An aerial view of Madison. Helen C. White Hall, home of the Creative Writing Program, is one building out of frame in the bottom right corner. Fellows' offices overlook the lake. Photo © University of Wisconsin Board of Regents.
Applying for a Poetry, Fiction,
or HEAF Fellowship
Applications to the poetry, fiction, and HEAF fellowships are open from December 1 to February 1.
To be eligible, applicants must have completed or be scheduled to complete an MFA or PhD in Creative Writing by August 15, 2017. Eligible applicants may have published no more than one full-length collection or book of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction as of the February 1 deadline. Individuals who have never published a full-length collection or book are, of course, eligible. Successful applicants must commit to reside in the Madison area for the full duration of the Fellowship from mid-August to mid-May (holiday travel, weekend trips, and attendance of the AWP and/or MLA conferences are of course permitted within reason); to teach once section of undergraduate mixed-genre or single-genre creative writing each semester; to hold no other teaching, graduate study or fellowship obligations; to assist in the selection of the Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prizes in Poetry, the University of Wisconsin’s undergraduate writing prizes, and the following year’s Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing Fellowships; and in general to participate fully in the life of the Madison writing community during the fellowship period. For more details regarding the responsibilities and privileges of our fellows, please see the main fellowships page.
Applicants should prepare the following materials before applying (some exceptions are noted for HEAF applicants):
- A $50.00 Application Fee, paid online by credit card. (This fee is waived for HEAF applicants only)
- A resume or curriculum vitae, concluding with the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of two recommenders. You will upload this CV separately, after uploading your manuscript
- A writing sample consisting of either 10 pages of poetry (single-spaced and uploaded as a pdf) or up to 30 pages of fiction (double-spaced and uploaded as a pdf). Fiction applications must consist of either one short story or a novel excerpt. Your name must not appear anywhere on your manuscript, and while previously published work may be submitted, your manuscript must in no way indicate that your work has been published.
Do not include more than one genre in a single submission. You may apply in more than one of our fellowship genres, but you must upload a separate application for each, with separate application fees. Graduates of the UW MFA program are only eligible for the HEAF Fellowship, which will be awarded for poetry manuscripts only in 2017. If you are not a graduate of UW’s MFA program you are not eligible for the HEAF!; please submit in the Poetry or Fiction category instead.
If you are submitting short fiction, please do not send more than one short story. The limit is one story no matter how short that story may be. If you send more than one story, we will only read the first. If you are sending a novel excerpt, you may (but need not) include a brief synopsis (one or two paragraphs) of the novel, as page one of the manuscript.
The poetry, fiction, and HEAF fellows will be chosen by May 1 each year, and announced on the fellows page. If you have questions concerning these fellowships that are not answered in the FAQ below, please contact Amaud Johnson, Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, at email@example.com.
- Q: I don't have an MFA in Creative Writing, but I am a serious writer with a record of publications, awards, and the like to prove it. May I apply for a fellowship? A: Unfortunately, no. To be eligible for a Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing fellowship, you must have completed an MFA or PhD in Creative Writing by August 15th of the fellowship year. We cannot waive this rule even for those with a record of publications or other special circumstances.
- Q: I have a graduate degree in a field other than creative writing. Am I eligible for a fellowship? A: Again, we have to say no. This question is usually asked by persons holding PhDs in other fields. Unfortunately, we are not able to award fellowships to persons with PhDs in any other area, including English literature, composition, theater, or other areas of English or theater studies. Even if you have a PhD in English, took graduate-level writing workshops, and wrote a creative dissertation, we still cannot offer you a fellowship if your Ph.D. is not specifically in creative writing.
- Q: May I apply for a fellowship if I have an MA in creative writing? A: Once again, no. Although in the past we did give fellowships to persons with MAs in creative writing, we have changed that rule as the MFA has become the standard terminal degree in creative writing. We make an exception only for applicants who received a graduate degree in Creative Writing in Europe or another part of the world where the MFA does not exist, and the MA is the standard degree in creative writing.
Previous Books (fiction, poetry, & HEAF fellowships only)
- Q: Am I eligible if I have already published a novel or a full-length collection of poetry, short stories, or creative nonfiction? A: Yes. We allow applicants to have published one full-length book of creative writing prior to the February 1 application deadline. If you have published more than one book, however, or if you have a second book under contract, you are not eligible.
- Q: I have not published a book-length collection. Am I still eligible? Should I bother applying? A: Yes! Our reading process is blind; most of our fellows will not have published a collection prior to being selected. Since we opened the fellowships to applicants with one book in 2012, we have accepted a total of five previously published fellows; all the rest have been unpublished.
- Q: I signed a contract (or won a book competition) for a second collection after I submitted my application for a fellowship. Am I still eligible? A: Yes. As long as you did not have the second book published or accepted for publication at the time you applied, you are still eligible.
- Q: I’ve published more than one book that is neither fiction nor poetry nor creative nonfiction (e.g. a cookbook, a car repair manual, or an ESL textbook). Am I eligible for the fellowship? A: Yes. Books that are not creative writing do not count for fellowship purposes. If you are unsure if your book is considered a creative work, feel free to contact us.
- Q: In addition to one collection of creative work, I’ve edited an anthology. Am I eligible for the fellowship? A: Yes.
- Q: Am I still eligible if I published one full-length book of creative writing, plus one or more chapbooks? A: Yes. A chapbook is not considered a book for fellowship purposes.
- Q: If I’ve published more than one full-length book of creative writing, but in two or more different genres, may I still apply for a fellowship? A: No. Since the fellowship is provided to give writers time to work on a first or second book of creative work, you are no longer eligible to apply, even though your books were in different genres.
Writing Sample (fiction and poetry fellowships only)
- Q: May I submit a slightly longer writing sample than the rules permit? A: No. Additional material beyond the stated page limits will not be read.
- Q: If I write very short stories, may I send more than one? May I upload two 15-page stories instead of one 30-page story? A: No to both questions. You may submit only one short story, no matter how short, even if that means you are sending fewer than 30 pages of work. If you send more than one story, only the first will be read.
- Q: You say each poem must begin on a new page. What do I do about a poem that won’t fit on just one page? A: Sorry for the confusion here! You may, of course, continue the poem on as many pages (up to 10) as necessary. You may, for example, submit a single 10-page poem or two 5-page poems. What we are asking is that each new poem should begin on a new page.
- Q: May I upload/e-mail additional material, or substitute another story, or otherwise update my application at a later date? A: No. Only the original material submitted with the application will be considered.
Selection Process (fiction and poetry fellowships only)
- Q: Could you give me an idea of how you go about selecting your poetry and fiction fellows? A: Sure. Submittable applications are made anonymous to everyone but the Program Coordinator; only the writing samples themselves are visible to the committee. These anonymous fiction manuscripts are assigned to a panel of fiction judges, and the anonymous poetry manuscripts are assigned to a panel of poetry judges. The judges then read and evaluate the manuscripts, narrowing down the field until each panel has selected the fellowship recipients and several alternates. Judges who recognize work by former students or personal acquaintances recuse themselves with respect to that work. Only after the judges have chosen and ranked the best manuscripts are those selected manuscripts matched up with the applicants' other materials. This is the first time the judges learn the names of, and other information about, the winners and alternates.
- Q: Who are the judges? A: The exact composition of the fiction and poetry panels changes from year to year, but panels always consist of members of the creative writing faculty, as well as current and former Institute fellows. There are at least five to seven judges on each final committee. Because HEAF applicants must be former Wisconsin MFAs, however, those manuscripts go to an outside judge; the name of this judge is not revealed until the fellowship recipient is announced.
- Q: When and how will you let me know your decision? A: We make our decisions and email or phone the selected poetry, fiction, and HEAF fellows by May 1. As soon as we have all of our acceptances we post the names of our new fellows on this website and notify other applicants via e-mail of our selections.
- Q: Is there a certain style of writing you favor? A: While selecting the fellows is a subjective process in which personal taste plays a large role, we do not intentionally restrict ourselves to certain styles of writing (as you will see if you read our fellows' books). Because the composition of our selection panel changes annually, it is hard to predict what kind of work will speak to a panel in a given year. All we can suggest is that you try not to second-guess the panel, but send in what you consider to be your very best work.
- Q: Do I have to indicate which of the fellowships I'm applying for (e.g. if I'm applying for a poetry fellowship, do I have to specify whether I'm applying for a Halls or a Middlebrook fellowship)? A: No. The Institute will assign the fellowships; all you have to do is let us know the genre in which you're applying.