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A Sabbatical and A Story (long)



Dear Friends

 Iíve written some posts in the past about my trials and tribulations
with publishing and the struggle to balance art and money, in my case
teachjing book arts in schools and my own artwork. Hereís the latest
installment which is how I decided to give myself a sabbatical next
fall.
 Last year I decided that I would make a concerted effort to make
something happen in publishing. I was looking for someone to help me get
the body of my work as a teacher out there. I wrote letters to several
publishers and received nice letters of non- interest. I then decided to
look for an agent. I was spurred on by a teaching stint at the Center
for Book Arts in August. I figured if I was in NYC I might be able to
make a connection with an agent while I was there. I bought the Guide to
Literary Agents, spent hours pouring through and narrowed the field down
to about eight New York agents that described interest in childrenís
books and educational titles. I received a bunch of rejection letters
from short notes to a stamped message - ďSorry. Itís not right for us.
Good luckĒ on my original letter and one positive phone call. I told her
I was tired of the hit or miss experience Iíd had with Scholastic and
wanted to figure out how to build a career in writing. We set up a
meeting in New York. She told me to bring as many samples and as much
material as I could.
 After my last day at the Center for Book Arts, I  filled my backpack
with sample books and walked over to the agentís office. At the start,
she told me that she thought how- to books would continue to bring me
frustration. She looked at some of my teaching samples and books I had
made for my kids and said she thought I could write for very young
children- in the twoís, and that with work I could possibly illustrate
as well. As soon as she said it, I had the distinct feeling she was
telling me something I didnít want to hear and by the time I was three
blocks from her office, I knew I had no interest in writing for very
young children. My kids are growing up, 15 and 9 now, and while it was
fun to write things for them when they were little, I was ready to grow
up along with them and move on in my own work. And it suddenly hit me
that I desperately wanted some time to concentrate on my artwork. I had
been torn because I have made such an investment in the teaching and I
feel strongly that I have much to offer to a much wider audience than I
am reaching through my workshops. It seemed like I just had to push to
get the work out there. All of a sudden, I said, enough. I need a break.
Before I got to the parking lot (which by the way was closed at 7:30 PM
with no one in sight so I had to leave my car there overnight and trudge
on to Port Authority to take the bus home to my friendís place in New
Jersey), I decided that I would take some time off as soon as I could.
At first I thought that would be this year but it wasnít realistic. I
needed time to set aside some money, fulfill remaining obligations, and
plan. I considered the time with the agent a real gift. It was free
advice from an industry professional.
 As I started to think about my time off, I remembered that I had saved
an article about the Bunting Fellowships at Radcliffe. The fellowships
are for a year and are awarded to women only in a variety of fields,
including three visual artists. The specifics werenít totally clear but
I gathered I would get a studio space, an exhibit, some money and a
chance to be part of the Radcliffe for an academic year. I got the
application and went to work, and a lot of work it was. Visual artists
and poets donít need to present a particular project and judging is done
on slides and experience. I wanted some new slides so I worked on some
new pieces while compiling a Curriculum Vita. I already had a lot of the
information in the computer but it still took a long time to pull it all
together. They also asked for an essay of less than 300 words which was
supposed to have everything I thought they should know that wasnít in
the CV plus why I wanted and deserved the fellowship. Thatís a tall
order and 300 words turns out to be not many at all. I thought my
chances were slim but I was proud of myself for having completes the
application. I delivered it just before the November 1 deadline and was
expecting a response in the spring.
 By about January I started wondering exactly why I wanted the
fellowship in the first place especially after I reorganized my studio
and was loving the space. My daughter, made it very clear that she would
be much happier if I didnít get it and I had to admit that going to
Cambridge on a regular basis would put a strain on the family schedule.
Towards the end of February I looked at the application material and
read, Applicants who are not considered will be notified by March, which
I took to mean by the end of February. As February ended and March
began, I thought, Maybe I do have a chance. And I started to think that
it would be pretty exciting after all. And then on March 12, the letter
came, as bland a rejection as Iíve seen in a long time. They might as
well have just used a stamp like the agent did.
 Fortunately my disappointment was short-lived. I havenít worried too
much about why they didnít want me but I can think of a few reasons. My
slides were not as strong as I would have liked them to be. Work had to
be done within the last five years and sad as it sounds, my production
rate is really too slow to have a lot of slides to choose from. But
then, that was why I wanted the fellowship. My CV is decent on the art
side but much stronger for the teaching and publishing. But again thatís
why I wanted the fellowship, to try to shift the balance. I have been
pretty much a solo act, besides family, for the past twenty years, and I
donít know if lack of art education and affiliations played a part. I
also realized after a conversation with a friend about womenís centers
at colleges and universities that my interest was probably not in step
with theirs. They want to create a community of intelligent and creative
women from a variety of fields to connect and share for a year. I really
just wanted to me and space to work on my own art and I think that came
through pretty clearly in the essay. I think I wanted the fellowship for
the prestige and the money and probably not for the true purpose.
 My goal now is to set myself up so that Iíll be ready to start work on
art projects in September. Itís a relief to know how the coming year
will take shape- that long waiting period was a pain, and I am
concentrating my efforts on wrapping up loose ends so that I will be
free to devote myself to my art for four months. Itís a thrilling
thought. If it works out creatively and financially, I may try to
rearrange my work life permanently.
 I wish you all a happy spring, and a quick retreat of the snow here in
New England. Enough of the white stuff, letís have some flowers and
leaves.

in good spirit
Susan



--
Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord
Newburyport, MA

skgaylord@makingbooks.com
http://www.makingbooks.com

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