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You’ve sent out applications, and you’re anxiously waiting to hear if you’ve gotten in to your top choice. But the “congratulations on your acceptance” letter or email you hope to receive isn’t about where you’ll be getting a college degree—it’s for a writing residency.
Unlike a writer-in-residence position—when an author receives a temporary post at an academic institution—a writing residency offers writers time and space away from their everyday lives in order to focus solely on reflection and creativity. Free from distractions, a writing residency allows you to completely immerse yourself in your craft.
Writing residencies can be found in cities, on working ranches or farms, and in out-of-the-way mountain lodges. For a directory of writing residencies in the United States, you can visit the Alliance of Artist Communities website, artistcommunities.org. You can also search for international residencies at resartis.org, featuring locations in over seventy countries.
What To Consider When Choosing A Writing Residency
Don’t focus on only prestigious, hard-to-get-into residencies. Sure it would be amazing to attend Yaddo or MacDowell—but these exclusive residencies are like the Ivy League—very, very selective. Smaller, lesser-known writing residencies with good reputations will still provide a worthwhile experience—and may be easier to get in.
Seclusion or activities; many residents or few. Do you want an intimate experience in quiet solitude, or one that offers communal meals and interaction with others? Find out if there will be additional programs scheduled for you to participate in. And does it matter to you if other creative types—artists, sculptors, musicians—are also in attendance?
The length of the residency. A writing residency can last anywhere from a week or two to a year or more.
Your preferences about location and living arrangements. While some writing residencies can be found in urban settings with nearby amenities, most are in secluded, natural environments surrounded by breathtaking scenery. And know what the living quarters are like: will you be in a dorm-style ranch; a private room of a beachfront mansion; or in your own mountainside cottage?
Cost. Writing residencies run the gamut from free to affordable to pricey. Some residencies offer fellowships or grants to help with expenses. Others expect you to contribute by performing chores or cooking.
Once you’ve decided which writing residencies best suit your preferences, it’s time to fill out your applications. And being accepted for a good writing residency can be just as competitive as getting into your favorite university, so it’s important that your application stands out.
6 Tips For Applying To A Writing Residency
Submit your best, strongest work. Many residencies will judge your application primarily on your writing; publishing credits come second. Be sure the writing you submit shows your skill and range.
Explain why THIS residency. What do you like about the residency: The history? Reputation? Location? Community? Make a connection with the person reading your application. Talk about what you will be working on during your stay. Are you planning to finish an existing project or looking for an opportunity to try something completely different and new?
Follow the guidelines! As an author, you should already be familiar with the importance of following submission guidelines. With hundreds or even thousands of other writers competing for a spot in the residency, the judges won’t have the time or inclination to read an application that ignores format requirements or word- or page-count limits. Not following guidelines is a sure way to earn an automatic elimination.
Give smart references. Don’t just name-drop; choose people who really know you and your writing. If you’ve attended other writing residencies, include that residency’s director as a reference. And don’t forget to send a thank-you to your references if you’re accepted!
Apply to a mix of residencies. Just as you would when applying to colleges, include “long shots” along with your “sure-thing” selections.
And don’t forget to include the application fee! After you’ve sent your writing residency applications, keep your fingers crossed…and be open to a change of plans! An acceptance from your second-, third-, or even fourth-choice residency may turn out to be the experience of a lifetime.
QUESTION: Have you ever attended a writing residency? How did it help your writing?