Earlier this month I ticked off one of my 2010 goals: to apply for my first writing grant. As a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, I’m entitled to apply for one of the annual Work-in-Progress grants that are judged in Los Angeles. It’s a huge application pool as any SCBWI member from around the world is eligible to apply. While I won’t know the outcome until September, I wanted to share a few thoughts on my application process that might help you.
- Have a clear purpose for seeking a grant. You don’t apply for grant money because you think you deserve to be paid to write. Heaps of people believe that. You need a clear purpose for the money and a well-researched plan on what that grant would be spent on and how it furthers your career. You need to check the past winners and the guidelines to see what is appropriate use of the money and what is preferred.
- Know what sets you apart from the others. I’m sure you’ve been introduced as ‘the writer’ at dinner parties and revelled in the attention that one statement caused. The bad news is that every single person applying for the grant is ‘the writer’ as well and suddenly that angle isn’t so memorable. You’ll need to write a bio and if you have little or no credits, this can be really daunting. However, lines like, ‘I was a bookworm as a child’ or ‘I live for a good story’ are really just you introducing yourself as ‘the writer’ to a roomful of creative writing students. You need to delve deeper. Maybe you lived in the Middle East for five years or you care for injured wildlife on weekends. I don’t know what sets you apart, but you should.
- Read every single guideline. Then read them again. Then another thirteen times. The rules might be different to what you have been taught as correct formatting or submission procedure but follow them anyway. Nothing more, nothing less. You don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons.
Just in case you were wondering, I applied to help cover research costs for my YA fantasy (yes, the mermaid book).