Writing Residencies: Who’s Done Them?

So here we are, three and a half weeks until November and the kickoff to NaNoWriMo. If you’re participating, are you ready? If it were beginning tomorrow I’d be in okay shape to start on my project, but I’m really trying to get everything laid out storywise so that when the time comes I can just write (and write and write and write).

Thinking about how much writing I hope to be doing in November got me thinking about something I had investigated a little at one point in time, but forgot about—writing residencies. As a writer with far too little time to dedicate to writing (as I assume many of you are, as well), writing residencies sound almost too good to be true. You expect me to believe that, if selected, I can go off to a (usually) remote location, surrounded by other writers/artists, and I’m expected to just…write? Like, that’s it? What every writer dreams of? What’s the catch?

This looks beautiful and tranquil, but there is a 100% chance I would send my laptop plummeting to the ground below.

Well, as I (a complete novice to the world of residencies) see it, there are two “catches”. First, the odds do not seem to be in your (or my) favor. It’s unclear just how many applications these organizations get for residency, but in many cases they only accept one to two dozen writers a year for their programs. That being said, you’ll never get into the residency you don’t apply for, right?

Second, and what I consider to be a slightly larger issue, is money. Most (though not all) residency programs have an application fee—although most that I’ve researched are fairly modest, in the $20-40 range. *Game show announcer voice* BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! There are other costs to consider as well. For example, travel. Almost none of the programs cover travel to their location. So, for example, if you live in, say, California, and get accepted into a residency in Florida…then it’s time to flex those Hotwire muscles. Other things to consider include: feeding yourself while you’re there, how you’ll get around should you want to leave the grounds, and, in some cases, the nightly fee. That’s right, some residencies charge nightly just like a hotel or Airbnb. And that’s all assuming you’re able to get time off work (paid vacation time, if you’re lucky), as residencies vary from 1-2 weeks up to a few months.

However—and I cannot stress this enough—every residency program is different. YOU HAVE TO DO YOUR RESEARCH! Some cover meals, but not travel. Some give you a stipend for food and expenses for the duration of your stay. Some have no application fee. Some even give you access to a car so you can see the sights while you’re there! It’s a lot like finding a publisher or an agent: you just have to find the one(s) that are the right fit for you. But if you find one that fits your life, and you get accepted … man, oh man, does it ever seem like utopia.

The Porches Retreat, in rural Virginia.

The vast majority of information I’m giving you was found in this article from The Write Life. It’s over a year old, but the links are still good. You’ll just have to visit the sites for their most updated information. I myself have their list narrowed down to about 10 or so that make sense for me. Most of them don’t accept applications again until early next year, but there are a couple coming up soon, so I have to get cracking! As for you all, have any of you ever been accepted into a residency program? Was it everything you’d hoped it would be?

Published by Kenneth Jobe

Kenneth Jobe is a writer, photographer, musician, and Native Californian living in the Midwest with his wife and son. His fiction has been published in Jitter, The Rusty Nail, Ghostlight: The Magazine of Terror, and the horror anthology Robbed of Sleep, Volume 2. His debut novel, The End of Jimmy Ray Day, is being published by Literary Wanderlust, coming late 2021.

2 thoughts on “Writing Residencies: Who’s Done Them?

    1. I was always intimidated, figured they were for more literary types. And maybe they are, but they all mention they are for both emerging and established writers. I figured what do I have to lose? I hope you get into one, good luck!

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