"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Friday, June 15, 2007

Grant Writing for Storytellers: Art of Success

You have a fantastic project in mind and everything is coming together . . .except for the funding. Do you turn to writing grants or do you hope that a leprechaun will arrive at your door with a pot of gold?

I would stick to the grant writing.

Successful Grant Writing:
1. Determine Your Purpose
2. Explore the Possibilities
3. Seek Out Examples
4. Demonstrate Your Commitment
5. Connect with Their Goals
6. Read, Read and Read Again
7. Persist in Applying

Determine Your Purpose
You may understand how you will organize your project. Yet, do you know why you were inspired to pursue the project in the first place? Part of understanding your purpose is so you can connect with other individuals or organizations that share the same purpose.

Let us say you want to provide a storytelling program that meets English curriculum standards and promotes excitement at the same time. You could go to Google or any other search engine on the Internet and type “grants+English+arts” and discover many groups who support your idea. Then you can sift through the search, try other word searches, and decide which groups/individuals you connect with best.

If you still cannot find anything helpful, then you could contact organizations that at least support your goals. You may give a call to the National Council of Teachers of English, especially as their eight-page position statement includes a section on storytelling. Or you may want to email members of the Youth, Educators, and Storytellers (YES!) Alliance from the online roster. As individuals, they may be able to guide you to grants that could work for you.

YES! also has a one-page position statement I could email you upon request concerning the importance of storytelling in education. It may assist in an idea for your purpose or in the actual writing of the grant. Here is one section—
Through storytelling:

  • Connections and understandings are formed about and between the past, present, and future

  • Horizons are broadened

  • Understanding of and empathy towards other races and cultures is increased

  • Auditory processing skills and listening skills are supported and practiced

  • Visualization skills are expanded as children form pictures in their minds

  • Sensory imaging is heightened as all senses are elicited: tasting, touching, smelling, hearing, and feeling

  • Order is brought to students’ worlds through use of thinking skills

  • Decision-making skills are discerned

  • Memory is enhanced and attention spans are stretched

  • Fear of public speaking is reduced

  • Writing skills are strengthened as students examine the structure of a story

  • Characters, events, and settings are brought to life

  • New vocabulary emerges

  • Cultural literacy is conveyed

  • Difficult scientific or mathematical concepts are introduced, explained and explored

  • Students learn core academic skills including math and science as well as language art skills

  • Factual and conceptual curriculum material is effectively and efficiently taught

For more ideas on determining your purpose, you may want to read my previous blog of “Artist Statements: How Storytellers Gain Them” and apply it to the grant writing process.

Explore the Possibilities
Once you have narrowed your search to organizations/individuals with the same purpose, then you can learn more about them. You may want to call a representative and say, “tell me about your organization.” If desired, you could say that you are considering submitting a grant and that you’d like to understand the organization first. Or you can simply be a curious person and not mention anything about grants.

Hopefully, this phone call would consist of listening/asking on your side and the bulk of the conversation coming from their side. Take notes and think how you might be able to apply them in the grant writing.

You may discover that your idea does not match as well to the group as you first thought or you may be more confident in receiving support for the organization.

Seek Out Examples
Now that you have decided which organizations/individuals to submit applications, look at what past recipients have done so to understand the types of projects that attract their attention. Usually, these reports can be available online. Otherwise, you might be able to ask the organization to send a couple examples. Always note how the organization wants you to structure the grants. Deviating from the instructions is grant-writing suicide.

Besides past recipients, you could see general examples of successful grants on numerous how-to websites such at "School Grants: Grant Writing Tips" or at "Social Edge".

Demonstrate Your Commitment
The organization will give you money if they trust you. Most often they must base their trust on your accomplishments.

You do not have to be a super-star in the storytelling world. Something should say, “I am committed to the art.” This could mean that you volunteer through a storytelling guild—whether as a member or as an officer—or that you have organized storytelling events at community venues or even at your own family reunion. Leadership experiences tend to attract more attention for grants due to the high-energy level and coordination required.

Connect with Their Goals
As you choose words in writing the grant, be aware of what words the organization uses to describe their goals. Avoid using the exact words while still acknowledging their goals. This shows that you are interested in more than their funding.

Read, Read and Read Again
Once you put your first draft together, read it aloud. Do you sense a rhythm or flow to your words? Do you feel excited as you read it or does it lack feeling? If it sounds like something a robot could write, then look for ways to pour more of “you” into it.

Allow enough time for several drafts. As you complete a draft, set it down for a day or two and then pick it up again. Share your drafts with family and friends for feedback.

When you feel everything is as perfect as it can be, then you can submit it. If your submission is received at least a week or two early, then the committee can read your application without being rushed or stressed. You will be first on their minds.

Persist in Applying
There was one grant in particular I desperately wanted. The first attempt I was rejected. On the second try, I received it. When I asked the grant committee why I was chosen the second time, I was told that I showed persistence and the kind of determination that they wanted in a recipient. They noted that I did not re-hash the previous application and they could see that I was active in storytelling since the last submission.

I would have tried a third, a fourth, and a even a fifth time had I failed in securing the grant the second time.

Any time I have failed—and it has been many—I reviewed what I could have done differently. Whenever I received another chance, I applied what I learned.

Perhaps this is what the art of grant writing is all about.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance
(801) 870-5799

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Artist Statements: How Storytellers Gain Them

Musicians, visual artists, actors and sculptors—to name a few—have artist statements yet rarely have I found artist statements for storytellers.

An artist statement is really the compilation of your soul on less than one piece of paper. This is not so intimidating as it sounds.

Confession: I have been without an official artist statement for over 13 years.

Hope: Through support of friends and family, I now have an artist statement.

Reasons Why to Have Artist Statement:
1. Guide future actions and thoughts
2. Prepare for grant applications
3. Promote yourself as an artist
4. Create more opportunities

How to Piece an Artist Statement:
1. Brainstorm
2. Reflect and Enjoy
3. Focus on the Why, How and Where of Storytelling
4. Find Your Authentic Voice
5. Read Aloud
6. Share with Others
7. Evolve

You can easily turn this step into a game. In fact, you may want to gather a group of people who have heard you perform. With a timer, you can have everyone write down words that describe your kind of storytelling. At the end, you can be “judge” and the person who you feel has the most words that describe you could win candy or something else exciting. I didn’t think of this until after I brainstormed my own list. As an artist statement is constantly evolving, I may play this game in the future.

When you have many words listed, set the paper(s) aside. You may or may not use these words as you write. You want time for the words to sit over night to see if you agree with them in the morning or if you come up with any new words.

Reflect and Enjoy
Sometimes staring at a blank piece of paper can be intimidating. You may want to do this next step with a tape recorder. Ask someone—perhaps a neighbor or family member—to interview you. Find someone you trust who is great at asking questions. You can have them pretend that they do not know anything about storytelling.

Even if you end up interviewing yourself, these may be some important questions—
Why did you start storytelling?
What is your favorite story to tell? Why?
What kinds of stories do you tell?
What changes, if any, will there be to your storytelling in one year? Five years? Ten years?
Who, if any, are your mentors? How have they helped you?
Where have you told stories? Where do you tell stories? Where would you like to tell stories in the future?

These are only a few questions. The possibilities are endless. You may find that after this exercise you have two hours of material. Talk about no longer having a blank canvas.

Focus on the Why, How and Where of Storytelling
Most likely, you will create three strong paragraphs that describe who you are as an artist. Though you will get varying reports, artist statements tend to be no longer than one page. My statement is about half a page.

The first paragraph tends to be about why you started the art. Beware of using lingo that only storytellers would know. Statements are meant for anyone to understand.

The second paragraph tends to be about how you perform. For example, what techniques or methods do you use? Where do you get your ideas for stories?

The third paragraph tends to aim at the “where” of storytelling as in the types of stories you tell. This is where past, present and future goals meld.

Any ideas you write down for these paragraphs should also be set aside for the night. Look at the words a day or even a week later.

Find Your Authentic Voice
By this step, pull out the material from your brainstorm list of words to your reflections to your ideas for the three paragraphs.

Ponder on how you have explained your art before. If you find words that you would not normally use, then put a single line through them. You want to be able to read these words later on if things change.

Most people are humble when creating a statement so often they overlook their amazing accomplishments. Have a family member or friend remind you of your good qualities. You never would want to inflate your accomplishments though you also would not want to deflate them.

Read Aloud
When you have a first draft together, read it aloud. You will be amazed at how you can capture grammar mistakes this way. Also, you can check for the flow.

Share with Others
Some of the first people I shared my first draft were the following—
Storytelling Friends

I admit that mother had the best feedback for she received a copy by email and we also talked on the telephone. Sometimes all that people will say is “It’s good.” The main thing is to remind people that you are only asking for feedback on flow, grammar, and authenticity to who you are as a performer.

I have included my artist statement though I expect it to evolve as I explore other ways to prepare and share stories. Always be open to change. Pull out your statement at least once a year to see if it still fits.

My Artist Statement for 2007--
Storytelling is how I find the joy in everyday moments throughout all ages of time and cultures. With energy and passion, I connect to the story so that I may also connect to my listeners. The legacy I wish to achieve is to open eyes and minds to the wonder of storytelling and the vital role of the storyteller in society. For storytelling adventures to thrive for generations, I welcome youth to be leaders in the art.

I am a storyteller because I am first a story listener. I delight in expressing how each person’s life is something to celebrate. As story ideas emerge, I consider how best to transform seemingly insignificant moments into adventures. Sometimes I reveal the light and dark sides of human nature though, in the end, I celebrate the good found within all people.

I tell stories from my heart. I reflect upon how my listeners may respond to the stories and understand that everyone receives something different. Some of my favorite stories combine narrative with song, either from my own creations or hymns learned as a child. Through multicultural and modern tales, I undertake sensitive social concerns. I am exploring the strength of family relationships within the lives of historical, mythical, and personal heroes.

Storytelling adventures can be the tradition of joy for generations to come.

Wonderful Resource on Creating Artist Statement:

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance
(801) 870-5799