A few months ago, several about-to-be MFA graduates talked about where our post-MFA search for income might lead us.
Teaching: Teaching creative writing is something most of us would like to do, including me. I love the idea of passing on some of the knowledge I’ve gained about writing fiction. Teaching in an institutional setting or one-on-one would be great.
Publication: This is our goal, obviously, but the financial reality for most of us is that publication, when it does come, is not a financial windfall. It’s a good thing. We want it. But we aren’t deluded into thinking it will make us rich.
Non-related work: For a lot of writers, this is the reality. Working–full-time or part-time–in an area not related to the creative endeavors we would most like to pursue is a necessary thing. Not ideal, creatively, but it is a reality.
Patronage: Finding a wealthy person or a not-for-profit which supports the arts isn’t easy, but for some writers, this is a way to pay a few bills while pursuing the writing life.
This last one came up as a joking wish, at first, but one of our fellow writers told us about how he had, in fact, had a financial benefactor at a couple of times in his career. One time, the patron had provided him with a few thousand dollars as a supplement to his other income, so he could focus on his writing. In another case, a different patron provided $50,000 over two years to allow the writer to focus on his craft. The funds were provided through a self-directed, not-for-profit, charitable organization. It was a tax-break for the donor, a windfall for the donee.
“I want a patron like that!” We all laughed and nodded and wished. But, as my writer-friend’s experience shows, it isn’t completely impossible.
So, in the spirit of, “if you don’t ask, you’ll never know,” here are some possible patronage levels for my readers (or someone who happens to be in the Bradenton and Sarasota area, or, someone who is just looking for a writer to support). If someone has a legitimate interest in supporting the arts through specific patronage of a writer, I would be happy to share more details or develop a long-term proposal for any of these options.
$3,000 – Colorado Summer – This amount would allow Cami and I to spend the summer months in Colorado, the setting of my next novel.
$9,000 – The Office – This figure would allow me to rent office space (with shared conference space) for two years. (One of the drawbacks of having a two-bedroom apartment: my “office” is a desk where the dinning room table should be.)
$20,000 – The House – There is a house we would like to buy. A little more space, great location, an amazing creative vibe. This patronage gift would allow us to have a 20% down payment AND add an office space, increasing our living space AND dramatically reducing our monthly costs.
$32,000 – The Scholarship – A retroactive scholarship, yes, but a patron to help repay the MFA costs for education, travel, materials, and other expenses would still be appreciated, even after the fact.
$150,000 – The Writer’s Salon – A gift of this amount would be used to establish a non-profit writer’s salon for the Bradenton-Sarasota area. My vision for this salon would include space for writer’s and other creatives to work, socialize, share, and find inspiration. The space would include individual office spaces, community spaces, and instructional spaces which would be available to writers for very-low or no cost.
$500,000 – Think big – This level would allow me to accomplish two life-long dreams. I would buy two condos, overlooking the bay or the convergence of the river and gulf. In one, Cami and I would live. In the other, I would establish a writer’s residency program which would provide a place to live and work for writers. A majority of the residencies would provide room and board (including prepared meals) for writers in two- or four-week blocks, free of charge. Some other residencies would be available for a fee. A not-for-profit organization would be established to oversee and administer the details.
Are these sorts of dreams realistic? Maybe not, but one of the things I’ve learned about my writing life is that I need to have big dreams, big goals, big things to work toward, even as I’m typing away, trying to find a few local writing instruction clients. Patrons, if you are out there, feel free to say hello.