Literary Awards and Festival

2016 Literary Awards

PEN Center USA 2016 Literary Awards Call for Submissions is Now Open

About

The PEN Center USA Literary Awards judges work produced or published by writers living west of the Mississippi River. Entries in eleven categories—fiction, creative nonfiction, research nonfiction, poetry, children’s/young adult, graphic literature, translation, journalism (print and NEW online), drama, screenplay, and teleplay—are reviewed and judged by panels of distinguished writers, critics, and editors. Winners are announced in the late summer. Each winner receives a $1,000 cash prize, a one-year membership in PEN Center USA, and two tickets to the Literary Awards Festival in the fall.

A selection of past Literary Awards and Honoree Awards winners includes:

Steve Allen
Woody Allen
Isabel Allende
Rudolfo Anaya
Paul Thomas Anderson
Mark Boal
T.C. Boyle
Ray Bradbury
Octavia Butler
Sandra Cisneros
George Clooney
Daniel Clowes
Cameron Crowe
Joan Didion
Ariel & Will Durant
Dave Eggers
Ben Ehrenreich
Morgan Entrekin
Mark Fainaru-Wada
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Carrie Fisher
Matt Fraction
Betty Friedan
Alex Gansa
Larry Gelbart
Howard Gordon
Matt Groening
Vaclav Havel
Christopher Isherwood
Pauline Kael
Charlie Kaufman
Barbara Kingsolver
Maxine Hong Kingston
Norman Lear
Ursula K. Le Guin
Elmore Leonard
Walter Mosely
Joyce Carol Oates
Mimi Pond
Robert Pinsky
Gideon Raff
Joe Sacco
James Salter
Dan Savage
Neil Simon
Gloria Steinem
Oliver Stone
Danny Strong
Michael Tolkin
Gus Van Sant
Gore Vidal
Alice Walker
Billy Wilder
Steven Zaillian

Submit Work to the Literary Awards

Submitting to the PEN Center USA 2016 Literary Awards
Eligibility and Guidelines


Residency Requirements

Writers and translators whose primary residence while writing their entries was in the United States, west of the Mississippi River (including all of Minnesota and Louisiana), are eligible. For works written by two or more persons, the majority of the writers must reside west of the Mississippi River.
 

Categories

Screenplay/Teleplay

Please contact stacy_valis@penusa.org for requirements and deadlines.

Only original written material is eligible for submission. Documentaries are ineligible.

BOOK CATEGORY: Book Category submissions period now CLOSED.

Eligible: Only professionally published books (i.e., when an author receives payment from a recognized publisher; see exceptions, below) are considered eligible.

Ineligible: Books published with/by companies such as America Star, AuthorHouse, Author Solutions, Author’s Choice, Book Surge, iUniverse, Lulu.com, Xlibris, etc., are considered print-on-demand/self-published and are ineligible. E-books, anthologies, literary journals, and “Best Of” collections are ineligible.

NON-BOOK CATEGORIES:

Journalism: Journalism category submission period now CLOSED.

New in Journalism: Now accepting online as well as print articles!

Print journalism publications
must have been published at least three times during 2015 and must still be active at the end of the year. A publication that is discontinued after completing its publication schedule for 2015 is nonetheless eligible to submit to the 2016 Literary Awards.

Special sections or special issues of print publications that meet the above requirements are eligible only if they were distributed to the full and customary list of subscribers and newsstands.

Print content must be original and must have been published in 2015.

Excerpts serialized from fiction and nonfiction books are not eligible.

Online journalism (NEW!) publications must have been launched before January 1, 2015, and must be able to show that they are still active in December 2015.

Online journalism must have been published in 2015. It is assumed that websites will be updated after an entry is submitted, but screenshots of content as it was originally published may be requested by the administrators of the awards.

Excerpts serialized from fiction and nonfiction books are not eligible.

Blogs are not eligible.

Drama: Drama category submissions period is now CLOSED.

Plays must have been originally performed in 2015. Staged readings are not eligible.

 

What needs to be included in a submission package?

For book categories (fiction, creative nonfiction, research nonfiction, poetry, children’s/young adult, translation, graphic literature), send four (4) copies of the title being submitted; the entry fee; and one completed submission form for each title.

The book category submissions period is now closed.

For print journalism, send four (4) copies of the title being submitted; the entry fee; and one completed submission form for each title.

For online journalism, send a flash drive containing a PDF of the original page containing the full work being submitted and showing the date of original publication; the entry fee; and one completed submission form for each title.

The journalism category submissions period is now closed.

For drama, send four (4) copies of the title being submitted OR a flash drive containing a PDF of the original script containing the work and the debut performance date; the entry fee; and one completed submission form for each title.

The drama category submissions period is now closed.

For screenplay and teleplay, please contact stacy_valis@penusa.org for submission procedures and deadlines.

Frequently Asked Questions

Submitting to the Literary Awards FAQ

How do the Literary Awards contribute to PEN Center USA’s Freedom To Write mission?
By recognizing the best writing in the West, PEN Center USA gives winning writers exposure to a readership that they might not have otherwise reached.

Who is eligible to submit work to the Literary Awards?
Writers and translators whose primary residence while writing their entries was in the United States, west of the Mississippi River (including all of Minnesota and Louisiana), are eligible. For works written by two or more persons, the majority of the writers must reside west of the Mississippi River.

Work may be submitted by writers, or by their publishers, agents, or publicists.

Are only members of PEN Center USA eligible to enter the Literary Awards?
No. Any writer who meets the residency requirements and the requirements of the submission category is eligible to enter.

In which categories are the Literary Awards given?
Awards are given for fiction, creative nonfiction, research nonfiction, poetry, children's/young adult, graphic literature, translation, journalism, drama, screenplay, and teleplay.

When are the submissions to the Literary Awards accepted?
The entry period each year runs from when the annual call for submissions opens each summer up to the posted deadlines for that submission period.

When are the Literary Awards winners announced?
The winners are announced each fall.

How are the winners chosen?
Entries are read and evaluated by a distinguished panel of judges. The judges select one winner and up to three finalists for each category.

When must entries have been published to be eligible?
Entries must have been published in the calendar year for which PEN Center USA is accepting submissions. See individual categories for details.

What is the deadline to submit to the Literary Awards?
Book category submissions (fiction, creative nonfiction, research nonfiction, poetry, children's/young adult, graphic literature, translation) must be postmarked by December 31st.

Non-book category submissions (journalism, drama, screenplay, teleplay) must be postmarked by February 28th.

Are writers who live west of the Mississippi River but are not U.S. citizens eligible to enter the awards?
Yes, they are eligible.

If a writer is a U.S. citizen and lives in British Columbia, Canada, west of the Mississippi River, may he or she enter the awards?
No. Only writers who live west of the Mississippi River in the United States may enter the Literary Awards.

If a writer lived west of the Mississippi River while researching and writing the book, but moved before deciding to enter the awards, is he or she still eligible?
Yes. Writers must have lived west of the Mississippi River in the United States while writing the submission.

If two people coauthored a book, and one of them lives west of the Mississippi River while the other lives east, is their book eligible?
Yes. However, if a book is coauthored by three people, two of the three must reside west of the Mississippi River in the United States.

If a writer wrote a children’s book/graphic novel and lives east of the Mississippi River, but the illustrator lives west of it, is the book eligible?
No. The writer must reside west of the Mississippi River.

Are self-published, print-on-demand, or e-books eligible for submission?
No. Only professionally published books (i.e., when a writer receives payment from a recognized publisher) are considered eligible. Books published with/by companies such as America Star, AuthorHouse, Author Solutions, Author’s Choice, Book Surge, iUniverse, Lulu.com, Xlibris, etc., are considered print-on-demand and are ineligible. At this time, e-books are also ineligible.

Are anthologies eligible?
No. Anthologies, literary journals, and “Best Of” collections are not eligible.

Is there a limit to how many titles an individual writer may submit per year?
No. Provided each submission was published in the calendar year for which PEN Center USA is accepting submissions and that all other criteria, including writers’ residency requirements, are met, there is no limit to how many titles an individual writer may submit. Each submission must include four (4) copies of the title being submitted, the submission fee, and one completed submission form for each title.

Is there a limit to how many titles a publishing house may submit on behalf of its writers per year?
No. Provided each submission was published in the calendar year for which PEN Center USA is accepting submissions and that all other criteria for submissions, including writers’ residency requirements, are met, there is no limit to how many titles a publisher may submit. Each submission must include four (4) copies of the title being submitted, the submission fee, and a completed submission form for each title.

If a play/screenplay/teleplay was written over a year ago but it was not produced/released/aired until this year, is it eligible?
Yes. The only time frame eligibility requirement for performance categories (i.e. drama, screenplay, and teleplay) is that the submission was originally performed or produced in the calendar year for which PEN Center USA is soliciting. Staged readings are not eligible.

If a screenplay/teleplay is under consideration but has not yet been produced, is it eligible?
No. Screenplays and teleplays must have been produced in the calendar year for which PEN Center USA is soliciting to be eligible for submission.

Are documentaries eligible?
No. Only completely original written material is eligible for submission.

What are the requirements specific to the journalism category?
Print journalism publications must have been published at least three times during the calendar year for which PEN Center USA is accepting submissions and must still be in existence at the end of that year.

Digital journalism websites must have been launched before June 30 of the calendar year for which PEN Center USA is accepting submissions, and must be able to show that they are still active at the end of that year.

All content must have been originally published in the calendar year for which PEN Center USA is accepting submissions.

Blogs are not eligible.

See the submission form/rules for complete requirements.

What needs to be included in a submission package?
For book categories (fiction, creative nonfiction, research nonfiction, poetry, children’s/young adult, translation, graphic literature), send four (4) copies of the title being submitted; the entry fee; and one completed submission form for each title.

For journalism, send four (4) copies of the title being submitted (print) OR a flash drive containing a PDF of the original page containing the work and showing the date of original publication (online); the entry fee; and one completed submission form for each title.

For drama, send four (4) copies of the title being submitted OR a flash drive containing a PDF of the original script containing the work and the debut performance date; the entry fee; and one completed submission form for each title.

For screenplay and teleplay submissions please contact PEN Center USA at awards@penusa.org for submission procedures.

If the writer is unsure of which category to select, will PEN Center USA make the choice, or is it possible to select multiple categories?
No. Before submitting, a decision must be made as to the category in which the work is entered. There is no multiple category consideration. Submissions that do not indicate a category on the form will be deemed ineligible.

Will my submission(s) be returned?
No. PEN Center USA is unable to return submissions.

What methods of payment does PEN Center USA accept for submissions?
PEN Center USA accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express, checks drawn on U.S. banks, and money orders. DO NOT SEND CASH. Entry fees are non-refundable.