I received my acceptance letter in the mail after picking up the kids from school. I thought that I’d get a phone call if I’d been accepted, so when I found the slim envelope I feared the worst. I ripped it open quickly after plucking it up from the floor, wanting to get the bad news over with.
When I saw the word "Congratulations!" I was overwhelmed with gratitude and relief, as if I’d been accepted into some prestigious university or had discovered I held a winning lottery ticket. The kids and I started jumping up and down. I thought immediately: This will change my life.
We ran outside in the rain with the letter and shared the news with Susannah, another mom in the neighborhood who was picking up her children from daycare. A performer herself, she looked dumbfounded for only a split-second before saying all the right things. "This is so exciting! I’m so happy for you!"
Then I called across the street to the mail carrier who was still delivering on the other side of the street, and thanked her for delivering happy news. She looked as if she truly thought I was crazy…and she’s given me a wide berth ever since.
I couldn’t believe my good luck. Also, I couldn’t believe I had actually received a bit of good news for a change, after years of rejection letters from the Canada Council (for a touring grant), FACTOR (recording), Ontario Arts Council (to showcase at a trade show for arts presenters) and Ontario Council of Folk Festivals (to showcase at their annual conference), not to mention song contests (some of which I’d won, or come close to winning).
Unlike many artists, I had pretty much given up on getting much official recognition or financial support for my music, and in fact found it more useful to simply play for people and receive their direct support.
It’s possible I’ve been cowardly in this regard. After all, when you continue to place oneself in front of gatekeepers, you tend to refine your craft so that eventually you get in. At least that’s how the theory goes. But after a few high-level rejections, I decided to get out of the grant-application business and concentrate instead on writing songs and just singing them for people.
Trouble was, there weren’t all that many places to sing them. At least, there weren’t that many to be had during daytime hours and within 50 square miles of my neighborhood.
I knew several twenty-or-thirty-something musicians who were living out of vans, travelling from town to town, and I admired them. One extraordinarily talented young woman had confided in me that if "something didn’t happen" soon, she might have to give up her travelling musician life so that she could actually meet somebody and start a family. Another gifted guitar player, in his CD’s liner notes, thanked the couple that took him in and insisted that he have a shower.
No, the travelling life was not for me, a 41 year-old married mother of two school-aged children, especially now that I had back problems aggravated by too much time in cars.
I think it's time to try another vehicle.