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Grant writing tips: how to win gold

Every writer toiling away in their garret could use a small pot of gold, right?

Grants come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can further your creative practice in so many ways. I’ve received grants to attend professional development opportunities, to travel overseas to undertake research for a book, to provide a living wage to carve out a dedicated chunk of writing time, and to take up residency at Varuna Writers Centre, aka writers’ heaven (three times — how lucky am I?). Grants also offer reassurance that the work you are creating has genuine merit, and encourage you to keep forging ahead. In short, they are invaluable.

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Yesterday I spoke on a panel with Tania McCartney and moderator Shaye Wardrop about the world of grants, which is often mystifying for new writers. So I thought I’d share some of my top tips gleaned from years of both successfully applying for grants, and sitting on panels assessing grants. As a brief aside, if you are ever invited to sit on one of these panels I would highly recommend it. It is an opportunity to learn firsthand how these panels work and what they’re looking for. You get to see what applicants do wrong, and what they do right. It is immeasurably helpful when it comes time to apply for a grant yourself.

  1. Apply for the ‘right’ grant

Look at the criteria closely to make sure you qualify, otherwise you will be wasting your time (and the assessors’). For example, if the grant is earmarked for emerging writers, what is this particular organisation’s definition of emerging? It can vary between an unpublished writer or a writer with a limited publication record. Check the parameters carefully. Short stories in literary journals might be acceptable, for example, but not a full-length short story collection.