I have to remind myself that whatever it might feel like, I’m past the worst of it.
The Arts Council just declined my third application for a literary bursary. Yet, the previous year they awarded a (second) bursary to the critic-turned-author who used a national platform to express egregiously scathing opinions of my debut novel. This money was to help her pursue writing hers, which I must emphasise she had the absolute right to apply for and spend as needed.
I would have liked a little cushion to pursue my writing, which is stalling because of demands on my time.
Yes, I feel grief and sadness at the disparity. That choosing of one person coupled with the rejecting of the other. Of losing trust in the state arts bodies altogether because I cannot trust their criteria. At the same time, I cannot deny the reality that many deserving people whom I know and respect have finally received the support and acknowledgement that they deserved all along. I am not bitter about that, or even about the original award mentioned previously. It’s not about the money. It’s about acknowledgement, and it hurts. It hurts even more when people come into my messages and mentions and tell me I’m not to talk about it.
I am a serious artist. I have two published novels, the first shortlisted for a major award in the UK, the second warmly reviewed by the Historical Novel Society, the Yorkshire Times and Books Ireland. I’ve been shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award *three times* and published in The Stinging Fly once, though my story does not appear in any anthologies (clue: check out who edited the latest anthology. Refusing to take the high road was not something *I* started.) I’ve had my work censored (!) just like O’Brien and Joyce, though I’m not going to compare myself with them as a writer.
I have so much more to say and express. I have a novel in progress that integrates my political and writing life, which I intend to traditionally publish, a story out in submission that is fierce activism and that I know will get published eventually, as well as an essay on my mentor-muse who inspired so much of White Feathers. I will have to push on without help, but that’s ok. So many other of my peers have had to do the same, so while it’s a complicated grief, it will eventually blow over as I return to the page again. And I have built such a wonderful community around others who do similar all the time, without hoopla or sufficient acknowledgement. I am not friendless.
I would like to thank Alan Hayes of Arlen House for including me in his essay in the forthcoming anthology Oh Look, It’s a Woman Writer! He also acknowledges the wonderful Rose Servitova who has quietly and without fuss built a niche for herself in the writing world taking up the baton where Jane Austen left off.
I’m past the worst of it. I won’t be relying on the scene any more so I won’t be disappointed. I’ll get there eventually, with the grace of God at my back to help me 🙂