Free Writing Residencies for New and Unpublished Writers
Many writers dream of spending time at a writers residency or colony to focus exclusively on their writing. This desire comes from a variety of everyday factors such as no time to write due to work, children, marital responsibilities, or other life circumstances. Often, however, the residencies we hear about are the prestigious ones that are so competitive you basically have to be Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates to get accepted. However, there are many programs out there to choose from, and a number of them are less competitive or have different types of funding opportunities and fee structures.
The residencies I have included here are competitive but not as competitive as many out there. They don’t require that you have published a novel or that you have completed an MFA program. The ones included here are free, but some do have options with modest fees. Others may have several options for attending, including full funding, partial funding, and limited or no funding.
Options for Free Writing Residencies
- Willapa Bay AIR
- Ucross Foundation Residency Program
- Jentel Artist Residency Program
- Vermont Studio Center
- The Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies
- International Writers' and Artists' Residency
For those that can afford it, some programs may be more to your tastes, or you may want to attempt to get into one that requires you to pay some kind of fee if it means you have a much better chance of getting in. You can also apply to a mix, with some that are fully funded (meaning you get accommodations often with a separate writing studio, all or almost all meals, travel, and stipend); some that are partially funded; and some that are not and require a modest fee. This improves your chances of getting in, and if you truly have your heart set on attending a writing residency, being willing to pay if need be will more likely make that wish come true.
1. Willapa Bay AIR
Willapa Bay AIR is a fairly new program, starting in the summer of 2014. Willapa provides month-long residencies to both established and non-established, unpublished writers, artists, scholars, musical composers, and songwriters. Residencies are a month long and run from March through September.
Located in coastal Washington State on 16 acres the program provides accommodations, meals, and studios. Six residents are accepted for each month. The residencies are free, self-directed and balance private time with community.
Residents are housed in private, fully equipped cottages. Three meals a day are provided and prepared by a private chef. Breakfast is served buffet style, lunch is delivered to the cabins and dinner is a communal meal served family style. There is a lodge with a living room with TV and Wi-Fi, a kitchen, dining room, and laundry facilities. The grounds include wooded paths, meadows, and an outdoor fire pit. Travel expenses are not included.
U.S. and International writers and artists are eligible to apply. Students enrolled in an academic program are ineligible. Applications are accepted between May 15 and July 31 for residencies in the following year. There is a $30 application fee and $100 deposit to hold the slot once accepted which is refunded.
2. Ucross Foundation Residency Program
Ucross offers residencies of two to six weeks that include studio space, living accommodations, and meals to writers, artists, composers, choreographers, scholars, and scientists working in all genres and disciplines at no charge. Ucross invites writers from all stages of their careers to apply. The program is located in Ucross, Wyoming, on a 20,000-acre working cattle ranch near the Bighorn mountains.
The quality of the individual’s work sample is the most important factor for acceptance regardless of background or publishing history. About 17 percent of applicants are accepted. Usually, there are 10 residents in attendance at any one time across disciplines four of whom are writers.
Accommodations consist of a private bedroom in a shared housing facility. Lunch and dinner are provided and breakfast and meals on weekends prepared by the resident. There is wireless access with a computer and internet connection provided in shared and private areas. Transportation is provided for weekly trips and bicycles are available to explore the area.
There is no required service or expectation for presentations though opportunities are provided for those who are interested. Applicants from the U.S. and outside the U.S. Deadlines for applications are October first for February through June residencies and March first for August through December residencies.
3. Jentel Artist Residency Program
Located just 8 miles away from Ucross, in Banner, Wyoming, is the Jentel Artist Residency, billed as a lo-tech program, ideal for writers and visual artists in all genres and disciplines. Residencies are for one month with six residents in attendance at a time. Applicants over the age of 24 who are from the US and are either citizens or currently living in the US or U.S. citizens living abroad are welcome to apply. However, residents cannot be enrolled in a degree program.
There are two application deadlines: January 15 for Summer/ Fall Session which runs from May 15 to December 13 and September 15 for Winter-Spring session which runs from January 15 to May 13. This residency has a relatively high acceptance rate, with 35 to 40 percent of applicants being admitted. The application fee is $23 and there is a refundable $100 deposit required to hold the slot once an applicant has been accepted.
Residents are housed in private bedrooms with shared bathrooms. Each bedroom opens to the outdoors and common area. The building also includes some studios, a library, a recreation room and a loft with a balcony. Additional studios are located in a reconstructed wooden barn and metal pole barn.
The grounds are landscaped and provide additional areas for writing, relaxing or taking long walks. The main house provides comfortable communal areas that can be used for writing and research, games, food preparation and dining. While meals are not provided, there is a $400 stipend to help with the cost of food, travel and personal items. Residents share a fully equipped kitchen and staff drive residents to town weekly to shop for groceries and to run other errands.
Computer and internet connections are available in common areas, while wireless internet and Ethernet are provided in living and studio areas. Similar to Ucross, no services are expected of the residents, However, community involvement is appreciated and opportunities to engage in outreach are provided through the monthly Jentel Presents program.
4. Vermont Studio Center
Vermont Studio Center (VSC) is the largest international artists’ residency program in the U.S. It provides writers retreats for 55 writers and visual artists each month, accepting applicants from around the world. VSC residencies last from two to twelve weeks, with most running one month and are conducted on a historic campus comprised of over 30 buildings which sit on the Gibon River in Johnson, Vermont. Residents are provided with studios, private rooms, and meals. Additionally, the programs invite a number of visiting artists and writers who give talks and readings as well as confer individually with residents.
Even with a large number of applicants accepted the residency is still competitive with about 16 to 17 percent of those who apply being accepted. The total cost for room, board, private studio (accessible 24 hours) is roughly $1000 a month. While this may seem steep, there are over 120 fellowships available yearly that cover full or partial funding. Some also include travel expenses, stipends and lost income. However, while general applications are considered year-round, fellowship applications are reviewed only three times a year: February 15th, June 15th, and October 1st. Fellowship offerings and funding changes for each deadline.
In addition to the fellowships, more than 90% of accepted applicants are offered financial aid packages which cover up to 50% of the costs. The actual amount differs based on a combination of merit, need, and time of year. The most aid is available the period of time between November and April.
Funding in the form of grant support and other types of supplemental financial aid such as work-study can also be applied for which also reduced the residency costs by half. They recommend applying six months prior to your desired start date but will consider applications eight weeks before the month you would like to attend. This will give you the best chance of not only getting in but also increase the chance you will be offered some type of financial aid should you be admitted.
5. The Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies
The residency at the Anderson Center invites applications from emerging and established writers. Located in Red Wing, Minnesota, the Anderson Center, also known as Tower View, is comprised of over 350 acres and its campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The easily recognizable Georgian Revival buildings and notable red brick water tower for which the center gets its nickname are familiar Minnesota landmarks.
The Anderson Center offers two to four-week retreats from May through October for artists, writers, and scholars. The program is the biggest of its type in the upper midwest. Five residents are in the house at a time. Residents are provided with a private bedroom, studio, and all or most meals. Computer and internet connections are available in shared areas and wireless internet is accessible through the facility. The grounds are extensive and include a Sculpture Garden. Writers can avail themselves of the rotunda room at the top of the tower once used for teas and formal family gatherings.
The work of more than 240 emerging and established artists and writers are annually exhibited or published by the Anderson Center. In addition to the program in the U.S. there are exchange programs with the city of Salzburg, Austria, and with Red Wing's Sister City, Quzhou, China.
The residency accepts 17 to 18 percent of those that apply or around 37 artists and writers each year. The program is free of charge although travel expenses are covered by the resident. All those who attend the center must be working on a clearly defined project. Each resident is expected to provide a service to benefit the Red Wing Community by giving a talk, reading or other types of activity. Residents visit schools, senior centers, detention facilities among other types of organizations to provide community services in the form of workshops, classes, and presentations. There is a $20 application fee but no other fees required.
6. International Writers’ and Artists’ Residency
The International Writers’ and Artists’ Residency, located in Val David, Québec, Canada, is run by poet Flavia Cosma. This self directed residency takes place in a large house graced by numerous balconies, a large garden and a terrace with a panoramic view. The home consists of five bedrooms and a small apartment, with large living rooms and sitting areas, a spacious communal kitchen and free laundry facilities. Shopping, activities and attractions are a short distance away and a ski resort is within ten minutes’ walking distance from the house.
The program is billed as providing unstructured time away from the stress of daily life, without dictating any expectation of specific outcome. The village where the residency is held is known for artistic atmosphere and creative gatherings in a multicultural community. It is a great place to meet other writers and artists.
There are two Jean Taranu Bursaries which consist of month long residencies occurring mid-October through mid-November, and mid-April through mid-May. Lodging is covered although residents pay for food and transportation. Applicants submit a 10 page work sample. Admission for these residencies is based on a panels review of the applicant's work with selection determined by professional achievement or the promise of future achievement. There are other options to stay for one to six weeks year round with modest fees.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
If my writing residency applications' writing sample has statements that are also in my biographical statement, is this okay?
The writing sample and biographical statement are two different things and there isn't reason the should overlap.
The writing sample is usually a short story or novel excerpt not something biographical. The requirements for each are detailed in the instructions for the application. Each writing residency has slightly different requirements. While there's no absolutely right answer as to which writing sample to use, if you have something that was published, this is a good choice. It means that it was reviewed and edited so it will be polished. It also shows that your work is of a quality that publishers want it. If you don't have something that is published, select something that you have workshopped in a class or writing group. If you haven't done that yet, you can either join a group and see if you can get one of your stories on the schedule to be reviewed or join an online group. You might want to consider one of the groups on this list which have options for getting feedback for something you've written https://hubpages.com/writing/Top-Writing-Communiti...
The most important consideration when making this decision is to determine what the residency wants and what the goal for the residency seems to be. Some want a sample of what you’ll be working on during the residency. Others may request your strongest work. Make the best choice you are able to given their guidelines. If you decide to send a work-in-progress or if they ask for an excerpt off what you'll be working on, make sure you take the time to edit and polish it. Remember your excerpt will be read outside of the context of the complete work, and it will need to communicate your professionalism to the selection committee.
If there aren't any specifics about what kind of writing sample to submit, take into account the nature of the residency and what their goals seem to be for residents. Is there an emphasis on experimenting with a genre or completing a project? If so, sending something that will demonstrate your ability to accomplish these things can help. Often, residencies don't give detailed guidelines for writing samples so if that's the case select your strongest work that is relatively recent (some programs will require it was written or published within a certain number of years). While something you wrote and published ten years ago may be your strongest option, the committee may question if you've been writing recently and if so why you haven't published more recently. It's usually best to send a sample that can stand alone so the committee can get a feel for your skill in putting everything together. But you want to select whatever it is that showcases you strongest abilities so if you feel that is an excerpt from a work in progress by all means go with that. If you send an excerpt that makes them eager to read more off the larger work, this will stick in their minds and can make a difference in your chance of being accepted.
Your biographical statement should follow the format that they provide. If you can tie your biographical statement to your writing sample this will often strengthen your application. For example, If you discuss that you feel driven to write about the theme of the individual vs. society in your personal statement, it would help if your writing sample reflects that. If you want to change focus from what you've written before, first underscore the success you've achieved in the previous area by discussing projects you've completed. You can then move into a discussion of how you want to either build on those ideas through exploring a different theme or that through exploring those ideas it has led you to develop ideas or questions that you'd like to explore in a different theme. Drawing the line between what you intend to accomplish and what you have already accomplished can be meaningful. If you are a new writer, you can describe your journey to becoming a writer and underscore that as a new writer you would greatly benefit from the dedicated time to establish yourself and accomplish your goals. The newer you are and the less you have to demonstrate your potential the more important it is to state very clear goals for the residency and how you intend to accomplish them. This can be done with an very short outline and schedule for writing each part that shows that you will complete some specific part of a work or complete a work. If need be you can point out how you have set goals in other areas of your life and successfully met them to show you know how to do this even if you don't publications or a long writing history to point to. In terms of your biographical statement, pay attention to what it really says about you and how that can display that you will use the residency in a way that is productive and results in something substantive.
Before sending off your packet, ask yourself, If you were one of the committee members and you read this biographical statement and writing sample, and had nothing else to go off of, what would you think? Would the material submitted convince you that this candidate was someone who should be afforded a spot in the writing residency over others with similar qualifications?
I hope this helps. Good luck on your application.Helpful 8
© 2017 Natalie Frank