Barbara Neely Scholarship

2023 Barbara Neely Scholarship – Now Open for Applications

In 2021, MWA established a new scholarship program in honor of the late Barbara Neely, a trailblazing Black crime novelist who was named a Grand Master by MWA in late 2019. A novelist, short story writer, and activist, Ms. Neely was best known for creating the distinctive amateur sleuth Blanche White, featured in the novels Blanche on the Lam, Blanche Among the Talented Tenth, Blanche Cleans Up, and Blanche Passes Go. She was named a Grand Master not only for the high quality of the work she produced during her career, but also for being an inspiration to an entire generation of crime writers of color.

Ms. Neely was to be publicly honored by her colleagues and presented with the Grand Master award at the 2020 Edgar Awards banquet. Sadly, Ms. Neely passed away in March 2020 before she could be feted and honored as she deserved.

After her unfortunate passing, the organization’s board of directors received permission from Ms. Neely’s family to establish an annual scholarship in her memory for a Black crime writer. After some discussion, the MWA Board of Directors decided to give out up two scholarships of $2000 each per year: one for an aspiring Black writer who has yet to publish in the crime or mystery field, and another for Black authors who have already published in crime or mystery. These two scholarships are intended to assist the winner with writing craft or progress in their crime writing career. At the discretion of the winner, the scholarship can be used for such tools as writing classes or professional conferences, computer equipment or appropriate software, writing retreats or working weekends away from the cares and distractions of home. MWA requires only that the scholarship apply to writing in the crime and mystery genre, which includes both fiction and nonfiction.

Winners will receive a one-year membership in Mystery Writers of America, which includes membership in the winner’s local chapter and all member benefits listed at:

Applicants must be Black, American citizens, and age 18 or older. They must submit a brief biography, competed application form, a 300-500-word statement on their interest in the mystery genre and in general terms (class, conference, equipment, etc.) how they would use the scholarship funds, and a copy of their CV/resume highlighting their education/writing career. Prior membership in MWA is not required.

The application period is September 25, 2023 through October 31, 2022.

The Barbara Neely Scholarship will be awarded on the basis of writing ability, interest in the crime/mystery genre, and likely benefit from the scholarship funds and MWA membership. Please note that previous winners are not eligible to enter.The committee’s decision is final.

You can find the application here or request a copy by contacting Mystery Writers of America. Questions should be addressed to:

Apply now, and good luck!