Self Guided

The Art of Applying

September 05 - September 30; Enrollment is OPEN through September 23, 2022

Level All Levels

How to write winning fellowship, residency, and grant applications.

Additional Information

Funding can make a big difference—whether you need some time off from daily life to devote to a writing project or access to a particular resource, place, or experience.

To get the time, space, and tools they need for projects, writers can look to fellowships and grants, calls for papers, residencies, and workshops. But gaining access to these resources is often a competitive process that requires a specific set of skills, and documents such as a cover letter, statement of work, and project proposal. What makes these documents effective is often very different from the creative writing we do.

In this self-guided course, you’ll  learn how to organize application materials, speak confidently about your own work, and propose realistic, achievable and appropriate projects to funders. You’ll learn a variety of techniques associated with professional writing, editing, and marketing, and by the end of the course, you will complete an artist’s statement, a customized cover letter, and a statement of purpose template.

Each week provides:

  • PROMPTS to help you generate application materials
  • INSPIRATION in the form of written lectures, a selection of readings, and plenty of examples

After the course closes: you will receive a zip file containing all of the work you developed during the month. You’ll also continue to be a member of our Creative Nonfiction Writing Classes’ Community Page. With this free membership, you will be able to share writings and calls for submissions, recommend books, and stay connected with other writers.


Course Schedule

WEEK ONE: The power of confidence: crafting your artist’s statement

Speaking confidently about your process, your writing, and your plans is important in many aspects of the writing life, from queries and pitches, to applications for funding and book proposals. Learn about the importance of an artist’s statement, and complete several activities to help you draft one or more versions of your own. You will also see how your statement can be used to draft related texts, including an author bio and project description.

Week Two: The power of a strong foundation: cover letters that impress

Many—maybe even most—applications require several key documents, including a cover letter, statement of purpose, and project narrative. This week, you will look at some standard formats and learn how to create your own templates so that you don’t have to start from scratch for each application. You will also read and consider several expert and experienced opinions about what you should (and should not) include in your cover letters and statements.

WEEK THREE: The power of organization: tools to track your progress

Whether you decide to apply to one or one hundred fellowships, residencies, and grants,, you’ll need to stay organized: What does each application require? What have you done, and what do you still need to do? What’s the deadline? You’ll survey digital and analog tracking tools and will receive a template for a spreadsheet-based tracking tool and tips on how to customize it. You’ll also consider references—who should you ask, and how?—and what to include in a project budget and timeline. 

WEEK FOUR: The power of the possible: finding opportunities and translating guidelines

You’ll devote this final week to researching opportunities, and then translating the eligibility requirements, application guidelines, and funding expectations. You will have the opportunity to log and prepare an application packet using the tools and templates developed in the course, and see examples of how the application materials can also be adapted for queries and proposals.

"The Art of Applying" was developed by Chelsea Biondolillo. Chelsea Biondolillo is author of The Skinned Bird and the prose chapbooks, Ologies and #Lovesong. Her work has appeared in Orion, Guernica, River Teeth, Discover Magazine, Science, Brevity, Nautilus, Vela and others. She is a recipient of the Carter Prize for the Essay and fellowships from Colgate University and the NSF-funded Think, Write, Publish project. Her essays have been collected in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016, Environmental and Nature Writing: a Writer’s Guide and Anthology, Waveform: 21st-Century Essays by Women, and How We Speak to One Another: an Essay Daily Reader. She holds an MFA in creative writing and environmental studies from  the University of Wyoming, and teaches and writes in a rural town not far from Portland, OR.

View Complete Syllabus

Course Registration


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Please Note

It is not uncommon for classes to fill up before the end of early registration, particularly in the last few days before the deadline. If you know for certain that you wish to take a particular class, we recommend registering early. If you'd like to be added to a waitlist for a sold-out class, please email our director of education, Sharla Yates, at [email protected].

Hear from our Students

Creative Nonfiction’s online writing classes have helped more than 3,000 writers tell their stories better.

Read Success Stories


I enjoyed reading other peoples work and getting feedback about my own work– the handouts/video links and class lessons were also very informative and relevantly paced to the give structural guidelines.

Catherine O’Neill

Self Guided FAQs

  • What are your community standards?

    Creative Nonfiction is committed to creating a welcoming and comfortable experience for all staff and participants regardless of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disabilities, neurodiversity, physical appearance, ethnicity, nationality, race, age, or religion.

    We expect that staff and participants will treat each other with respect in all interactions. We will not tolerate discrimination or harrassment in conjunction with any of our programs. Harassment could include but is not limited to:

    • Repeated disruption of classes, lectures or discussion
    • Deliberate intimidation
    • Unwelcome sexual attention
    • Comments or displayed images that harmfully reinforce structures of oppression

    Community posts violating any of these guidelines can and will be removed from the page at any time. Anyone asked to stop harassing behavior is expected to comply immediately.

    Harassment does not include respectful disagreement or critique in good faith. Reading and writing, by their nature, include exposure to controversial, challenging, and sometimes offensive language. We encourage all participants to follow the peer review guidelines provided by their instructor.

    When you join a course you agree to…

    • respect others and respect their writing;
    • maintain the privacy of all submitted work;
    • treat others with respect;
    • not infringe on anyone’s copyright;
    • not harass, abuse, threaten or impersonate another user; and
    • not use libelous, obscene, or abusive work.

    Online Communication Guide

    Online communication happens without the benefit of body language and tone. Therefore, it can be easy to misinterpret. The following tips may help participants engage in civil, intelligent, vigorous discourse without impugning the personal dignity of others:

    1. Start from a position of generosity (i.e. assume that people mean well)
    2. Address your post to someone or to the group. Instead of “Hey” or just jumping in to your post, try “Hi All” or “Hi [Name].”
    3.  Don’t be afraid to use emoticons and/or exclamation points! 🙂
    4. Please avoid ALL CAPS whenever possible, as they tend to come off as RUDE or YELLING.
    5. Avoid harsh or offensive language of any kind. If you’re in doubt, try rewording or reconsidering your post.
    6. Sarcasm is very difficult to convey in writing — best to avoid it.
    7. When interacting with your peers, please consider that some may have limited experience with English, online education, and/or creative writing. It’s a good rule of thumb not to write anything you wouldn’t say if that person were standing in front of you.
    8. Often writers from underrepresented groups are asked to explain everything for an assumed monolithic audience (often cis/white/hetero/masculine/able-bodied, etc. etc.). As you respond to peers’ work, keep in mind that you may not be the writer’s intended audience, and leave room for the possibility that the writer is writing for a group of which you are not a member. (For more on this, listen to this episode of Code Switch for an in depth conversation.)

    See your course for additional feedback guidelines provided by your instructor.

  • What’s the difference between Self-guided and Online Courses?

    Online courses are 5- and 10-week courses that offer firm deadlines, a flexible schedule that fits your needs, and instructor feedback to help you keep writing and improving your work. Terms start quarterly, and sections are capped at 14 students to help foster community and connection. 

    Self-guided classes are 4-week courses and differ from our other online courses in significant ways. There are no due dates, no cap on enrollment, and no instructor feedback will be provided. However, you can post questions for your peers and give and receive feedback on writing posted in the classroom.


  • How do I find my course archive?

    All course work is saved in Wet.Ink. When the course closes, you can find the archive by logging in to your account, and choosing “Past Classes.” Archives include course content (lectures, readings, writing prompts, etc.), your posts and writing submissions, and any feedback given on your writing. The course archive will not include your classmates’ writing submissions.

  • What do you mean by “self-guided”?

    Self-guided classes differ from our other online courses in significant ways. There are no due dates, no cap on enrollment, and no instructor feedback will be provided. However, you can post questions for your peers and give and receive feedback on writing posted in the classroom.

  • How do I find my self-guided class materials?

    After you register for a self-guided course, we manually process your information and invite you to join an online classroom where you will find the course materials. The course invite will come to your email account (please check your spam/junk folder).

    Please note: if you register before the start date, you’ll receive an invite to join your class the Friday before class begins. If you register after class begins, we’ll send you a course invite within 72 hours, and you will then have access to the previous weeks’ materials.