The New Year is a time to look for new challenges, and one way to change things up is to enter a writing contest.
If you have been busy slaving away over a hot keyboard, working in your own version of a writer’s cave (mine is in a corner of my living room because I found that I work a lot better if I get some sunlight during the day), you tend to get used to going it alone. If you communicate with your clients through phone-mail or IM, it becomes normal for you to deal with people you have never met face to face. Stepping away from your desk to attend writers conferences makes good sense for a number of reasons.
Are you submitting queries, finished articles for consideration to publications or manuscripts to publishers? Would you like an alternative to downloadable software to keep track of your efforts? There are submission tracking apps for that.
In a perfect world, your personal and business lives would run smoothly and completely independently from each other. One of the benefits of working as a freelance writer is that you get to make your own schedule for the most part. As long as you turn in your assignments on time, your clients don’t really know (or care) whether you do your best work at the starting at crack of dawn or you like to tackle it in the small hours of the night. What happens when a personal crisis crops up? How do you deal with it in a professional manner and keep your freelance writing clients?
Were you drawn to life as a freelancer so that you could be independent and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind? Did you think you would have a flexible schedule that would let you take time off whenever you wanted? What no one probably explained was that as an independent contractor, you would probably end up working more hours than someone who works for an employer, especially when you include administrative and marketing tasks into the mix. The idea that a freelancer can take time off is one that can become increasingly foreign and more than a bit scary once you start getting more involved in the business.
In a perfect world, all of our freelance writing clients would be wonderful to deal with. They would be easy going, clear in their instructions, and communicate regularly. In short, they would be just like us!
For a change of pace from looking for freelance writing gigs working for clients, why don’t you check out these upcoming writing contests and competitions? If you have been focused on non-fiction writing as part of your paid work, submitting something for consideration to a contest can be a welcome change of pace. If you win, you can pick up some prize money and get some welcome recognition for your work. You may even be inspired to run a contest on your blog.
Erma Bombeck Writing Competition
Do you think you can “capture the essence” of the late Ms. Bombeck’s writing? If so, you could be $500 richer and win a free registration to the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop! The competition closed February 17, 2014 at 8 a.m. and you can find out the details here.
Hektoen Essay Contest
The Hektoen Essay contest is open to submissions on subjects “related to medicine and culture.” Each essay should be between 1,500-2,000 words and the grand prize is $1,500.00. All entries must be received by March 1, 2014 to be considered. Guidelines are posted on the Hektoen International website.
Willow Springs Fiction Prize
The contest winner will receive $2,000, and will have his or her work published in Willow Springs. He or she will also receive a one-year subscription to Willow Springs. There is a $15.00 entry fee for U.S. residents and a $20.00 entry fee for international submissions. Only original, unpublished work will be accepted. Guidelines are available online and submissions can be made electronically or by regular mail. Deadline for submissions is March 15, 2014.
Sawtooth Poetry Prize
The Sawtooth Poetry Prize is open for submissions from January 1, 2014 to March 10, 2014. The winner will receive a $1,500.00 honorarium upon publication, as well as 25 copies of his or her published book. Entries must be filed between January 1, 2014 and March 10, 2014. Manuscripts should be 50-100 pages of poetry and there is a $25.00 entry fee. Get complete detail son the contest website. /sawtooth-poetry-prize/
Confrontation 2014 Poetry Prize
The winner of the Confrontation Poetry Prize will receive $750.00. He or she will also be published in one of the 2014 issues. Submit up to four previously unpublished poems for consideration. There is a $10.00 entry fee to be considered. The contest opens February 1, 2014 and the deadline is March 31, 2014. Details are available here, and simultaneous submissions are acceptable, as long as you let the magazine know if the poem has been accepted elsewhere.
William Faulkner-WilliamWisdom Creative Writing Competition
The 2014 competition opens January 1 and accepts entries in eight categories: Novel, Novella, book-length Narrative Non-Fiction, Novel-in-Progress, Short Story, Essay, Poetry, and Short Story by a High School Student. Competition guidelines and entry forms are available online.
The New Letters Literary Awards
Submit your best group of poems, essay, or short story for consideration and a chance at $1,500.00. The deadline for entries is May 18, 2014. There is a $15.00 fee for the first entry, and a $10.00 fee for each entry thereafter. The fee includes the cost of a one-year subscription to New Letters. Guidelines are available online.
14 Independent Productions Script Writing Contest
Can you write a winning 22-minute sitcom episode? The winner of this contest will walk away with $10,000 in prize money and $5,000 for IPD assignment. (The prize will be shared if there is more than one winner.) The start submission date is January 5, 2015 and the closing date is July 1, 2015, so you have plenty of time for this one. You can check out the requirements online. (Free registration required.)
General Tips for Entering Entering Writing Contests
If you want to increase your chance of winning a writing contest, take your time and read through the guidelines carefully to make sure that your work is a good fit before you submit it. Give yourself plenty of time to complete your submission. If you have to rush to finish your work, either wait until the contest is open again or find another writing contest. You want to present your best effort to the judges.
Proofread your work carefully before you submit it for consideration. You may want to have a trusted friend or colleague look it over for you. Even the best spellcheck program on your computer won’t catch every spelling and grammar error, and you may be too close to your own work after looking at it several times to be objective.
Follow the instructions about submitting your work to the letter. Some contests are very specific about whether authors can include their names on submissions and the number of copies that should be sent in for consideration. If you don’t follow the instructions exactly, your submission will not be considered for judging.
Do look at previous winners’ work to get an idea of what a winning entry looked like for a particular contest but don’t assume that your voice is not just as valid when you are entering a contest. Submit it and trust that the people judging the contest will be able to evaluate it on its own merits. Enjoy the process and keep in mind that you have no chance of winning if you don’t enter the contest at all. Good luck!
image credit: sxc.hu
image credit: sxc.hu
Freelance writer burnout is an occupational hazard for people who make their living with words. This condition is more than just feeling tired at the end of a marathon work session, and it is not to be confused with writer’s block. True burnout is born of feeling stressed out to the max, and it makes everything look bleak.
You may be thinking that grants and fellowships are meant for writers who are already published, but this source of funding is available to new and up-and-coming writers. People in this category are most likely to need help in their careers, and there are a number of sources of help available.
Who is Giving Away Free Money to Writers?
Professional freelance writers get paid for producing and selling their work. Grants and fellowships for writers are gifts of money that don’t need to be paid back.
A number of organizations offer this type of financial help. Look to foundations and institutions as sources of funding. The government may have some grant money available to writers as well.
Their motives for providing assistance are twofold: part of the reason is humanitarian. These institutions have an interest in promoting the arts, including the written word. The other motivation is that these organizations is promotional. The other reason for offering grants and fellowships is to promote the foundation or institution’s cause.
20 Grants and Fellowships for Writers
Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Inc. offers support grants of $500-$1,500 to feminist women working on fiction and non-fiction projects. Read guidelines and submit work at the time and in the manner requested or it will be rejected.
Mesa Refuge offers two and four-week writers’ retreats in Point Reyes Station, CA. Three residents at a time are welcomed at a time, and they are provided with quiet, comfortable accommodation. This retreat is meant for journalists, screenwriters, naturalists, essayists, and writers specializing in writing about nature, social equity, and economics.
JM Kaplan Fund’s Furthermore program is not available to individual writers, but freelancers can apply for funding in partnership with a nonprofit organization. Applicants for these grants, which range from $500-$15,000, must be a 501(c)(3) organizations. This program is meant to support nonfiction book publishing.
North Carolina Arts Council Regional Project Grants to Artists provide funding to artists in any discipline of between $300-$5,000 to help purchase equipment and materials, pay for workshops, and the creation of new work.
Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship in Creative Writing is offered to writers of nonfiction or poetry who need a year to complete their first book. Fellows teach a creative writing course per semester at Colgate University and give a public reading from their work in progress. They receive a $37,000 stipend plus travel expenses.
SFFS/Hearst Screenwriting Grant is given to a screenwriter who has been writing for at least five years and has previously written at least one feature screenplay. U.S. writers whose project expresses a personal perspective and an artistic approach to a subject are welcome to apply.
Spirit of Writing Grant provides grants in amounts ranging from $500-$2,500. See grant requirements and application online.
The Gift of Freedom Award from the Room of Her Own Foundationwill help to bridge the gap between the recipient’s “financial reality and her artistic creation.” One fellowship of $50,000 is awarded biannually.
Sustainable Arts Foundation provides unrestricted cash awards of $1,000 and $6,000 to writers and artists with a child under the age of 18. See guidelines online.
Cintas Fellowships in the amount of $10,000 may be granted to artists of Cuban citizenship or direct descent. Awards are paid quarterly, and recipients can pursue their activities as directed on their application.
Canada Council for the Arts gives away grants to emerging, mid-career, and established writers ranging from $3,000.00-$25,000.00. See website for eligibility and program guidelines.
The Academy of American Poets has several awards and fellowships available in varying amounts. Visit website for guidelines.
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, also known as the Oscars, wants to encourage up-and-coming screenwriters by offering up to five, $35.000 fellowships each year. Get details on how to apply by visiting the website.
The Alliance for Young Artists and Writers recognizes talented teen writers. More than $250,000 in scholarships is awarded annually in partnership with leading colleges and universities. Scholarships range from $250 to full tuition. Most scholarships awarded are renewable every year for up to four years.
Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts provides grants to individual writers whose work “addresses contemporary visual art.” Amounts awarded ranges from $3,000-$50,000. Eligible categories are articles, blogs, books, new and alternative media, and short-form writing.
British Columbia Arts Council offers funding for creative writers. Professional writers are eligible to apply and up to $10,000 in funding is available.
Arts Council Literature Bursary Awards provide support to professional artists to give them time and resources to conduct research, reflect, and engage with their work. The award is open to practicing artists who were either born in or are living in the Republic of Ireland. The maximum amount of the award is €15000.
American Antiquarian Society provides visiting fellowships for historical research for writers, journalists and other creative and performing artists. Fellowships provide recipients with opportunity to conduct research, read, and participate in discussions at the Society in Worcester, Massachusetts. Three residential fellowships will be awarded annually. The stipend is $1,350.00.
The American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize for new writers offers a $3,000 award, publication of a book of poems, and distribution by Copper Canyon Press.
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators offers a a number of grants and awards to members. Visit the website for guidelines.
How to Increase Chances of Getting a Writing Grant
Find the current application form and the guidelines and read them through carefully. Application forms and guidelines are usually updated a couple of months before the program deadline.
Even if you have applied for funding from a grant in previous years, read through the guidelines to check for changes. If your proposed project does not fit with the grant program’s eligibility requirements, you may want to make a decision not to apply for it. Some applications require that applicants pay a fee, and all of them take time to prepare, and you will want to make the best use of both of them.
When you are preparing your grant application, keep in mind that you will need to break down the activities in your writing project into several stages. Look at the initial idea, research, marketing, and the time for writing as separate components. Depending on the program, you may be able to apply for specific financial help for a part of your project.
Don’t wait until the last minute to start working on your grant application. You’ll want to take your time to make sure that you are presenting yourself and your project well.
Some applications can be submitted online, while others must be sent by regular mail. Be sure to read the instructions so that you are sending yours in the correct manner. If you don’t follow the instructions, your application will not be considered.
Submit your application only during the application period. If it is postmarked too early or too late, it will not be considered.
Review and edit your submission before submitting it for consideration. You want to make sure that you are clearly pointing out how you could benefit from the grant or fellowship and why your project fits with the organization’s theme or goals.
The best advice we can give you to increase your chances of getting a writing grant is to apply, apply, apply. If you don’t apply for available funding, you have no chance of getting this type of financial help.
Want to see more options for free sources of funding? Check out these 19 Grants for Writers and other Creative Types.
image credits: <a href=”University of Central Florida