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Writing Excuses Retreats: 2023 Scholarships

An image of Bear Lake, Utah beside an image of Alaska. On top of the images are the words, "Writing Excuses Retreats: 2023 Scholarships. Apply Now: Scholarships for Writers with Financial Need and Writers of Color. Submissions Due February 28, 2023"

WXR is back for the 2023 season! This year, we’re hosting two separate chances for writers to gather:

  • May 8-13, 2023: “Riding Excuses” workshop in Bear Lake, Utah. This 6-day retreat, hosted by Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Mikki Helmer, and our dedicated trail guide, Montana, will include workshops, beautiful scenery, and dedicated writing time. You’ll get the tools and experiences you need to write about horses as accurately as possible for your fantasy, historical, and other fiction. To expand our animal curriculum even further, we will have a falconry expert visit us to give a live demonstration and answer questions. Click here for all of the details and registration information for the Bear Lake retreat.
  • September 3-11, 2023: Alaskan Cruise aboard the Quantum of the Seas. This year’s Writing Excuses cruise will provide the perfect blend of writing classes, critique groups, community building, and luxurious Alaskan vacation. This event will be hosted by Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Howard Taylor, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, and guest instructors Mahtab Narsimhan and Fonda Lee. Click here to register for the cruise.

As always, we are offering scholarship opportunities: two for Bear Lake and four for the Alaskan cruise. We have two different scholarship types available. Half of the scholarships for each event will be awarded to those in financial need (the “Out of Excuses” Scholarship), and half will be awarded to writers of color. 

Both categories have introduced us to some incredible writers in the past, and we can’t wait to see who we get to meet this year. Share this post with everyone you know, read the rules carefully, and apply!

Information and Entry Rules

Each scholarship offers full tuition, $500 of travel expenses, a bed in a shared room, and hotel expenses in the destination city for one night before the event. Because the food on each retreat is free, this covers essentially all your expenses for the week, though depending on the flights you arrange, you might need to cover some of the travel yourself.

You may apply to either scholarship, but you may only attend one of the retreats. If you have no preference on which you’d like to attend, your application can count for Bear Lake or the cruise.

These scholarships are very popular, and get a lot of applicants, so please read the instructions carefully and follow them exactly; incomplete applications will be disqualified.

Application Form

To apply, please prepare the following scholarship package (detailed below) and submit it via the google form.

Access the application form here

*Please make sure you review and upload all of the required documents prior to submitting the application.

Scholarship Documents

There will be two documents to upload as part of the application. Please attach them to the Google form upon submission.

Document #1: Personal Essay & Letters of Recommendation

This document should be sent as a PDF file saved as: [Name of Scholarship]-[Your Name]-essay. For example:

  • Out of Excuses Scholarship-Jane Doe-essay.pdf
  • Writer of Color Scholarship-John Doe-essay.pdf

Within the document, please include:

  • A Personal Essay (450-700 words)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 also be reviewing your writing in terms of “merit.”
  • 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, or anyone who can tell us exactly how awesome you are.

Document #2: Writing Sample (1-3 pieces, limited to 5,000 words total)

This document should be sent as a document (.docx, .doc, or .rtf only) or PDF file, saved as: [Name of Scholarship]-[Your Name]-writing-sample. For example:

  • Out of Excuses Scholarship-Jane Doe-writing-sample.pdf
  • Writer of Color Scholarship-John Doe-writing-sample.pdf

Within the document, please include:

  • A brief example of your writing, consisting of 1-3 separate pieces and totaling no more than 5,000 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.

Again: make sure to send everything in one submission form or your application will be disqualified!

Please review your application several times or have a friend or family member review it for you, because we will reject applications on technicalities, just like an editor or publisher would. We would much prefer to read your awesome writing and give you a scholarship.

You may apply for the scholarship anytime between now and midnight PST, February 28th. We will contact the winners on March 30th and announce them officially on April 3rd**. 

You may apply for the scholarship anytime between now and midnight PST, February 28th. We will contact the winners on March 30th and announce them officially on April 3rd**.

If you have any questions regarding the scholarship, please email Dawn at [email protected].

*While at this time the Alaskan cruise retreat is not available to buy tickets for, we will be announcing ticket sales soon.

**Dates for the announcement of the scholarship may have some slight fluctuation. We will do our best to give the winners as much time as possible between the announcement and the start of the first retreat.

Scholarship FAQs

Q: What do the Letters of Recommendation need?

A: Think of this like a college entry application letter. Have your recommenders tell us why you are the best candidate for this scholarship. They can point out what they think might be relevant to the decision that the committee would otherwise not know. The letters help us round out the picture for each candidate.


Q: Do I need famous people or industry professionals to recommend me?

A: Absolutely not. The status or prestige of the recommenders is not really a factor; they can be international bestsellers or they can be college roommates.

Q: Do you have any specific formatting requirements?

A: Other than what’s listed above, no. You can use whatever typeface or point size you like, as long as it looks professional and is easy to read. No glitter, weird colors, blinking text, etc.

Q: Are the scholarships open to anyone?

A: Provided you meet the basic qualifications, yes. We welcome writers from any country anywhere in the world, though remember that a) the classes will be taught in English, and b) the scholarships only cover $500 of travel, so anything beyond that you will need to cover yourself.

Q: But what if I’m already published?

A: Apply anyway. The way this industry works, it’s entirely possible to be published and talented and still poor and unsuccessful (spoiler warning). The things you learn and the contacts you make on our retreat can still help in that situation, and we’re not going to disqualify anyone just because their first break wasn’t a smashing success.

Q: But that doesn’t sound fair to the rest of us.

A: You’re competing against all of these people in the real world anyway, every time you submit a book or story for publication, and this is no different. Your writing has to be the very best it can be no matter what you’re trying to do with it. We’re confident that you are up to the challenge, so do your best and knock our socks off. We believe in you!

Q: Ah, but what if I know one of you personally? THAT’s got to disqualify me, right?

A: Not at all, though it does change the way we read and rank the applications. As soon as one of our judges realizes that they know an applicant in real life, they pull themselves off of that application and send it back to us. We strip that application of identifying info and send it out to new judges, completely blind, to get their unbiased opinion. The final decisions are made by people who do not know who the applicants are. We take this seriously, and strive to keep the process as fair and balanced as possible.

Q: Okay, can you remind me of the basic qualifications again?

A: The Out of Excuses scholarships: if you can’t afford the scholarship on your own, you qualify. The writer of color scholarships: if you’re a person of color who writes, you qualify.

Q: What about kids? Can I win the scholarship as a teenager?

A: Teens are welcome on the cruise and in the classes, but will need to be accompanied by an adult (who will have to pay their own way, as the scholarship only covers one person). If you have questions, please contact Dawn at [email protected].

Q: The description of the scholarship says it comes with a “shared occupancy room.” What does that mean?

A: On the cruise, you’ll have a roommate; in Bear Lake, you might share a room with four or five other people. If you know someone else on the retreat, you can let us know and we can probably put you together, but otherwise the assignments are made at random, and you will make a new best friend.

Q: How can I contribute to the scholarship fund?

A: The easiest way is through our Patreon. We have a pledge level specifically designed for scholarship donations, and of course you are always allowed to pledge more than the recommended minimum.

Q: If I apply for the scholarship and don’t get picked, will there still be time to buy a ticket?

A: We discourage this for two reasons: first of all, no, there might not be time to buy a ticket. Some years we sell out incredibly quickly, and people who wait often end up out of luck. We always try to get more rooms on the cruise, but it’s not always possible. 

Second of all, if you can afford to just buy a ticket, go ahead and buy a ticket, so we can give the scholarship to someone who can’t. That said, we recognize that there’s a difference between “I can afford this no problem” and “I can afford this but it will be a very painful sacrifice.” If you’re among the latter, you are welcome to try for the scholarship first and buy a ticket later if you don’t get picked; we will not look down on you at all, and we’ll do everything we can to make the retreat worth it.

Q: I sent in my application, but I’m not sure it arrived and/or I got an automated response saying it was too late and/or something else happened and I want to be sure we’re cool. What do I do?

A: Email Dawn at [email protected]. She can look through the inbox and tell you for sure whether your application arrived safely.

Q: I have a question not covered in this FAQ. Who do I reach out to?

A: Email Dawn at [email protected]. If you post the question online (whether here or on Facebook or on Patreon or wherever), there is no guarantee that we will see and answer it quickly.