I didn’t get the Ontario Arts Council grant. Fuck em if they don’t know a great thing. Well maybe a good thing, but one day it could be great.
I knew I wouldn’t get the grant. I just knew it! It’s very competitive. The likelihood is almost nil. Well, 10% actually. I calculated this using data on the Council's website. But my writing buddy Margaret got one last September and it raised my hopes, set me up with unrealistic expectations. I know every jury is different. Margaret’s jury might have approved me.
Fact is, whenever a tiny fissure for hope is opened I squeeze myself in. I don’t tell anyone. I tell them I fully expect NOT to get one. But really I was thinking don’t I write better than 90% of Ontarians? It probably doesn’t work that way...
I was expecting the results by mail on June 15 or thereabouts. Canada Post had other plans. I waited patiently. I treated it the same way I treat my rare purchases of lottery tickets. As long as you don’t know, the possibility remains.
My anxiety had been building in the two weeks leading up to the date. On June 22nd I called the Council. The voice mail for Helen Floros, Program Assistant, said the results had been posted. I went into an adrenalin-fed panic. I called my friend Ingrid.
“They’re posted, the results. I can’t look.” She went online and checked the list.
“I’m sorry sweetie. Your name isn’t on it.” I broke into sobs. If it was only crying I wouldn’t feel so bad. I’m entitled. It’s a big disappointment. But I exhibited bad behaviour as well. I won’t go into detail but people got insulted, including my dear writing buddy who is nothing but sweet, supportive and talented.
Then there were the jury members of whom I believe I said “I hope I never fucking meet any of them unless it’s after I get the Giller Prize and they’re all sorry they didn’t spot the talent.”
Yup pretty low and embarrassing. But hands down the winner of the shit-on award was me. “The stuff I submitted was crap. The story sucked. What was I thinking? I can’t do this. I’m no writer….”
From depths of rejection-despair I sent out three e-mails. Margaret felt terrible and sent words of encouragement along with a rant about the random nature of grant processes. The one to Ron was entitled URGH!! -- I prefer not to use the F word in the titles of my e-mails -- “I didn't get the OAC grant!!! FUCK. How long do I get to lie on my bed crying?”
He responded quickly. “10 minutes. It's a process, not an event. The best of them were rejected several times before getting a grant. I've been rejected 100% of the time. Still, I'm sorry. Now, out of bed and on to greatness. Your fans need you."
Rachel’s response also helped. “that sucks. remember—i applied 12 times or something. i know a multi-award-winning poet who applied 23 times... point is don’t take it too personally. but yes, it’s crushing, i know. Xo"
While comforting in the even-good-people-get–rejected sense, Rachel’s statistics are depressing. And it’s hard not to take crushing things too personally. Does too personally mean I should take it a little personally? How personally would that little be? Lord knows we take success personally.
I have to say that the timing of federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s June 28th warning to arts organizations not to depend on federal funding was demoralizing. Many of my friends are artists. While it’s no surprise, coming from the Harper Government, it is terrible news.
But closer to home, like here, in my bedroom, I’m thinking am I never going to get my chance? Is the source going to dry up before I can get there?
In total I gave myself an hour to cry. That seemed reasonable. Then it was back to it. I’m a writer after all.