After President Lyndon B. Johnson got the ball rolling in 1965 with his National Endowment for the Arts, Idaho and many other states began spearheading their own agencies. In 1967, Idaho Gov. Don Samuelson signed off on the Idaho Commission on the Arts and Humanities (the “and Humanities” was dropped from the title in 1978).
For more than half a century, the commission has survived budget cuts, changes in legislation and other such obstacles to continually provide grant-funded programs, exhibitions and opportunities to Idaho’s foremost artists, writers and educators.
In continuation of this tradition, the commission has issued an official summons for submissions for an exciting literary opportunity: the Idaho Writer in Residence.
The commission offers fellowships in three disciplines: literature; visual arts, design and craft; and performing and media arts. Available fellowships cycle through those varied fields, granting monetary awards for one person per year.
That means the literary fellowship will not be accepting submissions again until 2022, so prospective applicants should take advantage of this window of opportunity before it passes. Only three more weeks remain to the deadline: Thursday, Jan 31.
Previous writers in residence have included novelist and short-story writer Brady Udall and poet Diane Raptosh, who in 2013 was named Boise’s first poet laureate.
Idaho’s current resident writer, Christian Winn, won the distinction in 2016. During his residency he released his sophomore book publication, “What’s Wrong With You Is What’s Wrong With Me,” a collection of four novelettes. This 2017 release follows the 2014 release of “Naked Me,” a compendium of 15 short stories.
“To be named the Idaho writer in residence this summer was and is a humbling and deeply gratifying honor,” Winn wrote upon receiving the position in 2016.
The residency includes some responsibilities and obligations. To fulfill those, Winn, like his predecessors, spent much of his three years in the role travelling Idaho, leading writing workshops, lecturing, teaching and, in his own words, striving to “represent and work with Idaho writers and lovers of words.”
“The Writer in Residence encourages an interaction with, and appreciation for, excellence in literature throughout Idaho,” said Jocelyn Robertson, public information officer and literature director for the Idaho Commission on the Arts.
To qualify for the position of Idaho’s writer in residence, applicants must be practicing writers, at least 18 and legal residents of Idaho for at least one year.
Some other restrictions apply, regarding conflicts of interest, financial and academic stipulations and the like. On the topic of content, the commission writes that it is “an advocate for and defender of the right of free speech,” but that it intends that “funded projects exhibit a sensitivity and responsiveness to community standards.” Ultimately, as in all things, final interpretation of that sentence is left to the panel of judges reading submissions.
The commission accepts submissions of up to 20 pages of written material. Those can span any genre or style, including stage and screenplays. If the submission is an excerpt from a longer work, applicants may include an accompanying short, explanatory paragraph to situate the work in its wider context.
“Judges are looking for work that shows originality, innovation, consistency and preeminent quality,” Robertson said, “As well as evidence of exceptional, continued aesthetic investigation, professional activities and achievements.”
The successful applicant will receive a $5,000 stipend on an annual basis, as well as reimbursement for appropriate travel expenses.
At the discretion of the panel of judges, prizes of $1,000 may be distributed to honorable mentions and runners-up.
Once again, the deadline to apply for the Idaho Writer in Residence position is Thursday, Jan. 31.
For more information or to submit an application, visit arts.idaho.gov/grants/writer-in-residence.