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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Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.