Monday, November 10, 2014

Crazier Things Have Been Known to Happen

Have you ever done something so over-the-top crazy, looking back you can't believe you actually did it? Recently, I had such an experience. First, here's a little backstory.
       When particular people cross my path, when they blow in like the wind out of nowhere and take my breath away with such thunder and magic, the only thing I have to offer in return is words. So, to create more support and awareness and to express my deepest appreciation for their gifts, I write about them.
       Being a writer has afforded me great opportunities over the years, and opened many doors. For example, one such opportunity is the experience of being a successful grant writer - which proved most advantageous a short while ago.
       To date, I've requested a combined $32,000 for my non-profit writing group, and have received $16,193 in corresponding awards. If you're a math geek like me, this equals to a 51% success rate and averages over $1,300 awarded on each attempt. Not too shabby!
       Along similar lines of grant writing, came my most recent cool adventure. It was HUGE! When this new door of opportunity opened in August, I stepped inside without haste.
       To keep creatively engage all the time, I'm always doing something different: articles, stories, flyers, submissions, poetry, speaking engagements, making YouTube videos, compiling grants, interviews, editing, ghostwriting, and anything in between. This new project certainly challenged me in such a fresh way.
       It was comprehensive, detailed, and at first seemed way out of my league. Then I thought, What the hell? If I can do a dozen grants, I can definitely do this. Plus, never having attempted something on such a large scale, I was determined to NOT be intimidated, to let the writing, the project, speak for itself. Call it Southern sassiness, stubbornness, or plain old grit, but my motivation screamed, If others can do it, so can I.
       I tackled this monster slowly, methodically, obsessively. I inserted links, statistics, pictures, and data. I asked for the required professional reference letters, and received them. I gave direct examples, gathered supporting statements, and when my eyes began to blur and cross from working on it night and day, friends not connected to the project stepped in looking for errors. It was like a freakin Master's thesis for God's sake!
       With such combined effort and teamwork, I was determined to do everything possible to make this stand out. Remember, I said it was huge? Well...for a country writer from Dry Creek, Louisiana, it doesn't get much bigger or more intimidating (no matter how I viewed it) than Europe. That's right, Europa! You know...that place across the pond? Have a go at this video.
       My project was an award nomination for the 2015 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage in the category of Dedicated Service by an Individual. For his long-term contributions to music, culture, Irish language conservation and preservation, and his creative performance art, my nominee was none other than the fabulously fantastic fiddle player, storyteller, and creative genius...Aindrias de Staic. Here is the actual opening statement used in the application:

Aindrias de Staic is a diverse, multi-disciplinary artistic ambassador who embraces, experiments, creates, and promotes music, performance art, the Gaelic language, and Irish culture. Recipient of grants and numerous awards, he increases local and global awareness of Irish traditions; engages international audiences by sharing Celtic culture via music, storytelling and performance art; and, as a proficient and active Irish communicator, promotes the conservation and preservation of an ancient language. Surviving substance abuse, he brings powerful messages of hope and recovery to those afflicted through his music, lifestyle choices, and performances. Additionally, he successfully adapts learning methods for his severe dyslexia. Through it all he remains a positive influence for the Republic of Ireland, Europe, those affected by learning obstacles, substance-abuse addicts, and independent artists worldwide. This award would recognize his contributions as a role model and cultural heritage promoter and substantially assist future projects as a professional entertainer.

       Visit the website to review the call for submission and successful recipients of this honor. Perhaps the following statement will drive home the scope of last year's projects. According to page 44 of the July/Aug 2014 edition of their publication, "This year's 27 laureates were selected from 160 nominated projects across 30 countries, by juries from across Europe for achievements in four areas - conservation, research, dedicated service, and education, training, and awareness-raising."
       Again, do the math. 27 laureates out of 160 projects is only 17%. Statistically speaking, this means only 17 out of 100 were chosen while 83 out of 100 were passed over. Will this project be chosen in a few months? Who knows??
       The point is, all it took was one section, one email, one picture, one letter, one link at a time to finish. Yes, the mountain was rocky and steep, but I'm very proud of myself for completing such an undertaking, for doing something I had never done before, for venturing outside my comfort zone as a writer, and for playing ball with the Europeans! No doubt, to praise and validate someone on an international scale is one of the most important pieces of writing I've done to date. It was such an amazing process.
       Regardless of the outcome, my goals were 1:) to expose the judges to the crazy, cultural creative madness Aindrias expresses in his body of work, and 2) to not only try at this task, but to complete it. Despite the many setbacks and relentless aggravation of Murphy's Law, the "Operation Heritage" mission was accomplished.
       Now, weeks after submitting the finalized 48-page proposal, although I'm neck-deep in other projects, I find myself having withdrawals of not working on it, not obsessing over it, not moving words around for the upteenth time, not waking up at 3 and 4 in the morning with an idea of how to make it better. Two months is a long time to devote to a project then suddenly set it free, cold turkey. No good bye kiss, no hug, no "see ya later," nothing! Sadly, everything has a deadline.
       Who would have thought someone in Louisiana would complete a European nomination packet on someone in Ireland to be read by someone else in Holland, to be distributed to a jury in other countries? Hey...crazier things have been known to happen, especially in my weird world.
       A few days before the deadline, as we scrambled against time and I was very close to throwing in the towel, Aindrias said, "Even if we get nominated, it's huge." Bless his heart.
       Well, didn't the video promote the awards as "the Oscars for Europe's heritage?" Wow, maybe Aindrias is right after all. Fingers crossed for this project and many, many thanks to all who helped behind-the-scenes!!

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