon included baroque dance, 18th-century music, women composers (ones that were safely dead, mind you), circus arts and women’s spirituality. I couldn’t quite envision a true journalism career coming out of these. Since then, my interests have expanded to include Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and tea, but it’s hardly the standard stuff for which employers are supposedly looking. Still, hope springs eternal, as does the desire to fit in somewhere, anywhere in the world, which brings us back to my last few months in a temporary, part-time writer/editor position that was 90% grant writing. The other 10% of the job was to contribute content to the organization’s web site, potentially as a blogger with an “outsider” viewpoint. My offbeat, often quirky sense of humor would be perfect for the blog, I thought. But those grant proposals were another matter. They were serious business, for the institution’s survival depends upon them. I discovered that my friend had been right, after all: Grant writing at the institutional level is like writing research papers. It’s like writing someone else’s research papers. It’s like writing someone else’s research papers when you’ve been given half the information needed to complete the paper, and you need to research and pull together all sorts of information that you don’t have from various sources that may, or may not be, easy to find. Oh yes, and you’re doing this at 8 pm when the paper is due at midnight. And never mind that pesky sword of Damocles hanging over one’s head should the proposal not be completed to someone else’s (never the Writer’s) satisfaction. Ultimately, I discovered that the energy of the Development world is not right for me. Time is precious, and I need to spend my time around an energy of love and appreciation, passion and excitement, not one of worry and fear connected to obtaining money. And so, Goodbye, grant writing! Hello. . . world?

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