Monday, October 31, 2011

BeFunky Bungalow

Years ago I received a Christmas card from a friend in Denver.  The image on the Christmas card was a line drawing of her historic home.  It was simple and beautiful.  It made me want a home that I loved enough to have an artist do a line drawing of for a Christmas card that I could send out.  I love The Bungalow enough to want to do that with its' image.  But I don't have the money to spend on something so frivolous.  So, I turned to the internet to see if I could find a program that would do it for free.  I found BeFunky.  It may not do a simple line drawing of The Bungalow, but it does some really fun stuff with a photo of The Bungalow.

My original image:

The InkyBungalow:

The LomoBungalow (so 70s):

 The PinholeBungalow (aka HauntedHouseBungalow):

 If you end up receiving a card from me with one of these images on it, act surprised.

Something useful...

From the GPL Book Arts Project:

Summer went by quickly.  We are always extraordinarily busy at the library during the summer, what with our Summer Reading Programs for children, teens and adults.  This year was no exception.  Days were filled with face painting, rock ‘n roll history lessons, and poetry slams.  In a blink of an eye, we found ourselves at the end of August, visiting kindergarten classrooms in our yearly effort to bring awareness to September’s Library Card Sign-up Month.  I had hardly stopped to breathe, much less think about the grant that I had written months before.

Then it came.  It was an envelope with a return address to the Alabama State Council on the Arts.  It looked thin, thin like some of the rejection letters I had received in the past.  As I tore open the envelope, I was already imagining the letter inside beginning with the words, “It is with our sincerest regret that we inform you…” Instead, the letter began with, “I am pleased to inform you that the Alabama State Council on the Arts has approved a grant for your organization…”  It went on to state the amount that we had been granted (half of what I wrote the grant for, no doubt because of all the budgetcuts the state has been experiencing), and encouraged us to contact all of our legislators to thank them for their support and let them know how the funds were going to be used. A contract/agreement would arrive soon.  One must sign the contract and return it within thirty days so as to make the grant effective…

The agreement arrived about nine days later.  I have since read the agreement, made more notes about obligations to the ASCA over the course of the project, and mailed it back.  I have created a new budget based upon our grant amount, altered our schedule of events to fit the time constraints of the contract, and have begun emailing artists/lecturers to line them up for the spring.  I am wildly excited about this project, and cannot wait to get started.  We will begin in January.

In the meantime, I will be finalizing our schedule and hopefully be taking a trip to Gordo soon to meet up with Glenn House, Sr.  Glenn, or someone from his artists’ colony who will train me on the tabletop letterpress that we will be purchasing from him.  I very much look forward to the lesson.  No doubt there will be something to blog about after it is all over.

So, between now and our January start time, I will be using this blog to keep everyone posted on project progress and share some of the grant writing process that got me to this point.  I think it might be a useful thing for someone who is curious about writing a grant to the Alabama State Council on the Arts to see the way I addressed certain sections of the application.  I know that when I first began grant writing five years ago, it was difficult to find resources to help me navigate my way through the writing process.  Books about grant writing did not help much.  I learned far more about grant writing by looking at already-written grants and studying them for their secrets than by reading Grantwriting For Dummies.  Maybe someone out there will find what I share useful.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


From the GPL Book Arts Project blog:

With less than a month to complete the grant application, I took every spare moment I had to work on the grant.  I came in a half hour early here…stayed late twenty minutes there…spilled hummus and salsa and various other gluten-free foods on my notes while working during my lunch times.  I wanted this grant too badly to not at least make the June 1st deadline.  And if the Council didn’t think it was good enough to grant this go around, I’d just work on it again and resubmit at the September deadline (as per my letterpress sensei Glenn House, Sr. advised).  I was crazed and unstoppable…

After gathering all of the technical/statistical information for the Section B/Request Profile and for the Section E/Organizational Profile, I reworked my Project Description, Project Evaluation, and my Activity Budget.  With a few more anxious emails to Ms. Boykin and some tweaking to content due to a strict character count (this is another reason why I went ahead and took a look at the application before I began writing), I was able to plug everything into the online application (I do the bulk of my work in a Word document).

I clicked SUBMIT and promptly tried to forget about the grant.  The date was May 30…

Monday, October 24, 2011

Crunch Time

From the GPL Book Arts Project:

There were two reasons for me to reach out to the Alabama State Council on the Arts:  1) to see if they were even interested in this project, and 2) to confirm which program area our project would fall under.  I could visualize the GPL Book Arts Project falling under both the Arts In Education because of the great deal of outreach into the schools, and Community Arts because of its potential to reach out to the entire community.  Hmmmm…

I wrote a Project Evaluation and fleshed out my outline a bit more based upon ASCA’s General Evaluation Criteria (part of ASCA's Guidelines handbook) before emailing Diana Green, Arts in Education Program Manager.  Since the project was less about collaborating with the teachers and administrators of the 12-K system and more about working directly with the community, Ms. Green put me into contact with Deborah Boykin, acting Community Arts Program Manager.  Ms. Boykin very encouragingly gave me some suggestions for the grant content that I had sent her, and said that yes, the project sounded “interesting.”   Our email exchange took place on May 6.  I had less than a month until the June 1st deadline, and I had a month’s worth of regular work to do while trying to research and complete the grant (a golf tournament fund raiser, a writer residency with YA author C. C. Hunter, a teen Summer Reading Program to kickoff, a Gadsden Reads finale, and all of the following month’s publicity and marketing).  Would I make the deadline?

Friday, October 21, 2011

All Aboard

This is yet another installment to my new work blog (the GPL Book Arts Project...I will continue to share the posts here, as well as there because...well, because I'm writing the posts, and you guys may be interested in the process about which I am writing, too):

I’ve written many grants in the past.  I’ve been lucky that the majority of them have been funded.  But I had never written a grant to the Alabama State Council on the Arts.  I just never felt like I was up to that caliber of a grant.  Not to downplay any of the grants that I have written in the past.  All of them meant a great deal to me, whether they were for large amounts or small.  But, as most of you out there know, some grants are more complicated than others.  Some grants consist of a one-page, online application and require no reporting, whatsoever.  Some grants are several pages long and require a final report to prove that you were a good steward of the money that you received.  Then some grants, like State Council on the Arts grants (in ANY state), strike fear in the hearts of a potential grant writer.  State council grants are so competitive, so thorough, so you-better-not-even-think-about-recycling-a-raggedy-old-grant-to-these-people-kind-of-grants…you have to be on your game to even think about writing one of these grants.  They require a great deal of thought, planning and research.  No mistaking, I was going to have to think long and hard before I even started writing this rascal.

So, to begin with, I did like I always do when I start writing a grant, I researched the grantor.  I went to the Alabama State Council on the Arts website to see if our organization’s mission was compatible with theirs.  It was.  Check.

Next, I looked up their grant guidelines.  It turned out that they had a grant Guidelines booklet that was available to download.  I downloaded it, and printed it out so that I could make notes as I read.  Check. Check.

At this point, I went ahead and set up a grant account for my library so I could access and print out portions of the grant to use as my guide during the writing process.  Check. Check. Check.

Although I had not completely finished reading the grant guidelines, I went ahead and decided on a very basic name for the series, GPL Book Arts Project, and sketched out a preliminary outline of the who, what, why, when, and where.  I needed this information in front of me when I began writing emails and making phone inquiries to potential lecturers and interested parties.

The first people I reached out to were Jeanie Thompson (to make sure that I was headed in the right direction), Ian Robertson (to get advice on tabletop presses and to beg him to come to Gadsden as a lecturer/demonstrator) and Glenn House, Sr. (to also get advice on tabletop presses and to beg he and his wife Kathleen Fetters to come to Gadsden as lecturers/deomonstrators).  Jeanie kindly assured me that the project sounded fundable, and encouraged me to keep moving forward.  Ian Robertson graciously offered up some valuable letterpress resources in some of his personal copies of the letterpress monthly, The Printer (he was “doubtful” about travel, though).  And Glenn House, Sr., in some of the most hilariously inspirational email exchanges I’ve ever received, took the bull by the horns and not only gave me some splendid advice on multiple levels (resources for lecturers, papermaking kits, tutorials, miscellany), but also (within seven days of my first query) secured a tabletop press for the library, payment due when the grant came through (evidently he had far more confidence in me than I did in myself).  As far as lecturers were concerned, he and Kathleen were committed to too many other projects for them to be available, but he suggested that I contact Dr. Steve Miller at the University of Alabama to see about the availability of book arts grad students who could act as lecturers.  I then asked award-winning author Irene Latham (who has given some entertaining and educational readings in the past here at the library) if she would be interested in participating as our writer in residence.  She was.

It seemed that everyone was, in one way or another, on board for the project, SHOULD it get funded.  The only other contact that I needed to make (as per the ASCA Guidebook) was to the Alabama State Council on the Arts itself…

Monday, October 17, 2011

GPL Book Arts Project...A new blog

A grant that I wrote to the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA) was recently funded.  I was so thrilled, I almost peed my pants (no surprise to all of you who know that's what I want to do when I get excited).  Since I will have to do some reporting back to ASCA, and because I already blog, I asked ASCA for permission to blog about the experience.  They thought it was a cool idea, so I have started a new work-related blog, a place for my dealings with GPL Book Arts Project.  I have just started it ten minutes ago, so it still needs a bit of work.  Please feel free to visit it to see what I am up to over there:

In case you don't have time to go there right now, here is the post that I just published there:

A year ago November (November 6, 2010 to be exact), my partner Eric and I had the good fortune to be invited to the inaugural meeting of the Alabama Center for the Book at in Tuscaloosa, AL.  Now, you may be thinking, “Hey, wait a minute.  The Alabama Center for the Book has been around for awhile.  How could you have gone to the inaugural meeting of the Alabama Center for the Book just last year?”  Well, last November, the Alabama Center for the Book was moved from the picturesque antebellum home, Pebble Hill, in Auburn, AL to the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library on the campus of the University of Alabama.  The move prompted a gathering of book artists, letterpress printers, bookbinders, papermakers, librarians, book arts students, and pretty much anyone else in the book/book arts industry to discuss the role of book arts in the community and the best methods to create a greater visibility for book arts through outreach, exhibits and teaching.  I saw people whom I had not seen in years (Jay Lamar), people I knew of very well, but had never met (Jeanie Thompson, Glenn House, Sr., Ian Robertson), and people I had just had recent grad school dealings with in some form or another (Dr. Aversa, Dr. MacCall, Dr. Miller).

Brainstorming happened.  Ideas were shared.  I was able to talk with several folks about my thoughts on having a book arts series at the Gadsden Public Library, a series that would give the community a taste of, and a better understanding of book arts as an art form.  I envisioned workshops that started from the beginning of a book’s life with papermaking, to working our way through letterpress printing, bookbinding, and creative writing workshops to fill those empty pages!  I saw us having in-house lectures, as well as take the whole shooting match on the road as outreach!  I tentatively pitched these thoughts to some of the folks with whom I was sharing break-out sessions.  My ideas were well received.  So well received, in fact, that Jeanie Thompson of the Alabama Writers’ Forum encouraged me to look into writing a grant to the Alabama State Council on the Arts.  So, I left Tuscaloosa with a fire lit under my butt to quit THINKING about the book arts project, and start DOING it…
 More to come...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Safety Net

I am not the kind of gal who flies by the seat of her pants.  When I introduce an author at a reading, I always have a safety net in the form of a sheet of notes about the author and their work.  That sheet of notes contains items that I have cogitated on usually for a couple of days, perhaps even weeks.  Often, the notes come from the marginalia that I have scribbled in the margins and in between the lines of text in my copy of their book (if you have ever borrowed a well-loved book from me, you have noticed this obsessive habit…Eric says that he likes to read my copies so that he can see what I have written).  The notes are usually a bit of a review of the book for which the author is about to give a reading.  I do not usually read directly from the sheet of notes, unless I am reading an example of the author’s work, a review of their work, or some statistical fact about the author.  But I do keep the sheet of notes on my body, or in my hand, should I need to remind myself of something I wanted to say. 

So, I have notes for most of the author introductions that I have made over the last five years.  I sometimes turn them into reviews of the author’s work and post them on Goodreads; sometimes not.  Here is the fleshed-out version of my introduction of Dan, a sort of review of his work:

I cannot help but compare Daniel Donaghy to the great singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen.  My reasoning behind this is because he writes poems of the working class; the people working to make a living, to get by, but hoping for more.

In Start with the Trouble, Donaghy envisions a better future for people about whom he writes:  the bikers, the prostitutes, the dock workers, the homeless, his own family…himself.

But there is no romanticizing.  Some folks don’t get that better future.    Donaghy knows that all too well.

From the poem Touch (pg. 38, Start with the Trouble):
“…in the days before we’d sit alone
aching to be touched,
Johnny Wurtzel looking for a hand

to pull him back from heroin,
Angel Beach reaching out
for the fathers of her five kids,

Danny Boyer wanting someone
to do something other than tease
his lisp and his weight, finding

only a .22 he pressed to his head
one night on Snake Road in the rain.

But some do find a better future, they make it for themselves, as we see in the personal journey the narrator takes us on.  We find that he is transformed from a patron saint of nothing, to a man who finds salvation in the telling of others stories.

So, if you are looking for something worthwhile to read, pick up one of Dan’s books of poetry.  Streetfighting is his first book; Start with the Trouble is his second and most recent book.  They are both solid works, and I would recommend reading them back-to-back. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

'Cause he's real good at what he does...

Had the good fortune to have an old friend in town last week.  It wasn’t a social call, but not every moment was work, either.  Dan was in from Connecticut to give a poetry reading at the library and to conduct workshops at some of the local high schools.  He did everything he came into town to do, and made quite a name for himself as he did.  I believe that he may even be an honorary citizen of Gadsden now, for all his local-high-school-football-score-knowin,’ Gone-with-the-Wind-exhibit-tournin,’ and fried-chicken-eatin’ ways.  That’s all fine and good, but the real reasons for him being an honorary Gadsdenite is because he gave one hell of a reading at the library, and turned about a hundred and twenty students into poets.  I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of a Gadsden chapter of the Daniel Donaghy Club, and that they were working on an epic poem about his exploits along the banks of the Coosa.  I could see it rivaling the story of Emma Sansom or Noccalula…

During one of the high school workshops, Dan brainstormed with the students and asked them to write two narrative portrait poems, based upon certain personal things, following certain guidelines. He encouraged me and my friends (a coworker, who was sitting in on the exercise, and the student’s teacher) to participate as well.

The students worked.  They worked with eyes looking up to the ceiling while thinking.  They worked with arms curled around their papers (to shield from prying eyes) when writing.  They seemed unaffected by the assignment.  Or less affected by the assignment than were the adults.

For us adults (and I’m basing my assessment upon the fact that, when I glanced over at my coworker friend and at my teacher friend, they gave me the same anguished look that I imagine was on my own face), the assignment was like what I would imagine a person’s first session of therapy to be like.  I didn’t know where to begin.  And once I started writing, oh, my gosh, I went and made the poems too personal, too therapeutic, too not-for-reading-to-a-group-of-high-school-students-with-whom-I-conduct-business-with-some-of-their-parents.  I just prayed to not be called upon to read my poems out loud, which was fitting…because I’m sure that I would’ve felt the same way, had I been seventeen, and part of the student body that day. 

So, with the understanding that I am not a writer or poet (although my parents may think differently because they are the people who bankrolled my ballet career, my painting career, my sewing career, which means I am probably still a brilliant ballerina/sartorialist/painter in their eyes.  In actuality, I'm just a sometimes teacher of "Ballet for the Uncoordinated," a weekend sewer of stuffed animals, and a painter who can only do the kind of painting that is considered manual labor.), I present my two poems.  As you will see, they are linked, and meant to be read together:

Dinner at Elizabeth Padgett’s Trailer, Waynesburg, KY, Summer 1982

A housedressed Gran at the stove,
scrape, scrape, scraping a wooden spoon along the bottom of the skillet.
A knock at the trailer door.
Sky blotted out by Uncle Roder’s dark form.
Smell of red-eye gravy and his hat is missing.
I open the door to his “I done her up right this time.”
This, over the sound of dinner being made.
Aunt Sarah & Uncle Roder’s Farm, Waynesburg, KY Summer 1982

Corn, rows a body could get lost in, leading to a bleached-grey barn.
Rustling of stalks, mom’s footfalls in front of me, and Gran stumbling out of the barn, “The son of a bitch’s killed her!”
A dog’s mournful wail, for hunger, not for this loss.
Me, blinking hard, an impossibly blue sky, even more impossible scene unfolding.
Nose full of animal, both body and manure.
Aunt Sarah, Uncle Roder, Gran, mom and me,
A straight-line equation equaling nothing good can come of this
On a farm in Waynesburg, KY during the summer of 1982.

What did I tell you?  Not fit for certain company, right?  Well, they are what they are.  And I have Dan to thank for dragging them out of me.

Soon, I’ll be posting the intro I gave for Dan’s reading at the library.  It’s not quite a review of his work, but it is pretty darn close, in my eyes.  And I want folks to get out there and read his work.  'Cause he's real good at what he does.