On the Road with the Kerouac Project's Residency Program

Not many people are aware that famed author Jack Kerouac was living in a tiny cottage in Orlando, FL with his mother when On the Road was first published to worldwide acclaim. After an article appeared in the Orlando Sentinel in 1997 detailing this fact, a pair of local bookstore owners decided to purchase the house and start a nonprofit with seed money from a few Florida benefactors and a generous gift of $100,000 from Cleveland, OH business executive, Kerouac fanatic, and former Harvard Lampoon editor Jeffery Cole. Today the Kerouac Project offers four residencies and a small stipend each year in the house where Dharma Bums was also put to paper.


It appears as though Cole's support was a one-time donation to initially get the organization off the ground and, like many nonprofits, the Kerouac Project seems to have taken a bit of a hit due to the recession. It still regularly grants four residencies a year, however. They ask for a $25 application fee which they say goes directly into the services they offer. The grantees are each given a $800 stipend and a three month expense-free stay at the cottage. In exchange they only ask that you work on your writing project for the entire time and give a reading at the end of your stay. They also offer other opportunities for readings in the area.


Other notable supporters include composer David Amram, humorist Steve Allen, and historian Douglas Brinkley, among others. Summer Rodman, currently listed as their treasurer, was also an early benefactor for the Project and seems to have kept a fairly hands-on role over the years. She acted as manager for the writer-in-residence liaison committee and continues to lend her ongoing support. She's someone who has been involved from the beginning.


The Kerouac Project is a fairly small organization and $800 may not sound like much, but that and some quality time in an inspiring environment can be just the help some writers need. Applications are generally due in March of each year. What the Kerouac Project may lack in monetary support, they make up for in other ways, including offering the ability to create your own work in proximity to one of the most influential American writers in recent history.