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.

Applications for the 2020 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant are now closed. Guidelines for the 2021 application will be posted in February.

Application Guidelines

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, graphic nonfiction, and personal essays, among other categories. Again, the work should be intended for a general, not academic, adult 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:

  • The original proposal that led to the contract with a publisher OR supplemental materials (see below)
  • Up to 25,000 words from your draft. Please submit complete draft chapters, rather than short excerpts from across your book, to the extent the word count allows
  • A statement of progress and the requirements for completion of the book (including a projected budget)
  • A signed and dated contract (please note that to be eligible, books must be under contract with a US publisher – unfortunately, we can make no exceptions to this requirement)
  • 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 18, 2020)
  • One additional letter of support (not to come from your agent, and due no later than May 18, 2020)

[Updated 4/21/20] In recognition of the growing strain that COVID-19 has placed on publishers, we are allowing writers without a final contract in hand to apply, if they have agreed on final terms with a US publisher and are only waiting on the publisher's contracts department for the executed contract. Writers applying without an executed contract should instead upload a letter from an editor that includes: 

• An affirmation that the terms of the contract have been fully agreed
• The amount of the advance
• The payout structure of the advance
• The final deadline and any intermediate deadlines for delivery

Please note that we will require the executed contract by June 29, 2020, via email at info@whiting.org. We can make no exceptions on this deadline.

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 five 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 the 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: