Everything you need to know about the Canada Council for the Arts Research & Creation Grant (literary works for publication)
Budgets, project descriptions, and the art of getting paid to write a book
I didn’t learn a single thing about writing grants during my Undergraduate degree in English Literature & Creative Writing. Now, several years and several grants into my writing career, I certainly don’t know everything about arts grants—but I know enough about the grants that pertain to me to get through application season without the stress and confusion I used to have.
There are a lot of grants out there, both in Canada and internationally, and I don’t have time to get into all the grants I’ve ever applied for in one email newsletter. Today I’m focusing on the Canada Council for the Arts Research & Creation Grant, under the category 'Literary Works for Publication’, mostly because the next deadline for this grant is April 5 2023.
Let’s get into it.
If you’ve never applied to this particular grant before, read this before you go any further.
The Canada Council for the Arts Research & Creation Grant under the category Literary Works for Publication funds the writing of a full-length writing project for publication. This means that the money you are awarded is to pay yourself for the time you’ve spent writing. It isn’t for project travel, resources, or technology (there are separate grants for these things). This grant, up to $25,000 CA, is specifically to offset your life expenses during the time you would spend writing your proposed project. Your project does not already need to be under contract to be “for publication”—you just need to intend to submit it for publication when it’s finished.
The steps below are for those who have never applied for a CCA grant before. If you already have account and validated profile, skip to the section titled "Budget”.
To apply for a CCA grant, you need an account and a validated profile. Profile validation can take up to six weeks sometimes, so get on that early. (Don’t worry if you aren’t validated in time for the April 5 deadline—the next deadline after is in October).
Writers can apply for profiles under Emerging Artist or Professional Artist categories. Once you’ve published a full-length book, your category is “Professional”. This part of the process shouldn’t consume you. All you need is your professional artist CV that includes any publications, awards, previous grants, event appearances, and relevant work experience.
Choosing your grant
Once your profile is validated, you can start looking at the different grants.
If you’re a writer or author wanting a grant to fund your time spent writing a full-length work of any kind intended for publication, you’re looking for the category Explore and Create and the grant within it called Research and Creation.
You’re in the application portal—what now? I suggest starting with your budget (a downloadable excel spreadsheet at the end of the application) and working backwards.
I get the most questions about the proposed budget, and I suspect that the majority of the CCA grant rejections have to do with submitting budgets that go into too much detail.
For the CCA Research and Creation Grant, you are only funding your artist’s fees for time spent working on the project.
When you open the attached budget form, it looks like this:
You’ll want to switch over the B BUDGET tab on the bottom.
This example is from my first CCA grant in 2021, under the Emerging Artist category.
You’ll see that the only thing I listed was how much of that max $25,000 I was asking for, and all I said in my budget notes was “subsistence while working on the novel”. You do the calculations for how you’re paying yourself privately, and then you give them the final amount, not the broken down “hourly” or “daily” amounts.
My total amount is then put into total project costs.
This is the section below the previous section.
And this is the final section.
You save the filled-out copy of your budget and upload it with your application.
Think of your project proposal like a sales pitch or a query letter: short and snappy, with recent comp titles. The CCA just wants to know if the money they award you will come back to the Government of Canada in sales one day, and the best way to ensure them of sales is to compare your book to other recent books that are related in theme, style, or structure.
This was my proposal for Bad Kids last year:
1.7 Describe your project. Explain the inspiration for your project or why you wish to undertake it at this time. (approximately 750 words, 5000 characters)
Bad Kids is a literary memoir in personal essays that explores a childhood of creativity amidst poverty and domestic violence from the retrospective of a queer author diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (formally known as Multiple Personality Disorder). The collection explores themes of mental illness and intergenerational trauma similar to Alicia Elliot’s A Mind Spread Out on the Ground and Stephanie Foo’s What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma, and deconstructs the formative media that the memoirist consumed in tandem with their past traumatic experiences, with cultural criticism similar to Elisa Gabbert’s The Unreality of Memory: And Other Essays. The essays chronologically follow the development of Dissociative Identity Disorder from a first-person perspective, and individual essay topics include gender-based violence & V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in The Attic, childhood kleptomania & Stephen King’s It, sex work & Tumblr & Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die, and religious trauma & The Sound of Music.
1.8 Briefly outline your project plan, including timeline. (approximately 250 words, 1700 characters) Identify key steps and the dates for their completion.
October 10th 2022: Begin the first draft
April 2023: Begin Second draft
August 2023: Third draft and submission to my agent
December 2023: Final edits and submission.
1.9 How will this project: (approximately 500 words, 3500 characters) contribute to your, or your group’s, artistic development?- advance artistic practice? Consider the following questions, as applicable: What types of artistic risks will you be taking? Are you exploring a traditional artistic practice in a new way? Will you be using technology or a venue in an innovative way? Does the project involve other areas of artistic exploration or innovation?
I will be using a combination of personal narrative and cultural criticism in each essay, threading the collection with my personal experience of dissociative identity disorder, a highly stigmatized and underrepresented mental disorder.
(Under that blurb, I included an excerpt of the project).
This is just an excerpt from the work-in-progress. I included a draft of one of the essays.
It’ll be a while before you hear back about grant results. The results timing is listed alongside the deadlines (see ‘deadlines’ link at the beginning of this newsletter).
With an acceptance letter (notification through email, results in your CCA account), you’ll be given a date by which you need to support a final report. This report is important—it lets the CCA know that you followed your budget, and you completed a draft of what you said you’d write.
The CCA also does not auto-file your grant through the Canadian Revenue Agency like the Toronto Arts Council does. You need to claim the grant amount as income on your taxes the next year with a T4-A, and attach your grant recipient letter with your taxes.
That’s pretty much all there is to this particular grant. I hope this was helpful, and I hope to see some excited grant acceptances on social media later this year. I’m rooting for you!
News from the Marsh
1.) Starting March 20 2023, I’ll be teaching an 8-week intro to short story writing workshop for adults over Zoom through the Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop. The class info will be posted sometime this week, so check my socials and the Lighthouse Website frequently. It will likely be Friday evenings at 6-8pm EST, 2 hour class slots, once per week for 8 weeks. There will be lecturing, writing exercises, and workshopping of stories.
2.) I'm honoured have my contributor's copy of EVENT Magazine 51.3, to which I contributed a Notes on Writing essay called "The Great Iconoclast" alongside two writers I admire: Brandi Bird and Aimee Wall. Grateful to Shashi Bhat for giving me space to talk craft, sexuality, and God all at once.
Notes on Writing is a tradition at EVENT, going back to the 70s. My contribution arrives in your hands thanks to a long line of brilliancy before me, including the likes of Patrica Young, Nino Ricci, Eden Robinson, Zoe Whittall, Joshua Whitehead, and many others.
You can purchase that copy of EVENT here.
4.) My poetry chapbook The Last Thing I Will See Before I Die is now available from 845 Press. You can purchase it here.
5.) The Pump will be translated into French by Kama La Mackerel and published by Les éditions l'interligne. You can read more about that here.
I update my events and publishing things frequently on my website, so take a browse there if you’re ever wondering what I’m up to. And, of course, subscribe to Marsh Mail if you want more of these kinds of musings in your inbox.
Sydney Hegele is the author of The Pump (Invisible Publishing 2021), winner of the 2022 ReLit Literary Award for Short Fiction and a finalist for the 2022 Trillium Book Award. Their essays on life with Dissociative Identity Disorder have appeared in Catapult and Electric Literature, and featured by Lithub, the Poetry Foundation, and Psychology Today. Their novel Bird Suit is forthcoming with Invisible Publishing in Spring 2024, and their essay collection Bad Kids is forthcoming with Invisible in Fall 2025. They live with their husband and French Bulldog on Treaty 13 Land (Toronto, Canada).
This was super helpful in demystifying this category of CCA’s grants. Just one follow-up question: can I use it if my MS is already in progress and I want the grant to be able to complete it?
Thanks so much, Sydney.