The U.S. Writers Aid Initiative is intended to assist fiction and nonfiction authors, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, translators, and journalists in addressing short-term financial emergencies. To be eligible, applicants must be professional writers based in the United States, and be able to demonstrate that this one-time grant will be meaningful in helping address a short-term emergency situation. The fund is limited, and not every application can be supported. Grant decisions are made on a quarterly basis by a volunteer committee of literary peers in consultation with PEN America staff, using the  following guidelines to evaluate professional credentials:

  • Publication of one or more books. (Writers who are only self-published or published by a press that charges for publication are not eligible.)
  • Multiple essays, short stories, or poems appearing in literary anthologies or literary journals (either online or in print) in the last two years.
  • A full-length play, performed in a theater by a professional theater company. Productions in academic settings qualify if the author is not a student at the time of the production.
  • Production of a motion picture project or a segment of television.
  • Employment as a full-time professional journalist, columnist, or critic, or a record of consistent publication on a freelance basis in a range of outlets during the last two years.
  • Contracted forthcoming books, essays, short stories, poems, or articles for which the name of the publisher can be provided.
  • Other qualifications that support the applicant’s professional identity as a writer.

The U.S. Writers Aid Initiative is not intended to subsidize writing-related expenses, such as residencies, sabbaticals, computers, printing, shipping, travel, or publicity services.  Applications received on or before the following quarterly deadlines will be reviewed before the last day of that month. (For example, an application received on or before January 1, 2023 will be reviewed before January 30, 2023.)

Application deadlines for 2023, subject to change:

  • January 1, 2023
  • April 1, 2023
  • July 1, 2023
  • October 1, 2023

Writers currently enrolled in degree-granting programs are also not eligible. Writers do not have to be Members of PEN America to receive a grant, but all recipients of emergency funding will be given a complimentary one-year PEN America membership.

Please review all eligibility criteria before applying. We encourage applicants to be specific and thorough in presenting their case for support so that a proper evaluation of the application can be made. All complete applications will be reviewed, and all applicants will be notified of a grant decision. Not all applications will be supported, and the Committee’s decision is final. 


Questions may be addressed to writersfund@pen.org.  

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