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Life After the MFA Series
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March 2021
Last month, we finished our three-part series of publishing advice. Next, we turn our attention to methods of financing your writing. Want dedicated time to write or a fantastic line on your CV? How about avenues for publication or attention for your work? This series installment on contests, grants, and fellowships might be a good fit for you.
To kick off this series, I would like to take a moment to remind you that submissions are currently open for AWP’s Kurt Brown Prizes. Applications are being accepted online via Submittable, and the application period ends on May 14, 2021. Through this contest, three $500 scholarships will be awarded to three first-place winners in the genres of creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. These scholarships must be used to attend a writers’ conference, center, retreat, festival, or residency at one of the AWP member programs in the Directory of Conferences & Centers. All winners and six finalists will also receive a one-year individual membership. Send in your applications today for this amazing opportunity!

If you’ve ever entered a writing contest before, whether run by a literary journal or an organization, you know they can be expensive to enter and are very competitive. All the same, the payouts—which range from $500-$1,000 for a single short story or poem to $5,000-$50,000 for a first book—keep many writers submitting year after year. Have you ever questioned whether those pricey submission fees are really worth it? So did Suzannah Windsor Freeman. She writes about her experiences in “The Pros and Cons of Entering Writing Contests” over at Write It Sideways. Author Amy Cook also reflects on writing contests and how to evaluate whether they are worth the entry fee in "The Truth about Writing Contests" at Writer's Digest.
Poets & Writers offers their comprehensive Guide to Writing Contests ($4.99 for a PDF copy), which provides “expert advice from contest judges, recent winners, literary agents, and editors so that you can make smart decisions about submitting your work.”
Typically, an academic fellowship will offer better funding and thus more time to pursue a current writing project. If you are fresh out of academia and interested in continuing to teach or perform research, you might consider this type of fellowship. In “The Benefits of the University-Based Creative Writing Fellowship,” Sarah Katz reviews the major academic fellowships (the Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, the Halls and Wallace Poetry Fellowships, and the McCreight, Houck Smith, and Djerassi Fiction Fellowships at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to name a few). This article and many others are available in AWP’s improved Writer’s Notebook.
Fellowships and grants that are unattached to academic institutions can offer unrestricted income for the pursuit of a well-defined writing project. Though often smaller than the stipends that academic fellowships provide, they allow artists the flexibility of taking time away from work to complete a manuscript or similar project. For lists of available funding opportunities, consult the following databases: This month, we will leave you with Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s thoughts on “How Applying for Writing Grants (Even If You Don’t Get Them) Can Help You Be a Better Writer,” featured on Writer’s Digest. Here’s a taste: "Because to me, the value of these applications isn’t just the financial support they can provide if you win one. No, there is a lot to be gleaned from those first steps too: to find yourself and your project worthy enough to put in an application. That, my friends, can be the real game-changer."
Stay tuned for the next installment of the series, where we will dive into the world of marketing strategies for your writing. See you then!

Best wishes,
Jennifer January
Communications Coordinator & Membership Assistant