A writer I’ve worked with for several years reached out to me for advice: How to get paid to write?
“What fellowships and grants remain to fund the research I need for my next book?” he asked.
The good news: There are TONS. Opportunities for writers to get funding, grants, and scholarships to support their work abound. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If someone hits you with gloom and doom about the business of writing, they’re lying.
Academic fellowships to get paid to write
There are many paid writing residences associated with universities.
Academic institutions, including small colleges and large institutions of higher learning, have paid writers-in-residence and artists-in-residence opportunities.
For some of these, the writer in residence must teach and participate in the academic community. But every fellowship is different.
The Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University is one of the most prestigious. Nieman funds journalists in all areas of specialty for two semesters of study at Harvard.
During their time at Harvard, Nieman Fellows attend seminars, shop talks, master classes and journalism conferences designed to strengthen their professional skills and leadership capabilities, thereby helping to fortify the news industry itself. With the knowledge they gain on campus and the relationships they build, fellows often return to work as journalism entrepreneurs, industry innovators and top managers in their newsrooms.
Cornell University has an artist in residence program. This is through the German Department and open to writers.
Brown University offers 10-month paid fellowships to international writers via the International Writer’s Project. These fellowships cover the cost of relocation and expenses. They’re intended for writers in countries where the government compromises their freedom of speech and expression.
Stanford University offers ten, 2-year fellowships each year. Five in fiction and five in poetry. The Wallace Stegner Fellowship does not require any degrees or testing, and your age is unimportant.
The best way to get information about academic grants for writers is to DuckDuckGo universities that interest you, along with the words “writing grants” or “grants for writers” or “writer-in-residence.”
You’ll get a plethora of hits. Then you just have to figure out which grants you’re eligible for, and when the deadlines are.
Grants for investigative journalism
Moreover, if you’re specifically doing investigative journalism, or there’s an investigative component to your writing, you can tap into several excellent funding sources that will pay you to write and report your story.
The Fund for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) is the place to begin. They have been funding investigative journalism for 50 years and have given over $4 million in grants to investigative journalists.
FIJ provided funding for this years-long investigation I conducted on the inadequate screening of in-home health aides who care for our nation’s seniors.
They also provided funding for my three-year investigation, that culminated in the publication of a book, which explores how for-profit medicine and corporate greed influence the way we conceive, give birth, and raise our children in the first year of life.
One of the best things about the FIJ grant is that it includes a mentoring component. They match grantees with experienced journalists in similar fields.
Having an experienced colleague (who’s not your editor) to mentor and discuss ideas is invaluable. You can talk about things like how to deal with the screaming in the background by the boyfriend drug addict while interviewing a reluctant but willing-to-talk source…
Type Investigations (Formerly The Investigative Fund) also offers grants for investigative journalism.
In addition, they work with independent investigative reporters and their editors give you both money for research and travel and conceptual and logistical help as you do your work.
The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, which is associated with Columbia University, also offers good grants and support for investigative journalists.
The internet’s your friend for finding grants
Dozens, if not hundreds, of other funding sources help writers get paid to write.
Some applications are lengthy and difficult, others are easier to complete and have far fewer requirements.
For example, this is pretty specific but it’s a growing field of interest: The Journalism in Aging Fellowship run by Paul Kleyman supports writing about issues related to aging and older adults. This program includes travel expenses to the Gerontological Society of America annual conference.
Spend some time looking at several pages of DuckDuckGo.
By the way, I no longer use or recommend Google. They are actively censoring health information, including my website.
With a little digging, you’ll hit gold, like this Foundation, which gives mini-grants.
Another approach: real-life networking
Ask people in the know. Network with folks in your fields of interest.
- Talk to writers who have received writing grants. Ask them for details about what they liked and didn’t like about the experience.
- Talk to university professors, academic deans, and the heads of non-profits you know. Tell them you are looking for grants to fund your research. If you don’t knock on the doors they won’t open.
- Attend local business functions, art openings, author, and book events. The more writers you know in real life, the more ideas you will get for how to fund your work.
- Finally, let’s share ideas here. Use the comment section below so we can all help each other along.
Foundations are often looking for grantees. Don’t be shy. If their funding isn’t right for your project they also know the other players. Call for more information and have your list of questions ready.
The bottom line here: Writing is work, just like any other job. That said, it’s a richly rewarding one. And, as you can see above, one that many people are willing to pay you to do.
So what are you waiting for?
Published: October 14, 2019
Last update: April 27, 2021