MWA Announces the Barbara Neely Memorial Scholarship Program

Mystery Writers of America announces scholarship in memory of our 2020 Grand Master, Barbara Neely

July 13, 2021, New York, NY – Mystery Writers of America has 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 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.

The award also includes a one-year membership in Mystery Writers of America, including membership in the winner’s local chapter and all member benefits listed at:

Beginning in July 2021, MWA will accept applications for the scholarship from July 1st through September 30th. The applications will be reviewed by the Barbara Neely Scholarship committee, including Black crime writers, and the winner will be announced in the late fall.

Applicants must be Black, American citizens, and age 18 or older. They must submit a brief biography, competed application form, and 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. Prior membership in MWA is not required.

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. The committee’s decision is final.

The application is here or by contacting Mystery Writers of America. Questions can be addressed to:

Apply now, and good luck!