Announcing the Writing Excuses/Carl Brandon Scholarship

As we announced in November, we are holding the second annual Out of Excuses Retreat this year, September 29 through October 5. Last year’s retreat was a huge success, and we’re excited to be doing it again, and we’re especially excited to be offering another scholarship. Even better, this year’s scholarship has a twist: instead of just need and merit, we’re also looking for diversity.

Why diversity? Isn’t it enough to just look for the most qualified applicant, regardless of other factors? No it isn’t, and this is why: we make our choice based on merit, but we can only do that within the small, self-selecting group of people who feel comfortable applying. Out of last year’s thirty attendees, we had only one writer of color, which is not even close to a realistic representation of the speculative fiction market. This was a sign to us that something was wrong. Our ratio of men and women was about half and half, which was great; that meant that both men and women deemed our retreat a safe and welcoming environment. Our ratio of white writers to writers of color was a clear sign that some writers did not necessarily feel the same welcome, and we want to change that.

To that end, we are proud to partner with the Carl Brandon Society, an organization dedicated to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction. We hope that focusing our scholarship in this way will not only give a great opportunity to a worthy writer of color, but encourage other writers of color to sign up for the retreat as well. No matter who you are, we want you at our retreat! The scholarship applications will be reviewed by a selection panel from  the Carl Brandon Society, consisting of Wesley Chu, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, John Lawson, and Tempest Bradford.

Registration for the Out of Excuses Retreat opens on January 18, 2014, at 9am EST. As of this posting, that’s TOMORROW. If you can afford a full membership, don’t hold out for the scholarship because you won’t get it. If money is tight, though, the Carl Brandon Scholarship can offer you 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. To apply for the scholarship, submit the following to by midnight, March 15, 2014:

  1. 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. Don’t feel obligated to fill the word count: if you can wow us in less, more power to you.
  2. A 450-700 word personal essay explaining why you are a good candidate for the scholarship. What makes you unique? What can you bring to our group that no one else can? Keep in mind that even as we focus on “need,” the panel will be reviewing your writing in terms of “merit” as well.
  3. Three brief letters of recommendation (no more than 300 words each) from people who are not your relatives. Friends, bosses, people from your writing group, anyone who can tell us exactly how awesome you are. 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 who don’t follow the rules will be the first to go—just like sending a manuscript to a publisher, submission guidelines matter. Send your fiction and essay all in the body of a single email (no attachments), with the subject line “Scholarship Application: [name].” Your three recommendation letters should go to the same address, with the same subject line, and they can be sent by you or directly by the people who wrote them. Follow the word limits exactly, make sure you’ve got all three items covered, and don’t miss the deadline: March 15, 2014. We will review the submissions and announce our decision on May 4, 2014, which should give you plenty of time to work out vacation time and babysitters and so on for the retreat in September.

We look forward to reading your submissions!

30 thoughts on “Announcing the Writing Excuses/Carl Brandon Scholarship”

  1. This is really awesome, guys. Great idea!

    Really hope I can get registered tomorrow because I’m about as undiverse as they come!

  2. I posted a comment on the last WE post about the retreat and the scholarship.
    I am very happy to see the WE team partner with the Carl Brandon Society and take away the vagueness of the word diversity in their first post. Focusing it this way feels very honest and it is a very worthy goal.
    Best of luck to all the applicants fantasy and scifi needs you!

  3. I had a question about the following information on the workshop:
    “The week kicks off with three full days of intensive workshops taught by the WX hosts. All on-campus meals are included during the week.”

    “Starting on Wednesday evening, the remainder of the week is time for you to put what you learned to good use, and write. You’re out of excuses…”

    Does this mean, that the Podcasters will only be at the workshop for those first three days? Then the rest of the time the attendees are allowed to stay, but will have no access or workshops with the Podcasters?

    Just wondering for clarification.


  4. I have a question regarding the application process. Should scholarship applicants apply to both the scholarship and the retreat, or does the scholarship application cover the retreat application?


    – Gabby

  5. Really would love to try and make it to this retreat, but unfortunately the 5th is my first wedding anniversary and I will be otherwise obligated :-)

  6. I have never used Eventbrite before so I was wondering how the system works. I am assuming that I need to register an account with Eventbrite, but how do we get the tickets tomorrow at 9am? Is there a link that goes live or something?

  7. So I’m confused. Does this mean that only writers of color are being considered for the scholarship, or that you’re just looking for extra diversity in the scholarship applicants?

    1. The scholarship is specifically for a writer of color. The official language of scholarship says, “This grant, given annually, is for the purpose of providing financial aid to one writer of color to attend the Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat. The goal of this scholarship is to encourage a writer of color who needs financial assistance and whose writing demonstrates the potential to benefit from attending.”

  8. So I don’t get culled, the story selections will be copy and pasted into the body of the application email, correct?

  9. As someone who successfully registered and attended last year’s retreat, a bit of warning to you all: Do not sleep in tomorrow morning. Do not take your fingers off the keyboard, or your eyes away from EventBrite. IF you’re planning on registering tomorrow be ready to start hitting F5 by 8:50AM Eastern and jump like a bunny on that registration button when it goes live.

    Last year, five minutes after the opening of registration, every spot was in a pending state, and in less than ten minutes the retreat was sold out. Best of luck to all of you trying to register tomorrow. This retreat has had an amazing impact on my writing, and I know it will do the same for you as well.

    All the best!

  10. I’m what some might lovingly refer to as a half-breed (my dad is white, my mom is Chinese). Do I qualify for the scholarship? I think most of the time us half-and-halfers are considered colored (e.g. President Obama is half-white); but I don’t want to waste everyone’s time by applying for the scholarship if I don’t even qualify.


  11. How do minority writers sign up for the scholorship, should we mention our race in our email?

  12. Where exactly will the green button be? This way, I’ll know where to press since I’ll have to F5 like crazy.

  13. Dang, I was really looking forward to applying this year…but I know that our genre is about diversity. The retreat will benefit from this, as will our genre. Good luck to all the applicants!

  14. Have you thought about having an “e-presence” option? Webcam, skype station manned by someone with text messages read out as appropriate? Charging for that would reduce the cost you’d need to charge attendees and/or would allow more scholarship attendees (one of whom could man the skype station).

  15. A podcast featuring 4 white people doesn’t draw a lot of minorities to the retreat? Go figure. How about addressing that instead of disallowing applications from the majority of your audience.

  16. Jo, they aren’t disallowing applications for paying attendees from anyone. Why not try shifting that chip on your shoulder and working on your writing skills?

  17. Snarky message board behavior aside…

    This is a nice safe all white podcast with nice safe white guests. Giving out a scholarship is not going to diversify the appeal of this podcast at all, not even a little. Also I imagine you are holding this retreat in Portland, the whitest of all American cities.

    If the goal is to just add a little color to the retreat then this scholarship will work. If your goal is to be more inclusive in general then this probably won’t do it. If there is some notion that the reason you aren’t getting people of color to your retreat is due to a money issue, then I think you are incorrect. I think it’s much deeper than that.

    I would love to see more diversity in the podcast. I apologize that my message above came off so shitty. Tone is hard to convey on the webs, tried for exasperated but that obviously did not come through. I’ll take Ed’s advice and continue to work on it.

  18. Just because people know the words “ad hominem”, doesn’t mean they understand what it means. Not everything that one doesn’t want to hear is an “argumentum ad hominem”.

  19. Just trying to figure out if I qualify for the scholarship. I’m 1/4 Mexican. How colored do you need to be? Is it more of an appearance thing or actually a cultural diversity thing?

  20. Someone has to start somewhere in trying to give a larger presence to those of color. Is it better for them to do nothing?

    For me, a podcaster’s race doesn’t affect whether or not I feel they have valuable things to say. So, I’m not sure what ‘a podcast by four white people’ has to do with the value of listening if you are an aspiring writer. Yes, their perspective is restricted to their experience, but they admit that. They never used to have a woman and then they added Mary. As much as I feel she adds to the podcast, Mary doesn’t speak for all women (and I’m sure she’d be the first to say that).

    Giving the scholarship isn’t a way of saying ‘you are too poor to come’ but a way of guaranteeing that they have a spot. This retreat sold out blazingly fast.

    I’m glad to see these steps taken.

  21. While I don’t agree with Jo’s attitude, she does have a point in some effect.

    1. Atlanta, Georgia isn’t exactly known for the internal diversity. Doesn’t really inspire me to want to go there.
    If they held it, say in a place like NYC, LA, San Fran, Seattle or some such, there is a higher chance of diversity.

    2. Diversity is more than just skin color, but even there experiences make for the diversity.

    There are sub cultures within the diversity that help make it resonate for people. There are also subtleties to language differences and the way groups tell stories that aren’t always universal–and sometimes when you have a dominant group, they fail to recognize smaller details of that. For example, AAVE uses repetition a fair bit (just pointing out one feature). A group that only knows SAE is going to crush that. Chinese stories tend to start with long exposition and introduction to characters. A group steeped in American Lit is going to crush that. Without a leader that recognizes those things as valid, it’s a bit harder to want to fly a long distance into a territory not well known for diversity from people who aren’t that savvy. If they promise guest speakers that know those little subtle things and are willing to screen through the submissions keeping those things in mind, then I think the playing field is more even. Whites do have a culture and they take it for granted as the dominant group–they have no obligation to learn anything about the sub-cultures, but people of diversity have to remember two cultures at once because they have to participate in both to survive.

    Certain story telling conventions aren’t universal as people think they are. (I grew up reading Russian, African American, Native American, etc folktales. I like borrowing story conventions from other cultures, but at the same time I get corrected a lot for doing just that because others think it’s “wrong”.)

    Oh and look at my profile on my website before you protest… I think I have a funky background. I do understand more than you would think.

    I do disagree that they never had guests who were of color. Saladin Ahmed, NK Jemisin, etc have been on the podcast before. They’ve also had discussions about gender identity, gay characters, etc.

  22. Hello all, I’m K. Tempest Bradford, the liaison between the Carl Brandon Society and the Writing Excuses crew for this scholarship. Mary asked me to pop over and answer some of the more… contentious questions in the moderation queue. I thought it would be best to do them all in one post in such a way that it should address general concerns as well as specific ones. Thus I will quote from real comments but not use names. Let’s get started.

    How “colored” do you need to be? I’m 1/4 Mexican, but really am not that dark. Do I qualify for the scholarship?

    We’re not going for a modern-day paper bag test here. It’s not about appearance/skin color at all–many POC can pass as white, and that brings with it a whole set of cultural understanding that is just as important as the understanding a non-passing POC brings to the genre and the retreat. If you’re super concerned about it, the application essay is a good place to tell us about your background and where you’re coming from as a writer and as a person. Feel free to talk about how your background affects your outlook as a writer. This will help us put your entire application in context.

    Basically I just wanted to know if I qualify for this scholarship. Are you looking for people of cultural diversity or are you looking for people “of color”? I’m born and raised in the Czech Republic for a decade so I think I would add to the diversity of the group but I’m by all appearances a white guy. I think you’re just after diversity but then you switched to saying “of color”. Just wanted to check. Thanks.

    For this scholarship the focus is on people of color and not the wider swath of cultural diversity. That is not to say this type of diversity isn’t important or not encouraged for the workshop, it’s just not the focus of this specific scholarship.

    The fact that they are focusing on people’s skin color and not on actual diversity exposes this scholarship as the writers retreat equivalent of getting a token black friend to prove to the world you’re not racist.

    This scholarship is not open to solely Black writers. And, as I said above, it’s not about skin color, either. As to “actual” diversity, I assume you feel that racial diversity is somehow not real, not relevant, or not worthy of considering. It is true that there are many kinds of diversity–cultural, gender-based, sexual orientation, class–but focusing on one does not mean that the WX crew doesn’t care about any of the others. They chose to focus on upping this type of diversity for the reasons outlined in the original post.

    Writers of color in this genre are disproportionately silenced, ignored, discouraged, and shut out from activities that help grow a career, such as workshopping and networking, due to a variety of reasons. Because of this, organizations like the Carl Brandon Society exist to help shine a light on this and do what we can to end it. This is why we administer a scholarship that sends writers of color to Clarion and Clarion West and partner with Con or Bust to help writers and fans of color attend SF/F conventions. There’s an imbalance that needs addressing. The WX crew chose to address it. In the future, they may choose to address other imbalances as well.

    From the same comment: Where’s Dan? Oh wait, he’s in Germany having a non-diversity experience with all those non-colored Germans.

    To assume that there are no people of color in Germany is extremely racist.

    It’s your house Mary, and you are free to do as you see fit. And I do believe your heart is in the right place, but I wish you would consider a better approach. Consider the hyper-race conscious atmosphere this creates. I would not want to be your PoC, nor one of the non-PoCs.

    Speaking as a person of color I disagree with your assumption of the kind of atmosphere this scholarship creates. The biggest reason is that, even though White people tend to ignore or dismiss this, POC are always aware and conscious of race. Many White people are, too, but many interpret awareness and consciousness of race in their heads as wrong because there’s this notion floating around that no one should think about a person’s race because doing so is racist. This is where all those “colorblind” comments come from and the legions of people who say things like “But, aren’t we all HUMAN? That’s what matters!”

    Being the only person of color in a room full of White folks is not always the best ever. But guess what: most of us have to endure this on many occasions, sometimes daily, and we know how to cope with it. Having allies who you know you can count on to speak up if something uncomfortable goes down makes a huge difference.

    At a retreat like this where the point is to gain valuable writing skills and learn from peers and instructors alike, a race-conscious atmosphere is not an inherently bad thing. Writers of any background need to be conscious of race and gender and class and differently-abled folks and culture and the whole range of human experience.

    Reverse racism. Got to love it.

    It just dawned on me that you are excluding an entire group of people, based on race, from the one scholarship for the sake of “diversity”. That’s a horrible twist. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that’s racism.

    I could go into the long list of reasons why a scholarship intended for marginalized groups is not in any way racist. But I’m going to focus on another aspect of this comment and many other comments in the mod queue, and that is: entitlement. Those of you complaining about the very existence of this scholarship are steeped in entitlement. The majority of you are White, and you cannot abide something existing that is not For You. You must have access to everything, and if you don’t it isn’t fair. The irony of that in this context probably never occurred to you.

    Creating a scholarship that addresses imbalance does not exclude the dominant group from participating in the retreat. Thus, it’s not racist.

    Wouldn’t it be far better to encourage attendance from as wide a swath of people as you can possibly reach and leave it at that? Maybe contact some leaders of interest for assistance?

    You say “and leave it at that” as if that can truly ever be enough. This comment comes from a place of white privilege (don’t know that term? Here’s a primer: Casting a wide net is great, but is only one step and a small one at that. You also have to create an environment that is welcoming to a wide swath of people. And, if you can, start to balance the scales by offering help to traditionally disadvantaged groups.

    Also, the ask leaders for assistance thing is what this scholarship IS.

    Well looks like I have truly no chance of going to this retreat at all because I’m white and cant afford to pay for it myself. Thanks guys.

    There’s that entitlement thing again. There are no guarantees that you’d have a chance of getting this scholarship, white or non-white.

    I was really looking forward to applying for this and seeing if my writing had improved. Like most who applied for the scholarship last year, paying is out of reach for me. Probably on a forever scale. (Even with the scholarship, I’d have to fork out 700 bucks) since I work as an English teacher in Tokyo which is a semi-low salary gig with high rent, taxes and transportation. With all my bills every year, I’m lucky if I make it out of a single year afloat. (Don’t get me wrong, I chose to be over here and I like what I do because it gives me a good amount of extra time to write, but the plane ticket alone is almost out of my reach during that time of year) I was hoping it would be something like special consideration given to minority candidates rather than minority candidates only.

    Let me see if I understand this correctly. You’re upset that you can’t apply for the scholarship even though you probably can’t come anyway because your job doesn’t give you much wiggle room and the travel stipend wouldn’t cover you. Why, then, are you complaining about who gets the scholarship? Once again, it comes across as: Everything has to be open to me, no matter how much I can’t take advantage.

    I am very disappointed. I never intended to apply for the scholarship, but I only hope those with merit, yet do not fit the new twist, can find the encouragement and learning they seek.

    It’s true, it’s really hard for White writers to find encouragement and learning at Clarion, Clarion West, Odyssey, Viable Paradise, or any of these workshops listed here: Not to mention the online workshops run by members of the WX crew and other prominent genre authors.
    Hopefully these answers have been helpful or at least illuminating. I’m very much looking forward to reading the submissions that come in.

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