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Common Application Questions

Application Process

What is the application deadline?

Applications will not be accepted prior to September 1 and must be submitted online by November 1 in order to be considered. If November 1 falls on the weekend, the deadline is the closest Tuesday after November 1. The online application will close at 11:59 pm PST on the deadline. Note that this is 2:59 am EST on the following day.

What information and materials are needed for the application?

In order to apply you will need personal background information, contact information for two recommenders who can speak to your suitability as a workshop participant (we DO NOT ask for letters of recommendation), a writing sample (not more than 9000 words for fiction, not more than 15 pages for poetry) a statement of plans (not more than 1000 words), and a description of what you hope to get out of the workshops and how you intend to contribute to the development of other Fellows’ work (not more than 300 words).

What is the application fee?

US$55. When you apply online you must pay the fee by credit card. 

Do you grant fee waivers?

Yes. There is a section within the online application where you can request a fee waiver.  We will not take any requests for fee waivers past the Stegner application deadline.

Can you help me choose which of my works to submit?

Submit whatever work you feel best represents you as a writer.

Is publication required for submission of an application?

No, although publication in literary journals frequently appears in the profile of a writer selected for the fellowship.

What academic prerequisites are required?

We do not require any specific academic background. Many fellows have completed an MFA, but we have admitted writers who have no formal training or college degree. Admission is based on the merit of the writing.

Do I need to take the GRE?

No; please do not send us GRE or any other test scores. They will not be considered and will be discarded.

Do I need to take the TOEFL?

No; please do not send us TOEFL or any other test scores. They will not be considered and will be discarded.

Do I need to have letters of recommendation or transcripts sent?

No; please do not have letters of recommendation or transcripts sent. They will not be considered and will be discarded. We only ask for the contact information of two recommenders so that we may contact them directly if we feel it is necessary.

How should the manuscript be formatted?

Fiction manuscripts should be double-spaced. You may format poetry manuscripts however you feel best represents the poetry you are submitting. It does not matter whether or not your name appears on each page. 

Do my recommenders need to be professors or teachers who know my writing?

Not necessarily. The selection committee evaluates the writing. What we ask the recommenders is more of a character reference. We want to know how they view your potential as a workshop participant.

Can I submit only one short story/15 short stories/two novel excerpts as my fiction manuscript, even though that’s not listed as an option on the application form?

Yes, if that’s how you will be best represented. The selection committee’s main concerns are making sure they see your best work and making sure they get a good feel for your writing.

What is the word limit for my manuscript?

Fiction manuscripts should be approx. 9,000 words. Poetry manuscripts should be 10-15 pages in length.

My fiction manuscript is 9,100 words; do I have to cut any of it?

Long applications won’t be disqualified. However, the selection committee reserves the right to stop reading any applications that are heinously over the word limit.

Can I submit science fiction/part of a mystery novel?

Yes, with a caveat: though we do not consider genre novels and literary novels mutually exclusive, consider that if accepted to the workshop, you would be exchanging ideas with 9 other authors who probably write fiction outside your given genre. The Stegner workshop is a course in literary fiction, not in science fiction/mystery, and all manuscripts are therefore judged as literature.

Can I submit work that has been previously published?

Yes, if you feel it is the work that best represents you as a writer.  Work in manuscript form is easiest for the committee to read, but pdfs of book excerpts or pieces from magazines are accepted as long as files uploaded are legible .  Do not send hard copy books as they will be discarded.

Can I submit creative nonfiction, memoir, or a screenplay that I have written?

No. We only offer fellowships in poetry and fiction so a submission in other genres will limit the applicant’s chances of receiving the fellowship.

Can I submit a manuscript or writing sample in a language other than English?

No; the Stegner Fellowship program focuses on fiction and poetry in English.  Manuscripts not in English cannot be reviewed  by our faculty committee.  Additionally, workshops and readings held as part of the program are only conducted in English.

I write both poetry and fiction, can I apply to both categories in the same year?

No. The program has changed its policy and will no longer accept applications in both categories from the same person. ***NOTE: Submission in both genres will disqualify the applicant from consideration in either category.***

Can I submit two fiction applications or two poetry applications in the same year?


I live abroad; how do I pay the application fee?

You may submit payment by credit or debit card. If you do not have a credit or debit card please email stegnerfellowship [at] (stegnerfellowship[at]stanford[dot]edu).

Did you receive my application?

When you apply online you will receive electronic confirmation that your application was submitted. Contact us right away if you do not receive an emailed confirmation within a day or so (check your spam or junk folder before contacting us).

Can you add some information to my application after I have submitted it?

No, we cannot alter or add information to your application form, manuscript, or statement of plans after submission (the only exception is if your or your recommender’s contact information changes). Please make sure your application is ready and complete before you submit it. Please do not contact us to let us know one of your manuscripts has been published or received an award; this information will not have any bearing on our decision.

Selection Process

How many applicants are there for the fellowship?

We received approximately 1200 applications last year for the 10 fellowships.

How are applicants chosen for the fellowship?

Manuscripts are read thoroughly by a committee of our faculty. The committee members then discuss the merits of the manuscripts they consider the most suitable for the fellowship, reread several of them and pass them along to other committee members, and eventually reach a consensus on five applicants in each category. Applications are never read by current students/fellows. Note that the manuscript is by far the most important part of the application, followed by the statement of plans; the information requested on the application form itself is essentially for biography.

What does the selection committee look for in a manuscript?

Good fiction or good poetry – that’s all. The best advice we can give is to seek the advice of other writers when preparing your manuscript.

How is the statement of plans evaluated, and how long should it be?

The statement of plans is helpful to the selection committee because it helps give them a sense of why you are applying for the Stegner Fellowship. The prompt is intentionally open-ended. The statement may not exceed 1000 words and most applicants submit one to two pages.

When are applicants notified of the committee’s decision?

All applicants will be notified of their status in April. Please do not contact us before then asking about your application, unless you want to notify us of a change in your contact information.

Can you tell me if I was shortlisted?

No, please do not ask us. Our notifications are strictly boolean. We never release feedback. Please understand that this is the only way we can keep our application fee reasonable considering the tremendous volume of applications we receive.

Can you tell me if my application is out of contention?

No, please do not ask us before April.

When do you contact recommenders?

We do not necessarily contact recommenders of successful applicants at all, and if we do we may do so at any time; please do not try to use your recommenders to gauge the status of your application.

If selected, can I defer my admission?

No. Fellowships are offered specifically for the following two academic years and may not be postponed.

If I am not selected, can I apply again?

Certainly. If we are unable to award you a fellowship this year, it should not be taken as a prohibition of your reapplying; we look forward to following your growth as a writer. Many past Stegner Fellows applied more than once.

Can you give me feedback on my manuscript or tell me why I wasn’t selected for a fellowship?

No, we cannot provide any comments on manuscripts or on applications submitted, due to the extremely large volume we receive.