Course Syllabus

The Art of Applying: How to Write Winning Fellowships, Residencies, and Grants

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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 statement of purpose template.

Week 1: 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 2: 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 3: 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 4: 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.


Course designed by Chelsea Biondolillo. Biondolillo is the 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.