This will be my first writer’s residency, but I thought I’d share some of the steps I took in case you’re also looking for a residency!
What am I working on?
The first thing I asked myself was, “what am I working on that would benefit from a retreat?” At the time, I was finishing up a revision on the middle-grade, procrastinating a major revision of the YA, and drafting a new work-in-progress that featured a foreign exchange student from France. I had only been to Paris for a few days, so I realized that if I was going to make some real progress on that WIP, I was going to have to spend more time in France.
How do I find residencies?
I started googling blindly — “artist residencies,” “writers retreats,” “writers grants” — looking for websites that had compiled information on residencies. One of the best sites I found was Res Artis. A database of world-wide residencies, you can search by country, discipline and/or keyword.
I also put Mira’s List in my RSS reader. Mira’s List is great for updates on rapidly approaching deadlines and other residencies, grants and fellowships that you may otherwise be unaware of. Also, I wanted something that would remind me to keep my ears and eyes open for residencies throughout the year. I also subscribed to the listserves of some residencies that I am not qualified for now (MacDowell, Thurber House, etc.), but would be interested in in the future.
How can I stand out?
La Muse wanted to see a resume, a bio/C.V., a project synopsis and a one page writing sample. I sent all four as requested, and since I was applying for the barter position, mentioned in my email other skills that I have that could be helpful to La Muse. For example, I had read on their website that they had just purchased a large quantity of material to make new curtains for the house, so I mentioned that I have sewing experience and listed a few items I’d made in the past. If I wasn’t applying for the barter, this information would have probably been irrelevant. But in all of your applications, make sure you familiarize yourself with the goals of the colony/residency, and tell them how your project works within these goals. (Or you may find that your project might not be a good fit for that residency in particular, in which case, it might be time to look at a different program.)
Can I afford to go?
Lastly, don’t forget to research what the residency offers and what the writer/artist is expected to cover. There aren’t a lot of travel grants available to writers, so before you apply, make sure you can afford to say “yes!”