Our Scholarship Program aims to nourish a vibrant literary culture by providing support to teachers, librarians, and readers while promoting the work of new voices in American literature. There are three principal opportunities:
1. Johnson, Merrill, & Russo Awards
Dynamic writers who possess the voice, skill, and poise to succeed at the national level are urged to apply now for one of our named awards. Winners of the Cecelia Joyce Horton Johnson Fiction Award, the Scotti Merrill Memorial Award, and the Marianne Russo Award receive full tuition to our January seminar and workshop program, round-trip airfare, seven nights’ lodging, financial support for living expenses while in Key West, and the opportunity to appear on stage during the Seminar. Our named awards recognize emerging writers of exceptional merit; applicants are based primarily on the strength of a manuscript, with some attention given to references and a cover letter. Application deadline is September 15.
2. Financial Assistance
Teachers, librarians, and writers who would not otherwise be able to attend the seminar and/or writers’ workshop program are eligible to apply now for financial assistance. We are looking for applicants whose professional roles and personal skills allow them to have a positive impact upon readers of all ages; and for emerging writers committed to improving their craft among our literary community in Key West. Financial assistance is primarily given in the form of fee reductions; a limited number of applicants will also receive discounted lodging options.
3. Liz Lear Scholarship
Readers and writers living in Key West or within easy commuting distance may now apply for the Liz Lear Scholarship. The winner will receive full tuition to our January seminar and/or writers’ workshop program. This annual award recognizes a Florida Keys resident who is passionate about the written word.
All financial assistance applications received by the priority deadline of June 30 will receive equal consideration. Thereafter, applications will be considered on a rolling basis until funds/space are depleted. Applications for named awards must be received by September 15; award applicants interested in financial assistance as a ‘backup plan’ are urged to apply by June 30.
Financial assistance to teachers, librarians, writers, and students is possible in large part thanks to generous support from Judy Blume’s KIDS Fund.
The Johnson, Merrill, and Russo awards are the legacies of the remarkable individuals for whom they are named; and a testament to the generosity of the patrons whose gifts will support them into the future:
Cecelia Joyce Horton Johnson is a writer and regular seminar attendee who felt moved to enable new writers to benefit from the seminar and workshop program. She and her husband, the sculptor Seward Johnson, winter in Key West and are generous patrons of the arts. As founder of the Dogwood Foundation, Scotti Merrill first convinced its trustees to support KWLS many years ago. Together with Dogwood, her daughter Holly Merrill established this award as Scotti’s lasting legacy to arts and education. Marianne Russo was a teacher, writer, and longtime friend of KWLS. Her devoted friend Peyton Evans, who founded this prize in partnership with the Rodel Foundation, remarks: “It is most appropriate that this will be Marianne’s permanent legacy, perpetuating her love of writing and the deep connections she made with people.”
Liz Lear is a member of the KWLS board of directors and a passionate reader who has attended all thirty-two seminars. The anonymously supported scholarship in her name honors Liz’s commitment to Key West and its readers and writers for over fifty years.
In six years, we have provided support to more than 325 individuals with nearly $300,000 in fee waivers and lodging and travel assistance.