Writing Grants, Fellowships and Residency Apps: How To Apply For A Free Ride
A Universal Appeal
Free money! Free money! Free money!
Do I have your attention yet?
Talk about a writer’s dream. You get to follow your dreams and someone else pays you to do so.
Welcome to the world of grants, fellowships and residencies, a world hidden in the deep recesses of the writing community, unknown to many, intimidating to many and worth investigating for all.
Thousands of grants are available for writers who are determined and focused enough to wade through the application process. There are grants for classes. There are grants for conferences and workshops. There are grants to fund a project and there are grants that will support you financially while you write.
If you have ever written a query letter for a submission you have some idea about the grant writing process. You find a grant that interests you and then follow the guidelines to the letter during your application process. It helps immensely if you have a body of work as a foundation, and it also helps if you have built a platform or are in the process of doing so, but still, a well-crafted grant application by a beginner still has a chance of being accepted and rewarded.
Winning a grant is huge with regards to your platform and reputation. Not winning a grant is still a valuable exercise as the process ads clarity to your plan and vision for the future.
There are basically four types of grants that you can win: fellowships and awards; professional development grants; project grants; and residencies.
FELLOWSHIPS AND AWARDS
These fall under the category of “free for all,” and are the most attractive of grants. They basically pay you to support your writing efforts, and usually you have the freedom to work on anything related to your craft that you choose.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT GRANTS
As the name suggests, these are grants that help you to advance your career and grow as a writer. They can be as simple as a free workshop, or they can be for writing materials or paying for professional training.
These grants pay for a project done by you and usually end with an event of some sort. Maybe you want to organize a youth writing studio; that would fall under the project grant guidelines. As long as the event is related to literature then it is food for thought and worth considering.
How would you like to write in Florence for six months? You can find residencies around the world, and they usually consist of a place to live and work with other writers for a period of time. The scope is huge: some offer room only; some offer room and board; others offer room, board and a stipend.
How to Apply
Perhaps the best piece of advice I can give you is to apply for a grant that is related to your passion and your writing plan. If you are passionate about where you are going or about the subject matter of your grant, then your passion will be obvious in your application. To randomly choose a grant simply because of the dollar amount or the chance to travel to Barcelona is not a good idea.
Ask yourself what it is you want in your writing career. What types of writing really float your boat? Where are you heading and what is your grand plan for the future? Once you have answered those questions then you can narrow your grant search to those grants that will help you chase after your dreams.
If you have projects in mind, which of those makes you most excited?
The key element in grant application is passion. There are hundreds of thousands of writers who apply for grants each year. Those with passion and the ability to translate that passion into an application process are the ones who score and score big.
Grants for women
Travel Grants Available
Key Elements of a Grant Application
We can break down most grant applications into three main categories: artist statement, work sample and project description.
The artist statement is, for lack of a better description, your resume as a writer. It is your platform and it is who you are as a writer. It talks about your work, your past, your future and your dreams. It is your experience, your strength and your hope as a writer, and it needs to be taken seriously and sold convincingly.
The work sample is exactly what it says, and it is crucial. Your work sample should be two things: it should be your best work and it should apply to the nature of the grant. For example, if you are applying for a grant related to travel writing, then produce a sample of travel writing, and please, please make sure it is the best example of your abilities as a writer. You don’t get any mulligans in grant writing; no do-overs or oops. You get one shot at impressing the judges so your sample better be darn good.
Finally, your project description should tell what your project is, why it is important, what the goals are, who the audience will be and the benefits of the project. If you are applying for a project grant you will also need a detailed budget of the project.
Matching Yourself to the Grant Requirements
Here is where a grant application is just like a magazine submission guideline. The directions given for a grant process are precise, and they are that way to weed out those who are not serious or not meticulous enough to follow instructions. Again, there are hundreds of thousands of applicants, and there are a limited number of people reviewing applications. Applications are tossed out regularly because they do not have the proper heading or they are not related to the guidelines or you did not cross a t or dot an i.
Secondly, make sure you know what the grant is asking for regarding the nature of your work. If your work or goals do not match the grant then don’t apply, or make sure you tweak your goals to match the grant.
Trust me on this point: people reviewing the applications are looking for a reason to reduce their work load. If they ask for three examples of your work don’t send two or four. If they ask for a sample of work under 1,200 words do not send them a sample with 1,500 words.
Yes the guidelines are tedious and yes they appear to be anal at times, but they are there to find out just how serious you are about applying. Follow them to the letter!
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Even If You Lose You Win
One of the hidden benefits to grant applications is the fact that with each application I am able to focus more on my overall goals and plan. In other words, the process itself helps me to clarify what it is I want from writing, and I think you will find the same to be true for you.
If you get turned down so what? You have taken a huge step in chasing your dreams, and every rejection is a learning process. You have nothing to lose by applying and everything to gain.
I read once that being a writer “requires the sensitivity of a poet and the toughness of a rhino” and I believe that to be true. Grant writing is an excellent way to help you gain sensitivity and gain toughness, both at the same time.
Best of luck to you as you enter this new theater of possibilities. I truly hope you give it a try, and I hope you find it as rewarding as I have.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”