Wondering where to start on that Dickinson House Writing Fellowship application? Here are a few tips from our director, Éireann Lorsung, that might help.
- It’s really important that your letter of interest tell us what, specifically, draws you to Dickinson House. Everyone—everyone—wants time to write. And lots of you want to travel to Europe, either for the first time, or as a return. Neither of those, in itself, shows the jury that you have an insight into the space, its intentions, its ethos, or how you’d fit (i.e., why here and not somewhere else?). That’s what we’re looking for. It tells us you’ve done your research.
- Likewise, while it isn’t important that you have a concrete sense of what the product of your residency will be (everyone’s differs, most people do more and other things than they had planned, and it’s okay not to know in advance what you’ll make in the future), we are looking for a sense of seriousness in the way you talk about your work. Do you have a good grasp of your own ideas? Can you offer us a compelling narrative of your own work-in-progress and/or projected work? We aren’t going to hold you to this; we just want to see that you have thought and can think with acuity about your own work.
- Your work sample, while important, isn’t the single most important thing you send. We are reading for merit/promise, understanding of/fit for the residency, and need. If you are serious about your work and limited in your opportunities (especially if you are working outside of academia, haven’t had other residencies, have children, etc.), that matters. ‘Reading for promise’ means we are interested in writers who haven’t necessarily had as much time as others to develop or devote to their work. Yes, the sample should be a polished selection of your best work. But we aren’t reading it in a vacuum. And lots of publications, lots of awards, lots of other residencies—those things don’t matter to the jury. What does? Interesting work by a writer who hasn’t had lots of opportunity or who doesn’t have institutional support, and who seems to understand Dickinson House’s purpose and intentions.
- Last but not least, don’t hesitate to flag it up—awkward though it may be—if you identify with one of the demographics we aim especially to serve: writers of color, women writers, lgbtqa writers. The jury does prioritize these demographics for the fellowships and partial fee-remission grants.