The “Out of Excuses” Writing Retreat, and the “That’s a Pretty Good Excuse” Scholarship

Last month we announced the first ever Writing Excuses retreat, and we were delighted to see how much interest you all had in this kind of event. We honestly didn’t know what to expect from this retreat, since it was the first time we’d ever attempted anything like it–would it be popular? Would nobody care? Would people actually pay for it? As a way of testing the waters, we limited the announcement to a highly dedicated subset of Writing Excuses listeners: the people who read and comment on the website. If they got excited, it was a good sign that others might get excited as well, and we could announce it to a much broader base of listeners.

The retreat sold out in 9 minutes.

In hindsight, we should have expected this. In foresight (that’s a thing, right?) this is a very good sign that we need to do another retreat next year. We’ll see how this one goes before announcing anything concrete, but yeah. This seems like something we need to do more of.

But fear not, because we have even more good news. Before registration opened we held back one slot, and that slot is still available. We just want to make sure it goes to someone who really deserves it, so we’re very pleased to announce a scholarship. This scholarship comes to you through the inspiration and funding of one of our listeners, who offered to help a worthy writer attend. We loved the idea, and moved some things around to help stretch his offer even further. The recipient of the scholarship will receive free registration to the retreat, a fully paid room in the nearby hotel, and up to $500 toward airfare. Note that the registration fee includes most of your food already, so this covers almost all of your expenses for the week.

We want to make sure that this scholarship goes to someone who both needs it and deserves it, so the submission process requires you to do a bit of work. To be considered for this scholarship, please submit the following to by midnight, January 15, 2013:

  • A brief example of your writing, consisting of 1-3 separate pieces and totaling no more than 10,000 words. These can be short stories or novel excerpts or whatever you want, just make sure it’s your best work. Don’t feel obligated to fill the word limit–if you can wow us in less, more power to you.
  • A personal essay explaining why you think you deserve the scholarship. This should be 450-700 words, and while we’re looking specifically for “need,” we’ll definitely be reviewing your writing style in terms of “merit.”
  • Three brief letters (no more than 300 words each) from people not related to you. While the fiction and the personal essay should be included in a single email, these letters can be emailed individually by the people who write them, just make sure they include your name in the subject line.

We anticipate a huge response to this scholarship, so please be aware that we will be culling the applications relentlessly, and those that don’t follow the guidelines will be the first to go. Submit your personal pieces in the body of a single email (no attachments), with the subject line “Scholarship Application: [name].” Make sure the people writing your letters of recommendation use the same subject line. Follow the word counts exactly, and don’t miss the deadline: January 15, 2013. We will review the submissions and announce our decision on February 15, 2013, which should still give you plenty of time to work out vacation time and babysitters and so on for the retreat in June.

We look forward to reading your submissions!

39 thoughts on “The “Out of Excuses” Writing Retreat, and the “That’s a Pretty Good Excuse” Scholarship”

  1. Quick question- Were you guys open to receiving screenplays or comics scripts, or are you looking pretty much exclusively for prose submissions?

  2. Hi Guys! Can you let us know how big the waiting list is? If it sold out in 9 minutes, I am figuring it’s a pretty long list.


  3. Thanks for doing this!
    One question about the letters: What are you looking for in these letters? Recommendations and reasons why you should choose me?

  4. KDDO: You are more than welcome to submit a script, but I can’t vouch for our ability to help you write a better one.

    Adam: the applications are due in January, but you can turn them in early. The actual retreat is not until June.

    Jesse: Exactly.

  5. This is awesome of y’all, and SUPER AWESOME of the listener funding the scholarship. I have one teensy problem: I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for five years and have moved five times in the past seven years. I’m having a really tough time coming up with three people who would be willing to write letters for me that I’m not related to… which by an incredible coincidence is exactly the same reason I’m about to take some community college courses despite having a BA. I need three letters of recommendation from credible, non-family sources in order to pursue my MFA, and can’t come up with one.

    Wow. I need to get out more.

  6. Wasn’t sure this would fit my family’s financial needs, so I resorted to waiting to see about future years and offerings.

    This announcement made my week, which will further fuel my NaNoWriMo fervor this month. Write on!

  7. Well, this gives me some hope, though I will have to check airline ticket prices…

    Do you have to be eighteen? I am seventeen now, but am turning eighteen on the second of January so I will be eighteen by then… Does that fly?

  8. In what format would you prefer to receive the fiction and the essay?

    Also, do you have a plan for matching up the “three brief letters” to our entries if they come weeks or months apart? Or should I be asking the “people not related” to send their emails at a specific time?

    Thanks. :)

  9. Holly: If you are 18 by the time of the retreat that’s fine.
    Peggy: In what format would you prefer to receive the fiction and the essay?
    “Submit your personal pieces in the body of a single email (no attachments)”

    Also, do you have a plan for matching up the “three brief letters” to our entries if they come weeks or months apart
    Yes. When you submit use “the subject line “Scholarship Application: [name].” Make sure the people writing your letters of recommendation use the same subject line.” We’ll sort them by name.

  10. Are the recommendation letters supposed to be on us as individuals, our need, or our writing? There are very few people (outside of family) who have read my writing, so I may need to get some of that into their hands before they write the recommendation if that’s the focus of the letters. If it’s more of a character/need reference (since you will have samples of my writing) then I won’t have to worry about asking them to read AND write a letter. Let me know so I can plan accordingly. Thanks!!! I’m so excited to have this opportunity! Bless you all!

  11. I’m not going to apply, but I’m very, very impressed with you guys for doing this. It’s super cool, and very much in the spirit of WE.

  12. You have no idea how excited I am about this opportunity. On behalf of all aspiring writers, thank you mystery listener who chose to help someone improve their craft and take a step toward realizing their dream. It’s far past time for me to buckle down and get writing.

    And, to whomever the scholarship goes, don’t take this opportunity for granted.

  13. Long time listener and first time commenter… and gosh I want to do this. Chattanooga is practically in my own backyard! I’ve been dying for a chance to really take my writing to the next level.

    So close, yet so far.

    I’ll have a fairly new baby around that time, and my older child’s daycare will have been closed the week before (necessitating some time off for that), and… things would likely be too difficult to me to make it work.

  14. A big thank you to whoever is responsible for coming up with and funding this scholarship! What a wonderful opportunity you’re providing to one lucky/talented person out there.

  15. We are looking for letters of support. In short form, that means the people who write them should make us understand why you are awesome and the right person for this scholarship.

    As a suggestion, ask them to:
    -Comment on your strengths.
    -Tell us how they know you.
    -Tell us why you would benefit from this opportunity

  16. Hello, I have two questions:

    Are foreign submissions a problem?
    I’m from the Netherlands and would love a chance to join.

    For the three letters, does a significant other count as being related?

  17. Are foreign submissions a problem?
    Not a problem at all. Just be aware that the airfare is only up to $500.

    For the three letters, does a significant other count as being related?
    Yes. Sorry.

  18. When you mention “need,” are you referring to financial need, health need, etc? I wouldn’t feel right entering because I’m blessed with health and stability. I’m okay to wait if you guys do this again if it means deferring to someone truly in need.

  19. This is so awesome. I will definitely be trying to submit to this. I saw the post before it went live and simply did not have the money to make it a reality. This will give me the chance to do so.

    The listener who made this suggestion and has tried to mitigate costs deserves to be thanked by everyone who submits to this. They certainly have my thanks.

  20. Um… I’m not hanging my hopes on this, but I’m wondering if something similar to a collaboration would not count as “your best words”? I’ve got a story that I’m really excited about, but the plot and sections of the dialoge were brainstormed in a group. Is there an “official” line? I know I could just give it to you, and you wouldn’t know the difference, but I want to be honest about my submission, and if you have strong feelings about collaborations, I want to be right with you.

  21. I would like to add my thanks to you and the generous listener who offered to sponsor the scholarship winner. What an amazing opportunity! The retreat is a wonderful idea and the scholarship brings it into the realm of possibility for some of us. Thank you for offering us hopers and dreamers even more than you already have.

  22. Is there some way for us to know that our submissions have been received? Like an auto-reply or read receipt? I just wanted to make sure that my application didn’t disappear into the mysterious empty space of the Internet.

  23. Hi,
    I’m not able to travel for this, but I just wanted to say you guys rock! (As does the mystery listener.)
    Also, if you decide to do online classes at some point, I’d be interested.

  24. A last minute little question after re-reading, cross-referencing, and annotating the instructions. It says for the samples we can submit “whatever we want,” but later it talks about the “fiction and personal essay” being submitted in an email, etc.

    I’d like to submit a piece of “sensational journalism” as one of my selections… a very unique retelling of a real event. Technically not “fiction,” but could pass for it. I didn’t think it broke the rules, but I don’t want to risk being disqualified. Thanks.

  25. I sent mine off, then had a panic attack about the time. It’s only 11:10 here. I checked, and you didn’t mention the time zone… Please say I’m not late!!!

  26. @Alissa

    It says your comment was sent: January 15 @ 1014pm. So if you sent it before you wrote that comment I’m sure you’re in.

  27. I’ve just discovered your lovely site and the upcoming writing retreat. The deadline has passed for this one, any chance it may become a biannual event? Or, will it be 2014 before the next one is held? Thank you.

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