“I received a fellowship in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2011. I am not being hyperbolic when I say it changed my life. At the time I was working fulltime as an editor, squeezing all of my parenting and writing time in at night. My daughter was only two years old at the time and had been in fulltime daycare since she was twelve weeks old, when my (largely unpaid) maternity leave ended. Let’s be clear: $25,000 is not a lot of money to the federal government. But it's a great deal of money to a poet and young mother with student loan debt and sizeable family health expenses. That NEA fellowship gave me the financial cushion and the courage to leave my day job and to start my own freelance business. The flexibility of freelance work meant that I could devote more time to poetry. I went on my first writing residency at ‪the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts‬, which would have been impossible given my limited vacation time at work, and thanks to that uninterrupted time, finally finished my second book, The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison. Working from home also allowed me to reduce my daughter’s daycare to part-time hours so that we could be together more. Funding from the NEA was a godsend, both professionally and personally. Perhaps most importantly, the grant reminded me—when I was splitting my time between parenting and working in a cubicle—that I was a poet. I haven’t forgotten that since. I thank the NEA for that.”

Maggie Smith

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