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Congratulations to all who received a Minnesota State Arts Board grant! I see several dear friends on the list, including Rick Robbins, Rebecca Kanner, and Bronson Lemer, who will get money to support valuable literary projects. I can’t wait to see what they produce!

I received an MSAB grant in 2014, which allowed me to travel throughout Minnesota in support of my memoir. I did readings and signings from Lanesboro to Detroit Lakes, from Worthington to Grand Marais. I literally reached all corners of the state thanks to the support of MSAB.

My MSAB grant tour:

But one thing I noticed in looking at this year’s grant recipients: All of the 28 literary award recipients, save for two, are from Minneapolis/St. Paul or a metro suburb. (Actually, those two are the only outstate ones from all 63 grants awarded in all disciplines).

Now, what I don’t know: perhaps almost all of the applicants came from the metro area. Maybe the awards went proportionally to the areas from which people applied. This is what I want to believe. I do not want to believe that the judging and evaluation was somewhat skewed or biased in favor of metro applicants.

I live near Mankato, where a crazy amount of talented writers live. I mean crazy talented — agented writers, published writers, writers who teach. Multiply that to other outstate cities where I know talented writers live — Northfield, Marshall, Morris, St. Cloud, Duluth, Grand Marais, Moorhead. Did those writers not apply? Maybe that’s the case.

Perhaps what is needed is a better representation of all Minnesotans on the judging panels. Here I will say: I had an opportunity to sit on a panel this year, but declined it because I had to finish my dissertation at the same time. I have a responsibility to give back to the literary community in this state, and I didn’t bear that responsibility this year.

I would like to believe the arts board panels take into consideration a fair representation of ALL Minnesota writers, in order to accurately reflect the name and mission of the organization. After all, this is one of MSAB’s guiding principles:

“Statewide approach—The needs and interests of the entire state will be considered when determining how best to allocate funds.” (Full text here).

I call on my fellow rural writers to do two things in the future:

  1. Apply for MSAB grants. A friend of mine sat on the music panel and he said there were very few outstate applicants; perhaps this was the situation for literary arts as well.
  2. Apply to sit on a judging panel.

Let’s show the entire state that we exist 🙂

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