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Wednesday’s Work-in-Progress: Five Ways to Finish Applications for Grants, Fellowships, and Residencies

Raise your hand out there if you have recently applied for a grant, fellowship, residency, or similar competitive opportunity. Raise two hands if you’ve applied for multiple opportunities.

I’ve recently emerged from a series of such applications. Six applications, to be exact. I’ve already heard good news about one of them – a tuition-free seminar that begins imminently. And I’ve lost out on another (a fact I discovered only by checking the program website and finding the winners’ names posted there). But I’m waiting to hear from the others.

Part of me thinks that I could have/should have completed even *more* applications. And part of me wonders how I managed to finish the six that have been safely submitted.

It’s the latter part that inspires this post, because as I prepared each of my recent applications, I realized that I was benefiting from a series of lessons learned:

1) Plan ahead. I place application deadlines on both my electronic calendar and on the to-do list that I routinely update, print out, and carry with me. Seeing those dates looming helps keep me focused (and aware when time is beginning to run out!).

2) Keep your resume or c.v. updated. I can’t say that I instantly add *every* publishing credit to my c.v. as soon as each piece is published or posted, but I do try to avoid having to spend hours searching my memory and files to get my c.v. in order when there’s so much else that I need to take care of for each application. Having an up-to-date, go-to version to consult makes matters easier when I need to tailor the c.v. for an application (say, for an application that stipulates that the document must be limited to a single page).

3) Don’t delay reference requests. I’ll admit that I *hate* having to ask for letters of recommendation (to the point that I’m sometimes dissuaded from submitting applications that require them). But when they can’t be avoided, I try not to delay. I try to request recommendations a minimum of three to four weeks before the recommendations must be filed.

4) Leave time to revise. Some of my applications required multiple “statements” and other short essays. In every case, I found that leaving enough time to have drafts sit for awhile, before returning to revise them (and proofread a few times), led to better work. At least, *I* think that they’re better.

5) Keep copies. Of everything. In this age of online application systems, you may be asked to enter information directly into various forms and boxes *and* to upload documents. It’s easy enough to keep copies of uploaded documents, but you should *also* keep record of whatever text you may have entered directly into those forms and boxes. Here’s what I do (having learned through unfortunate experience): I prepare the paragraphs or mini-essays that are needed to be entered directly in Word documents that I save. I copy and paste the text into the online form(s), and then I *save* the document in an easy-to-find folder on my computer. Let’s just say that this system came in handy earlier this month, when a program administrator alerted me to the fact that one of my mini-essays–entered, not uploaded–had failed to transfer through the online application system. Please just email me the missing text, the administrator said. And I could.

This list helped me, but I’m sure that many of you have suggestions and advice to add from your own experiences. If that’s the case, please add your tips in the comments. Thank you!

And here’s wishing all of us with applications floating out there the best of luck.

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3 Responses »

  1. Hi Erika! I couldn’t help but comment on this post and grants and residencies. I think another good piece of advice is to really spend time picking your writing sample. Of course it has to be your best writing but also a piece that is the best fit for the opportunity. I sometimes ask a writing friend to help me discern.

    Also, I wanted to tell you that I just finished your book. It is fantastic! I could not put it down. The stories are so deep, real, unsentimental, heart-piercing. In your photo you look very young but the stories read like they’re written by an old soul.

    Wishing you all the best, Gigi

    • Gigi, thank you so much for the comment. I realized that I had omitted to say anything about the writing sample, so I’m especially glad that you chimed in on that. And thank you, too, for the warm words about QA.

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