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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I thought I had a pretty good handle on my finances out of school. I worked several jobs while attending university and had little to no problem managing my income. However, once I graduated, I realized how much more complicated personal accounting could really be.

There were so many variables I needed to keep track of. Biweekly bills, monthly charges, and general necessities amounted to a heap of confusing numbers that were often impossible to decipher. The funniest part was that I was actually trying to do this by hand (I don't know what I was trying to prove to myself, either).

After messing up for the 17th time, I decided to give Microsoft Excel a shot. I used Excel a bit in school and I knew all the big-wig finance people used it, so what could I possibly have to lose? The answer is about six hours of my precious time. Excel isn't much of an improvement over handwriting and it's still dependent on the user to manually input all of the information. It's like doing everything by hand with the slightest help, meaning that it still required a tremendous amount of time and concentration. Well that was all for nothing, I guess.

It's sort of funny. I was certain that I could manage my personal finances with ease, when it's practically a full-time job. I was already stressed out enough with my first job and I knew I didn't have enough time to give my finances the attention it deserved.

That's why I decided to try out a budgeting app. My best friend told me that he uses an app called Truebill to manage his finances. "What does it even mean to manage your finances?" I asked him. He told me that Truebill was the personal financial assistant I wished I could have. It could aggregate all of my account information into one place and give me specific insights and actions.

I loved the idea of having full control over my finances, especially during a time of financial uncertainty, and I realized that Truebill would be the easiest way to accomplish this. The user interface is incredibly simple and intuitive, so it doesn't even feel like a finance app! Truebill offers a multitude of features, with their most popular being the ability to cancel subscriptions with the press of a button.

Okay, I had no idea how many subscriptions I was still subscribed to. In fact, I wasn't even using a quarter of the subscription services I was signed up for. Subscription boxes, streaming services, my old gym, and even an old subscription to my favorite magazine--it was all there and I was livid. How could I let myself waste all of this money and how did I never catch this? Thank goodness for Truebill.

Truebill also offers bill negotiations. There is a 40% fee based on how much you save and Truebill even claims that there is an 85% chance that they'll be able to lower your bill once a negotiation is requested. Why wouldn't I take them up on this? There was zero risk and I would only have to pay once my bill was lowered (which means that I would be saving money regardless).

More standard features of Truebill include the ability to generate a credit report on-demand and even request a pay advance. I only used the pay advance feature once when I wanted to buy a gift for my mom, but didn't have enough cash in hand and Truebill automatically reimbursed itself when I got my next paycheck.

The credit report is another fantastic feature and practically taught me what good credit meant. Truebill's credit report basically shows you which financial decisions have the most significant impact on your credit score and ways that you can improve your credit month-over-month. I've never had such control over my credit and it feels good.

I'll be the first to admit that I was extremely naive coming out of school. I figured that as long as I was attentive, I could manage my finances with ease. We manage money to some extent throughout our entire lives, but once you're thrown out on your own, it's a completely different story. With Truebill, I've finally been able to take control over my finances and stay on top of all of my responsibilities.

Update: Our friends at Truebill are extending a special offer to our readers! Follow this link to sign-up for Truebill.

My buddies and I always try to make it out to a game, but we never really care which one we end up at. Obviously we have our favorite sports and teams, but it was rarely about what game we went to or who we saw playing. It was about watching the game live.

In the early months of lockdown, all we had was Korean baseball, and trust me, we loved it. The only issue was, none of us had any idea what the commentators were saying. Even then, a few of my friends weren't huge fans of baseball. They were into sports like football and basketball, ones that moved at a quicker pace with less down-time in between plays.

We decided to see if there were any other events going down and came across horse racing. Yes, horse racing. It was perfect--short, fast-paced, and most importantly, an opportunity for betting.

I had never really considered watching a horse race any time other than the Belmont Stakes, but the prospects of the sport seemed exhilarating. Even better, with horse racing we knew we could still recreate the atmosphere of a race track. Salty snacks? Check. Stale beer? Check. A simple and easy way to bet? Check.

One quick Google search later, we came across TVG, powered by FanDuel. It's an online betting platform that takes you right to the heart of the action. We were a little apprehensive about using a mobile app to place our bets, but TVG's ability to bet on live horse races from all over the world was too good to pass up.

Here are 5 reasons why we are obsessed with horse racing thanks to TVG:

1. Betting has never been easier

Use your phone or computer to watch and bet on live horse races in real-time. TVG offers a bunch of features to make betting even simpler--live odds and handicapping tips leverage recent learnings to help you make your best bet. Not to mention, TVG's exclusive race content and wagering guide offers an under-the-hood look into the strategy behind horse race betting.

2. The biggest selection of horse races out there

If you're looking to drop a little dough on a horse race, chances are your best option is your local race track. But watching the same few horses races over and over again isn't the most exciting thing. With TVG you have access to over 150 tracks worldwide with races happening consistently throughout the day.

3. Get a generous sign-up offer when you place your first bet

Once you register your account, you will be eligible for a $200 risk-free bet. All you have to do is place your first bet and you're covered. If you happen to lose, TVG will insure you for up to $200 as a sort of wagering credit. I may have been a little trigger happy when placing my first bet, so having this insurance was a great perk. There are also a bunch of promotional offers available year-round.

4. Making deposits and cashing out at the touch of button

With a ton of payment options such as PayPal, BetCash, debit/credit, wire transfers, and other third-party services, making a deposit is a breeze. But what about the payout? Depending on your deposit method, your withdrawal will be available in a few days. No more waiting in-line to collect your winnings!

5. Watching live races with your friends while betting is exhilarating

Even when we were watching Korean baseball, Zoom calls with my friends were a little dull.

With TVG, we haven't had this sort of fun in months! Every weekend we'll turn on a race and throw our bets in. After a few races, and quite a few drinks, we'll tally up our winnings to see who won the most! Sometimes it's not even about making money, but just having a good time.

TVG is the perfect way to add a little excitement to an otherwise mundane afternoon. It introduced me to the world of horse racing, a sport I never would have considered otherwise.

The races just keep ramping up and thanks to TVG, I can always get in on the fun.

UPDATE: The biggest derby in horse racing is THIS WEEKEND. Get in on the action with your $200 risk-free bet!

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