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.

This grant is intended to support the completion of multi-year book projects requiring large amounts of deep and focused thinking, research, and writing at a crucial point toward the end of the process—after significant work has been accomplished but when an extra infusion of resources can make a difference in the ultimate shape and quality of the work. Explore previous grant winners here.

The 2018 application cycle is now closed. The call for applications for the 2019 cycle will be announced in February.

Application Guidelines

The following guidelines for the closed 2018 cycle are posted for reference. New guidelines will be posted in February of 2019.

All creative nonfiction writers under contract with a US publisher and at least two years into their contract are encouraged to apply online. Applicants must be US citizens or residents. Whiting welcomes submissions for works of history, cultural or political reportage, biography, memoir, the sciences, philosophy, criticism, food or travel writing, and personal essays, among other categories.

Writers must submit the following materials through the online application by the deadline (for 2018, this was May 2):

•    The original proposal that led to the contract with a publisher
•    Up to three sample chapters in their most current form
•    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, this must be dated on or prior to May 2, 2016 – 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
•    Two additional letters of support (not to come from your agent)

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 for need and 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 submission process, please contact the Whiting Foundation at

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:

•    AWP Prize for Creative Nonfiction
•    Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize
•    Leon Levy Center for Biography Fellowships
•    Logan Nonfiction Fellowship at the Carey Institute
•    Oxford American Jeff Baskin Writers Fellowship
•    Zone 3 Press Creative Nonfiction Book Award