PEN America Writers' Emergency Fund

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February 23, 2021 Update: PEN America greatly appreciates the opportunity to provide emergency grants to the literary community during these difficult times, and we are grateful to the generous donors who have made this assistance possible. Available funds have been exhausted, and we are therefore pausing acceptance of new applications. Thank you for your understanding, and we will post updates should additional funding become available to make the resumption of the emergency grants possible. 

1099s will not be issued to 2020 Writers Emergency Fund grantees in light of the classification of the coronavirus pandemic as a “qualified disaster” under federal law. Qualified disaster relief payments to individuals are not considered to be taxable income and also not subject to employment taxes or withholding. We encourage all grantees to consult with their tax preparer.

October 15, 2020 Update: The response to the PEN America Writers’ Emergency Fund has been enormous, a reflection of the impact the pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis have had on the literary community. We are proud to have mobilized a five-fold increase in funding and distributed grants to more than 500 writers. We have now secured additional funding to resume grant-making for a limited period. The fund is open again on a first-come, first-served basis for eligible applicants who have not previously received a Writers Emergency Fund grant. We will accept applications until our available funds are exhausted.

PEN America is an organization of writers and their allies, and that solidarity is never more important than during a global crisis such as we face in the coronavirus pandemic. PEN America is expanding its long-standing Writers’ Emergency Fund as part of our efforts to support the literary community at a time when the health and livelihoods of so many are at risk. We recognize that there are writers who no longer have access to any of the ways in which they have supported themselves, and that this has happened very suddenly and will last for a period none of us can predict. In response, PEN America will distribute grants of $500 to $1,000 based on applications that demonstrate an inability to meet an acute financial need, especially one resulting from the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

To be eligible, applicants must be based in the United States, be a professional writer, 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.

The Writers’ Emergency Fund is intended to assist fiction and non-fiction authors, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, translators, and journalists. The following guidelines are used in evaluating professional credentials:

  • Publication of one or more books.
  • Multiple essays, short stories, or poems in literary anthologies or literary journals (either online or in print) in the last two years.
  • A full-length play, performed in a theater of more than 250 seats by a professional theater company. Productions in academic settings qualify if 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.

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 membership to PEN America.

PEN America’s Writers’ Emergency Fund is made possible by generous support from the Lannan Foundation, The Haven Foundation, PEN America Members, and other donors. Questions may be addressed [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 »