Like a lot of writers tackling a book project, I've applied to a few residencies with mixed success. But it was only this year when I reviewed applications for a residency that I had previously attended that I really started to see what makes some applications fail and others really succeed. Most of the factors that decide a person's acceptance are settled before they write their application— namely, the quality of the work, its alignment with the mission of the residency, and their personal qualifications as a writer. But a weak application can get a very established writer passed over with little more than a second thought, while a strong one can send an emerging writer to the top of the shortlist. So what can you do to put your application in contention? 1. Be specific about what you plan to do. We know you're working on something big. Maybe it's not a book, but it's still something hefty, like a series of essays, articles, or poems. Whatever the project, if it's big enough to benefit from time at a residency, it's almost certainly too big to do the bulk of the work during your time there. If only for that reason, it's best to avoid limiting your statement of purpose to something general like “I plan to work on my book.” Say something more specific like, “I plan to finish chapters seven and eight of my book,” or “I […]
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