Saturday, February 16, 2008

Fellowship Application Month

It's summer fellowship application month. Most are due at the end of this month and the beginning of next month. And I desperately need them in order to work on my book and start something new. Some are very easy to write as they are dictated by the collections of a particular archive. For others, my book proposal will suffice.

But for one of them, I find myself in the ridiculous position of applying to my institution for the same funding they awarded me last summer, essentially to go back and do more of the same research on the same book project. This is normal- it takes a long time for a manuscript to get "finished" and "publishable." I've been told mine is already "publishable" but it is by no means "finished". And though two weeks in London at the BL last summer may have made it even more "publishable," they did only a little to make it more "finished".

So I've basically got to rewrite my book proposal (which I submitted as a grant proposal last year) to say the same things but somehow make it seem like I'm actually doing different research on a slightly different book project, which is nonetheless the same project I was working on last year. This shouldn't be too difficult- in my research report from last summer I made perhaps too big a point about how little time I actually got to spend with my texts because of how expensive London is (my initial request was almost twice what I was awarded), and how I really need to spend more time with them in order to finish the book and think about my next project. So I can fairly easily make a big todo about how the research I did last summer pointed my book in a "new" direction but I need to go back and finish it up. But that is boring and no fun to write.

I could also write a completely new research proposal for my next project, but it's due this Wednesday, and I'm not sure I could do enough exploratory research to sound like an expert on the new subject. Or I could just condense my book proposal and instead add a section focusing on my other unfinished chapter, the one I wanted to work on but couldn't last summer because I only had 2 weeks in the UK. Ugh, I wish this was easier.

For those of you who have received multiple grants for the same book project over a number of summers, how did you do it? Did you reword the same research proposal? Did you focus on a different chapter each time? Did you make something up? Because let's face it, basically all I need to do is write, but I'd like to be able to write in the British Library, where I could call up all the exact material texts I'm working with.

Right now I'm sitting in my study, looking out the window at daffodil shoots on a greyish day, listening to the divine Karita Matilla sing Manon Lescaut live from the Met, doodling with my current book proposal and hoping to make up my mind this afternoon.


A Wisconsin Yankee in King David's Court said...

Yep, sounds familiar, I've been in this situation myself.

A friend once told me that funding proposals are always for the project you just completed rather than the project you're about to begin. (Presumably, having just or almost completed it, you can craft a really good, detailed, and persuasive sales pitch about how the research will revolutionize current scholarship.) But that's not very helpful if it's not finished (or nearly finished) yet.

Looking over my past proposals, they seem to fall into three categories: (1) chapters or pieces of the larger project, (2) tangents that I thought would be part of the larger project but turned out to be dead ends, and (3) - only when I was near completion of the larger project - a pitch for funding to finish the project as a whole. This strategy managed to get me a few small grants and fellowships, so I think it works reasonably well.

Good luck with your applications!

muse said...

Thanks for the excellent advice! I just turned in my university's fellowship application. It's kind of a combination of (1) and (2)- I'm emphasizing work on the same two chapters I've been struggling with, but work that goes in a better direction than last year's work. But it also proposes research for a brand new second book project! This is something I've been thinking about for a while, which has been a great way to avoid thinking about my current book project. It actually felt really good in the end to get these ideas on paper and justify the research I need to do. I guess what I actually get done will depend on how much funding (if any I get). I tried to propose trips to London, the Folger, and Istanbul but I may just be in London writing. Which is really fine with me.