U.S. Writers Aid Initiative

Hands on a laptop, hands typing on a keyboard, a notebook, and a hand holding a pen on top of a black background; in the center: “PEN America U.S. Writers Aid Initiative”

PEN America is an organization of writers and their allies, and that solidarity is never more important than when members of our literary community face crises. Writing can be a solitary, economically fragile undertaking made even more precarious by unemployment, financial downturns, health problems, and other challenges. PEN America’s U.S. Writers Aid Initiative, part of the PEN America Writers Emergency Fund, offers grants for writers in the United States facing acute financial need following an emergency situation. Visit the application page for more information and to view full eligibility guidelines.

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The U.S. Writers Aid Initiative is intended to assist fiction and nonfiction authors, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, translators, and journalists. To be eligible, applicants must be based in the United States, be professional writers, and be able to demonstrate that this one-time grant will be meaningful in helping them to address an emergency situation. The fund is limited, and not every application can be supported. Grant decisions are made on a periodic 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 equipment, printing, shipping, travel, or publicity services. 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. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, and will be reviewed on or about the following dates in 2021 and 2022, subject to change:

  • October 1, 2021
  • February 1, 2022
  • April 1, 20222 
  • June 1, 2022
  • August 1, 2022
  • October 1, 2022
  • December 1, 2022

PEN America’s U.S. Writers Aid Initiative is made possible by generous support from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett, the Lannan Foundation, The Haven Foundation, PEN America Members, and other donors. Questions may be addressed to [email protected].


Looking to help the literary community during this crisis? With your support, we can expand the fund to help more writers. Make a donation »