Sunday, June 01, 2008

Suggested Blog Topic: The Poet's Stipend

Here's an interesting topic that was requested recently. When someone asks you what's your normal stipend (or payment) for their conference, reading, etc. What do you say?

It seems it varies between event. For example, most poets tend to do readings for free and are excited if there's payment. While conferences or leading a workshop require more work and organization, plus your time, travel, and sometimes lodging.

I have taught at one day conferences where payment has ranged from $150-$250 for teaching one class. Of course, you don't just teach your class and leave, so your time is there for the day, but in most cases, you're welcome to attended other classes or workshops, which for me is a bonus.

Bigger poetry festivals will usually cover lodging and food and can pay $250 per workshop, reading, or lecture you teach. Most giving poets 3-4 of these in a 2 (sometimes 3) day period.

When asked for what my stipend is for an event, I usually give amounts I've been paid before then offer that most likely their standard payment would be adequate (given travel expenses to get to the place aren't ridiculously expensive). Though I know poets who have driven through sleet and rain, taken ferries and buses to arrive at an event to read (without payment) to three people. And I remember her saying, "That's what poets do. I was glad to have been there."

What's your thought on being paid for a workshop or class? Is it different than being paid for a reading (which I'm guessing most of us aren't expecting payment.) Or am I wrong, do you expect to be paid for a reading?

What do you feel is a fair price to pay poets when they teach a workshop or a class, give a reading, or participant in a writer's conference?

With the price of gas rising, the price of travel has increased, because of this, should poets be paid more or does that determine what events you'll do as a poet?

Feel free to post what you've been paid (if anything) and you're welcome to be anonymous with the event if you like, just let us know what kind of event it was--poetry festival, workshop, college lecture, talk, etc.

What are your thoughts on this topic?


  1. This is an interesting topic, Kelli -- I have been on the opposite end where I have arranged for poets' visits on campus. I always feel awkward talking about money. However, I was shocked the first time I told a possible visiting poet our standard payment of $500 per reading and $300 for workshop and she readily agreed, no questions asked. I later found out that was a pretty good amount, although I thought it was pretty low... I teach at a community college where there isnt' a lot of money, but I've heard that even "richer" colleges don't pay much.

    I'm interested in what people have to say...

  2. I wish I had something to contribute to this topic, because I, too, find it facinating. Sadly, I don't.

    Other than a free dinner, I have not been paid to read. However, I'm hoping that changes once my book is published.

  3. Even though I've been writing poems for roughly 40 years, and have published four books of poems (or five, if I count a self-published one long ago) and have another book forthcoming, and even though I've lived most of my life in a city with an active poetry life--

    I've never been invited or hired to teach anywhere, and have been paid, I think, five times for readings -- once I got $20.00, a couple of times I got $15.00 each, and once I got $5.00. And recently I was paid with a $5.00 gift certificate for food at the cafe where I was reading.

    Off the top of my head, I don't know what I think a fair payment would be. One way to approach it might be to figure out how much it costs to live with at least minimal comfort for a month, and then divide that by the number of reading and/or teaching gigs in a month. Whatever dollar amount is the result might be a fair payment.


Always love to hear from you...and the anonymous option is open for those feeling shy.

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