Creative Nonfiction Grant

Creative Nonfiction Grant

Intensely researched nonfiction books, written with an artful sensitivity to complexity and nuance, have always been important in shaping the way we understand the world; today they are essential.

In recent years many extraordinary writers have contributed crucial works extending the form: Hope Jahren's Lab Girl, Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Gene, Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me, Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams, Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: A Lyric, and Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, to name just a few examples.  

Such projects require a wealth of time and resources. The path to a groundbreaking book is long and intensive, and the research process is unpredictable - even a generous advance from a supportive publisher may run out just as a writer unearths an essential piece of the story she’s trying to tell, something transformative that leads to new questions.

Recognizing this challenge to the creation of such exemplary works of literature, the Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant’s chief objective is to foster original, ambitious projects that bring writing to the highest possible standard. Knowing that writers of color often face additional structural hurdles to securing institutional resources to support such projects, we particularly encourage applications from these writers.

Explore previous grant winners here.

The application window for the 2019 cycle is closed. Applicants will be notified of results in the fall. The call for applications for the 2020 cycle will be issued in February.

Application Guidelines

These guidelines are for the 2019 cycle and are for reference only. New guidelines for the 2020 cycle will be posted in February.

The Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant of $40,000 will be awarded to as many as eight writers in the process of completing a book-length work of deeply researched and imaginatively composed nonfiction for a general readership. It is intended for multiyear book projects requiring large amounts of deep and focused research, thinking, and writing at a crucial point mid-process, after significant work has been accomplished but when an extra infusion of support can make a difference in the ultimate shape and quality of the work.

Whiting welcomes applications for works of history, cultural or political reportage, biography, memoir, the sciences, philosophy, criticism, food or travel writing, and personal essays, among other categories. Again, the work should be intended for a general, not academic, reader. Self-help titles and textbooks are not eligible. Examples of the wide range of previous grantees can be found here

Projects must be under contract with a US publisher to be eligible. Contracts with self-publishing companies are not eligible. Applicants must be US citizens or residents. (In previous cycles, projects had to be under contract for two years at time of application; recognizing that many projects do not secure publishing contracts until they are nearly complete, we have removed that restriction.)

Writers must submit the following materials through the online application form by Monday, April 22nd, 2019:

  • The original proposal that led to the contract with a publisher
  • Three sample chapters in their most current form, or up to 25,000 words
  • A statement of progress and the requirements for completion of the book (including a projected budget)
  • A signed and dated contract
  • A current resume
  • A list of grants, fellowships, or other funding received for the book
  • A letter of support from the book’s publisher or editor (due no later than May 6, 2019)
  • Two additional letters of support (not to come from your agent, and due no later than May 6, 2019)

Each project under submission will have two first-round readers who will evaluate for substance and execution. Finalists will be considered by a panel of four judges who will evaluate for content and need and who will choose the grantees. Readers and judges will consist of experts in the field, and will serve anonymously to shield them from any external pressures. The grantees will be announced in the fall.

If you have any questions about the eligibility of your project or the application process, please contact the Whiting Foundation at nonfiction@whiting.org.

Regardless of eligibility for this grant, Whiting encourages nonfiction writers at all stages of the writing process to consult Poets & Writers’ Writing Contests, Grants & Awards database for other opportunities for support.

A few opportunities open to nonfiction writers not under contract with a publisher include: