ART WORKS Guidelines: Literature

Through its literature, a nation tells its stories to its citizens and to the world. The National Endowment for the Arts is committed to providing opportunities for Americans to make literature a more important part of their daily lives.

The Arts Endowment seeks to sustain and nurture a multiplicity of American literary traditions, including, but not limited to:

  • Ensuring that literary presses and magazines, community-based centers, and national literary organizations complement the trade publishing sector in the shaping of contemporary American letters.
  • Supporting organizations that nurture emerging and mid-career writers and providing assistance to nascent literary organizations.
  • Supporting endeavors to provide America's readers with direct access to contemporary writers.
  • Supporting the use of new technology and innovative projects.

NOTE: Literary publishing projects must focus primarily on contemporary literature and/or writers.
In addition, the Arts Endowment offers fellowships to published creative writers and translators in the areas of prose and poetry.


Art Works applications will be accepted under two deadlines: February 19, 2015, and July 23, 2015. Apply under the deadline with the NEA objective (in bold below) and project example that most closely corresponds to the primary focus of your proposed project. You will be asked to indicate the objective that is most relevant to your project in your application and on the application form.

February 19, 2015, Application Deadline
January 1, 2016, Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Performance


  • Literary publications about national parks or art in national parks.


  • Literary publishing projects that support print and online literary magazines and independent and university presses to publish, distribute, and promote poetry, fiction, drama, translation, and creative nonfiction by contemporary writers. Projects may include but are not limited to:
    • Publication, production, promotion, and distribution of books and magazine issues.
    • Payments to writers (e.g., royalties, honoraria).
    • Efforts to increase book sales or magazine circulation and expand readership.
    • Efforts to maintain the availability of contemporary works of literary merit.
    • Digitization of publishers’ backlists and other endeavors to make work available in new and emerging markets.
    • Online and electronic endeavors that provide readers with greater access to literature.
    • Creative writing that explores other fields, including science, technology, and the natural world.

July 23, 2015, Application Deadline
June 1, 2016, Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Performance


  • Opportunities for writers and translators to create and refine their work.


  • Audience development projects that encourage national and regional activities that promote and develop audiences for literature. Projects may include but are not limited to:
    • Residencies, readings, author tours, and literary festivals.
    • Distribution of works of literary value.
    • Innovative uses of technology, media, or new models to provide readers with access to writers and literature though creative platforms such as ebooks, mobile device apps, and web-born journals; Livestream readings; and social networking sites.
    • Efforts to provide increased community access and exposure to the craft of writing.
  • Projects that maintain America's literary infrastructure and provide assistance to writers, translators, and literary organizations. Projects may include but are not limited to:
    • Services for writers.
    • Technical support for literary organizations.
    • Workshops, conferences, and publications that provide professional and artistic development, networks, and other services to writers and literary organizations.
  • Festivals and other events in a national park or adjacent community (this may include readings, writing workshops, and panel discussions). 


  • Mentorship opportunities for emerging writers and literary professionals.
  • Education and related activities for youth, adults, intergenerational groups, and schools. (If your project is for youth, see " Choosing the Right Discipline for Youth Projects" to help you in your discipline selection.)


  • Projects that provide a gathering place/venue for the arts to enrich community cultural life and foster community interaction. Projects may include but are not limited to:
    • Literary arts festivals, performances, and other activities in public spaces that are intended to foster community interaction and/or enhance the unique characteristics of a community.
    • The development of writer live/work spaces.
    • The enhancement of public spaces through commissioning and/or installation of literary works.
    • Community-based partnerships that integrate the literary arts with livability efforts.

(Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact staff if they are considering Livability as an objective.)

Project Reporting and Evaluation

We ask all applicants to define what they would like to achieve, how they will evaluate the degree to which it is achieved, and, upon completion of the project, what they have learned from their experiences. Such feedback need not entail large-scale or expensive evaluation efforts. You should do what is feasible and appropriate for your organization and project. When a grant is completed, you must submit a final report and answer questions on your achievements and how these were determined. Arts Education grantees who apply for a Direct Learning Grant will be required to describe the assessment methods used to assess learning, and they may submit tools used to assess learning with their Final Report. (Please note that assessment tools may be shared publicly. If your tools are proprietary and have copyrights or trademarks attached, you will be asked to note that in your application and Final Report.) Before applying, please review the reporting requirements for the objective that will be selected for the proposed project: Creation, Engagement, Learning, or Livability.

Beyond the reporting requirements for all grantees, selected Art Works grantees will be asked to assist in the collection of additional information that can help the NEA determine the degree to which agency objectives were achieved. You may be required to provide evidence of project accomplishments including, but not limited to, work samples, community action plans, cultural asset studies, programs, reviews, relevant news clippings, and playbills. Please remember that you are required to maintain project documentation for three years following submission of your final reports.

Application Review

This category uses the agency's traditional method of application review. Applications are submitted to the Literature staff and are reviewed by a diverse group of experts in the literature field.

Applications are reviewed on the basis of artistic excellence and artistic merit. For more detailed information on how artistic excellence and artistic merit will be evaluated, see the "Review Criteria." You can find additional information in the "Application Review" section of the "Frequently Asked Questions." See the "Application Calendar" for information on when we expect to announce grant awards and rejections.


Literature Specialist: Jessica Flynn, or 202/682-5011