McKnight Artist Fellowships for Writers, $25,000 Loft Awards in Creative Prose and in Children’s Literature/Older Children

DEADLINE: 11:59 pm Friday, November 20, 2020. Entries must be submitted through our online portal Submittable by 11:59 pm. Please note that our office hours are not extended on that date, so please ask questions and make sure you are familiar with the application process before the deadline.

The Loft Literary Center is pleased to announce the 2021 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Writers, made possible by the generous support of the McKnight Foundation. McKnight also funds artist fellowship programs in ceramic arts, choreography and dance, music composition, music performance, playwriting, and theater arts, screenwriting, and visual arts.


The McKnight Artist Fellowships for Writers provide Minnesota writers of demonstrated ability with an opportunity to work on their craft for a concentrated period of time.  The intent of this program is to recognize and support midcareer artists living and working in Minnesota who demonstrate a sustained level of accomplishment, commitment, and artistic excellence.

Four $25,000 fellowships are offered in alternating years to writers of creative prose and poetry. This year’s four awards will be in creative prose, which includes fiction and literary nonfiction such as memoir, personal essay, and autobiography.  

A $25,000 fellowship is awarded each year in children’s literature, including poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction. This year’s award is offered to a writer for children 8 years of age or older.

McKnight Fellows are also entitled to up to $3,000 in reimbursement to attend a writing conference or retreat during their fellowship year. These fellowships do not support the work of playwriting, journalism, or nonfiction that is written primarily for educational or technical use.


Prominent writers and editors living outside of Minnesota serve as the judges. There are no screening judges. All manuscripts are judged anonymously. 

Due to the number of entries received, it is not possible for the judges to make individual comments on the manuscripts. 


General Requirements 

Applicants must have been legal residents of Minnesota for the 12 months prior to the application deadline and must currently reside in Minnesota.  

Applicants may apply for only one McKnight Artist Fellowship per year. You may not apply for the Award in Creative Prose and also apply for any other McKnight Fellowship, including the Award in Children’s Literature, or a McKnight Fellowship in an alternate discipline, such as ceramics or music.

Recipients of the McKnight Fellowship in any discipline in the last five years are not eligible to apply. Honorable mentions are eligible.

Prior recipients of the McKnight Fellowship must demonstrate a new body of work since their last Fellowship.

Full time students in a degree granting program are not eligible to apply.

Loft and McKnight Foundation staff and board members are not eligible.

If you have questions about your eligibility for the McKnight Artist Fellowships for Writers, please email Bao Phi, Director of Events and Awards, at  

Additional Requirements for the Loft Awards in Creative Prose

In addition to the general eligibility requirements, applicants must have: 

  • Published a book (e.g., novel, memoir, collection of short stories or personal essays). OR
  • Published at least 5 pieces of original work in no fewer than three literary journals or magazines that regularly feature prose as part of their format. Work published in an online journal that has an editorial process is eligible. Work published in an anthology is eligible. The same piece printed in a journal and in an anthology may only be counted once; applicants may not use multiple publications of the same work to meet the 5 required pieces.
  • Authors counting a self-published book for eligibility must include a brief letter from the publisher confirming that the manuscript underwent an editorial process. Please upload this in the eligibility requirements.
  • Work that is pending publication and will be published before April 1, 2021 is eligible. When asked for proof of eligibility, please upload a letter from the editor or publisher with proof of publication.  

Additional Requirements for the Loft Award in Children’s Literature

In addition to the general eligibility requirements, applicants must have

  • Published a book for children eight years or older, in any genre other than educational textbook material OR
  • Published at least 3 pieces of original work in one or more publications that regularly feature creative work for children eight years or older as part of their format. Work published in an online journal that has an editorial process is eligible. Work published in an anthology is eligible. The same piece printed in a journal and in an anthology may only be counted once; applicants may not use multiple publications of the same work to meet the 5 required pieces. 
  • Work that is pending publication and will be published before April 1, 2021 is eligible. Please provide a letter from the editor or publisher with proof of publication.  

Ineligible work in both awards:

  • Student-only publications 
  • Self-published books that did not go through an editorial process
  • Work published on personal home pages or online sites that do not have an editorial process.  
  • Work in a genre outside the category in which you are applying.  (e.g., published poetry may not be used to meet the publication requirements for the Award in Creative Prose)
  • Work that has previously won a McKnight Artist Fellowships for Writers. If you are a previous winner, you must submit a manuscript different from the one for which you received the earlier award. 
  • Translations.


You must apply through Submittable and you will need to create a Submittable account if you do not already have one. If you have technical submission questions, please contact Submittable technical support at 

In addition to the form in Submittable, you will need to prepare three files to upload with your submission (see descriptions on the next page for details): 

  • a work sample
  • proof of Minnesota residency
  • proof of publication
  • if self published, or have work pending publication, a letter from the editor


Please prepare your writing sample. All work samples must be anonymous. If your name appears as part of the manuscript text, omit it, use a pseudonym, or redact it out so it is illegible. Do not include your name as part of the writing sample file name. Identifying information should only be included in the Submittable application form, which is blind to the judge. Identifying information anywhere in the submitted work sample file will disqualify your submission. 

Loft Awards in Creative Prose: Applicants should submit at least 20 but no more than 25 pages of a typed (12-point font), double-spaced manuscript. Pages must be consecutively numbered.

Loft Award in Children’s Literature: Applicants should submit a manuscript that is at least 5 but no more than 20 pages in length and that is written for ages 8 and older. Manuscripts may be in prose or poetry, or a combination of the two. All manuscripts must be typed in a 12-point font. Prose manuscripts should be double-spaced. Poetry may be single- or double-spaced. All pages must be consecutively numbered. 


The Loft requires finalists to provide proof of Minnesota residency. This can be a scan or digital photo of a Minnesota Driver’s License, ID, or utilities bill with name and address and date. Name, address, and date should be clearly legible.


Applicants must submit proof of each publication necessary to meet eligibility. For books, we will need a photocopy or scanned image of the title and copyright pages. For journals, we will need photocopies or scanned documents of either the cover or title page of the journal as well as the table of contents page and the pages on which your work appears. For self published books, please provide a brief letter from the publisher confirming an editorial process.  

  • Work samples may be submitted as PDF, DOC, DOCX, RTF, MP3, WAV, MP4, or MOV files.   
  • All manuscripts must be anonymous. If your name appears as part of the manuscript text, omit it, use a pseudonym, or redact it so it is illegible. 
  • Applicants should include a brief biographical statement—you will see a field for this in Submittable. Do not attach the biographical statement to your manuscript. The biographical statement is used for publicity purposes only when the winners are announced. Biographical statements are not seen by the judges.

DEADLINE: 11:59 pm Friday, November 20, 2020. Due to the anticipated volume of requests for help, please plan ahead and ask questions before the deadline week to ensure a reply. Please note that the Loft office hours will not be extended the evening of the deadline. Entrants will be notified of their status by the end of April, 2021. Winners will begin receiving payments in May, 2021. 

Applications for summer youth classes are now being accepted and are due Monday, November 16th 2020. 

Due to the continued uncertainty regarding the public health situation in Minneapolis we have decided to move forward with an online-only Young Writers Program in 2021; our move to an online only class schedule necessitates some rethinking of our typical summer calendar.

What Does This Mean for You? Due to the specific needs and feedback of youth students, parents, and teaching artists, we have decided to restructure our youth programming to better address realities of online learning. Instead of week-long, three-hour session classes running through July and August, summer youth programming will be spread over a period of two months (mid-June to mid-August), and will be comprised primarily of three types of classes: 1) Summer-long (8 week) classes 2) Month-Long (4 week) classes, and 3) Week Long Intensives (1 week, five session classes).

The posted Reference Guide for Teaching Artists, also on the website, has many answers to FAQ's on everything from Loft policies to teacher pay to descriptions of all the various programs and opportunities the Loft has to offer. Please read this reference guide before emailing the education director or program associates with questions. Please note that some of the information in that document will reference in-person class offerings. Youth classes will be offered online only and be delivered using Zoom and Google Classroom.

The Loft is dedicated to offering classes that are as imaginative and multicultural as the students and communities that we serve. We seek reading lists, class content, and approaches to discussions on craft that are inclusive and diverse, as well as timely, contemporary and accessible (readily available online, not out of print). The Loft is also invested in equity; a thoughtful, intentional statement about your own approach to creating equity in the class room is an important part of this proposal. Class proposals not adhering to these stipulations are unlikely to be accepted.  
There is no theme for summer - except, you know, FUN!.

What We're Looking For in the The Loft’s Young Writers’ Program move online
Writers, teachers and artists who are enthusiastic about nurturing the creative writing life of young people ages 9-17 are invited to submit class proposals. The deadline for class proposals for summer youth is Monday, November 16th 2020. The summer session is the biggest term of the year for children and teens, with the most classes offered, and therefore the most opportunity for teaching.
For summer classes, we will be offering a mix of 8 week, 4 week, and weeklong-intensive classes, classes will typically meet for 60-90 minutes during the AM (between 10am-12pm CDT) or PM (between 1pm -3pm CDT) hours (Mon - Fri). If you feel your class warrants a different time frame, put it on your proposal and it will be considered.

The Loft’s Young Writers’ Program has featured offerings in the past such as poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, historical fiction, fantasy, fairy tales, spoken word, irony, satire, SAT/ACT essay writing, Graphic Fiction, and writing for zines. We also invite course proposals for playwriting, screenwriting, songwriting, journalism, and humor writing, among many others.
Fiction classes almost always do very well across age ranges: short story writing, novel writing, world building, writing characters, fantasy - anything that allows young children and maturing teens to engage their rich imaginations.
Creative Nonfiction classes also do very well, though vary according to age. Essay writing classes (for college applications, SAT/ACT essays, personal statements, basic essay writing for school, opinion pieces, etc) do very well for teens (13-17 but especially 15-17). Writing about family or self, exploring identity, autobiography, journal writing, school- and homework help classes, etc., do well for younger kids (12-14, but especially 9-11 years.)
Poetry classes can struggle across all age ranges. Even spoken word, performance poetry, and/or hip/hop and song writing.  Please come up with creative ways to engage young minds in writing poetry! The Loft would love to schedule more youth classes in this genre, but they are now generally fairly limited due to the high cancellation rate.
Play- and Screenwriting classes also struggle across all age ranges, though this genre is often requested. Again, please come up with creative ways to engage young minds in writing plays or screenplays!
Comics/graphic novel classes are often in HUGE demand across age ranges but especially for kids ages 9-11. Classes that incorporate drawing as a way to tell the story are also of interest, for those reluctant writers.
A note about 6-8 year old classes: At this point, we are not seeking unsolicited classes for 6-8 year olds due to the specific needs of this age range. If you have taught a class for 6-8-year-olds in the past of have serious interest in submitting one for summer 2021, please email Brianna Low at
Other genres and subgenres are welcome: creative process/journaling classes, writing "realities" like how to get published, how to make a career out of writing, journalism, science fiction/fantasy, horror, romance, picture books, etc.

Now Seeking...
Writing Groups/Writing Lab Type Classes Across all Age Ranges We have received requests for this type of content from students and parents. These classes are meant to build community, provide opportunities to meet and connect other writers, get feedback, get prompts, and share ideas. These are generic, multi-genre, and more “informal” classes with a main goal of connecting young writers with each other.

Teen Book Club/Reading as Writers classes: I would like to schedule several hybrid book club and writing classes; class topics, writing exercises, and discussion would revolve around one book you read together as a class. I would like Reading as Writers classes to meet twice a week for four weeks, with class sessions of 90 minutes each; but if you have different schedule request, please don't hesitate to reach out.

About Young Writers
Young students include motivated writers who are passionate about their art, as well as reluctant readers and writers who may lack confidence in their abilities. Classes are offered by age-range, typically:

  • Ages 9-11
  • Ages 12-14
  • Ages 13-17
  • Ages 15-17

 Teaching Artists tailor their content to the students’ age and developmental level.   

Most Loft policies for adult education apply to the Young Writers’ Program as well (teaching artist pay rate, cancellation of class due to low enrollment policy, etc.), but there are many exceptions and additions meant to serve the different needs of a youth population. For more information, or if you have questions, please contact Brianna Low, at

Tech Support

Online classes will be supported by Loft staff, who will help manage the administrative and technical side of setting up Zoom and Google Classrooms and getting that information to your students. We have put a lot of time and effort into creating extensive training documents and manuals for both teaching artists and students; once your class has been scheduled, the youth program coordinator is also happy to schedule 1-1 Zoom or Google Classroom tutorials as needed. Should you feel unsure or would like more information about how classes are delivered or how to use Zoom or Google Classroom, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

What we are not looking for

We have not had success with classes that feel academic in nature (e.g., assigning academic writing texts, reading lists that are too long, reading classes built around classics) or are too niche. Please get to know our catalog and current offerings to see what we do.

Feel free to inquire before writing a full proposal by emailing Brianna Low,, with a title and description. New teaching artists are encouraged to attach a CV.

Terms of Agreement  
   By continuing with this application you are indicating agreement with the following terms and code of conduct.
Teaching Artists are Independent Contractors  
   As an independent contractor, please note that the Loft does not make deductions from your compensation for taxes. We’ll provide you with IRS Form 1099 at the beginning of each calendar year. You’ll need to indemnify the Loft against adverse rulings by any taxing authority as a result of the consulting contract or in the event that you fail to qualify as an independent contractor for tax purposes.   
   You’ll be paid $6.50 per student per contact hour based on enrollment for your second class meeting (students may drop the class during the first week). For example, if you are teaching a 6-week class with an enrollment of 14 students, your compensation will be $1,092. Tuition alone does not cover the cost of the Loft’s sliding-fee classes, which are made possible, in part, through grants and individual donations. Please consider becoming a member of the Loft (membership is not required to teach at the Loft).   
   Those teaching a class for readers, which are more discussion based, facilitated book clubs, with no writing instruction involved, will be paid a flat rate of $45 per hour, regardless of the number of students enrolled. Minimums remain 7, maximums remain 12-17, depending on the max choice of the teaching artist.   
Teaching Artist Supervision and Performance Review
   As an independent contractor, you truly are working independently within the parameters of your teaching contract. Our main performance review tool is student evaluations, which we also send to you. It’s a good idea to survey your students mid-way through the class in order to build upon what students feel are the most helpful elements of the class, and to proactively address any concerns students may raise. If you’re teaching at the Loft for the first time, a member of the Education Team may attend your first class meeting to provide assistance, support, and encouragement.   
Class Texts, Handouts, and Copy Fees
   Required texts for online classes should be readily available online, in bookstores, and/or in libraries. College textbooks are often too expensive for Loft students and not a good fit for enrichment classes. When you select texts, please keep in mind that some students may have limited time available for readings and assignments outside the classroom. Often Teaching Artists prefer hand-outs to books.   
   Copy fees for hand-outs are not included in tuition; students pay you directly during class. Please be sure to bring enough hand-outs for your students. Emergency copies may be made at the Loft for .10 cents per copy. You may not require students to purchase books you have written unless your book is an instructional text on the content you’ll be teaching. Feel free to use your own work to illustrate a lesson, but please do not use class time to promote sales of your books, and don’t sell your books to students during class.   
Controlled Substances
   Alcohol and other mood-altering drugs are prohibited while directly engaging with students, with the exception of medically prescribed or over-the-counter drugs.   
Class Cancellation Due to Low Enrollment
   If six students are enrolled, you may choose to teach the class (please be aware that enrollment may further drop prior to your second class meeting). If less than six students are enrolled, the class is canceled, typically 3-5 business days before the first scheduled class meeting.   
Class Cancellation Due to Weather  
   The Loft follows the University of Minnesota’s lead on class cancellations due to weather. If concerned, please call us at 612-379-8999. We’ll announce cancellations via an email, on our website, and on our phone line.   
Class Cancellation by Teaching Artist
   Please contact us if you will miss a class due to illness or emergency. We’ll inform your students and work with you to schedule a make-up class. Please do not arrange for a substitute to teach your class without prior approval from Loft staff. If you cancel a scheduled class you have agreed to teach or fail to show up for your class, you will ineligible to teach at the Loft in the future.   
Criminal Background Check
   The Loft Literary Center is required by its policies and its insurance carrier to conduct a criminal background check on anyone who will work, in any capacity, with minors. Teaching artists who refuse the criminal background check will not be eligible to teach classes for children and/or teens.   
Promotion of Non-Loft Programs and Services
   Many Teaching Artists also offer private services, and many teach at other organizations. We’re happy to include your website address in your Teaching Artist bio. Feel free to respond to student inquiries about your services and other classes, but please do not use class time to promote your services, books, or classes you teach at other organizations.   
Code of Conduct  
   The Loft has revised and expanded their code of conduct, especially around sexual harassment. Please see the complete document here.

The Loft Literary Center