Well, I did it. I entered one piece into an essay contest and applied for a grant. The prize for the essay contest is $3000. The grants are either for $6000 or $2000 if you are a runner up.
I know that I am one applicant among...thousands? Tens of thousands? I really don't know what size fish I am and in what size pond. "Small fish, big pond," would be my guess.
I didn't have much to lose. The essay had no entrance fee; the grant had a $15 application fee. That's not too much to spend on the chance to receive $6000 to use in order to take writing from being an avocation to a secondary vocation (secondary to being a wife and mother, that is).
I worked painstakingly on the essay and the application (which included attaching 25 pages of writing samples). I'm pleased to say that I attached a personal essay and 18 pages of my novel (!) as samples.
What? A novel?
Yes, I guess so. You see, from childhood through college, I wrote scads and scads and scads of beginnings of stories (although I never intended any of them to see the light of day or for any audience other than myself).
But in 2008, I had a very J.K. Rowling experience:
She was on a train, I was driving to the Safeway at 45th and Woodstock to buy trash bags. All of a sudden, I was playing out a dialogue in my mind from a fully-formed character with her husband. Within a day or two I had multiple characters fleshed out, complete with names, ages, appearances, and backstories, and the beginnings of a plot coming together. This was shaping up to be something real, something that wasn't just the beginning of a story without a middle or end.
And then...life took me off to the races. I started my first real teaching job (AKA teaching all by myself and not with a lead teacher in the classroom). I met Allen and we got married later that year. I started a new job at a new school, found out we were pregnant about three years before we'd planned to be, and then it was off to the races even faster!
When I was on maternity leave with Max in 2012, I happened upon what I'd written of the story on a flash drive (thank you, God, that it didn't get lost!) I reread it...and was transported back to it all. I added a few more pages and mentally added on to the plot. But maternity leave was over far too soon and I was back to work part-time and fully occupied otherwise with a 2 year old and an infant.
I don't think I gave it another look until earlier this year. I still liked it and still thought it was worth the work. But finding the time for it...when?
I had a conversation with my brother-in-law a while back where he asked why I wasn't trying to make money with my writing. I told him that I had this novel but that it would likely take a long time to finish it, not to speak of the difficulty of trying to publish a novel. "Maybe in my 40s," I estimated. He looked somewhat shocked (since he considers himself "old" at 25). But I figure that a novel can only get better with (my) age. I just get more life experience, and that turns into good writing. It's encouraging, too to see that Ms. Rowling took 10 years to go from idea to finished product, from struggling single mom writing whenever she could to the richer than rich person she must be today. I don't expect to have anything like a best-seller. I actually doubt whether it would get published at all--such a cutthroat industry--but it would be worth a try, if I ever get it done!
Anyway, we'll see what happens. I'll find out about the award at the end of November and the essay contest at the beginning of January. Of course, I'll keep you posted!