Tag Archives: Castle in the Air

National Writing Project Annual Review-Berkeley 2009

So I spent the weekend in Berkeley, CA reading for the National Writing Project Annual Review. It was an intense, gratifying time of learning (about other sites) and professional satisfaction. Over the years, I’ve decided that writing letters praising people, or in this case, writing project sites, for what they do best, and gently suggesting ways they can improve might be one of the things I was meant to do in life. I find laboring over these letters (and the fact that NWP encourages me to labor over them), searching for just the right words to inspire people in their work incredibly fulfilling. Here are some photos:




     A humble welcome.

Review Tables, Hard at work

  Mostly, we worked day in day out at the Berkeley City Club, designed by Julia Morgan, the same architect who built Hearst Castle.  This was fine, since it poured rain almost every day.  Berkeley was thrilled, they’re in a drought. I did get to spend a few hours in the 4th St. District Sunday. Here are some photos from my favorite shop, there, Castle in the Air.


     Who doesn’t need a wax doll head?     


     Or tubes of German glass glitter.

From Berkeley 09





    Then, there’s the “Jar O’Babies.”




    Good ole, funky ole Berkeley. Ya gotta love it. Besides, the food there is phenomenal. Today was spent on the train with my husband en route to Chicago for the Associated Writing Programs 2009 Conference, a train trip much enhanced by the fact that I just had a rollercoaster flight from Berkeley to Dallas Sunday night. Stay tuned for more news from AWP starting tomorrow! My offical “program schedule” is already filling up.  


    Ah, Amtrak.  The only civilized way to travel.



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Reading Grants, Writing Grants: What I Know

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I spent the weekend at one of the tables above, reading Continued Funding Applications (hereafter known as CFA’s) for the National Writing Project, a thirty plus year old federally funded program to enhance the teaching of writing in American schools and offer teachers a professional network in the process.  It was an intense, exhausting, amazing experience.  Those who submit need to know that their CFA’s are in the respectful, nurturing hands of those who are devoting themselves to getting to know their Writing Project site (there are 190! currently in the US), to celebrating what is working and to offering suggestions on addressing what’s not working.  Like most writing project efforts, it’s a “big picture,” kind of process. 

In the course of three days, I only read and wrote review letters for three sites and that was fine!  In fact, that was about average.  If I had gone faster than that, it probably would have been cause for concern.  This is not a read ’em, rate ’em, ship ’em out kind of thing.  In fact, “rating” rarely comes into play at all.  All in all a powerful experience in which I got as many ideas to bring back to our site as I proffered for the sites I reviewed. 

Now let me say a few words about grant writing, since I’ve done it for awhile, with some success, and since my friend Tim is entering the foray for the first time.  Successful grant writing really comes down to 1. writing well, incisively, cogently, etc., 2. following the directions, and 3. giving them what they are asking for.  And really, the most important are # 2 and 3.  In fact, nothing trumps #2 (but you’d be surprised how many people blow this one).  If they tell you, In this section, describe your: assessment plan, leadership team, philosophy of radical vegetable canning whatever , you’d better do exactly that or you will lose serious points.  This is not unlike an essay test, except you have time to revise.  If they tell you your budget request must equal $50,000, then asking for $49,500 will not make you look thrifty, it will make it look as if you didn’t understand the directions.

A word about budgets:  they used to scare me.  And while, there is still a lot to be scared of when it comes to money, budgets are not one of them.  Just make sure you’ve accounted monetarily for your needs and what you plan to do. 

And about deadlines.  They mean it about deadlines.  It’s very similar to publication submission context.  The Radical Canning Association is looking  for ways to winnow the six foot pile of manila envelopes threatening to trap their program assistant in her cubicle.  Envelopes that don’t meet the deadline are the first to go. Period. No exceptions.

Finally, if you’re applying for a grant from an organization that has a website, read through it carefully.  Get a sense of what this organization wants to do, what their mission is.  Google key members. If you discover the President of the Radical Canning Association has had a lifelong interest in  the rutabaga as an underutilized vegetable and you can think of a way to mention that in your canning philosophy or give a subtle nod to rutabagas in your demographics analysis, believe me, you’ll attract attention.  Mostly the good kind.

Anyway, that’s what I know and it’s worked for me.  Happy grant writing and,

Bye y’all!

PS–A shopping heads up if you’re ever in Berkeley. We only had one afternoon, but the Fourth Street Shopping District was fantastic. Lots of high end fun stores (i.e. my fave, Anthropologie, Bare Escentuals, etc.), two GREAT bookstores, including one devoted entirely to books about architecture and design, and my personal favorite, Castle In the Air, an emporium for writers and artists where I picked up a bone folder and a vial of German glass glitter (not the kind of thing you can get at Hobby Lobby) for my crafty side.  Check out their website here and see for yourself. It’ll draw you in!


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