Man cannot live on love alone. Well, neither can he live on words alone. But that seems to be the going rate these days. Writers are highly undervalued and are not given their just dues. This means that even though they may win Literary awards that are well known in the literary world, they barely manage to scrape by in their daily lives. Understanding that the life of a writer is not an easy one, there have been many awards and grants that have been set up by various foundations and are distributed by the Society of Authors to help deserving authors along with their works in progress.
It is because of these grants and awards that the writers are able to complete their projects as well as start new ones. It is not easy to write a book nor can we expect it to be completed within a week or two. The creative process has to come naturally so that there is an easy flow to the contents of a book which will keep the reader engrossed. Quick work will usually mean shoddy work and I’ve never heard of anyone being excited about reading work that is not well written.
More now than ever before, writers are struggling with finances and record numbers are turning to the Society of Authors for financial assistance. This has reached record levels ever since the Society started keeping records in 1999. To shed light on the matter, the number of authors asking for financial assistance has doubled from the 2010 to 2015. Surprisingly, it’s not the budding writers that are asking for help. Many of these are well established, published writers who have made their living by writing as their careers.
The Society distributes £100,000 in grants each year to writers facing financial hardship. Long term members of the society who are over the age of 60 or are incapacitated form work are given awards of £2,000. But alarming statistics show half of the professional writers in the UK earn less than £11,000, which is well below the minimum wage mark and is a huge concern for the Society.
The Society of Authors award Grants to writers who have research costs or have works in progress. These awards are distributed through the Author’s foundation and the K Blundell Trust and from 2015 around £250,000 was awarded to authors yearly. The K Blundell Trust is aimed at British authors who are under the age of 40 and who are working on a project for a British Publisher. The work could be fiction or nonfiction and must aim to increase social awareness. Grants for writers in need includes The Authors’ Contingency Fund, The Francis Head Bequest and The P.D. James Memorial Fund which is for members only.
Prizes totaling to an amount of £85,000 in prize money is awarded to many writers from the fields of fiction, nonfiction, translation, poetry and drama. These includes The Sunday Times/ Peters, Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of the year Award which is £5,000 The Betty Trask Prize & The Betty Trask Awards which totals to £20,000, The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award which is £30,000, The Somerset Maugham Awards which was set up in 1947. The only condition to some of these prizes is that you must be a member of the Society of Authors and you must be under a certain age limit.
But for many struggling writers, this is definitely a much needed lifeline. Only time will tell if these grants are the answer to many writers’ prayers or that the whole system must change.