Grants, Fellowships, & Residencies: What Do They Mean to You? By Megan Potter

I read an ad today that I thought was offering me money to spend time alone writing. I was sure I must have read it wrong, but I checked, and it’s true, you really can apply to get paid to spend time writing. They don’t even ask you to give the money back when you make it big.

Hundreds of writers each year collect grants to supplement their income and allow them to work from home as full-time writers. J.K. Rowling, the now world famous author of the Harry Potter series, has often told interviewers that a grant she won helped her to complete the first book in the series as a single mother.

Despite this, grants do not play a major role in the U.S. writing industry, mainly because new and up-and-coming writers, those in the most need of the financial and moral boost a grant can provide, do not pursue them. It seems grants are a well kept secret followed up on by a select few.

There are grants for new writers, seasoned writers, poets, songwriters, non-fiction writers and just about any other category that you can name. Writing grants can run anywhere from several hundred dollars to several thousand. They can be simple grants that involve merely handing over a check to the winner, fellowships that align you with the organization for the year, or residencies where you live on premises for weeks or months at a time writing and learning and receiving a stipend for your stay. The money can be designated for a particular purpose or it can simply be an award for good work. Somewhere out there is a prize that will suit your writing and your needs.

The key will be finding the ones that you feel your experience and writing most qualify you for. In the U.S., organizations do not receive tax breaks for grants that are given to individuals so most grants for writers are sponsored by a writer’s organization or donations from popular writers. You could start by checking with any writers’ organizations that you currently belong to (or are interested in joining) to see if they sponsor a grant for their members. From there you could try an Internet search (which is very exhausting and brings up a lot more false leads than possibilities), as well as checking in the latest issue of Writer’s Market , which has a section on grants and contests for writers. You will also find a large selection of books at your local library that list grants of all types. Remember, you may also be eligible for grants for any type of creative, for women, for minorities, etc… don’t limit yourself to just writing grants.

Your next step, after you have established which grants you would most like to apply to, will be to create an application. Heather Lev Abramson, Career Counselor for Creatives says, “Grant writing is a very specific type of persuasive, factual writing. It would not hurt to take out a book on how to write grants.”

When your goal is to win funding, you should take the work involved as seriously as you would any assignment. Your application is going to represent you, and the winner will then represent the group giving the grant. Your package should show that you are not only aware of this but that you respect and deserve it. Put your best foot forward.

The competition can be fierce, but that’s just one more reason to research and write well. Winning a grant will not only help you financially, but Ms. Abramson says, “If a writer has won a very prestigious award, or any grant for that matter, this could greatly advance his or her career.” When you do hit it big, all we ask is that you return the favor and give to a grant designed to help writers just like you.

Grant Sources

The Sherwood Anderson Award – for developing writers who have published at least one book or several short pieces.

PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship – this award is for authors of children’s or young adult fiction who have had books published but have not sold enough to support the writer.

The Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship Program – seasonal residency programs for writers and artists that awards work and living space as well as a small monthly stipend.

Writer’s Market by Writer’s Digest Books

Foundation Grants to Individuals by Phyllis Edelson

The Individual’s Guide to Grants by Judith B. Margolin

Artists Communities: A Directory of Residencies in the United States Offering Time and Space for Creativity from Alliance of Artists’ Communities by Tricia Snell, ed.

Money for Writers: Over 800 Cash Awards, Grants, Prizes, Contests, Scholarships, Retreats, and More by Diane Billot, ed.

Grants and Awards Available to American Writers by John Morrone, ed.

Megan Potter is a prolific writer who has been published many times in such magazines as Pregnancy and Working Money. Megan makes her home in Canada where she runs Writing Corner ( She is a member of the International Women’s Writing Guild and works critiquing and mentoring fellow writers in her spare time. You can contact her at with comments or questions.