Applying for a Poetry or Fiction Fellowship

Fellowship FAQ

Required Degree

  • Q: I don’t have an MFA in Creative Writing, but I am a serious writer with a record of publications. 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. For those who pursued a graduate degree in creative writing outside the USA or Canada, in a country where an MA in Creative Writing (rather than an MFA) is the standard terminal degree, we will except the MA rather than the MFA. But all applicants must have completed a graduate degree in creative writing, regardless of their publication records 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 PhD is not specifically in creative writing.
  • Q: May I apply for a fellowship if I have an MA in creative writing?  A: Only if you pursued your MA outside the USA or Canada, in a country where an MA in Creative Writing is the standard terminal degree. Since the MFA and Ph.D. in Creative Writing are co-terminal degrees in North America, we only accept those degrees from applicants who completed their graduate degrees in the US, Mexico, or Canada.

Previous Books

  • 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 or have forthcoming one full-length book of creative writing prior to the application deadline. If you have published more than one book by that deadline, however, 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 anonymous; 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, the majority of our fellows have not published or sold a book-length work prior to their acceptance.
  • 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. However, please note that we regard any poetry collection exceeding 45 pages to be a full-length manuscript, even if the press labels it a “chapbook.”
  • 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 as necessary. You may, for example, submit a single 10-page poem, or two 5-page poems, or five 2-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 Administrators; only the writing samples themselves are visible to the committee. The 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 close 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 judges on each final committee.
  • 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 from the aesthetic range of fellows throughout our history). 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 send in what you believe 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 Wallace 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.