State Arts Boards
I happen to live in a state--Minnesota--that deeply values its artists, writers, and other creative types. A handful of years ago, we actually voted to add an amendment to our state constitution, called the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment. Basically, this amendment ensures that our natural resources, as well as our creative resources, are protected, via taxpayer funds. Bear in mind that taxpayers voted for this amendment--an act of generosity and community that has become astonishingly rare. I pay into this pool as a Minnesota taxpayer, but I've also been the recipient of my fellow citizens' largesse. In 2010, I received a Minnesota State Arts Board grant to work on a book. Five years later, South Pole Station was sold to Picador.
Now, I'm not going to lie to you and say that the book for which I received the 2010 grant was the exact same book I ended up with in 2015, but without that grant, I would never have had a chance to write it. I was the mother of two very young children (3 and 1 years old) and had a full-time freelance editing career. Writing, if I could manage it, took place well after midnight. The grant I received allowed me to pay for preschool for my older son so I could write while my baby daughter slept. I've always been intensely grateful for the support I received from the State Arts Board and it was incredibly gratifying to be able to acknowledge my fellow Minnesotans in the acknowledgments of my book. Even more so, actually, because last week--six years after applying for my first grant--I received another grant, this time to bring my book (and myself--package deal) to bookstores and libraries in greater Minnesota. In addition, I am planning a free workshop on agents and publishing (a seminar I have taught for Loft Literary Center) for low-income writers. Again, this is all made possible by the good people of Minnesota.
I share all this because perhaps it may serve as a reminder that financial support for working artists is absolutely crucial to productivity. This is especially true of working parent-writers. I feel pretty confident in saying that South Pole Station would not have been finished if I hadn't received that first Minnesota State Arts Board grant--not just because the money enabled me to decline a few freelance projects in order to write, but because it was a vote of confidence in me. Someone thought I was worth taking a risk on. And, like the other grant recipients, I imagine, I considered this grant a sacred trust between myself and my fellow citizens.