Name: Gabriela Denise Frank
Occupation: Do you mean the title on my business cards or that I’m a writer?
Your age at the time of the conference: Hm… This is the last year that I’m going to be checking that box.
Ethnicity: White/Non-Hispanic. Also known as the category that will not help your diversity reporting. But I am female, in case that counts.
Genre: Creative non-fiction, which includes memoir, essay, prose poetry and Twitter-rants about my upstairs neighbor who plays electric guitar while I’m trying to write. #annoying
Check the category that best describes your work (select more than one, if applicable): Don’t give me the opportunity to confuse the clarity of my work, because I will. Also, just so you know, I don’t really care for poetry, though I write poems occasionally (see below.)
What do you expect to gain from the conference? At first, a deep sense of affirmation, since you only select 25% of applicants to participate, then likely a crushing fear that I’m not as good as the other finalists, whose bios appear far more impressive than mine.
Leading up to the conference I expect to feel anxiety mixed with eager anticipation of what I’ll learn, knowing that, in addition to honing my craft, I’ll have to read my work aloud to 150 fellow writers and participate in exercises intended to “break down boundaries” on the first day. (Note: though my Myers-Briggs profile begins with E, these activities make me cringe.)
Finally, I expect to become best friends with Cheryl Strayed so that I can name-drop along with those who claim to have become best friends with her during a workshop in Portland once.
Describe where you are in your professional development and how you think participation will help advance your career. I can’t imagine how many endearing stories you receive from aspiring writers like me. They probably begin like this:
As a writer, I’m at a crucial point in my career. The skills I gain from your program will justify the years I’ve spent at coffee shops typing away in the hopes of finding a financially viable outlet for my thoughts while my friends are out skiing with their families or biking and climbing mountains… except for the Wordsworth types, who like to hike, sit on logs and journal about nature.
Personally, I find nature in general a bit sticky for my taste. Did you ever notice that there’s sap, like, everywhere? And, even when you watch where you’re walking, you step into some disgusting spiderweb that you can never get out of your hair?
Anyway, completing this program will help me distance myself from aspiring writers who spend $35 each year on The Writer’s Marketplace, that phone book-sized guide to the five publishers who accepted unsolicited romance manuscripts.
Write a personal statement of 300 to 500 words addressing the criteria for acceptance. Sigh. I’m coming back to this question.
Artist Bio: Lots of people state that they were born writers, but I’m not going that far. Instead, I’m going to tell you about writing on the underside of my parents’ dining table when I was two. I used to crawl underneath and scribble missives in crayon, which seemed safer than writing on walls, given that my parents were pretty strict.
While I wasn’t caught in the act, they discovered my handiwork years later as we packed up for a move to Arizona. Though I was six years old by that point, my dad yelled at me as if I had done it the day before, which seemed both unfair and ironic. As you can see, my artistic suppression began early, providing me with a guiding framework of creative struggle. (See attached manuscript sample.)
Oh yeah, and I’m not a poet.
Title of the work submitted: My instructor, Peter Mountford, recommended the program in our memoir class.
Work sample description: A collection of personal essays and prose poems (but I’m not a poet, get it?) that began as a semi-journalistic study of the role of cities in development of memory and relationships. Over the past year, I traveled to cities such as Nashville, Chicago and Boston, examining the place where the sidewalk ends and the psyche begins. A pivotal moment occurred halfway though my travels, when I realized that all roads led back to my mother’s death, so I made my book into a memoir. I believe they call this artistic license. Besides, it was easier than starting over.
Anyway, memoirs are big these days. At least, that’s what my best friend, Cheryl Strayed, says.
Please list your other interests: You mean, aside from 55-hour work weeks and trying to find time to finish my memoir, write an essay for Modern Love, keep up with my blog, attend a six-week professional development seminar and edit a 6,000-word manuscript sample for this application?
Okay. I like long walks as long as there’s a path and it’s not through anything sticky (see above), truffled French fries and the beach. I also like cabernet. And men. Is that what you mean?
How did you hear about the program? Oops. I pasted the wrong text above.
Artist Statement: The past few months have been nuts. Winning both projects at WSU made November, December and January somehow worth it, but the nature of my job is always frantic and not always so well rewarded.
A career focused on building a backlog of work means that I’m always chasing a number of opportunities while remaining flexible enough to respond to the myriad of unplanned requests that arise each day. That said, my job has made me into an organized multi-tasker and a savvy marketer, much more so than I imagined.
In my off-hours, I’ve spent these same few months completing more applications than I have since applying for college. For each, I’ve had to submit descriptions of myself and the state of my writing career, my artistic philosophy and approach, and samples of my writing, along with annotated lists describing each sample. Combined with my Type-A nature, I was delighted to discover that the exacting circumstances of my career have prepared me to submit these applications with a measure of ease.
Never before have I felt the value of my job as deeply as I did this weekend at Artist Trust’s EDGE Development Program for literary artists. In the first of several all-day Saturday sessions with my EDGE cohort, I found that I’m farther ahead in professional presentation than most. While they are more accomplished in other ways, they haven’t spent the last eight years of preparing competitive proposals or coaching teams for interviews. From crafting bios and resumes to tracking data and social media strategy, I affirmed how richly my career has rewarded me in terms of establishing successful business practices.
Still, finding time and inclination to create my own promotional materials remains a challenge, as does identifying myself as an artist and presenting a clear idea of what I write and why I do it.
A friend elbowed me last week when someone asked, “Who here is an artist?” and I didn’t immediately raise my hand. Unlike many of my EDGE peers who solidly pronounce their identities as writers, I’m there to learn how to unapologetically state, “I am an artist. I am a writer.” You’d think that, after all of these applications, I might have it down, but there’s something different about saying it aloud.
In addition to this sense of uncertainty, I’m fighting my nature in other ways, too.
I’m close to finishing several projects, which is a dangerous place. A perennial starter, I’m easily lured by new endeavors before I finish the current ones. I’m struggling with allowing all of my projects to reach completion this spring, including EDGE, without having others immediately in the wings.
My work life is about creating backlog, and my personal life has come to mirror that through endless travel bookings, activities, writing classes, grant applications and fellowship opportunities. This dogged pursuit of personal development leaves little time for walking through sticky patches of nature, napping on Saturdays, cleaning my apartment and even writing, sometimes. It also leaves little time to reflect on the ways my work is maturing as I move forward through each experience.
I’m getting closer to figuring it out. Given time, EDGE will help formalize my professional practice as an artist, and (fingers crossed) my acceptance to Breadloaf at Middlebury College will help hone my craft. Until then, my job as a writer is to finish what I’ve started: an essay for Modern Love and my memoir, which needs only a final chapter and an epilogue. After that, a creative pause is in order before I begin writing the next chapter.
Besides, that first draft of Hidden City Diaries isn’t going to edit itself.
Please upload your unpublished manuscript here.