Last week, I applied for my first ever writing grant. And, although I won’t know for about a month what the judges thought of the attempt, I did learn quite a bit about grant writing over the process.
The grant application, which seems to be fairly typical for artsy grants, asked for responses in several topics: my bio, my service to other writers, the potential grant money usage, and finally, a writing sample. (Other topics that you can expect to see on applications fairly regularly might be an artist statement, career plan, or project description. All grants are different.)
What struck me most about this application was that it was all basically information I already had. I already had an author bio prepared as part of my querying and author branding materials. (You did do the author branding worksheet packet, right?) I was well aware of what work I did with other writers, and I already had an idea of what I wanted to do with the money, should I receive it. And I had tons of writing samples lying around because I kind of do a lot of writing. So other than needing a few hours’ worth of tweaks, I was practically there.
This won’t always be the case. Sometimes grant writing will take hours upon hours upon hours of your precious writing time. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of plugging materials you already have on hand into the right boxes. It’s up to you to decide when it’s worth it, and when it’s better for you to just keep writing publishable material. When making that decision, do keep in mind that grants are about more than just having someone toss a wad of cash at you. They expand your writing network, they give you opportunities to take more classes or hire an editor, they add prestige and pad your author bio, and at their very most basic, they are a nice pat on the back in what can otherwise be a pretty thankless endeavor most of the time. So when you’re thinking about whether or not it’s worth your time to try for a writing grant, think beyond the dollars (or yen or pounds or euros or whatever).
But you won’t be able to make that call until you’re looking at potential grants. So where does one find available grants? As with many things these days, it’s now easier than ever before. All you need is the internet and a little super-sleuthing know-how. Here are a few ideas to get you started in your happy hunt.
Writing Groups Writing groups often put on their own writing grants. This includes large groups (SCBWI, SFWA, etc), and smaller groups, like my own Alaska Writer’s Guild which offers several writing grants, scholarships, and awards every year. If you haven’t already, consider joining one of these groups if you can. Even if you never get a single dollar out of them, it can make a big difference in the trajectory of your career.
Art Foundations and Councils There are many major foundations and art councils that have more monies than I can count up for grabs every year (Rasmuson Foundation, NEA, etc), but many smaller local groups do as well. Much like writing groups, it’s generally best to start with the local groups and work your way out from there. Check out your city’s arts association or literacy council, or your state’s arts council, before going straight for the national groups.
The English Department It’s surprisingly easy to contact your local college or university’s English department and ask about any writing or art grants that they’re aware of. Not only do the teachers, who are very often writers themselves, keep track of these things, but often the department itself maintains a list that it shares with its students- and maybe you, too! Not all departments do, but it’s worth asking.
Online Lists These take a little more sifting to pick out the good ones from the… less good ones. But these can be excellent resources for busy writers. I hesitate to put up any lists that I haven’t thoroughly vetted, but I have spent a little time around fundsforwriters.com and it seems pretty legit. (But please don’t pick up crazy viruses and make me sad.) Any readers with helpful resources on this front could pretty please put them in the comments section? *bats eyelashes*
Once you’ve found a writing grant that’s a good fit- itself arguably the hardest part of grant writing- it’s time to hit that keyboard. Good luck!
(And don’t forget to share in the comments if you have any great grant writing resources or tips! You guys are the best!)