Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Anyway, soon I will have some new deadlines for you and then a great interview with writer Kenny Fries. And I am aware that I need to interview some painters and other visual artists, composers, etc. but at the moment, the writers are the ones who, well, shall we say, are really fast in getting back to me so I post these things as they come.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Michael, thanks so much for joining us today. We’ve known each other such long time, it’s hard to believe. I think we first met in the 80s at the Field Museum of Natural History where we both worked in education. Since then, you have been on quite a journey! You wear so many hats: writer, yoga practitioner, public speaker, writing professor and activist. How do you keep all those balls in the air and still maintain balance in your life?
I have grown two more hands. Never thought I could but you'd be surprised how magical yoga can be. All kidding aside, I do have a lot of energy, which is in large part because I've learned to pay close attention to my body. I do practice yoga regularly, even if just for half an hour. I am writing now about walking and hiking and it's affects on the mind and body, so I walk a lot too. I live with HIV, and I’ve learned that caring for my health has to come first. But more than that, I need a break from my mind, from the patterns of worry and the endless tasks that we are saddled with, exercise and especially being out of doors, focusing and feeling my feet on the ground or swimming or walking in nature, is extremely important to reset my brain. As writers, we are unnecessarily chained to this machine, and it ain’t good.
I try to follow your blog, Yoga and Creativity: Practicing the Art of Living, whenever I can. You have written so many intriguing pieces on topics such as neuroscience and the imagination, walking and mindfulness, memory and nature, yoga and the creative process and so on. It seems that your practice of yoga intensely informs just about everything in your life. Would you mind talking a little about the connection between yoga and your own writing?
Look, I live with a chronic disease with no health insurance and had struggled with depression and addiction for many years before I was diagnosed. I see yoga as just a technique to keep me alive and awake. But, after practicing for a long time and teaching yoga as well, you begin to realize that your mind and body need focused attention and objective care. And you can get this in many ways. People in many of the arts discover that their entire body begins to serve as an antennae and as a vessel for expression. Many poets seem to understand this--Whitman, Hughes, Neruda, Lorca. "I sing the body electric." This isn't a cute phrase. It's a fact. But, you have to learn how to read it so as to translate it for others. And this takes some kind of discipline--so systematic way to learn to listen and feel and trust.
Some of us are lucky and grow up in worlds full of sensualists or a natural world that teaches us. I need a discipline like yoga to help me retrain my mind so that I can learn to explore sensation not as a means to and end—to be a better writer or better lover or something—but to simply be more alive. When you listen and feel your body, particularly in meditation, you become dumbfounded by where it begins to take you: into emotion, into your the workings of your imagination, into the far reaches of your unconscious mind, and most amazingly into the world.
Perception is a two way street. "Every act of perception is an act of creativity." (My favorite quote from Octavio Paz--but he got it from Merleau Ponty, the great French philosopher.) Cezanne spent years trying to paint Mountains. That's exactly what I mean. He used contemplation to help him see. The Zen poets and artists knew this a long time ago. And of course the first artists were those responsible for creating ritual, maskmakers, dancers, musicians, icon makers, (the word for image comes from the latin imagio--"a ritual substitute") or the singers or chanters who all knew that the mind and body needed to be entrained in order to be able to see with big eyes and feel with the big heart. Whew.
Thanks for that really thoughtful answer Michael. I particularly love that quote by Octavio Paz via Ponty. Anyway, some of my readers have been curious about retreats (as opposed to artist residencies) so I wanted to ask you about the yoga and writing retreats you do. One of the places you take participants to in Guatemala looks like paradise! Can you tell us about the yoga and writing retreats you lead?
I do workshops all the time, fusing art-making, creative writing, and yoga. It’s nothing special. You do some breathing, you lie down, you imagine, you record, you do some poses, you focus, you take a hike, you draw some things. It’s play and you feel good. Your artistic sensibilities come alive. I love doing retreats in Guatemala because I love to hike and swim and kayak around Lake Atitlan. I think people who participate in these retreats enjoy the chance to be in their bodies, and appreciate the chance to rest, eat well, swim, see beautiful flowers and be around the Guatemalan people. My retreats are low-key. No computers.
Wow, I'd love to go to one of your retreats some time! So Michael, I know that you have attended different artist residencies before, like Blue Mountain Center in the Aiderondacks, MacDowell Colony and others. What do you feel is the main difference between a residency at an art colony and a retreat, in particular, one of your retreats? What are the benefits of both?
Oh, there's nothing like a residency. I wrote my book at several residencies: Ragdale, Yaddo, MacDowell, Blue Mountain. I can't thank them enough. it's the chance to breathe and just be with your work, take naps, walk, read things that you’ve never read, listen to the intelligent and wiser artists who have lived through many struggles and learn from them. They may have a few egos around but you’ll always find good souls. I met people that had an enormous affect on my work, who are still dear friends. Community building. We need it desperately as writers.
I read your amazing memoir, The After-Death Room: Journey into Spiritual Activism about your personal and political sojourn throughout Africa and Asia. Do you have a new book brewing in the back of your mind these days? Or are you taking some time to regroup, meditate and work on some shorter pieces of work?
There is a line from Thoreau’s Walden that seems to pop up everywhere once I read it. It says something like this: “The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men, and so with the paths which the mind travels.” For the past ten years I’ve been hiking in the deserts and mountains of the southwest, traveling to find some refuge from these very paths Thoreau speaks about. Neuroscience has unveiled promising discoveries to help us understand the how the brain functions but it has placed a mirror before us and made us see just how dangerous it is to remain stubbornly ignorant to what we are doing to the health of our bodies by neglecting the health of the planet.
Perhaps I’m selfish but all I want to do these days is hike and walk even if it’s in the city where I live in Chicago. It’s as if my mind needs the comfort of the feeling of my feet in motion and in touch with the world. I’m trying to understand why we have become so removed from the earth in such a short time and what effect it is having on us. I’m walking and writing and walking more, trying to feel my feet and listen to what comes from paying attention to what I’ve felt I’ve lost: my relationship to the land. And I’ve been writing of course—about the great hikes of my life, of my many sojourns in the desert, of my hikes along the Appalachian Trail, in the savannas of Africa in the Peace Corps, and now just the streets and the strangely beautiful and sorrowful industrial wastelands of Chicago and Northern Indiana where ironically the study of ecology began. How can one afford not to write about our relationship with the earth now?
Michael, thank you so much for your insightful responses to my questions. I really appreciate your thoughtfulness and candor. I’ve heard such great things about your retreats and I can see why. I look forward to taking one some day and also to seeing you back in Sweet Home Chicago! Thanks so much.
You can find out more about Michael McColly, his writing and the retreats he offers by visiting www.michaelmccolly.com or his blog at www.michaelmccolly.vox.com. For more information on his latest book, The After-Death Room: Journey into Spiritual Activism, click on the Amazon link.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Okay, back to work. Have a great day my friends.
Every project has a funding goal (any dollar amount) and a time limit (from 1 - 90 days) set by the project creator. When the deadline is reached, there are either of two results:
1. Funding Successful: If a project has met or surpassed its funding goal, all backers' credit cards are instantly charged and funds go directly to the project creator. Project creators are then responsible for completing the project and delivering rewards as promised.
2. Funding Unsuccessful: If a project has NOT met its funding goal, all pledges are canceled. That's it.If anyone out there has had any experience, good or bad, with Kickstarter, I'd love for you to comment below!
Saturday, January 16, 2010
I am still in the thick of my editing process so I will continue to only post when I briefly come up for air. But I wanted to alert you to the fact that I just noticed today that some of your personal emails to me have been landing in my spam folder. Dang! And most of the messages were clearly from people who actually read my FAQs but still needed more in-depth information. So I sincerely apologize for that. I haven't been checking my spam folder as I get hundreds of spam messages that I usually just ignore or delete. I guess the thing to do is this: if you have thoroughly searched my FAQs for grant and fellowship information, info on residencies, retreats and art colonies, or Fulbright Grants, then do write me (firstname.lastname@example.org) but be patient and if you don't hear back from me after a couple weeks, write me again. Hopefully you won't get sucked into the vortex of SPAM. I apologize for the inconvenience.
And speaking of FAQs, probably the most frequently asked question of all is: What grants are out there for funding a residency? In my FAQs I do touch on this a bit in regard to international residencies but probably should go more in-depth. Basically, here's my take on this issue—most, but not all, of the residency opportunities that I post are highly competitive but if you get in one of these places, they will be free or not cost that much. I really try to post announcements for places that either cover room and board and studio space or at least offer partial scholarships. That said, I realize you need money to GET THERE. Some of these places are far. And the other issue is that if you do take off from your normal life for a month or two, how will you support your life back home, even if your room and board is covered at a residency?
These are great questions. Hard to answer, unfortunately. There are very few grants out there that specifically finance residencies. So what do you do? Well, you get creative. One possibility is to see if your regional arts council (not just state arts council in the U.S. but local council, i.e. your town) and see if they offer any professional development grants. I know the UK and Canada also have regional councils but I don't know about other countries. Anyway, I have gotten these kinds of awards in the past and have used them to pay for residency travel. They aren't huge but every amount helps.
Other things I've done in the past to help fund residencies that are free but that don't offer travel assistance or stipends:
1. I apply for other kinds of grants! I plan ahead and apply for grants that are solely to support the production of new work. Big ones and small ones. So if you get a little extra money from some foundation to work on your next book of poems or a new series of paintings, why should anyone know that you are going to do that in Brazil or Southern France or Alaska? It all comes out of the same place. It's all about your work anyway.
2. I contact the residency and ask if they offer any stipends or financial aid to people in need. Most places post this info on their website but not all. Once I wanted to go to some big conference but couldn't afford the airfare. No scholarships existed for people who couldn't afford to go and who did not have university affiliation (and therefore, had their expenses covered, unlike me). The people running the conference sent me money for a plane ticket! I couldn't believe it. And there was enough to also pay for the hotel.
3. If you are going to a foreign residency, contact the embassy or cultural institute connected to the embassy in your home country to see if they offer any assistance. You'd be surprised how rarely any artists do this. I've even gotten free language courses in Italy this way. THREE TIMES.
4. Go on a funding-raising campaign for yourself. Be unabashedly self-serving for once. Offer on your website a poem or a small print for a certain amount of money. Have a sense of humor about it. I really wanted to go to a particular place in France years ago and I made a bunch of small paintings, called all my friends over and had a bidding war. They all knew I was trying to raise money to go to an art colony. Guess what? It worked.
5. Start saving. Do things the old-fashioned way and get another part time job.
6. Oh yeah. There's that credit card burning a hole in your pocket. I know you didn't want to hear that one but that might be your reality.
Any other ideas? Write them here. Send your comments, suggestions, innovative ways you've paid for your dream residency. Until then....more great stuff on the way but first, back to the grindstone for this gal.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Gosh darn, I missed you all! I'm still in the middle of editing insanity but I took a breather today and thought I'd send you a few upcoming deadlines. Unfortunately, because I've been out of the loop for a couple weeks, some of these are coming up NOW! That is, THIS Friday, the 15th. So if you don't make those deadlines, well, at least you know of these really great opportunities for the future. I have so many other things to post, plus new interviews, but my book has kind of taken over my life at the moment. I'll do the best I can, that's all I can promise! Anyway, thanks everyone for your great letters of support and for your donations and encouraging words. Good luck on all your applications and I'll try to post more soon. Best wishes, Mirabee
(ARTISTS) Weir Farm Trust Residencies in Wilton, CT: Residencies of 2-4 weeks for film, video, and multimedia artists (in addition to visual artists of all types). Organization provides housing, studio, and stipend ($500 per month). Application available on website: www.nps.gov/wefa. DEADLINE is JANUARY 15th!
(ARTISTS) Abbey Painting Awards: The Abbey Scholarship and Abbey Fellowships offer all-expenses-paid, residencies at the British School in Rome in superb modern studios, with a stipend of up to £500 a month for the Scholar and £700 for Fellows. The nine-month Abbey Scholarship is usually given to an emergent painter, while the three-month Abbey Fellowships are awarded to mid-career painters. Abbey Awards are open to people of UK and US nationality, and to citizens of other countries provided that they have lived in the UK or the US for at least five years. There is no age limit for these awards. JANUARY 15th DEADLINE! Please see the website for details: www.abbey.org.uk/page1.htm(ALL) The Arctic Circle Program Residency: The Arctic Circle program seeks applications from international contemporary artists of all disciplines, architects, scientists and educators alike. Program Outline: The Arctic Circle is a series of artist and scientist-led expeditions to remote and fascinating destinations aboard a specially outfitted scientific-research sailing vessel. Their expeditions are followed by an international exhibit schedule. Participants travel on an ice-class, traditionally rigged sailing vessel into the High Arctic during October. For more information, please visit: www.thearcticcircle.org. DEADLINE IS JANUARY 15th! *** this program is rather expensive, however, there is some scholarship funding to help defray the cost of the residency.
(ALL) Imagine Residency in Australia: Calling all artists interested in time and space for two weeks in the Australian countryside. Deadline is February 20th, 2010. For more information, please visit the website: www.artinmotion.com.au/residency.htm.
(PRINTMAKERS) Chhaap Printmaking Residency in India: Chhaap's Baroda printmaking workshop was set up in 1999 by three artists to do their own work and also to create printmaking facilities available to others. Chhaap also offers a short-term Artist-in-Residence program between September to March for one week to one month. Artists can stay in a studio which has two etching presses, a hotplate and aquatint box. There is also a guest room with attached bathroom and kitchen. Chhaap accepts applications all year round. For more information, please go to: http://www.chhaap.com/.
(ALL) Independent Day School Artist-in-Residence: Independent Day School seeking both visual and non-visual Artist-in-Residence. Enthusiastic working artists (authors, musicians, actors, directors, etc.) sought for creative position working with students half time and producing own work half time during a five week on-campus residency. They are looking for artists with a flexible personality, able and willing to provide K-12 students access to his/her own artistic thoughts and processes, as well as ability to help students with their own artistic growth required. Stipend, housing, travel and public work space provided. Application Deadline: March 1, 2010. For more information, please write: Todd_Johnson@webbschool.org. ***Sorry guys...I forgot where this one was located. You'll have to write and ask.
The following announcements are from Women Arts (http://www.womenarts.org). Check their website out for more great opportunities:
(FILMMAKERS) San Francisco Film Society / Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grants: These grants provide funding for narrative feature films made in the San Francisco Bay Area that, through plot, character, theme, or setting, significantly explore human and civil rights, anti-discrimination, gender and sexual identity, and other urgent social justice issues of our time. Grants support screenwriting and script development, preproduction, and post-production expenses. In addition to a cash grant, recipients will receive a range of benefits through the society’s filmmaker services programs. Full-time students ineligible. For more information, please visit the website: http://www.sffs.org/filmmaker-services/grants-and-prizes/sffskrf-filmmaking-grants.aspx. Deadline for Letter of Inquiry (not grant application) is February 5, 2010.
(FILMMAKERS) Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant: This grant funds first time documentary makers for travel and accommodation at the Full Frame Documentary Festival in North Carolina, where grant recipients will be given access to films, participate in master classes, and be mentored by experienced filmmakers and industry members. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or green card holders and live in the continental U.S. All applicants should anticipate finishing their first project by March 2011. For more information, please visit: http://www.fullframefest.org/garrett2010.php. Deadline: February 5, 2010.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
In the meantime, I just wanted to say thanks and to let you know that I am on a crazy deadline this month (actually, pretty crazy deadlines here and there until the end of May but this one might be the worst one). I will do my best to post on a fairly regular basis but don't hate me if I am a bit slow at times! I have some new deadlines for you that I will most likely get to by this weekend, if not before. Some new residencies have started up and I'll check them out before I send you news about them.
I'll also get to a couple new questions people have asked me that are not listed in my FAQs (and here) so please be patient. Until then, best of all to you....Mirabee
Saturday, January 2, 2010
I just came back from my post box that I keep in the next town over. I don't go there very often as I only use it for Mira's List mail, which doesn't amount to much. To my surprise, I found some very beautiful and moving thank you letters and donations! I was incredibly touched. My favorite was a postcard with a picture of one of my readers with her beautiful child, along the sweetest note, thanking me for all I do. (You know who you are! Thank you!) That picture (and the other letters) made my day and reminded me once again why I do this—not to get compliments and money (although both of those are nice). It's about helping and inspiring others because others have helped and inspired me.
Some of you know that a few years back, ten to be exact, I was hit by a huge truck (a big-ass 18-wheeler) on the New York Thruway. I never fully recovered from my traumatic brain injury (TBI) (a Diffuse Axonal Injury, to be exact) but I would never be where I am today (published author, working artist and happy blogger!) without the help and encouragement from certain friends and arts foundations (in particular: The Volgelstein Foundation, The Author's League Fund, The Pollock Krasner Foundation, Pen American, and The Gottlieb Foundation.)
I remember writing one foundation, a year after I had received a $3000 emergency grant from them, to see if they would break their rule just this once and allow me to reapply for more financial aid. It took me about three days to write the terribly mis-spelled and poorly constructed letter due to cognitive deficits at the time (now it takes me about three hours—still a long time but better than three days!). I expected them to say no, sorry, those are our rules. Instead, within A WEEK I got a check for $4000 and a letter that simply said, "Let us know if we can be of any more help to you. Wishing you a speedy recovery."
Friends cooked for me, took me shopping and helped me re-organize my apartment so that it was easier to deal with. For example, I had to take all my art off the walls and cover up my bookshelves with a sheet because of sensory overload. I had to put signs on cabinets so I knew where things were. One friend put post-it warnings around the place so I wouldn't make mistakes, like putting my hand on the burner to see if it was hot (that was a common one!) or telling me to shut off my toaster oven and stove.
I am, and continue to feel grateful to those friends and institutions. Their presence reminded me that I was still me deep inside, even though I often couldn't find the proper words for things (aphasia) or said terribly inappropriate things in public (that would be frontal lobe damage, folks. Quite embarrassing, really.). Because of their support, I never viewed myself as a victim and still don't, even though I am one of millions, like those with Lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia, etc. who walk around with an invisible disability. We TBI-ers are always told "Well, you don't LOOK brain damaged" or "Oh, we all get that way after forty." But no one gets like this over night unless they get knocked upside the head. And you will see more and more people walking around with TBIs in the future, as many of our soldiers are coming back from Iraq and Afganistan with mild to severe head injuries.
Anyway, the people close to me who "get" my disability (if you met me, you'd never know), know that it takes me a long time to form sentences properly on the page, and that I can't do something intellectually taxing (like writing) AND do something else in the same day, like say, go out to coffee with a friend, take a chatty walk in the woods with a pal, or go food shopping (too much stimulation and sensory input). I must manage my time carefully so I don't get lost or press down on the accelerator instead of the break when at a stop light (NOT a good thing!). But regardless of how long it takes me to write, it is extremely important for me to do this blog. I wish this blog had been around when I had my accident. I would have used the links and gone straight to the posts about emergency funding. I would have even written me a thank you letter like one of the ones I got today. Those little notes sure go a long, long way, I tell you.
What I do every time I post is to imagine someone like me, ten years ago, someone who is a bit overwhelmed, a bit exhausted and confused but who is very driven to do her art. I imagine that person has talent and passion and will try her hardest to never give up. That person is not going to be devastated by rejection letters, by illness or disability and will, time and time again, persevere for one reason only: she has to make art, no matter what.
I do this for you, dear reader, but I also do it for myself. It empowers and delights me to know that I can help a few people find time, money and a peaceful space to create. Ten years ago, I never would have imagined doing that. So thank you for sticking with me since the beginning of this blog. I hope this relationship continues a very long time.
May you all dream big dreams in 2010 and may some of them, if not all, come true!
The IRS has announced that starting in November 2009 it will begin a special initiative to audit individual income tax returns with Schedule C’s that show a loss. (The Schedule C is the tax form most artists use to report their business income and related expenses). Additionally, the IRS has stated it plans to focus on certain industries in these audits, including craft sales, photography, art, and writing. Therefore, artists, performers, and writers need to be extra diligent in their record keeping.