Friend letter of recommendation?
January 26, 2009 6:56 AM   Subscribe

How do I write a letter of recommendation for someone seeking grant money write her novel, especially given that I'm a long-time friend and not a former teacher or mentor?

I know her work, her character, and I certainly have glowing things to say about her. But I'm not an authority, nor am I published. My most relevant credentials are my B.A. Honors in comparative literature and admission to Ph.D programs at two Ivy League schools (I started but didn't finish that Ph.D...). How much do I say about myself? Do I focus on her work or her character?

Please note: She will have two letters from former professors and has a very impressive CV.
posted by kitcat to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
you're kind of like the personal reference on a resume. you can testify to her character, her passion for writing, etc.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:29 AM on January 26, 2009

It's nice to have character references on a resume, to be sure, but it depends a lot on what kind of grant she's applying for here. Is it an actual research grant, where she has a project and maybe a lab (or is part of a lab) and wants substantial funding for the project from some agency? Or is it more the other UK sense of "grant" where you mean a sum of money given to a student to meet living expenses and such while doing classwork and research, the sort that most UK university students get? I think that if it's the latter sort of stipend, a character reference helps a good bit.

If it's more a competitive grant (say, one from the NSF or NEH) where she's up against top tier people with ongoing research programs, then I think your letter is no help and may even hurt in very competitive circumstances. ("She only knows two professors who can say anything good and she had a friend who's not even in grad school yet write one? Why won't her profs speak up for her?") You don't say what field she's in, but if it's very far removed from yours, then talk about her research from you is probably a bad idea. A better sense of (1) what she does and (2) what kind of grant it is might get you better answers here.
posted by el_lupino at 7:56 AM on January 26, 2009

This is a grant for the Arts (Canada). The government has a mandate to provide financial support to artists, allowing them to pursue creative projects while taking the pressure off the whole 'making a living' thing.

The grant would be to help her write her novel and has nothing to do with research and the university. Nevertheless, her masters in performing arts (specifically, acting) informs her work and will no doubt be a factor in her consideration by the grant committee. The committee will be made up of artists and non-artists. Her masters, combined with her acting portfolio is what I meant by CV.
posted by kitcat at 8:24 AM on January 26, 2009

I wrote a similar character reference for one of my friends when we were both in high school. The key is to talk about her--her skills, her passions. As with any letter of recommendation, try to be specific, bringing up examples. Only talk about yourself if it's relevant to the example you are immediately discussing, i.e. "I met Julie in an improvisational acting class. Her passion for acting was evident from the first day, and is part of what drew me to her," etc.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:31 AM on January 26, 2009

Try to provide information that illuminates how seriously she takes the opportunity to write and the high probability that she will complete the work within the grant term. "Julie's discipline, persistence and capacity for sustained work are legendary in our circle of friends. For example, she went from couch potato to marathon runner by setting out a daily plan to get in shape, reaching her goal in just eighteen months."
posted by carmicha at 10:30 AM on January 26, 2009

Given the elaboration there, I think your letter could certainly be a plus.
posted by el_lupino at 5:26 PM on January 26, 2009

« Older Taking grains of salt seriously   |   Can a US/Canadian dual citizen travel in Cuba... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.