Photo: Aaron Burden

The writer needs comparatively little to write. But the writer will, undoubtedly, want plenty while they wrestle with the project in front of them. An advance is hardly guaranteed and, for the new writer, hides deep in the faint, hopeful future. Enter writers' grants, the scholarships for non-students, the free money awarded by big gray buildings and benevolent arts champions. Grant writing is like applying for jobs: it's probably going to be aggravating, at least partly disappointing and is done in the hopes of earning enough money to live. But a writer's insistence on writing means a life of working and many, many occasions for asking for help.

Grants are also like scholarships in that there are lots of them, they serve various purposes for various, sometimes specific, groups of people and they are meant to help. Just like applying for jobs and scholarships, there is a process to applying for writers' grants, as well as an internet full of guidelines and tips.


Photo: Glenn Carstens-Peters

Finding the right grants

Searching for grants is as easy as Googling "writers grants" and, yet, it's not so simple. Lots of articles will immediately list a variety of the "best" grants available, but they'll as quickly offer those lists to everyone else starting their searches. So while any search at all is a good beginning, it is helpful to narrow the field gradually until it contains the awards best suited to you, your project and your expectations.

First, consider what kind of award will help you most. A grant gives you free money but there are also many residencies and fellowships available throughout the U.S. in a variety of settings and environments. A residency typically offers a free place to live (might require relocation) while you write and, possibly, a stipend to help with expenses. A fellowship might offer money and a living space but some might also expect some additional work in return, such as part-time teaching or tutoring.

Grants are the simple money: no relocations and no catches. Begin your search by exploring local options. Your community might have a local arts council that might offer grants (or help you find them elsewhere). Your state definitely has a State Arts Commission that you can find here. Head to events organized by your state's Arts Commission and sign up for their newsletter, if they publish one.

The internet will deliver plenty of national grant opportunities. In addition, every Presidential library offers grants and many large public libraries do, too. Some museums give out research grants that could be very useful to a writer, even if your project isn't nonfiction. Poetry and fiction can always be informed and enlivened by quality research.

Remember: be specific in your search. Search by location, genre and organization. Search based on yourself. Specificity will shrink the pool of contenders and increase your chances of securing the grant.

Photo: Florian Klauer

Writing grant applications

Grant writing is easier than writing cover letters for job applications. Instead of trying to adhere to a vague template while throwing forward your most creative, stand-out-ing self for an employer, the people offering grants simply want to see a solid project and a person who is going to accomplish that project. Plus, you can reuse one polished artist's statement over and over.

It is important that you know as much as possible about your project from beginning to end (whether it's in progress or not) so that the organization can confidently follow your plans to completion.

It is equally important that you understand the requirements for the grant and its application. Follow its guidelines and send exactly what it asks for. Your application will consist of something along these lines: an artist's statement, a resume, and a sample of your work. A few competitive awards might ask for references, publication history or an estimated budget. Send your best writing sample, but only as much as the guidelines request. If it is part of a longer work, such as a novel, choose a section that is fairly self-contained, like a short story, or edit your sample to resemble a complete story.

One way to boost your chances of securing a grant is having secured a grant in the past. This catch-22 seems like another steep hill in front of emerging writers but it's true: people offering grants have more confidence in a writer who has previously received a grant from someone else.

However, all of this means that applying for grants cannot be an unprofitable thing. If you're successful, then you've secured financial support to help your project towards its final sentence. If your applications are unsuccessful, then they have only made you better and more prepared for the next round of applications. They might even have helped you focus your intentions for the project and build confidence in your work. Whatever the outcome, don't lose hope. Keep applying and improving your applications as you progress. Most importantly: keep writing. The surest way to a better application is a better writing sample and a more developed proposal.

Below are some quick links to start your search:

Grantspace.org

Poets & Writers

Michigan State University

Funds for Writers

The Write Life

Tom Twardzik is a writer covering personal finance, productivity and investing for Paypath. He also contributes pop culture reviews for Popdust and travel writing for The Journiest. Read more on his website and follow him on Twitter.

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Developing further skills can boost your career at any stage.

Whether you are looking for a new job or trying to grow in your current one, getting a certification can be a great way to improve your skills.

Anyone can put that they are proficient in a computer program on their resume but having a certificate can help you stand out amongst the competition and give credence to the strength of your skills.

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Tableau

Tableau's data visualization capabilities are comparable to Domo and Power BI.

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Tableau Desktop Specialist certification starts at $100 and has no expiration date. There are many videos on Tableau's site to prepare for your exam as well as Tableau Starter Kits allowing you to play around and learn the different capabilities of the program. Tableau offers a 14-day free trial as well as free license for one year for students.

Additional certifications after Desktop Specialist are Desktop Associate and Desktop Professional. Those working with a Tableau server may also be interested in a separate certification as a Server Associate or Server Professional.

The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

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Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.

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