Life was joyous and exhausting when I was parent to a very small child, and I couldn’t figure out how to fit in much writing, or exercise, or sleep, or a million other things. I would daydream of an expanse of unbroken time, vaguely recalling what it had been like to concentrate for more than fifteen minutes on any one thing. Sometimes, I wished for a second me to hold the baby for a minute or two. Or, sleep, a solid week of it to catch me up, so I could become fully human again. I wished for a room for only writing, but I didn’t apply to any residencies—not even when my child was older, talking nonstop, no longer helpless—though I’d found residencies magical before becoming a parent. The hurtles seemed too hard to clear, starting with the sheer amount of time many programs offer (often a full month), far more time than I could be apart from my child. On top of that, there was the daunting task of finding childcare.
My child is school-aged now. It’s gotten easier, and also harder in some ways, with the global pandemic shutting down schools unpredictably. A month is still too long for me to step out of my daily life, and the pandemic complicates the logistics, but I’m looking into residencies again. Lucky for all writers bent on continuing the species, there are more and more programs that give art-making time to parents in ways that work better for more parents. There are other opportunities, too. This is a roundup of what I’ve found. (Details change, and I’m not keeping track. Please refer to each program’s website for up-to-date information.)
- SPACE at Ryder Farm Family Residency: A week-long residency that welcomes artists and their children. Children must be between the ages of three and twelve, and will take part in nature-focused arts programming while parents are working.
- Marble House Project Family Residency: “Marble House Project offers one session per season in our residency program that is family friendly. Accepted artists can bring their spouse/partner and children. Each family is provided with housing, studio space and food in a communal atmosphere. Art and ecology programming and other physical and enriching activities are provided for the children (aged 3-14) weekdays…”
- Caldera Artist in Residency Program: Focuses primarily on supporting BIPOC artists. Parent artists are welcome to attend with their children and another caretaker. Caldera notes on its website that they do not provide childcare, but can assist parents in connecting with local providers. Dates of residencies do fall within the typical school year.
- Unruly Retreat: “A residency tailored to exhausted writers with offspring as long as the writers in question are not cismen–sorry cismen.”
- Elsewhere Studios Family-Friendly Residencies: Bring your family along for this 10-day residency in a cool, quirky house in rural Colorado. Fully subsidized and comes with a $1,000 stipend. Held in July, with two artists plus their families at a time.
- Spruceton Inn Residency: Not aimed at parents, but the shorter length (stays of five nights) may be easier for many parents to manage. You cannot bring children.
- Tin House Summer Residency: One of the residency months is for parents. Stay in an apartment in Portland for any amount of time during your residency month (i.e. you don’t have to use the entire month if that’s not viable for you). Family members welcome, though the living space is limited. Comes with $1,200 stipend, and the opportunity to meet with editors from Tin House Books.
- MacDowell, Yaddo, and Kimmel Harding Nelson Center. These residencies offer stays as short as two weeks and are fully subsidized. You cannot bring children. MacDowell offers fellowship money to reimburse lost wages and/or help with travel expenses. Yaddo offers funding to accepted artists, based on need. Kimmel Harding Nelson Center gives a $100-a-week stipend (mostly to cover grocery costs, as you cook for yourself there).
- Porches Writing Retreat: At Porches, you’ll stay in a private room at a riverside farmhouse in Virginia. There are a number of fellowship opportunities in different genres, as well as workshops. You can also pay your own way and go whenever you like. Sometimes, flexibility is the key to getting away for a retreat.
- Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing, Parent-Writer Fellowship: MVICW is not having an in-person conference in 2022 due to the pandemic (and they haven’t announced whether or not they will host a virtual event as of this writing), but they do usually offer a fellowship for a parent-writer. There are a number of other fellowship categories as well.
- Tin House Winter Workshop: These workshops take place over the course of a long weekend, so they may be more doable for many parents than long summer conferences. They also offer a number of scholarships. Often, this includes a Parent Scholarship for a writer with a child/children under 18.
- Cuttyhunk Island Writers’ Residency: This program occupies a middle ground between conference and residency, with optional workshops, as well as built-in time for writing, evening readings, and many chances to socialize with fellow attendees. Currently, offers two full scholarships for parent-writers.
- The Muse and the Marketplace: Five-day conference on writing and publishing in Boston, MA. The short duration may make this a good option for many parents, and in 2022, the conference is hybrid. That means all sessions on craft and publishing will be take place virtually, and many will be recorded, so you can attend asynchronously. Parties and other optional social events will be held in person. There is usually some scholarship funding available.
Awards and Grants
- Sustainable Arts Foundation, Individual Awards: Annual awards of $5,000 to artists and writers who have children. No strings attached. Apply during the month of February.
- Pen Parentis Fellowship: Must have a child under the age of 10 to apply. Winner receives $1,000, publication, a year of mentorship, and gives a reading as part of the Pen Parentis reading series. (Pen Parentis also offers other programming for parent writers, particularly those living in the NYC area.)
- Elizabeth George Foundation: This organization gives grants to writers to cover living expenses, travel for research, artistic residencies, writers’ conferences, necessary enrichment or creative growth classes, or tuition in accredited MFA programs in the United States. (This program is not aimed at parents in particular.)
- Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Money for Women: Grants of $500-$1,500 for feminist writers and visual artists (not specifically parents).
- One Story Writing Circle: A virtual community of writers hosted by One Story magazine, with a focus on creating accountability and mutual support while working toward writing goals.
- The 24 Hour Room: Virtual writers’ community hosted by novelist Elizabeth Gaffney. Includes a Zoom room for writing in silence together and a Zoom lounge for gathering to discuss craft or share work.