For many chasing the writing dream, self-identifying as a writer based in New York City is synonymous with struggle. While the inspiration that can be found in NYC is real, the anticipated glamour of the climb to success is more often supplanted by ego-busting rejection letters and a sad diet of whatever’s on sale at the grocery store. Now, thanks to the Table 4 Writers Foundation, a chance to ease the pressure (and perhaps temporarily, the ramen) exists. For the first time, the Foundation is offering grants of $2,000 for New York City fiction and nonfiction writers.
The Table 4 Writers Foundation was started this year to honor the memory of Elaine Kaufman, a New York restaurateur known for opening her doors to writers. Named after the table in Elaine’s restaurant that has been called the “Algonquin Roundtable of its generation,” the space offered writers a place to refuel, network, and take in some no-nonsense advice from Elaine. I spoke with Brian McDonald, the chair of the beneficiary committee of the Foundation, about the grant opportunity. As a former bartender in Elaine’s restaurant, McDonald has a special relationship to the mission of the Foundation. McDonald explained, “It was Elaine who suggested I go back to college, and it was Elaine who supported my dream to write. If I hadn’t worked at Elaine’s, and knew Elaine, I don’t think I would have become a writer.”
The Foundation’s first grant competition for writers was established to provide monetary support to promising writers who could use some extra help. Because Elaine was a New Yorker through and through, the grant is limited to New York City writers. “We hope to help promising or struggling writers who can use the two grand to further their careers or to take a little heat off their backs from the bill collectors. I know from experience, it’s not easy to make a living as an up-and-coming writer. It’s tough,” said McDonald. The grant winners will be announced around the time of Elaine’s birthday in February at an annual gala, where an award called “The Elaine” will also be given to a prominent writer.
According to McDonald, Elaine’s Upper East Side restaurant attracted both well-established writers, and those who were still waiting for a break. “Some of the big names that hung out at Elaine’s were once small names and struggling. She would give them a free meal, or hold their dinner checks for a while, until a royalty or advance check came their way. That’s the spirit we’d like to preserve.”
For more information and the grant application, click here. The deadline is October 15th.
Photograph by Jonathan Becker.