I had been rejected status to apply for the chance to apply for founding from the Canada Council for the Arts. I write and publish books. My application was rejected because I write and publish these books myself, not through a normal publisher, whatever that means in 2018. I called them, which proved unsatisfactory, then sent them a lengthy complaint e-mail. The Canada Council For the Arts responded to my complaint. Disappointingly, they couldn’t muster anything original and had the same thing to say as they had said before:
There was no explanation as to why they do not recognize self published work. What does the curatorial process of other art forms mean? Why does that brief feel like it was written by Sarah Huckabee Sanders? You’re well aware of the evolution of modes of creation and dissemination, really? It doesn’t seem like it. It feels like you’re lying right to my face. When I followed that Research and Creation and Explore and Create links they both lead to their own roundabout way of saying: Wow! there’s all this money to be had! Apply to the portal and have your profile validated in thirty days! I was rejected the of having the status of a profile because my work is considered not real in the eyes of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Lets take a look at how The Canada Council for the Arts defines who exactly is eligible to be considered a literary writer and then how that compares to other areas of the Canada Council for the Arts application process, shall we?
Seems pretty tight don’t it? Wow that’s a lot of criteria to meet just to even have the opportunity to apply for federal money if you want to be a writer. It’s all nice and vague too. What does same literary artistic tradition mean? Seriously. My literary tradition is writing books not hanging out in some club congratulating myself on my own intelligence. I have better things to do. What qualifies as a real book huh? Why aren’t my books eligible? I created a publishing company. I wrote the books. Because I decided to just create and stick to my artistic principles rather than chase the approval of gatekeepers who’s tastes would certainly not find my content palatable, something I’m constantly reminded of when I run into them. Maybe this level of requirements would hold some water with me if the other sections of the Canada Council of the Arts had the same intense level of consistency. Do they? Lets find out!
“Be committed to your own artistic vision, retain creative control and are committed to the creation and/or promotion of original work.” Holy hell, isn’t that refreshing? Doesn’t that sound much nicer than an Editorial Selection Process ? Why is making music any different from writing? It’s a lot more expensive that’s for sure. In writing, as in music, revision and practice is required. Unlike in music, in writing there is very little avenue for presentation that isn’t part of some sort of self driven need to share and express. The avenues to present creative writing are not especially plentiful, especially in true print media. It seems that in music as long as you’re being driven, creative, and passionate this system will support you. So why isn’t it even close to the same for writers? Lets move on to one more category, my favourite.
Clown shoes. What a joke. What a hilarious joke. It’s easier for me to get the federal government to support my pursuit of the clowning arts than it is to get them to recognize the pieces of literature that I created entirely independently. Why is that? That’s at the heart of all of this to me. Why is the world of writing and literacy in Canada so tight ass? Why isn’t it a relentlessly creative environment where there are lots of genres of thriving publications to engage the broad talents of writers and satisfy the equally wide range of readers tastes? Because literary endeavours and writing are now thought of by many people as this pretentious world built exclusively of intellectuals and academics, and these people believe that they’re the only people smart enough to ever be given access to printing and promoting their work. They’re not. Writing, art, it’s whatever someone can make it. It is the power of imagination, alive in everyone. With creativity, hard work and the willingness to always try and do better, anyone can be a writer. Anyone can be an artist. But that’s not what the Canada Council for the Arts thinks. They think that being a writer, is built on being validated by the limited remaining institutions of literacy. They don’t care about artistry and creativity they care about shoring up the foundations on the rapidly crumbling institutions of their buddies in the old guard of the publishing world. They’re willing to ignore everything done by an independent to maintain their way of life, to survive. They’re signing their own document of extinction.
You know how you get a publishing deal? You know someone. Whether you go to school and professor helps you out or the connections of your academic world open doors to publication for you that’s the tried tested and true way. It’s not necessarily wrong but I’ve always believed that there’s more than one way to write and publish a book. I was far more interested in defining the process of my own creativity than being told how to drive my imagination. Believe me if it was as simple as walking into Random House Canada and submitting my manuscript for an actual review I would have done it. But you and I know that’s not how these things work. No one gives access to a kid with a bunch of wild ideas and apparently the government institution that’s supposed to be able to discern the quality in artists like me doesn’t want to, at an institutional level, recognize my efforts. So now it appears all these years of writing, often driving myself to the point of insanity, spending all my money on my process, letting relationships and opportunities pass me by in the pursuit of my art was all a big waste of time. Except I don’t believe that at all. I’m more powerful now than I’ve ever been and they can deny me the satisfaction of their validation all they want but they will never dim my fire.
I was a writer the first day I put pen to paper. I became a novelist when I finished writing my first book at the age of 16. I became a craftsman and stylist when I composed over thirty short stories with evocative and emotional thematic elements. I became a publisher when I designed, collaborated on and published a series of ‘zines containing all my stories. I started calling myself a writer when I wrote and published my first real novel before I turned 24. I became a professional when I did it four more times in the next six years. I did it because I love it and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I never once asked for permission to do all of this because I knew I wasn’t going to get it. No even believed that I could do it anyway. So I didn’t bother waiting to get started. Never ask permission to make great art. Never let bureaucrats, gatekeepers and so-called tastemakers dictate the course of your journey in art. Never succumb to a bourgeoisie existence where the decadence of creation overcomes the drive for creativity and innovation. Never let the purity of artistic pursuits be defined and valued by a committee of people who know nothing of art, no matter how good their rhetoric is.
If the Canada Council for the Arts is willing to deny me status as literary writer they are simultaneously an elitists organization, that doesn’t represent the artistic citizens of this country, and a wildly unsophisticated pack of stuffy bores who wouldn’t know originality it it punched them in the mouth.
What is real art? What is eligible and what isn’t? Who are we letting define that?