The writing life doesn’t have to be all starving artist. Grants for writers are out there, and they can help fund your next project.
But you have to know how to find them.
Nonfiction writer and journalist, Katya Cengal, funded much of her writing through grants. As a feature writer for Louisville’s Courier-Journal, she hit a budget issue when she wanted to follow her story about refugees living in her Kentucky town to the families they left behind in Kenya.
That’s when she started looking for alternative funding.
“I knew the paper wouldn’t pay for me to go there, so I started looking for funding opportunities,” said Katya.
Her search took her to the International Center for Journalists. There she found the grant that would fund her trip to Kenya and Uganda to finish her story. Katya loved the experience so much, she eventually left the full-time newspaper gig to go freelance. And later, when she decided to write a book, Katya knew she could find a grant to help her write that too.
“Once you become aware of those you start seeking them out,” she said.
So if you’re looking for grants to fund a writing project—from novels and short stories to journalism or nonfiction books like Katya’s—she has a few tips to help you find the right one.
Search Engine Queries (Tips for Getting Them Right)
Like many things, the first place to start your search for a writing grant is an internet search engine. That’s how Katya found the grant that funded her trip to Kenya and Uganda.
But don’t just google “grants for writers.” Search terms like those are likely to return little more than how to write grant proposals for nonprofit agencies and organizations when what you really want is a grant to fund YOU and YOUR WRITING.
So then what do you search for?
“The more specific you are, the better,” Katya says. “One of the books I was doing had to do with Cambodian Americans, so I looked for Asian-American nonfiction grants.”
So what are you writing? A nonfiction book? Journalism? A novel? Is the project based anywhere specific? Is it focused on women? Or a particular field of scientific study? A specific culture? Plug those details into your search query terms and see what comes back.
Katya also recommends using terms like “arts funding fellowships” instead of “grants” or “writing.”
Join Existing Communities for the Shared Leads
Once you find a few funding sources for your writing, you’re likely to run into the communities that form around them. Don’t pass those communities by. Claim a space on their newsletter email lists, join their social media groups, keep in touch with people. Make friends.
Instead of communities like these increasing the competitive nature of winning grants, Katya says they’re an easy way to find leads that work well for what you’re writing. The reason?
Not all grants work for all writers. Some fund student writers just starting out. Some target those under 35 with some work already in print. Some are looking for veteran writers. And many of them are location or demographic specific.
That’s why it pays to join communities where other writers are passing along the grants that won’t work for them in exchange for those that will.
Reach Out to Nonprofits Even If They Don’t Officially Fund Writing Projects Like Yours
Sometimes you’ll find an organization that offers grants to writers, but the grant doesn’t fund the topic you’re interested in writing about. Here you have a few choices that could still lead to funds for your writing project.
First, Katya says to reach out to these organizations anyway.
When she searched for funding for her book, for example, Katya found a number of organizations that didn’t offer grants for books. So she contacted them to find out if they knew of organizations that did.
Reaching out can’t hurt. And it can lead to the right grant for your book (or whatever you’re writing).
The other option is, once an organization has funded you and you complete the writing project, pitch them a new idea. It doesn’t always work out. But, like Katya’s success proves, it works often enough that you don’t lose anything for trying.
Don’t Forget Local Community Organizations
Community arts organizations and museums often run partially or entirely on grants themselves. And often they’re looking for ways to run or expand arts programs into the community. That means it can pay to contact them with ideas for writing projects that fit their missions and program goals.
Katya recommends asking them if they can fund writing projects related to arts programs or art history in the community they operate in. One of her books took her research to Long Beach, CA. So her funding search shifted to the local.
“I looked up arts organizations in Long Beach with their own grants and funding and applied to that,” she said.
Katya’s experience is just one person’s success story with finding and winning grants for writing projects. And while she doesn’t believe a writer could live the high life purely through grants like these, it’s definitely a way to fund a project that might otherwise be too hard for a writer to float alone.
Want more tips and leads to grants for writers? Try Free Money for Writers from Gigi Rosenberg over at Writer’s Digest for an overview of funding types and how each works or Funds for Writers for updated lists of grants that fund writers and their projects.