You’ve Found a Residency You Want – Now What?

VCCA - photo courtesy of Joelle Wallach
VCCA – photo courtesy of Joelle Wallach, composer and VCCA resident

It’s that time of year – I’m itching to go somewhere and hide out and write.  So I’m looking at deadlines for residencies, and getting my submissions polished.  It’s not too stressful for me – I’ve done this before.  But I remember when I first started looking into colonies and felt so clueless. I had so many questions.  What is a statement of purpose?  How is that different from an artist’s statement?  Is it better to send a short story or novel excerpt?  Who should write my letters of recommendation?  While I don’t have all the answers, and each residency committee varies somewhat, here are things most of them will ask you to submit.

  1. A brief bio and/or CV.  Try to keep your bio to one page, if possible, and include only pertinent information.  Same goes for the CV – keep it brief (no more than 2 pages) and pertinent.  If you don’t have lots of publications, it’s OK.  They want to see that you are committed to your craft.  When I first started applying, since I didn’t have many credits, I sent in a CV that stressed my role at WriterHouse, my education, etc.
  2. Artist statement.  Usually no more than one page, this is a way for the jurors to get to know you as an artist.  They want to know about you and your work, what makes you a good candidate, and why a residency would benefit you.  Tailor this to the residency you are applying for.  Are they looking for diversity?  Emerging writers?  Craft your artist statement to show how you fit their ideal candidate.
  3. Statement of Purpose.  This one usually throws people, because you’re applying for a residency that might be a year away.  How do you know what you’ll be working on?  Don’t stress.  Your statement of purpose is not a contract.  The point of this is more to show you have a purpose in mind than to tie you down.  They want to know that you are thinking in terms of work getting done.
  4. Letters of Recommendation.  Most writers I know hate this one.  Who to ask?  Will I be bothering them by asking?  Will my old advisor even remember me?  You need to get over this.  You are not asking for money, you are not asking for a job.  You are asking for a letter.  Most people don’t mind writing a letter of recommendation. It’s mainly to let the committee know that you’re a good fit for a residency.  That you take your writing seriously.  Not to testify to the quality of your work.  So really, anyone who knows your work ethic and your ability to function in a quiet environment can write you a letter of recommendation.
  5. Work Sample.  This is the most important part of the application, so choose your best and most polished work.  This is where you should spend the most time. As to whether to send short fiction or a novel excerpt, consider what your statement of purpose says.  If you say you’re going to be working on revising a novel while there, you probably don’t want to send in 10 poems.  And do pay attention to the maximum word or page count.  Really, if they say they only want 20 pages, they mean it.  Don’t eliminate yourself before they even read the work.

Good luck.  Hope to see you at some fabulous residency soon.


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