If you’ve taken at least one novel writing course at the Writers’ Program, and have at least ten pages of a novel in progress, then you’ll be delighted to hear about the brand new Claire Carmichael Scholarship in Novel Writing. Claire, an instructor who has taught more than 90 courses for the Writers’ Program since 1994, created the scholarship to acknowledge promising novelists by providing an opportunity for them to study their craft and work on their novels-in-progress in a supportive educational environment.

Based on the strength of their writing, up to six recipients will be selected to take three full-length Writers’ Program courses, all of which will be underwritten by Claire. One of those six recipients will ultimately be selected to be mentored by Claire for two full months (a $2,590 value).

Read on to learn what you can do to increase the odds that you’ll be selected as one of the six lucky (and talented) recipients of the Claire Carmichael Scholarship in Novel Writing.

Writers’ Program: The Claire Carmichael Scholarship in Novel Writing is a wonderful opportunity for six promising novel writers to be able to focus on their projects without breaking the bank. What prompted you to make such a generous gift available for Writers’ Program’s novel writing students?

Claire Carmichael: During my two decades of classroom teaching for the Writers’ Program, many gifted students have come to me with the same unwelcome news. Although they value the workshops highly, financial pressures have made it impossible for them to continue on. In the past, I could only commiserate with those students. Now, I’m delighted to be working with the Writers’ Program to remove that financial barrier.

WP: Why do you require applicants to take at least one course in novel writing before applying for the scholarship?

CC: For three important reasons: 1) to demonstrate self-discipline by meeting deadlines for scheduled assignments; 2) to become familiar with other genres and styles of writing and, 3) to understand and practice constructive criticism.

WP: What will the judges be looking for when they select the six recipients of the scholarship?

CC: They will be looking at the overall quality of the submission, the potential and the drive to become an excellent writer, and a command of language (vocabulary, grammatical structures, and punctuation). Last, but certainly not least, they’ll be looking for talent–it shines through at whatever stage a writer has reached.

WP: What do you hope the recipients of the scholarship will take away from the experience?

CC: Recipients should come away with the knowledge that writing is a lifetime learning experience. They’ll learn the skills required to self-edit. They’ll also be able to accept criticism without taking it personally, gain an appreciation of how difficult it is to write consistently well, and have the ability to stand back and evaluate their work dispassionately.

WP: Tell us about the icing on the cake: the opportunity for one of the six recipients to win a two-month one-on-one mentorship with you. What exactly is a one-on-one mentorship? Why is it such a valuable opportunity for any serious writer?

CC: A mentorship is like having an editor of your own. As your mentor, I will always give you an honest assessment of your writing. I will identify your strengths and weaknesses, then discuss how to use to best advantage what you do well, and teach you how to develop specific skills to address weaker elements in your writing. I will give you constant feedback as you write and rewrite.

This is what I will NOT do:

  • Tell you what to write
  • Comment on your choices of subject, theme, or narrative
  • Fail to answer your questions
  • Fail to give adequate feedback
  • Ghostwrite your novel

WP: What will you and the two other judges be looking for when you select one of the six recipients for the mentorship?

CC: The fulfillment of the potential he or she displayed when the six students were chosen.

WP: You are an amazingly prolific writer, with 27 novels and 20 children’s books to your credit. What advice do you have for writers who hope to one day see their own name on the cover of a book?

CC: Don’t fool yourself into thinking surfing the Internet is research—it’s avoidance. Write! Don’t wait for your muse to appear—start without her.

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The Writers’ Program is grateful to Claire for her generosity and for making this invaluable opportunity available to our students.

For eligibility requirements and an application, go here. The deadline to submit materials for this year’s scholarship is September 11, so be sure to get started soon!

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