When Disaster Strikes: Emergency Resources for Writers

IMPORTANT UPDATE, MARCH 2020: This page, begun in 2005 and updated occasionally for a few years thereafter, is woefully out of date. At this point (March 2020), I’ve opted to start anew with another version of the page that you can find here.

I’ve always believed that one of the most important chapters in our guide to “No-Cost Contests and Competitions” may be the one that readers are, hopefully, least likely to consult. It’s the chapter on “Emergency Funds for Writers” and I’d like to offer listings from that chapter–plus a state-specific resource (normally I try to limit listings in the guide and in the newsletter to those that are likely to benefit writers beyond a single state or province). In this case, however, a focus on Louisiana seems appropriate.

It’s important to remember that writers are people, too. So beyond the writer-specific resources listed here I urge U.S. writers to check out the information provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). See especially:

Frequently Asked Disaster Assistance Questions (Link updated October 24, 2007)
“Help After a Disaster: Applicant’s Guide to the Individuals & Households Program” (Updated October 24, 2007)
Note: FEMA’s Disaster Helpline, frequently referred to in all FEMA disaster assistance materials, is 1.800.621.FEMA (3362). Hearing/Speech Impaired ONLY should call 1.800.462.7585.

Outside the government, check the grants offered by the Mayer Foundation. Part of its mission includes making “economic relief grants to needy individuals who are distressed or suffering as a result of poverty, low income or lack of financial resources, including as a result of natural or civil disasters….” Grants vary but “generally range from $2,500-$5,000 per grant.” Contact:

The Mayer Foundation
300 East 74th Street
Suite 35A
New York, NY 10021
(Address updated October 24, 2007)

Writers may also seek assistance from the following programs:

Authors’ League Fund
31 East 32nd Street, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10016
Fax: 212.564.5363

The Fund “helps professional writers and dramatists who find themselves in financial need because of medical or health-related problems, temporary loss of income or other misfortune. The Fund gives open-ended, interest-free, no-strings-attached loans. These loans are not grants or scholarships meant to subsidize personal writing projects. It should be kept in mind that the Fund’s resources come from other professional writers. All information is kept in strictest confidence.” Request an application or download one from the site.

Director’s Grant-in-Aid Program
Louisiana Division of the Arts
P.O. Box 44247
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-4247
Tel. 225.342.8180
Fax 225.342.8173

This program “provides assistance to meet critical and unforeseen needs of professional Louisiana artists and non-profit 501(c)3 arts organizations. Grants are available to individuals and organizations faced with emergency situations and special career opportunities.” Applicants may seek up to $2,500 per fiscal year. Individual applicants must choose an eligible 501(c)(3) organization to serve as applicant and fiscal agent (the individual applicant then becomes a sub-applicant). Aid may be used to help replace supplies/materials that were lost or damaged in natural disasters. Aid may also be used for “travel and participation costs for special career opportunities” and for “strategic or special project planning.”

PEN Writers’ Fund
PEN American Center
588 Broadway, Suite 303
New York, NY 10012
Andrew Proctor, Coordinator
Tel. 212.334.1660, ext. 101

For professional (“published or produced”) writers with “serious financial difficulties.” May provide grants or loans up to $1,000. Not a fund for research, project-completion, or funding of publications or organizations. “The maximum amount is given only under especially dire circumstances and when monies are available.” Note: The PEN Writers’ Fund also administers the PEN Fund for Writers and Editors with HIV/AIDS. Contact Andrew Proctor for information for both programs.

Santa Fe Art Institute Emergency Relief Residency
PO Box 24044
Santa Fe, NM 87502-00447
Tel. 505.424.5050
Fax. 505.424.5051

“As an outgrowth of our original emergency program for New York-based artists, SFAI has instituted an ongoing Emergency Relief Residency Program to provide residencies for artists and writers whose lives and work are compromised by domestic strife, political upheaval, or natural disasters.” Check the application for information on prompt processing.

Writers Emergency Assistance Fund
American Society of Journalists and Authors Charitable Trust
1501 Broadway, Suite 302
New York, NY 10036
Tel. 212.997.0947

Formerly the Llewellyn Miller Fund, this source “exists to help established freelance non-fiction writers across the country who, because of advancing age, illness, disability, or extraordinary professional crisis are unable to work.” Grant applicants “must be sixty years of age of older, or be so disabled that their normal writing capacity has been severely diminished, or–regardless of age or disability–be caught up in an extraordinary professional crisis (such as a lawsuit) where a grant would help.” Download application at the website or contact ASJA.

Writers outside the United States may wish to note the following resources:

Society of Authors Charitable Trusts
(See “Benevolent Funds” under “Prizes, grants, and awards”)

Woodcock Fund
Writers’ Trust of Canada
(Enter the site and click on “Programs”)

And for those who wish to help, many of these programs include information for contributors at their sites, too.


A few more programs to let you know about:

Investigative Reporters and Editors Emergency Relief Fund
Attn: Brant Houston
138 Neff Annex
Columbia, MO 65211
Tel. 573.882.2042
Fax 573.882.5431

This fund is intended to assist IRE members “with requests such as those for lodging, transportation, medical assistance, and other basic needs.”

National Association of Black Journalists Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.

This fund is intended to assist NABJ members and student members who were attending schools in the region.

Society of Professional Journalists and the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation
Attn: Terry Harper, Executive Director
3909 N. Meridian Street
Indianapolis, IN 46208
Tel. 317.927.8000, ext. 220

Funds are being made available “to journalism students who are forced to relocate to another college or university due to Hurricane Katrina.” According to the announcement: “Students whose schools in the hurricane affected areas have shut and are admitted to other schools this semester will qualify for a one-time $250 grant to help replace books and study materials lost in the hurricane and subsequent flooding.” You need not be a member of the Society of Professional Journalists to apply.

Further information on aid for journalists affected by Hurricane Katrina may be found at the excellent page maintained by the Council of National Journalism Organizations.


The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) has compiled a page of Hurricane Katrina Relief Information including a hotline to assist SCBWI Members Affected by Hurricane Katrina with obtaining transportation, food, shelter, or other services. Click here for details.

Additionally, the SCBWI is assembling “Comfort Kits” for children displaced by the hurricane. Each kit will contain 2 new books, 1 flashlight, 1 toothbrush and toothpaste set, and 1 new toy or new stuffed animal. If you’d like to contribute (books, toys, stuffed animals, or money to fund the project), you’ll find information at the same web page.


flashquake, a web-based literary journal, has announced a “venue where people affected by [hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma] can share their stories and art. Fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, artwork and photographs are welcome from anyone directly affected by the storm. This includes those who endured or were evacuated from the affected areas, their family members, rescuers, volunteers, foster homes and so forth.” Submissions for this “Voices from the Storm” project will be read during three periods: October 21-November 15, 2005; November 16-December 15, 2005; December 16-January 15, 2006. Selected entries will be published in broadsheet form and will receive monetary awards of $25. For more information, read the Voices from the Storm Call for Submissions.


This just in, via the current (November 30) Children’s Writing Update:

“We recently received this message from Kent L. Brown Jr., Executive Director of the Highlights Foundation:

‘All of us at the Highlights Foundation have been deeply distressed by the recent natural disasters.

As we thought about how we might best help, it occurred to us that the effects of storm damage might set back the careers of a number of children’s authors.

Hence the Foundation will waive the total Founders Workshop fees for any otherwise qualified person who has experienced economic hardship due to the recent hurricanes.’

Among the upcoming Founder’s Workshops: A Crash Course in the Business of Children’s Publishing; Writing Novels for Young Adults; Life in the Spotlight: Author Opportunities After Publication and From Hip to Historical—Writing Books for Today’s Kids

For a complete listing, visit http://www.highlightsfoundation.org/pages/current/FWsched_preview.html


From the home page of the Alliance of Artists Communities: “The Alliance of Artists Communities, with support from the James Irvine Foundation, is pleased to announce the ‘Gulf Coast Artists Hurricane Relief Program.’This project’s intent is to nurture the unique creative culture of the Gulf region and provide individual artists with the time, space and resources necessary to rejuvenate and create after these traumatic events.” Twenty residencies will be awarded. Applications must be submitted by December 23.


Two more programs to note:

1) Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation Program
Post Office Box 44202
Baton Rouge, LA 70804
Tel. 225.342.8196
(Deadline: April 3, 2006)

“In an effort to defray the costs related to physical loss or property damage, relocation, or other specific economic harm suffered as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Foundation has earmarked designated relief funds to aid Louisiana’s cultural economy in its recovery.” Grants funds may support individual artists; cultural economy small business; and galleries, museums, collectives and nonprofit cultural organizations. Grants to individual artists may not exceed $5,000; grants to artist businesses and small/medium-size organizations generally may not exceed $10,000; and grants to nonprofit cultural organizations may not exceed $25,000. Download the application/full guidelines at the website, and/or contact the Foundation for complete information.

2) A Studio in the Woods Restoration Residencies
13401 River Road
New Orleans, LA 701131-3204
info (at) astudiointhewoods.org
(application fee on a sliding scale, $5-$20)

“As our response to the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, A Studio in the Woods has created eight four-week residencies during February 2006-January 2007…for New Orleans visual artists, musicians, composers, writers and performing artists who have lost their homes in the hurricane and are displaced into other cities and communities.” In addition to food, lodging, and studio space, the residency awards include transportation costs to and from New Orleans and within the city (up to $1350), a $2000 stipend, and assistance from staff members. Visit the website for full guidelines/an application. Note that applications must be postmarked (or received by e-mail) “on the 25th day of the second month preceding the residency you want.” (As an example, January 25, 2006 for a March 2006 residency. However, the deadline for February residency applications has been extended to January 22, 2006.)


Information is now available about the Katrina Media Fellowship competition, a one-time competition offered by the Open Society Institute (OSI):

Katrina Media Fellowship Competition
Kate Black
Program Officer
Open Society Institute
400 W. 59th Street, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10019

These fellowships are designed to “support dynamic print and radio journalists, photographers, and documentary filmmakers to generate and improve media coverage of issues exposed by Katrina.” OSI plans to award 12-15 fellowships ($15,000-$35,000). Applicants must be “mid-career or veteran” media professionals. Freelancers may apply. “OSI will give special consideration to applicants who have been displaced from or are residents of the Gulf Region.” Applications must be received by March 31, 2006. See the website (above) for complete information and the application form.


According to its Web site, “the next issue of the Louisiana English Journal will focus on Louisianians’ personal stories, observations, and photos of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.” Readers are invited to share personal stories, observations, and pictures. “All who experienced these historic storms–whether as tourists or residents or students–are invited to submit their true stories, poems, and pictures to LEJ. Displaced students and other south Louisianians are especially encouraged to submit their stories.”

Cash prizes ($20-$30) will be awarded in several categories. Submit your stories and poems by May 15, 2006; art and pictures by June 15, 2006. No fee. Find more information and the required Official Entry Form here.

(via AbsoluteMarkets)

ADDED APRIL 26, 2006:

The Southern Arts Federation has compiled a list of resources on “Where Can I Get Help?” Click here to access it.

ADDED JUNE 28, 2007:

PEN has created an entire Web page featuring descriptions of and links to emergency funding programs for writers.


PEN has updated its lists of emergency resources for writers, including emergency funds, crisis advice and advocacy, health insurance, government programs, and emergency shelter and food provisions.

Nominations Sought

If you’re a U.S. citizen, 18 years of age or older, you’re eligible to go to the website for the new James Patterson PageTurner Awards, “intended to celebrate the people, companies, schools and other institutions who find original and effective ways to spread the excitement of books and reading,” and nominate any person or institution (including yourself or your own organization).

The total cash prize of $75,000 will be divided as follows:
1) $25,000 “to a person, company, or institution that presents books to the public in an exciting and original way”
2) $25,000 “to an elementary school, middle school, or high school that inculcates the joy of reading for pleasure in its students” (James Patterson will also visit the winning school for a day of reading, signing, and talking about books.)
3) $25,000 presented in $1,000 merit awards to individuals and institutions “who have made notable contributions to promoting the excitement of books.”

In honor of the two $25,000 winners, First Book (a national nonprofit organization) will donate 1,000 books to programs that serve disadvantaged children in cities of the winners’ choice.

Interested? Find out more at the website.

Attention, North Carolina Short Story Writers!

Billed as “the largest no-entry-fee fiction contest in North Carolina (maybe even in the South, we suspect),” the North Carolina State University Short Story Contests program invites submissions in two categories.

The Short Fiction Category (5000-word limit, no more than 20 pp. double-spaced), awards the Brenda L. Smart Grand Prize of $500. The Short-Short Story Category (1200-word limit, no more than 5 pp. double-spaced), awards the Brenda L. Smart Award for Short Fiction of $300. Lee Smith will be this year’s guest judge.

Be sure to check the full guidelines here, among them, the requirement that you must be an N.C. resident. Deadline for submission: October 17, 2005 (postmarked).

September Newsletter Distributed

As promised in a previous post, our September Practicing Writer newsletter went out to subscribers late last week. There’s an important correction to note: our Submission Alerts!!! section includes a notice about Sarabande Press’s September Open Submission season but does not include THIS essential information: “Because of the volume of manuscripts currently on hand, we regret that the open submission period for 2005 is closed.” Visit the Sarabande Press site to read more about this. Apologies again to our subscribers for any confusion, and thanks again to the subscriber who wrote to alert me to the change in Sarabande’s policy.

And to receive each issue of our newsletter right in your e-mailbox, subscribe (it’s free!) at our website. You’ll also find the current issue posted here.

Deadlines Extended

Back in June’s issue of our Practicing Writer newsletter, we noted calls for submissions for two Cup of Comfort anthologies. Since then submission deadlines for both projects have been extended. So if you’d like to submit essays to A Cup of Comfort for Expectant Mothers or A Cup of Comfort for Parents of Children with Autism, you’ve now got some more time to do so. The new deadlines are October 1 and November 15, respectively. For submission guidelines and terms (including pay rates), visit the website.