The magnificent bridges of Portland, Oregon have inspired poet and performer Sharon Wood Wortman in many grant writing successes. She has won funds to publish a guidebook of the bridges that is filled with poetry and is now working on a one-woman show BridgeStories partially funded with a grant from Portland's Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC).
As a kid, she rarely ventured out of her Lents neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. In fact, her mother suffered from agoraphobia and her grandmother from bouts of gephyrophobia, the fear of bridges (from the greek gephyra, which means bridge).
"My family made it to downtown Portland infrequently, about as often as we flew to New Jersey," Wortman wrote in a recent email. "Today I think of myself as a geomissionary. I believe that helping children figure out their place in the bigger world sooner than I did gives them a leg up."
Wortman has led bridge walks around the Willamette River since 1991, many featuring the poetry of Northwest writers. "I have no explanation for why these magnificent bridges were here almost 100 years and nobody else had written a book about them," she wrote. "As I began to study and praise them, they built me a life that's now supported by poetry, teaching, publishing, performing, and, I have to say it, finally that most surprising grant of all...love."
Wortman's first success with funding her work was a $1000 grant from RACC to create her website. The next award from RACC for $3700 partially funded a 240-page guidebook of Portland bridges including 77 poems by 70 poets entitled Walking Bridges Using Poetry as a Compass.
Her latest award is a $4600 RACC grant for her solo performance BridgeStories to be presented at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center in October 2009 where she has a guest artist residency. The grant pays for her artistic fees, promotional materials, and guest artist collaborators, including Susan Banyas.
How does the grant writing process help Wortman? "It makes me elucidate my project," she said. "After you write the grant, you know what you're going to do, how you're going to do it, and who will help."
Do grants make her artistic process less stressful? Hardly. "They free up financial worries but they add stress because you have to deliver," she said.
Wortman's top 5 grant writing tips for writers include:
1. Be tenacious.
2. Don't be afraid to ask for grants.
3. Start small with a small, local grant.
4. Don't listen to anybody who discourages you.
5. If you don't know how to write a grant, take a class or hire a grant writer to help.
The best way to learn how to write a grant is to write one, advises Wortman. She recommends that writers use grants to get out of their comfort zone. "Let applying for a grant push you as an artist."
For more information about Sharon Wood Wortman: http://www.bridgestories.com.
Gigi Rosenberg's essays and how-to articles have appeared in the Seal Press anthology The Maternal is Political, Parenting, Writer's Digest, The Writer and on Oregon Public Radio. She receives rave reviews for the grant writing workshops she leads at NYC's Foundation Center and Chicago's Self Employment in the Arts. She has performed her monologues throughout the Pacific Northwest and now coaches writers how to give stellar public readings and write winning grant applications.