The PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers recognizes twelve emerging writers each year for their debut short story published in a literary magazine, journal, or cultural website, and aims to support the launch of their careers as fiction writers.


Each of the twelve winning writers receives a cash prize of $2,000 and the independent book publisher Catapult will publish the twelve winning stories in an annual anthology entitled Best Debut Short Stories: The PEN America Dau Prize, which will acknowledge the literary magazines and websites where the stories were originally published.

Submissions will be accepted from June 1, 2021 through November 15, 2021.

Who is Eligible:  

  • Stories must be submitted by editors of literary magazines, journals, or cultural websites and published in the English language. Publications may be based and/or distributed anywhere in the world, so long as the story submitted was originally written in and published in English. Authors may not submit their own work.
  • Participating publications include literary magazines, journals, or cultural websites published on a recurring schedule.
  • Stories must have been published or forthcoming in 2021.
  • Editors from eligible publications may only submit a writer’s debut short story. “Debut” is defined as the writer’s absolute first fiction publication in any language, which has undergone an editorial review process and been accepted and published in a literary outlet that the author is not academically or professionally associated with. Translations are ineligible. Writers who have published one or more books which have undergone editorial review are ineligible.
  • Editors from eligible publications may submit up to four eligible stories from debut authors in a given award year. Stories may not exceed 12,000 words in length.
  • Both the editor and debut author must agree to and sign the award’s declaration of eligibility and consent, which outlines serial rights for Catapult’s forthcoming anthology, and upload all application materials and submit online via Submittable.
  • There are no restrictions on the candidate’s age or on the style of work.


The U.S. Writers Aid Initiative is intended to assist fiction and non-fiction authors, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, translators, and journalists. To be eligible, applicants must be based in the United States, be professional writers, and be able to demonstrate that this one-time grant will be meaningful in helping them to address an emergency situation. The fund is limited, and not every application can be supported. Grant decisions are made on a periodic basis by a volunteer committee of literary peers in consultation with PEN America staff, using the following guidelines to evaluate professional credentials:

  • Publication of one or more books. (Writers who are only self-published or published by a press that charges for publication are not eligible.)
  • Multiple essays, short stories, or poems appearing in literary anthologies or literary journals (either online or in print) in the last two years.
  • A full-length play, performed in a theater by a professional theater company. Productions in academic settings qualify if the author is not a student at the time of the production.
  • Production of a motion picture project or a segment of television.
  • Employment as a full-time professional journalist, columnist, or critic, or a record of consistent publication on a freelance basis in a range of outlets during the last two years.
  • Contracted forthcoming books, essays, short stories, poems, or articles for which the name of the publisher can be provided.
  • Other qualifications that support the applicant’s professional identity as a writer.

The U.S. Writers Aid Initiative is not intended to subsidize writing-related expenses, such as equipment, printing, shipping, travel, or publicity services. Writers do not have to be Members of PEN America to receive a grant, but all recipients of emergency funding will be given a complimentary one-year PEN America membership. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, and will be reviewed on or about the following dates in 2021 and 2022:

October 1, 2021

December 1, 2021

February 1, 2022

April 1, 20222

June 1, 2022

August 1, 2022

October 1, 2022

December 1, 2022


Please review all eligibility criteria before applying. We encourage applicants to be specific and thorough in presenting their case for support so that a proper evaluation of the application can be made. All complete applications will be reviewed, and all applicants will be notified of a grant decision within 10-12 weeks' time. Not all applications will be supported, and the Committee’s decision is final. 


Questions may be addressed to the writersfund@pen.org.  

PEN America