On September 1, I applied for a Writers' Reserve grant from the Ontario Arts Council. Well, in actuality, I applied for seven grants from seven small presses via the Writers' Reserve. The grant is extra special, in my eyes, because of the involvement of small presses. I mean, wow. If you apply for this grant (and choose wisely) you have a 100% chance of having your work read by the editors at the House of Anansi -- one of the best publishers in Canada! It doesn't get much better than that.
Here's what's less wow about the Writers' Reserve: the application process is not anonymous. I thought twice about this when I applied (I even joked about it), but I've been thinking about it much more lately.
I got my first rejection from one of the recommenders, Quattro Books, a few weeks ago. The rejection itself is not the issue -- you all know I'm used to those. Rather, it's the timing that has left me troubled. The deadline for this grant is January 31, 2012, which means that Quattro Books had several more months to make the decision and more importantly, probably 100 more incoming applications to weigh against mine.
Several explanations for Quattro's rejection are possible: 1) My application sucked; 2) Quattro's editors are psychic and knew that all future applicants would outshine mine; 3) My application didn't suck, but just wasn't up Quattro's alley or 4) Something else is going on.
Before I get into #4, I have to say that I am a fan of the OAC and all it does to support authors. I've even been lucky enough to receive one of their grants in the past. But I do, however, have an issue with the lack of anonymity in the Writers' Reserve and the fact that the grant seems to have been designed so that small presses can award their own authors grant money. From the FAQs:
"Do I have to have a publishing contract with a recommender I am applying to?
No. Each recommender must use at least 30% of its allocation for writers it does not intend to publish; generally over 70% of the funding is awarded to writers who do not have publishing contracts with their recommenders."
Again, I harbor no hurt feelings towards Quattro Books or the OAC. But the timing of the rejection and the statement above do leave me wondering a few things: 1) Does the OAC hold the small presses accountable for this 30% rule? and 2) Why isn't the Writers' Reserve anonymous when the OAC's other literature grant, the Writers' Works in Progress, is?
Just my thoughts. Now talk amongst yourselves.