I learned something new about writing grants

First, the “something old”: what did I already know about writing grants? It’s miserable and soul-sucking and the work of the devil.

And the “something new”? I learned that you should make yourself the ‘Founder and Executive Director’ of something, it doesn’t matter what, in fact, it can be something stupid and just hot air, just as long as you style yourself in that way.

Then make sure you talk about how your mission is to “understand, heal, and grow.”

And that you want to “connect allies.”

Also, wiggle your eyebrows around and look sad and innocent and appealing and angelic.

I mean, I get that these are all well-meaning people, but I’ve always been suspicious when people start spouting off the latest craze-words. Why don’t they notice how unoriginal they are coming across? But they get all the grants, so I guess no one seems to notice. It’s just me that’s annoyed about it.

Books I didn’t finish

I’ve decided that one New Year’s resolution should be the prevalence of grumpiness and bitterness throughout my days, that way I can ensure one resolution will come true.

To start: I keep a list of books that I’ve read, but let me also keep a list of books that were so bad I just gave up on them:

Juliet takes a breath, Gabby Rivera – I got to hear this author talk as part of a panel, and she seemed really cool, and her book sounded really cool, so I got it from the library. Now the first chapter or two were really good and well-written, but after that, things just fell apart. It was boring, and not making sense, and characters were just popping in and out. Now, surprises are fun in books, but this book did not have surprises – it just jerked you around sloppily because the organization of the writing didn’t make sense. So I put it down. Have you ever noticed that some books are very nicely and creatively written for the first two pages, but after that they fall down a hole (Twilight books, for example.) It’s like the author was ordered to go back and make the introduction especially well-crafted, so that no one would notice the rest of the book is just bad? This was one of them.

Gabby Rivera
Gabby Rivera is the one in the blue hat, and she’s really interesting in person. The other authors were Sarah Dessen and Lilliam Rivera.

A wrinkle in time, Madeleine L’engle – I’ve read quite a few of this author’s books that I liked, and since the ‘Wrinkle in time’ movie was coming out, I thought I should read it. However, how is it people like this book? It’s kind of ridiculous. I gave up about 70 or 100 pages in, after they’ve been flying on birds for a long time, and just happen to land on a planet, and they see a big dark cloud coming, and get scared. I mean, there is no sense of puzzle pieces fitting together. There’s just, oh, let’s land on this planet and make up something dangerous before we can get off it.

Six of crows, Leigh Bardugo – I saw a very intelligent girl rave about this book, so I thought, let me read it! Must be really good. Except it was not. I gave up after a chapter or two. I just had a sense of a very disjointed piece of work, that was unrelenting dark and humorless, and I just didn’t care if the main character got ambushed by rival gangs or not, and I really didn’t feel like reading scenes of violence just for the sake of the violence, with nothing else going on.



Failure #1. I have a PhD in science, tons of skills both technical and creative, and tons of experience, but I was rejected from a 3-month internship. Yes, that stung. They contacted me for an interview, and because of the time difference, I was dragged out of bed before dawn to prepare for it. I wish they had just not contacted me at all, then I could have gone along blithely assuming they’d just never bothered to inspect my application at all.

Failure #2. I thought I could come home to rural NC for a while and make animations with local kids, like this. If I may say so myself, this is a super-cool project where the kids do art, computer stuff, learn some science, and read all at once. And I do it for free. What kind of a teacher wouldn’t want that? Turns out all of them (nearly) where I live.

People says: “just go out and create your own opportunities!” Give me a break. I taught myself how to animate, and I came up with this project, and it is totally aligned with all the ‘STEAM’ and ‘STEM’ rhetoric going around. And then I go chase after teachers. And hardly anyone responds. So don’t come telling me about “creating opportunities”. I have found that you have to work extremely hard just to make 1 inch of progress—extremely hard as in you end up with a headache and are so tired you fall asleep without brushing your teeth and don’t have time to go the grocery store—just for moving forward one inch! At some point you realize it’s not worth it.

I am surprised at the lack of response. I had originally intended to make “Mr. Turtle” videos with kids in another place. Well, that place blew me off, so I couldn’t end up going. But before it blew me off, I emailed 50 libraries to potentially work with, and 13 responded. That’s not a great percentage, but at least it showed persistence would pay off.

Plus, as far as North Carolina is concerned, I have already done this project here twice. Once with a teacher whose husband worked in my university department; and once at the local library. So I thought surely if I emailed teachers in the town where I grew up and graduated high school from, at least some would bite. I think I’ve probably emailed 30 people and only 3 emailed back. One said ‘no thanks’. Okay. The second is a “maybe”, the third said she had to check with administrators and probably has since forgotten. The one “maybe” made me deliriously happy (for a day, until I realized it wasn’t heralding a change in fortunes). Some of the teachers I emailed are ones that taught my younger brothers. I mentioned that in my emails. You’d think they would answer me. You would be mistaken.

Now, today, with the Supreme Court hearing, it appears that the entire nation has decided to join me in failure, so I guess I can’t feel too exclusive and special.

People and their word

During our wrap-up in Washington DC, we had several interesting panels. One of them was about science videos. I asked two of them afterwards (a person from NPR and a person from PBS) if I could send them some of my science animations to get their feedback. There was a third person there, a lady from Vox, but she just looked so annoyed as I approached her that I didn’t bother.

The two others said they’d be happy to provide feedback. That was a month ago. An email to each and a follow-up, and I’ve heard nothing. Of course, you know in the back of your head that could happen, but when you meet someone in person and their nodding their head “yes” and smiling at you, you kind of have some more faith.

When people try giving advice, they love to tell you: reach out to everyone! People LOVE talking about themselves! People are SO flattered that you’d want their opinion. People would love to get back to you.

Who are these people and why are they trying to kid themselves and everyone else?

In the end, someone connected me to someone else who works at Pixar. We all three had an hour-long Skype chat (this person at least kept his word.) He looked at my animations and gave me lots of feedback. It was great, I got so many good tips and advice, I just feel like such a loser though and like I don’t know how to do anything.