• Burhana Islam

Money Maketh Man: Applying For Writer's Grants

If there’s one thing I’m reminded of when I see my little cousin, it’s that time is money. While I stand by the idea that you can’t put a price on the moments that we’re given, I can still appreciate the sentiment itself. It’s particularly relevant now as for the best part of four months, my intention is to be unemployed while I continue my hand at writing. I also know that it’s not going to last very long simply because I can’t afford it. In light of this, I thought I’d put together a post of tips on how I managed to secure a work-in-progress Author’s Foundation grant from The Society of Authors.

N.B. This is less a list of things to do and more a list of things I did.

N.B.2: I’m also not naive enough to believe that I got funding solely because of the letter I’d written. I acknowledge that being a part of the WriteNow scheme with Penguin Random House was most likely a heavy influence. However, when applying, I searched the web far and wide for some templates of successful applications. I didn’t actually find any so I thought I’d put my own up- or at least parts of it- in hopes that it’ll give somebody some direction if they’re struggling to start like I was.

Top Tips:

  • Be ready to dedicate a concentrated amount of time to your application. I gave myself a week to think about it and mentally plan out my ideas, reminding myself that I was asking for a significant sum of money that could potentially change my way of living for the short term. I then spent the best part of a day and a half writing a draft up before proofreading it about 14 times for typos and errors. In the end, the application was just shy of 3000 words (about three pages of A4). I’m not sure it should have been that long, but I wanted to give it my all.

  • Read the application pack carefully. Highlight keywords and bullet points as you’re reading. Your aim is to include everything that it asks for if it applies to you.

  • Plan: I used the bullet points of what to include in the application pack as subheadings. Under each, I made further notes of what I’d write about. I also had a Key Terms bank. In it, I wrote down words that cropped up regularly in the application pack or phrases that engaged with what it was asking for. For me, it was the following:

- Racial Understanding

- Media

- Society

- Acceptance

- Tolerance

- Mind-set

- Publishing Houses

- Previous Grants

  • Stick to the bullet points given as your guidelines. It will give you some clear direction.

  • Personally, I tried to be emotive. I explained why I thought my work was important and why I believed in it so much. Ultimately, I wrote down why my work-in-progress was almost a form of activism to encourage to social cohesion in a post-Brexit era.

  • Develop your ideas where appropriate and be specific- even if it seems trivial and unworthy of mentioning. I even noted I'd have petrol and lunch costs.

  • Be specific in how much you’re applying for. I used the application pack to help me with this.

  • Finally, always give the application a go. It might seem like a long shot or something that’s incredibly unlikely to happen, but stranger things have happened. The best case scenario is that you get a cheque through the post and the worst is that you’re in the same situation you started off in. You can’t miss what you’ve never had, right?

My Letter of Application:

Dear Paula Johnson,

I am writing to request funding for my novel, which is under the guidance of [Publisher’s Name] editor [Name] for the WriteNow scheme, and aims to encourage racial understanding in a post-Brexit era. Following the story of a child refugee after conflict erupts in Syria, my protagonist is [one sentence on plot]. In regards to my financial position, in September, I will be [outline of financial position].

N.B. The above was supposed to be in the body of my email. For some reason, I put it in both there and the letter. God knows why I did that.

My manuscript is unique in the sense that it is a verse novel exploring [further detail on my manuscript]. The genre has already proved to be widely successful [further details on the genre].

My title ‘Sticks and Stones’ was inspired by the photographs of Aylan Kurdi and Omran Daqneesh, the little Syrian boys who found themselves victims of the chaos in their homeland- the boys whose images made waves on social media, only to be forgotten in the days that followed. After those photographs and further insights from the experience of a close friend of mine- a Syrian refugee herself, I wondered how their lives would have panned out had they been a little older and managed to make their way to the West.

As readers, we follow [full details of the book I’m working on].

Not only does the book serve to address racial understanding, but my intention is to convey a subtle sense of religious understanding, particularly in a society where [details on the significance of my novel in a wider world context and further details on the plot in relation to the theme of racial understanding].

For the past five years, I have been [information about myself].

In regards to publishing houses, I am currently working with Penguin Random House under the mentorship of the Penguin Press division. I am completing my [x] draft and I am hoping to begin my [x] draft in September with a time limit of four months, ending before January begins*. My need for funding arises from the fact that [current financial circumstances]. I am requesting a sum of £[x] to be an alternative source of income for the four months that I intend to use as time to write. I also intend to use a portion of that fund to [list of expenses].

In regards to previous grants, I have never applied for any and this will be my first.

I have also attached my latest review from my editor of my work-in-progress thus far.

I hope you agree that ‘Sticks and Stones’ is a novel that encourages racial understanding and is one that is necessary in the current political and social climate. I hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Burhana Islam

*In hindsight, my timings were ambitious. I highly doubt my novel will be finished by then now that I have more feedback.


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