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 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 to 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:
Paul Thomas Anderson
Ariel & Will Durant
Maxine Hong Kingston
Ursula K. Le Guin
Joyce Carol Oates
Gus Van Sant
PEN Center USA 2017 Literary Awards
Eligibility and Submission Guidelines
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.
Fiction; Creative Nonfiction; Research Nonfiction; Poetry; Translation; Young Adult; Graphic Literature:
Books must have been published in 2016.
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, CreateSpace, 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.
Submitting to the Literary Awards FAQ
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 and/or U.S citizens 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, young adult, graphic literature, translation, journalism, drama, screenplay, and teleplay.
When are the submissions to the Literary Awards accepted?
Each year, the entry period runs from the date the annual call for submissions opens in the 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.
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.
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, CreateSpace, 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 or publisher 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 or publisher may submit.
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. Scripts under consideration are not eligible.
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 30th 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.
Print content must be original. Excerpts serialized from fiction and nonfiction books, op-ed pieces, and blogs are not eligible.
Will my submission(s) be returned?
No. PEN Center USA is unable to return submissions.