Yesterday I got an email from the Minnesota State Arts Board asking if I would serve on an upcoming panel to review creative writing (Prose) grant applications.

While I can’t do it this time, I’ve done it three times prior and I highly recommend it. Living in the hinterlands, as I do, it gives me a chance to see what writers across the state are doing. It gives me a chance to read in depth and exercise my critical thinking skills. It’s like a free MFA program! And, I get to meet other cool people in the writing profession, who serve with me on the panel. These can range from other writers to professors to editors to agents. It’s a fun reason to get to the cities for a few days.

Make no mistake, it’s a LOT of work. Each application can average 18 pages or more, including creative writing samples and artist plans and resumes. The work needs to be read thoughtfully and carefully. Certain criteria need to be met. It’s not a commitment that can be left for the last minute.

If you’re a writer (or visual artist, or performance artist) and you reside in Greater Minnesota (i.e., in places other than the Twin Cities), consider serving on one of these panels. The Arts Board is always looking for more representation from Greater Minnesota. And apply for a grant yourself. It’s time well spent, even if you don’t win the grant — because it helps you focus your thoughts and get clear about the direction of your work, and the motivation that propels your creative work.