Friday, March 19, 2010

$ and writing

I'm really curious about this:

1. Has anyone ever supported you financially or given you money so you could write/paint?

2. Have you had any books published?

and I hope lots of people answer in the comments, with as much or as little detail as you want. I'll post the numbers next week.

My own most productive writing time was when I had three months of severance pay from Fidelity. Being able to write without having a job OR worrying about money was amazing! I finished a book, a good book. Since then, my mother has lent and sometimes given me money a few times, and I'm grateful--but sporadic help is not the same thing as being supported! Worry about money is still underneath everything....and when you don't have enough to pay the rent, you really can't think about anything else. At least, I couldn't.

I put it in the past tense because between babysitting and freelancing, I'm making enough now to feel cautiously confident. I hope it's not bad luck to say that! And thank you Grace! (The babysitting was Grace's idea and it's worked out really well: I owe her a special thank you because the first TWO times she suggested it I thought it was a terrible idea. But she persisted.)

But authors whose autobiographies I've read have done it both ways.

Were supported financially:
*F.Scott Fitzgerald (wrote his first published novel while living at home, being supported by his parents)
*Agatha Christie (wrote her first mystery while living at home; her first PUBLISHED book while being supported financially though not emotionally by her first husband. "WEll, you really don't know much about _____, do you?" he said
*Jane Austen (though she worried about money, too, she didn't have to have a job -- and didn't write when the task of directing the servants fell to her! "I can not write when my head is full of mutton and orange wine," she wrote to her sister Cassandra, who normally took care of the housekeeping)

Supported others:
*Louisa May Alcott (supported her parents, starting when she was a teenager)
*Frances Hodgson Burnett (started writing to support her children after her husband died)
*E.Nesbit (started writing to support her husband and children)

Yes, all these people are in the past -- but I don't know about modern authors finances, no one talks about it. Let's hope WE (all of us who post and comment on this blog) can be frank about it!


Liana Brooks said...

1. I've been paid to sew and quilt, does that count? Never been paid for writing, although the one short story was $12 or a free subscription (which I picked).

2. Not yet. I'm working on it.

Sally said...

Hi Libby-

I've survived for years on what Annie O'Brien once referred to at KW as a "spousal grant" - my husband's salary and health insurance made it possible for me to work part-time and write part time.

There were a nice couple of years when I had book contracts that allowed me to not have a part-time job - but I've never made enough to support a family - and I'd be dead if I hadn't had his health insurance.

Hazel Keats said...

1. My husband supports me mostly. I have a pt job I use to pay for conferences and personal expenses. Do Newsletters count? Otherwise no, I've never been paid to write.

2. No.

Mary Zisk said...

I had a book inside of me for years, but it didn't come out until I lost my job and went on severance and unemployment. I thought it was now or never. My picture book, The Best Single Mom in the World: How I Was Adopted, was published in 2001. I haven't published since--I've been gainfully employed, but I have two picture books and a middle grade novel in the works.

Elspeth Futcher said...

Yes, I get lovely royalty cheques four times a year. However, the yacht is still on hold.

Word verification: plotter

How perfect is that?

Steve Emond said...

I've had a book and a graphic novel published wrote a screenplay but I've always had to squeeze it into my evenings after a full day of work. I'd love to be able to write full time. Time goes so fast, and when you can only work a few hours a night, if that, it takes a long time to do these things. I have a long list of stuff I'd like to write but at this rate I'll be dead before I finish it!

(I'm 31 so I still have time. I just notice the speed in which it moves...)

Karen Romano Young said...

I've received grants for works-in-progress. Check on line or in the back of Poets and Writers for grants you can win by submitting writing samples in certain categories. Sometimes you have to live in a certain place, be a member of a certain minority, or write about a topic of certain interest. One of mine was from my state, another from SCBWI.

Anonymous said...

I have never been paid to write. Unless you count writing while at work. I do that alot.

Anonymous said...

George Eliot wrote furiously to help support her companion and herself though he wrote, too. I'd have died undergoing the physical demands she put on herself writing and doing translations. Her productivity was gargantuan, because she had to eat and live before she became famous.
Marguerite de Angeli could rely on her husband in the early years of her illustrating but later when she both wrote and illustrated, she carried a lot of the financial burden till the end.

Yes, my husband supported me at the onset but caring for a child left me too little time to write even without a job. I wrote but not enough. Years later when the child was older, I worked full-time and wrote. My poems began to be published and I sold an article but that full-time job took its toll and my writing petered out. Having to work has definitely stymied my writing career and though now retired and furiously taking up writing again, I feel the locusts have eaten up valuable years which should have been spent writing instead of working. So I guess my answer is I did not have financial support while trying to write.

Meghan McCarthy said...

1) I have never been supported financially. Well, actually, my parents "loaned" me money when I first moved to NYC--and paid for about 6 months of rent or so when my savings ran out and my low paying job wouldn't cover the rent and my book advance didn't come in the mail because my editor moved to a new company and took me w/her. They later said that I didn't need to pay them back. But I have never had steady support from anyone. It's nice to have back-up though--if I run into huge trouble. I have supportive parents and great friends... so if things get ugly as they do now and then, then I know people are there to loan me money. Thankfully, though, I haven't needed any loans since I first moved here way back in 2001. My parents have paid a few of my medical bills out of pity, but I didn't ask them to.

And yes, I have books published. Number 10 is coming out in May! I feel like I've been waiting forever for this one.

Annie Donwerth Chikamatsu said...

Interesting question and comments!

I like the term "spousal grant", but tend to lean toward the interpretation of my mother's generation (housewives of the 50s) "after chores, your time is your own." I live in Japan where that used to be a given and is still acceptable.

I got serious about finishing a middle grade novel this fall so every day after getting everyone out, doing the laundry, shopping etc. I would climb the stairs to the attic and write all afternoon. I finished it! No matter what happens, I finished it. I approached it as a job and got it done. I learned a lot by doing it.
My children are older now so I have longer stretches of time. I will continue working at writing. I do feel pressure to contribute to the family finances for their future education. "Anything will help," my husband says, but agrees that a book is priceless.

Annie Donwerth Chikamatsu said...

Oops, forgot to add that I got a grant to attend Chautauqua 2009. And haven't had a book published yet, but have a poem anthologized.

Grace Lin said...

Hi Libby! this is very interesting!

I never had financial support but I did know if things fell apart I could go to my parents if I had to.

At first, I worked many jobs--at a bookstore, designing beer menus, anything. But honestly, things only took off with my work when Robert got sick and I HAD to support both of us. I think something just clicked where I knew this was now MY JOB and it had to work--no plan B. I do think if he had not gotten sick I would not have worked and pushed and created as much as I did.

Doreen McGettigan said...

I have had the luxury of finishing my book while on leave from work because of an injury. The book is finished..and I do not want to stop writing..My husband sells cars so I have to go back to work..I'm thinking part time..for now..since the book will be in production for months..why does it take so long?

Doreen McGettigan said...

I forgot to say yes I used to get paid for writing; newspaper features..did not pay enough to raise the kids, but I did love it!

Jeff Hirsch said...

Hi Libby,

Similar to your Fidelity experience, one of my most productive times writing my book was when I was laid off for about six months. Initially I was writing on severance money and then Uncle Sam was footed the bill for a few months after that. I could apply to jobs for a couple hours each morning and the write the rest of the day. I got alot done.

As to money made from my writing, let's see, I won ten dollars in a short story contest when I was in middle school (I still have a photocopy of the check) then there was a loooong dry spell until I got the runner up slot for an SCBWI grant and then there was this past Friday when me and my agent landed a two book deal!!!

So I'm not published yet but by Summer or Fall of 2011 I will be!

laurasalas said...

The past couple of years, I've blogged about my annual income to try to make this a less hush-hush topic. I wish I had known about real-life financial info when I first started writing.

My latest income summary is I haven't done my 2009 one because I just finished taxes. I should do that...maybe tomorrow or Wednesday, in fact.

I make less money than my husband, but my income is definitely crucial to the household budget. I've always supplemented my writing income with part-time jobs, too. I have to make a certain income, and I wish I could do just writing and earn it. But that's not my reality right now...maybe someday!

Melissa Walker said...

Really interesting!

I have four books published and two more on the way, but they aren't my main source of income.

I write for magazines, and the national titles pay enough to supplement the fiction. PHEW.

Still, those quarterly taxes hurt quite a bit, and my accountant hates my 30+ W9s. Eek.

M J Muir said...

I have earned my living as an artist/illustrator/graphic artist for most of my life. I had what they called a commercial art degree which started me off in a life Insurance company art department in the 60's. When I had kids I free lanced at home because we needed the income. I went to school part time and continued to free lance through the 70s. My clients were insurance companies and commercial and arts organizations mostly. I tried unsuccessfully to get a couple of children's stories out and accepted but I got lovely letters back instead.
And a Scholastic publisher actually came to my doorstep to return my package of illustrations!

When my marriage ended I applied for and competed against over 100 applicants and got a job as an illustrator for a school board media services department.
I felt so blessed!

During the mid nineteen eighties, after work at home on weekends and evenings, I managed to write and illustrate a children's book published (by Scholastic Northwinds Press Canada), Then I submitted a story written by my teen age son and illustrated by me and it was also published by Scholastic Northwinds Press Canada.
These two kids picture books sold very well by Canadian standards 37,000 and 67,000 copies sold. But sales could never have supported me full time.
But it was lovely to visit schools and see the kids and do the book talks. And those book talks were a lovely bonus of extra cash for more than twenty years of being invited by teacher librarians.
My full time school board illustration job lasted for fourteen years.
I stopped writing and thinking about kids books in the nineties because I gave my creativity to my school board job and my other energy to volunteer activities with Vancouver Children's Literature Roundtable for over twenty five years.
When media services was cut in 1997, my position as a school board artist ended. I fought like heck to stay working in a different position with the schools.

I tried a secretarial job but that was hilarious since I had never learned to type properly. It was a disaster similar to 'I Love Lucy' at the chocolate factory.
But I managed to change over to a full time job running a high school career centre on the grounds I became the health room first aid attendant. There was no full time nurse. To get my Industrial Level 11 ticket just about killed me. (More I Love Lucy stuff.)
But I did it. I passed a horrendous test and got the job.
So for eight years I ran a health room looking after all kinds of bloody injuries and illnesses and calling ambulances and running the career centre along the way. I was too exhausted to make books at night and I gave up art all together.
I missed it so much!
I did manage to spend four summers writing a YA novel. It is in a drawer along with other things I have started and not finished. My problem now is finding the confidence to put myself out there again.
In 2005 I realized I was old enough and qualified to retire with a small pension! So I retired!
And now I feel free to explore writing and art and illustrating again.

Years ago, my editor at Scholastic , Katheryn Cole, said to me "M J. Don't ever quit your day job".
It was excellent advice.

Meghan McCarthy said...

Good for you Laura! It's a brave thing to do but I wish everyone did it. I wish I had the guts to do it. I don't because I'm afraid I don't earn as much as you. For this tax year I didn't have a book out for 09. That means no book income for me! I haven't done my taxes yet so I actually have no idea how much I made. I HOPE it wasn't a lot because I don't want to pay!