For aspiring fiction writers, the typical model of professional practice is to write the whole thing then shop it around, whether to agents, publishers, or directly to readers through self-publishing and self-promotion. Payment (if any) happens long after the work is done. This means not only that income is almost always a gamble, but that critical work time is financially unsupported and often hard to come by. I work as a research administrator for scientists, who also have to do a lot of work before any payoff. The ones I know support their work largely through grants and fellowships. While grants for writers aren’t as numerous (or as lucrative) as grants for scientists, they are out there. This post is a mini-introduction to strategies for finding, selecting, and applying for money to write by. Grants for writing won’t make you rich or give you a cushy life, but they might give you the quiet time you need to finish the critical work.
Types of Funding. There are two basic types of funding available for writers—grants and residential fellowships.
- Grants A few agencies will give writers a grant–money to use as the writer sees fit (e.g. pay bills, pay for travel research, pay for supplies) to forward the completion of a project. The National Endowment for the Humanities or the National Endowment for the Arts are good examples of public agencies that provide this kind of award. The Sustainable Arts Foundation is an example of a private foundation that provides this kind of funding. These are highly competitive grants, they get oodles of applications, which means each applicant has low odds of winning.
- Residential Fellowships. If your expectation is that writer’s retreats–whether as a small private group or part of an arranged, organized program–always cost money (and often a lot of it), then think again. There are dozens of agencies and foundations across the U.S. (and the world) that provide writers with some version of expenses-paid writing retreat. Some simply provide the room; some also provide board. A very few will provide funds to offset travel costs to and from the retreat location. Many have very specific eligibility requirements (residency within a specific state, gender, types of work, etc.) that reduce the applicant pool and that increase the chance of winning for applicants who do meet those eligibility requirements.
To successfully apply for a grant of any variety requires three steps: A. finding grant opportunities, B. selecting among all those enticing options the opportunities that are worth your time and effort, and C. writing a killer proposal. [This post covers items A. and B.; a later blog will discuss item C.]
A. Finding Grants/Fellowships to Apply For. The internet has made searching for grants easier than ever. You can use google—try typing in ‘best writer’s retreat in x” or “grants for writers with families” and see what shows up. But there are some websites that have done some of your searching for you already. The following is a list of some useful web resources. [Readers–If you’re aware of other resources that should go on this list, please add it to the comments and I will add to this list] [Read more…]