Space to breathe

22 Jul 2019

The latest offering of grants and awards in one of our key creative industries is rightly seen as something to boast about.

[In partnership with NZSA and CLNZ]

There’s less than a week for would-be or established writers in New Zealand to apply for $20,000 worth of research grants on offer. From August 2 there’s another significant opportunity, with entries opening for a $25,000 non-fiction writers award

Both are made possible thanks to a Cultural Fund set up by Copyright Licensing NZ, with the awards administered by the New Zealand Society of Authors. 

Society Chief Executive, Jenny Nagle, says the grants provide something incredibly rare for writers these days – paid space to breathe. That’s space to think, to research and to write.   

“It’s really important for writers to have that independence – where you’re not worried about money, you’re not worried about your shift at work and you have the space to think and create. People can sit all day in a library, or travel to a particular place to do research.”  

It’s especially important, she says, given that a survey in March this year revealed just how much writers struggle to earn a living from writing alone.  The average income of those surveyed was $15,200. 

“Writers are used to living frugally,” says Nagle. “So, if you get a grant of $5,000, if you are organised, that can give you several months of just being able to concentrate on your work.”

There are four $5,000 research grants available this year with the deadline for entries 4pm this Friday July 26.  One of those selected will also receive a six-week fellowship at the Stout Research Centre at Victoria University.   

Just published – “Funny As” by author Philip Matthews. Author Pip Desmond  

Proof of performance 

Christchurch journalist and reviewer Philip Matthews says the funding he received last year was a great starter for his first book – “Funny As: the story of New Zealand comedy.”   

Co-authored by Comedy Festival founder, Paul Horan, it’s been published this week by Auckland University Press to coincide with the launch of a TVNZ documentary series

The book tells the story of our rich history of comedy and is based on over 100 interviews with some of our best comedians – time consuming work.  

Matthews says he continued his day job, but was able to use the grant to cover time off and some travel. 

“It made a big difference. It really helped start it off and as well it was nice to be recognised, to be chosen for the grant.”

Wellington author Pip Desmond is another who appreciates the investment Copyright Licensing NZ is making in the country’s creativity, through the awards it gives.

She won an open research grant last year for a project on mental health and suicide. Already a published author, Desmond says she was grateful for the funding which gave her the ‘confidence and time’ to start work on the project.  

It is also heartening to get external validation of the importance of the subject matter and the research required. The grant provided a springboard for me to win a three-month writer’s residency at Massey University which has opened up further research and writing opportunities,” she says. “If you’ve got a story you believe in, I encourage you to apply. You never know where it might lead.’

Copyright Licensing CE Paula Browning 

Proud to play a part 

Other early recipients of research grants include Witi Ihimaera, Peter Wells, Adam Dudding, and many more in what is a long list.  

The funding has been on offer for 11 years now, making a considerable contribution to the literary arts. 

The Cultural Fund established by Copyright Licencing NZ derives its revenue from a 2% share of domestic licensing income and from overseas revenue that is non-title specific.  

Objectives include supporting the creation and production of new works and growing the number of works created, and skills in the industry.  

Copyright Licencing NZ CEO Paula Browning says with the grants and awards each year, they’re delighted to be able to help New Zealand authors in their research efforts. 

We are proud to take a lead role in connecting the dots, between encouraging knowledge and creativity with the respect for authors,” she says. “It’s more important than ever that writers are supported to have time to write.”

New Zealand’s Society of Authors agrees.

“Writing underpins theatre, stage, movies, film, television, poetry,” says Jenny Nagle. “So many art forms are underpinned by writing and yet it’s one of the most poorly remunerated.” 

Her organisation, and others, have concern about the potential impact of the current review of copyright legislation including the draft Marrakesh Bill, which is due its second reading in Parliament. J

Nagle says as drafted it widens the definition of who is disabled and thus eligible for free access to published works, potentially up to 24% of the population. 

“There are a lot of instances where writers feel they’re overlooked or undervalued and that’s why grants like these open now are so important.  They give the opportunity for people to have some breathing space from the reality of their bills, and do some research for their writing.” 

Want to apply?

Applications close at 4pm Friday July 26 for the $5,000 Research Grants. Click here. 

Applications open on Friday August 2 for the $25,000 Writers Award for non-fiction works. Click here. 

Further information

Awards and grants information from CLNZ 

Awards and grants information NZSA

This story was originally published on The Big Idea on 22 July 2019.

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