Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Notes from "Putting It All Together" with Zoe Whittall

How to Get Funding for your Poetry Manuscript

Before applying, keep in mind the following:

1. You will be rejected. Lots. Even the most established writers have stories of being rejected and feeling terrible about themselves as a result. Accept it as part of the writing life. Once you’ve sent in your application, put it out of your mind. Never expect to get funding until you have that gold letter in your hand.

2. Grants are like lotteries. Your work may be excellent, but the people who happened to be judging this time didn’t like it. It often comes down to personal taste. You could just as easily have been the favourite of another juror had they been asked to adjudicate. If opinions of the jurors vary wildly, the writers who may end up getting funding might not even be the first choice of anyone on the jury - simply the ones that they could all agree on. If you do not get funding, do not take is as a sign that you work doesn’t cut it.

3. Read all the application rules over and over again and use the check-list provided. If you have any questions, call the grant officer and ask. Set aside an entire day to do the necessary assembling and proof-reading of materials. In an ideal world, you should always have a second person proof your application materials. Take special care to spell names correctly.

4. Never, ever send in rough drafts. If you were to place the original version of your poem on a table next to the poem you are sending in and they look at all similar, do not pass go. Edit, edit, edit.

5. Update your CV regularly. No one cares if your hobbies are unicorn-collecting and that you worked at a summer camp in the 80s. Keep it all writing-related, and as up-to-date as possible. If you are not design-savvy, ask an artist friend to format your CV to be concise and as pretty as possible. Presentation matters.

6. Keep in mind when re-reading your materials that the person you are most interesting to is yourself. To other people who have to read about 85 submissions, brevity is paramount. Short and concise, always. Keep cover letters to one page, no smaller than 12pt font and CVs to two pages maximum.

7. Remember that you are competing. Sell yourself. Use everything you have to make your submission look like they’d be ridiculous to turn you down. Highlight pull-quotes from reviews, get amazing letters of reference and send only the best of your very best work. Do not be humble or self-deprecating, as great as those qualities are in your every day life, in grant-writing land, they’re kind of annoying to people who have to read through the pile.

8. Celebrate the day you get your grant. Go out to dinner before squirreling it away, especially if you’ve spent a lot of time broke and struggling - take the time to feel it!

Types of Grants Available


The Toronto Arts Council

WRITERS - Project Grants for Individual Artists - This program supports the creation of new works or works-in-progress in the genres of fiction, literary non-fiction, poetry and oral traditions such as storytelling, dub, rap and spoken-word poetry.The program provides two levels of grants for writers: LEVEL ONE: $2,000 – for new or emerging writers with little or no prior history of publication. LEVEL TWO: $7,500 – for mid-career or senior writers with a history of professional publication.


The Ontario Arts Council

1. Writers’ Reserve Program

This is a great way to start out applying for funding and to network with potential publishers and magazine editors.

This program is administered by third-party recommendations from the literary community.

Eligibility: This program is open to published Ontario-based professional writers working on projects in fiction, poetry, literary criticism, commentary on the arts, graphic novels, history, biography, political or social issues, science or travel. Grant amounts range from $1500-$5000.

2. Writers Works In Progress

This program is excellent once you have a substantial amount of work done on a project or know exactly what you’d like to write but do not have the time to do the work.

Purpose: To assist professional writers to complete book-length works of literary merit.

Eligibility: Ontario-based professional writers may apply for support for the continuation of new work in poetry or prose, including graphic novels. Grant amount is $12,000.


Canada Council for the Arts

1. Grants for Professional Writers

The Grants for Professional Writers program covers subsistence, project and travel expenses. The Creative Writing Grants component gives Canadian authors (emerging, mid-career and established) time to write new literary works, including novels, short stories, poetry, children’s literature, graphic novels and literary non-fiction.

Deadline: October 1.

Eligibility: at least one literary book published by a professional publishing house, or 10 published poems. The grant amounts offered are from $3,000 to $12,000 for emerging artists.

2. Spoken Word & Storytelling Program

Deadline: April 15.

The Creation and Production component supports literary projects that are not based on conventional book or printed magazine formats. Grants are for the creation, production, performance, broadcast or promotion of spoken word and storytelling. Eligibility: professional spoken word artists or professional storytellers who have been paid in the past for their public literary performances or are recognized, in writing, by two established spoken word artists or storytellers. Grants range from $1,000 to $25,000, depending on the nature of the project.

For more information on both programs above look here.

Recommended places to submit your poetry

The Antigonish Review
ARC: Canada's National Poetry Magazine
Broken Pencil
The Capilano Review
Dalhousie Review
Eleventh Transmission
The Fiddlehead
Forget Magazine
Front & Centre
Kiss Machine

The Malahat Review
Nashaak Review

The New Quarterly

Other Voices


Prairie Fire

Prism International

Queen's Quarterly

Room of One's Own

The Shore
Taddle Creek

Tickle Ace underground fiction

Wascana Review

West Coast Line

The Windsor Review

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