Some Random Advice from Mirabee on Grants, Fellowships, Residencies and Contests

    Hi everyone,

    Lately I have been getting a lot of mail—actually, I always get a lot of mail—and much of it the last month has been about some of the same things so I thought I would just post a list of some FAQs that keep ending up in my inbox. It is almost September, after all, and Sept. 15th is a big date for application deadlines. October is the big month for Fulbright deadlines.

    Before I go into that though, a reminder, if you write me at:, please make sure you check ALL my FAQs before writing, okay?

    Here is the FAQ link for applying for grants and Fellowships:

    Here's the link for residencies, art colonies and retreats:

    For Fulbright Awards:

    Okay, on to those random questions of yours:

    1. HELP ME PLEASE! I am desperate! I need a grant right now! Can I apply for a grant that would start next month?

    No. For most grants or large fellowships you must apply nine months to a year in advance. However, if you need emergency funding, check my sidebar on the right hand side for some links to emergency funding organizations.

    Also--PLEASE DO NOT SOUND DESPERATE in your application. No foundation wants to give money to people who sound like victims. It is better to present yourself as a resourceful person. Tell them how many other places you are applying to and what you are doing to get out of your unfortunate situation.

    2. If I write a nice letter to you, asking you to help me find a grant or a special residency, will you help me?

    Nope. PLEASE DO THE WORK. I do this for free. I know I am crazy. I get barely any donations. I think I make less than two cents an hour doing this. Actually—not even that much. Basically, I bring you to the water but you have to fish for yourself, okay? There are special circumstances where I do help individuals, like a couple people who have limited internet access because they are living in countries like Iran and China where important sites are censored and blocked from view. Otherwise—do the work yourself.

    3. I run a residency (or a grant foundation) and want you to post my deadline announcement. What's the best way to send you info?

    NOT in a pdf. NOT in a word doc. Please send a BRIEF announcement in the body of an email to and include deadline date, cost if there is on, stipend or award if there is one, location and something descriptive about the program. Also, which disciplines can apply. And please send me info way in advance. Thanks.

    4. I am a poet who is nearly sixty years old (or an artist, composer, etc.) and have been rejected by every place I apply to. Can you help me figure out why?

    Sorry—I can't. I just don't have time to critique people's work. I suggest you get involved with some kind of community—writing group, artist critique group, etc. and get feedback that way.

    5. What is your opinion about writing contests that charge a fee to submit my piece?

    I think some contests are good and some are bad. Here's my opinion, for what it's worth: Look to see what the big prize is. If the entry fee is, say, 10-25 dollars and the biggest prize is only 200 dollars, well, that's pretty bogus to me. That means they are just making money off you. And do they mention who the judge is? ONLY send work to contests if the judge is a reputable LITERARY writer, not some hack and if the contest is run by a literary magazine or a reputable literary online journal. The Council on Literary Magazines and Small Presses (CLMP) helps to set standards for good ethical practices among literary magazines. You can acquire a great list of presses and journals from their site:

    You can get a great listing of contests that are worth applying to on the Poets & Writers website: And if you are a writer and don't subscribe to their inexpensive but invaluable magazine, I do believe you are a doody head.

    By the way, you can apply this info to art and music and film contests. Just because someone is offering you money out there doesn't mean they are legit.

    6. I'm a writer. Some of my friends say I should send my work to literary journals—ones like Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Yale Review, etc. But I notice that most of those journals don't pay you a cent! They just give you two free copies and publish your work. So why bother?

    Good question. Well, here's the long answer: Many great writers started out in those smaller circulation literary magazines. And many acclaimed authors (and I'm talking LITERARY authors here, not the Danielle Steele kind of commercial bestselling blockbuster author) still send pieces to these magazines because they believe in them and they also respect the audience who reads them. That audience really loves great literature and brilliant, exquisite prose. They read the harder books, the ones you actually have to use your brain to read, not your basic page turner. i.e. We are not talking The DaVinci Code, okay? Nothing wrong with that stuff for entertainment but let's face it folks—it's not great literature.

    Case in point—an earlier version of one of my chapters from The Memory Palace (which just made the New York Times bestselling list in paperback for next week :-)) was first published in Kenyon Review. And from there, KR submitted it to be in the Best American Essay series where it was mentioned as a notable essay. That stuff means something to agents and editors at larger houses who are looking for literary writers. And it meant a lot to me. You can't put a price tag on that kind of thing. These journals barely limp along financially. It is a labor of love. I used to work at one as an intern and certainly didn't do it for the money. Okay....I'm done ranting now....

    A couple last things:

    To people who run international residencies and want me to post deadlines: PLEASE have someone check your grammar and spelling. I spend a lot of time rewriting posts that are too hard to understand. PLEASE tell me WHERE you are located exactly. You'd be surprised how many people ask me to post about a residency with no info on what country it is, even on their website.

    And, last but not least.....a reminder: if you are looking for a residency in a specific country, please don't write me and ask. Please check out my residency links on my sidebar because the places I list are amazing and you can search for each individual country.

    Thanks....and hey, I'm going to bug you guys for donations soon, just so you know. Although my book is doing really well, I haven't made my advance back yet (a long and mysterious process that even I don't completely understand). I will actually run out of money in November with nothing on the horizon. I do this for free. I do not charge you. People say I am insane because I do not ask for a yearly subscription. I don't want to because I believe in a Gift Economy at heart. So pay it forward—send a donation if you can (see my sidebar for information on how to do that) and if you can't, spread some helpful information to a friend.

    Thanks...I love you guys.


    p.s. I forgot to mention this one:

    I DO NOT POST ABOUT CONTESTS, PUBLISHING OR EXHIBITION OPPORTUNTIES, etc. unless they also offer a residency or there is some fellowship involved. So to all you wonderful places asking me to post about your upcoming artist call for an exhibit or for your writing contest, please go to my facebook MIRASLIST page and post it there, okay? If you write a short announcement it will also be tweeted on twitter.

    By the way—I really, really try to post residencies that either don't cost money or that offer a stipend or that are pretty inexpensive. So if you send me an announcement for a residency that costs a lot of money, don't be surprised if I don't post it, okay? Thanks.

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