Grant Me the Right to Write!


Almost all writers have a day job. At least, every writer I know has one or has retired from one. And I know a lot of writers. Some writers are lucky enough to get fellowships or residencies that allow them some intensive times to write. My writing group takes a few weekend trips a year, and some years, I run off solo for a week or so. I get so much more done when I have time, but the issue for a lot of us is money.

Finding money to cover the cost of the time away (including time off without pay) can be tricky, but thankfully, there are grants. I’d never applied for a grant until 2010, and since then, I’ve been able to earn enough to take care of several trips, including one to the San Francisco Writers Conference to meet with agents and publishers (and have lunch with Dorothy Allison, but that’s a different story).

I’ve had a great year for grants. I’ve spent a lot of time this year working on an arts-meets-activism project with single moms called JUMP! (Just Us Moms Performing). The moms will be sharing their stories through a theatrical performance. I’m their writing coach, and they’ll be soon working with the women from The Girl Project to produce the play. Through the whole process, a film crew has been following us to produce a documentary about the people, the process, and the performance.

I’ve written a few successful grants for JUMP!–but we have a long way to go. Making a documentary, renting out space, and, more than anything, funding the documentary and paying all the artists involved (including the moms), makes it an expensive process. I’m hoping to have some more of this good luck with grants in early 2015, and crossing my fingers that we’ll be able to fill some of the gaps with our Indiegogo campaign.

But I’m not just a writing coach for this project, I’m a writer first and foremost, and I have writing goals of my own to meet.

Earlier this month, I got the wonderful news that the Kentucky Foundation for Women had awarded me a grant to attend the Buffalo Intensive in Twisp, WA, in April 2015. Why the Buffalo Intensive? That’s been a fun one to answer, and those who don’t know me well are shocked by it. Those who know me well are steeling themselves for constant discussion of buffalo, but are silently thankful that I’ll be moving on from vultures. (That’s what they think!)

This kind of experience would be cool for me even if it wasn’t for research–despite the fact that just two years ago, I was on a vegetarian kick (again). I recently started in earnest on a novel whose characters have knocked around in my brain for years, not fully realized or recognized. I first saw them in 2007, climbing the side of a palisade on the Red River, from my vantage point in a hot tub surrounded by snow. But they lay dormant for a long time, as I worked on my memoir and a boat load of short stories. They came to life again last summer during a hike at the Red River Gorge; they told me their names, and I started writing their mythology. Now, this story is all I want to write. Because of the location of the RRG to the Bluegrass, these (fictional) people would likely look to the buffalo for food, clothing, shelter, art, and story. And so must I.

I’ll have a lot of posts coming up about the Buffalo Intensive, so stay tuned…

Seeing my name on the KFW list of grantees for both the Artist Enrichment Grant and Arts Meets Activism grant causes me to leave behind 2014 with a smile on my face. But when I think of what’s ahead in 2015, what I feel is something I can’t quite name yet. It’s like bliss, but with the anticipation of hard work mixed in…not just stretching buffalo hides, but the pages still left to dream and to write (and rewrite).


Here are the descriptions from KFW’s announcements:

Frankie Wolf (Lexington):  $5,000.00 to research and write a novel based on a fictitious matriarchal culture in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. The research will allow her to gain new knowledge and skills that will help her write a more believable andrealistic novel. The novel will provide young female readers with strong female characters and will foster an appreciation for Kentucky’s natural history and native cultures. (Artist Enrichment Grant)

Step By Step, Inc. (Lexington): $4790 for Tanya Torp, Julie Edwards, and Frankie Finley to engage young single low income mothers in creative writing and theatre performance workshops to produce a theatrical piece about their lives and experiences. Creating art will uplift the young women to tell their own stories, and the performance will engage the community in dialogue about the lives of young mothers like these.(Arts Meets Activism Grant)

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