Saturday, December 1, 2012

Grants, Residencies and New Possibilities

by Kathi Diamant

There are myriad ways to create a meaningful life as a writer, on a writer’s meager income, besides writing. Some of us teach. Others edit. And still others, like me, apply for grants, fellowships and residencies, which provide for rich and rewarding adventures, opportunities that we never dreamed of, creating new stories to tell.

Writing grants isn’t easy, but neither is it quantum physics. Basically, it’s a matter of  following the always-provided guidelines. A few hours research at the San Diego Foundation can yield intriguing prospects or spark new possibilities for your own life. Did you know that there are grants for international travel, for research in libraries and national institutions, funds to attend conferences that will help you meet and engage with other professionals and potential colleagues? There are. Hundreds, if not thousands, of foundations and institutions have resources to help you write and research your story.   

If you live in San Diego, visit the San Diego Foundation at Liberty Station, where you can find the Nonprofit Resource Center (NRC), offering research services, publications, and workshops to the public.  Free and open Monday through Friday, the NRC offers information on grants to individuals (like you and me) with an online database of over 6,000 funding sources in education, research, arts and culture, and special needs.  Staff is on hand to help, and you don’t need an appointment.  More information is available at

Last year, through the NRC database, I learned about a grant opportunity I had never considered before, but thought, why not?  I applied and a few months later, received an Eastern European research residency as a Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, DC. I spent the month of February 2012 in DC, where I had a tiny carrel and huge computer, in the hushed library of the Wilson Center. I could write undisturbed, with instant access to specialists at the Library of Congress and National Archives. The grant was enough to pay for my little room on A Street and all expenses, plus a little on the side. I was blissfully happy.

Writers have long enjoyed the creative comradery of writers colonies and retreats. My favorite is Hedgebrook. Since 1988, the six Amish-style individual Cottages at Hedgebrook have provided a Heaven on Earth for thousands of women writers across the country, including, incidentally, a handful of San Diegans. Located on Whidbey Island in Washington’s Puget Sound, Hedgebrook is a retreat for woman writers, published or not, offering solitude in a extraordinarily creative environment. And it’s all free. In exchange for room and board, Hedgebrook only asks that each woman be the best writer she can be while she is there.

I first applied to Hedgebrook in 1992, and was accepted for a five-week-long residency the following year. Surrounded by nature, by fir and cedar, ponds and meadows, eagles and deer, I was in heaven. There was no telephone, no television, nothing to interrupt the chain reaction of my thoughts. My handcrafted little cottage opened onto a fern-filled meadow with view of Puget Sound. On clear days I could see the Seattle skyline in the distance, across the sound, and beyond that, looming large more than 70 miles away, the ethereal outline of Mount Rainier.

Hedgebrook’s cottages offer everything a writer could need or want: an expansive desk, lots of light, a wood-burning stove, kitchenette, bathroom, window seat. Upstairs, in the loft lighted by the stained-glass windows, is a comfy bed with feather pillows and down comforter. A local chef cooks all the meals for the six writers in residence, and dinners are served nightly in the farmhouse by homemade-candlelight. 

I’ve been back to Hedgebrook three times since, once for another residency, and twice for week-long master classes. Now, my fingers are crossed once again. A couple of months ago I applied for another residency to work on my memoir.  While I certainly can write, sitting here, as I usually do, at my computer, Hedgebrook offers me a break from usual, to a land of dreams and chance. I should hear in the next week or so. In the meanwhile, you might want to check out Hedgebrook for yourself:

Why not?

Kathi Diamant is the award-winning author of Kafka’s Last Love and an adjunct professor at SDSU, where she directs the Kafka Project, the official search for Franz Kafka’s lost literary treasure. Kathi has lectured internationally, and taught classes on writing, acting and on literary genius Franz Kafka. Earlier this year, she received a month-long residency at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC to continue her Kafka Project research.      


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