As a struggling writer you need funds.
You need a way to get paid when youíre not yet collecting fees for your writing. How do you do that? A ponderous question.
There are contests out there for writers, quite a few of them in fact, and there are grants, fellowships and residencies. Thereís the current 2006 Writerís Market book that features an entire section on contests and awards. Another good book covering much about writing and information on grants is the 2006 Writersí & Artistsí Yearbook.
Sometimes your local newspaper or a magazine might have a writing contest. You have to keep your eyes open. A search online will turn up a number of them in short order. Fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, you name it and youíll probably find it. Some can even be entered online, which is a plus.
When considering contests, keep a level head. Donít believe itís worth entering every one, it simply isnít. Some contests are free to enter, but many have fees. That can get mighty expensive. Compare the pay off to the entry fee. It might cost $50 to enter, but if the pay-off is $5,000 and having your script read by pros, itís worth it. A contest that charges a $20 entry fee with a $25 first prize isnít.
Now broaden your search. For women only thereís A Room Of Her Own Foundation at http://www.aroomofherownfoundation.org. The 2006 grant cycle is about to begin so head over to their site and check it out. Itís the largest award of its kind in the U.S. Visit Winning Writers site at http://www.winningwriters.com and youíll find a number of writing contests, many for poets, some for short stories.
Thereís also the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, which offers fellowships to assist research and artistic creation. On the web go to http://www.gf.org. Their address is John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, 90 Park Avenue, New York, NY, 10016, where youíll need to write to request the application forms. Generally the deadlines have been October 1 for a fellowship the following year.
The Christopher Isherwood Foundation offers grants to writers. Their website is at http://www.isherwoodfoundation.org/grants_for_fiction_writers.html. This one is for fiction writers who have already published one novel or collection of stories. Applications for 2006 grants will be accepted between September 1, 2006 and October 1, 2006 and all the details are there online.
The Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Award has an application fee of $20, is simple and direct. Guidelines are at http://www.oncampus.richmond.edu/academics/journalism/comp.html.
The Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting is about the biggest screenwriting competition out there. Info is available at http://www.oscars.org/nicholl. Itís cutting it a bit thin to enter this year as the deadline is postmarked May 1 for the early bird entry, but if you have something in the works it might well be worth it.
I placed in the quarter-finals of this respected competition myself some years back. This fellowship is for $30,000 so follow the guidelines for entry carefully.
For screenwriters thereís also the annual Scriptapalooza competition with a top prize of $10,000. Infoís at http://www.scriptapalooza.com. One of the best things about this competition is the fact that production companies read the entered scripts and itís supported by the Writerís Guild of America West western registry.
Contests donít constitute a magic wand. They donít offer magic access into everything youíve ever dreamed of.
They do offer cash, though, which helps pay the bills and boosts morale. They generally offer exposure in some form. Thatís never bad. Prestigious awards do wonders for self-esteem and add weight to the resume. And some of them actually do open doors a writer might not otherwise have known about.
Author of Doubledaywestern novels, Harlequin romances, Fictionworks' fantasies (Ebook format), Peggy Bechko has also optioned screenplays domestically and abroad, written for an animated series and for variety of other venues. She's working on a new novel and collaborating on a animated series. http://www.peggybechko.50megs.com/