Everyone has to start somewhere. Award winning mystery writer and Northwest denizen Elizabeth George knows this, which is why she created the Elizabeth George Foundation to help unpublished and emerging fiction writers, poets, and playwrights and give them a leg up in the beginning stages of their careers. She also has a particular soft spot for organizations assisting disadvantaged youth in these areas, owing in part to her 13-year background in education.
You wouldn't gather it from the Foundation's bare-bones website, but dozens of grants are awarded to individuals and organizations each year, with the most recent fiscal year totaling just shy of half a million dollars. Most of the money is doled out in increments averaging between $5,000–$20,000. Regular recipients include organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Operation Jump Start, but many of the gifts are actually given to genuinely struggling authors, poets, and playwrights.
The Elizabeth George Foundation plays it fairly low-key as to what their decision-making process is in who they choose to support, but that isn't to say the awards aren't highly competitive. There aren't many organizations funding beginning writers that place such few expressed strictures on what they are willing to fund. Hardly any in fact. The Foundation gives anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to support book research, MFA candidates, writer's retreats and conferences, or general living expenses in order to finish a particular project of interest. Sometimes the gifts can reach into the tens of thousands, but the Foundation is very clear in what it wants from potential applicants and that isn't brevity or generalities.
Elizabeth George herself is a prolific writer with over twenty titles to her name, many produced and televised on the BBC and PBS's Mystery. She's someone who knows how to get things done. And she and her Foundation ask for very specific parameters and details from those applying. Despite the lack of specificity about what they're willing to consider, these obviously aren't open-ended grants. They want detailed budgets and time frames for any given project and they definitely place importance on letters of reference and experience in a given field.
Elizabeth George also has a penchant to support organizations in California, where she taught, and Washington state, where she currently resides. Theater is also of particular interest to the Foundation, as Seattle's Act Theater, and the South Coast Repertory Theater in Costa Mesa, CA are regular recipients of their support.
First-time writers and at-risk youth may be struggling in many aspects of their lives, but the Elizabeth George Foundation is definitely willing to give an advantage that may not have been there before.