“Please Give Me This Grant I Don’t Deserve,” By Stephanie Sellars

May 31st, 2023 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

I was born to be an artist. When I was in the womb, my mother listened to classical music. She claims my conducting gave her bruises. She also loved the oldies station. I did the twist until fluid filled my lungs, causing pneumonia. My natal constitution was made for La Vie Bohème. Although my parents were not very creative, my mother had anxiety. I am grateful for her contributions to my artistic temperament. With inherited neuroses and a weak immune system, I was destined for greatness.

My formative years were spent exploring the uncaring world and developing artistic characteristics, like insomnia and an obsession with fictional orphans. I stood on a rock in the backyard, belting out songs from Annie while the boy next door called me retarded. I played Tiddlywinks on the kitchen floor, frequently losing the colored plastic discs under the fridge, wondering if they would die in their dusty, dark new home. I enjoyed watching earthworms after a rain, slithering across the driveway. I was saddened to see the same worms transformed into dry crusty spaghetti a few days later, victims of the cruel sun. At age five, I spent many hours alone, contemplating the nature of death. Why do we die? What was here before the earth and the sun and all the other planets came into being? Was it just a black void??? Obviously, only a budding artist would think such things!

My parents, seeing my potential, signed me up for piano lessons with an old lady and dance classes that required wearing a leotard. I was no prodigy, but took to the stage like an earthworm to rain. I also had a natural talent for drawing anthropomorphized blobs and writing poetry about underrated animals. My second-grade teacher was so impressed by my poem about ducks, she read it out loud:

Ducks can swim,
And they can eat,
And they also have webbed feet.

When they go past,
The babies are last.

During my duck period, while walking to school, I had to touch every telephone pole and avoid stepping on sidewalk cracks. If I missed a pole or stepped on a crack, I turned around and started all over again. I was tormented by a girl who tried to kill me with a Wiffle ball bat, and boys who blocked me with their dirt-bikes while I walked my rabbit on a leash. Furthermore, my parents took their traumas out on me instead of going to therapy. Now that I think of it, all that hair-pulling expelled the moronic parts from my brain. Soap-eating refined my sensitive palate. And nights spent locked in the garage instilled me with a strong sense of solitude, which is something all artists need to thrive. I must’ve been more talented than my brother, because he didn’t get this kind of special treatment. My parents inspired me with wise words like, “Serves you right!”, “Suck it up!”, “Well, you’re just going to have to learn…” and “I got news for you!” I may not have been aware of it then, but I was building an arsenal of art.

Piano didn’t stick, but I took up clarinet, alto-saxophone, and singing, and before you can say “So what?” I was a bona fide band and choir geek who got teased for being the only horn-playing girl in jazz ensemble! In adolescence and early adulthood, I still drew and wrote poetry, but more importantly, I felt like an outcast. I bought clothes at thrift stores and wore Doc Martens and Newsboy caps. At age sixteen I started seeing a therapist and took Zoloft. Almost all my high-school friends were Asian (I’m white). I studied abroad, fell in love with a French guy who awakened me to the pleasures of Proust, then smashed my heart to a suicidal pulp, leaving me bitter and cynical at twenty-two, a prerequisite for writing an autobiographical novel. After moving to New York, I posed nude for older men who called themselves photographers. I lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for six months. I had a lot of sex with immigrants, artists, and immigrant artists. I attempted suicide and spent a few days in a psych hospital, which was like taking a master class with Sylvia Plath. I came out as bisexual. I could go on into my thirties with all the orgies and tumultuous relationships, but that’s another application essay.

The bottom line is my experience fulfills the criteria for this grant, which I will use to finally write all the stories floating around in my head. There are at least five novels, two essay collections and a memoir in there. Not to mention a one woman show, half a dozen screenplays, and an episodic for Amazon! I might even take up painting. Oh, and I was born with a trust fund, which I think lends a propensity to creative expression, given the freedom I’ve had, not to be beholden to a soul-sucking job. The trust fund expired when I reached a certain age and I have since developed a robust financial portfolio that allows me to pursue my art. That’s all to say that, if I am to receive this year’s grant, it will not be wasted on me, as I know first-hand what it’s like to have unstructured days waiting to be filled with art-making, as opposed to other applicants who might find themselves biting their nails while binge watching Netflix if they didn’t have to work for a living.


Stephanie Sellars is a cat person, meaning sometimes she believes she’s a cat. She lives in New York City, where she sleeps too much and has conversations with her person cat. Unlike most cats, she holds two MFAs, in film from Columbia University School of the Arts and in writing from Bennington Writing Seminars. Her debut feature film Lust Life Love can be seen on VOD platforms. Her writing has been published in Hobart PulpEntropy, Moviemaker, the former alt-weekly New York Press, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of fellowships from Yaddo, International Literary Seminars (ILS), and Vermont Studio Center. She also sings! Her jazz album Girl Who Loves is available online wherever music, like porn, may be bought or experienced for free. IG: @the_stephaniesellars

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.