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, 2022 through November 1, 2022.

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 2022.
  • 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.
  • Submitted story files should not include the journal name or other identifying information.
  • 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.

PEN America’s Emerging Voices Fellowship will select 12 emerging writers for a five-month mentorship program.

The Emerging Voices Fellowship provides a virtual five-month immersive mentorship program for early-career writers from communities that are traditionally underrepresented in the publishing world. The program is committed to cultivating the careers of Black writers, and serves writers who identify as Indigenous, persons of color, LGBTQ+, immigrants, writers with disabilities, and those living outside of urban centers. Through curated one-on-one mentorship and introductions to editors, agents, and publishers, in addition to workshops on editing, marketing, and creating a platform, the five-month fellowship nurtures creative community, provides a professional skill-set, and demystifies the path to publication—with the ultimate goal of diversifying the publishing and media industries. Twelve fellows will be chosen in 2022, each awarded an honorarium of $1,500.

Please read the following closely, as our application requirements have changed and aspects of our program have been adjusted for 2022. Learn more information on benefits and components of the program:

Fellowship Timeline:
The five months of the fellowship are designed for fellows to connect with mentors and the cohort and refine their writing project while learning new skills and building relationships with publishing industry instructors, PEN America staff, and the literary community.

January            2022 Emerging Voices Fellowship Application period
May                  Fellows announced
June-October   2022 Emerging Voices Fellowship period


  • Applicants must be 21 years of age or older at time of application.
  • Applicants do not need to be a U.S. permanent resident and/or citizen but must be residing in the United States at the time of applying for, and during the duration of, the fellowship.
  • Applicants must be available to participate actively in all dimensions of fellowship programming, including mandatory virtual workshops, virtual gatherings and virtual public programs.
  • Applicants cannot be enrolled in a degree-granting program at the time of the fellowship's start date (June 2022).
  • Applicants cannot be a recipient of an advanced degree in fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry.
  • Applicants cannot have one or more books published through major or independent publishers, university presses, or established presses, nor have a book under contract to a publisher at the time of application. Chapbooks or work published in literary journals are acceptable.
  • Former Emerging Voices Fellows are not eligible to reapply.

Selection Criteria and Process:

Given the highly competitive nature of the selection process for this fellowship, we advise using care in your project application. Though the application will be assessed as a whole, fellows will be selected primarily based on the strength of the writing sample by a committee of established writers and publishing professionals, former fellows, and PEN America staff. We encourage you to submit writing that best showcases your work.

Closely review all required materials listed below. Please be mindful of the specific application requests. Failure to follow instructions carefully will result in disqualification. Late applications will not be accepted, without exception. We suggest you submit early to avoid technical issues. Applicants may only submit in one genre to the 2022 fellowship.

The selection decisions of PEN America will be final and not subject to review. We regret that due to the volume of applications, we will not be able to provide any individualized feedback at any point during or after the application process. General questions about the application process sent to will be answered at the discretion of PEN America.

Applications close at 11:59pm ET on January 31, 2022. Fellows will be announced in May.

PEN America does not discriminate based upon age, color, national origin, physical or mental disability, race, religion, creed, gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, status as a veteran, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local law.

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 2022:

February 1, 2022

April 1, 2022

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  


The PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction is a career-founding prize, which promotes fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. Established by Barbara Kingsolver in 2000, it is awarded biennially to the author of a previously unpublished novel manuscript of high literary caliber that exemplifies the prize’s founding principles.

The winning unpublished novel manuscript is chosen by a panel of three judges, including one editor representing Algonquin Books and two distinguished literary authors. Entries are judged blindly, to avoid any form of bias, and the identities of the authors of the submissions are not known by the judging panel until after the decision is finalized.

The author of the winning manuscript is awarded a prize of $25,000 and a publishing contract with Algonquin Books, with an additional publishing advance. The winning author can expect to work closely with an editor from Algonquin prior to publication, and will receive promotional support from PEN America and Algonquin. Winners for this award are eligible to receive PEN America’s official winner seal.

Submissions for the 2023 cycle will be open June 1–September 1, 2022.

Defining Socially Engaged Fiction:

Socially engaged fiction may describe categorical human transgressions in a way that compels readers to examine their own prejudices. It may invoke the necessity for economic and social justice for a particular ethnic or social group, or it may explicitly examine movements that have brought positive social change. Or, it may advocate the preservation of nature by describing and defining accountable relationships between people and their environment.

The mere description of an injustice, or of the personal predicament of an exploited person, without any clear position of social analysis invoked by the writer, does not in itself constitute socially engaged literature. “Social engagement” describes a moral obligation of individuals to engage with their communities in ways that promote a more respectful coexistence, to question and confront, to work towards betterment.

Politically engaged literary fiction has influenced readers and social currents of every age, from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” – —which invigorated the American movement to abolish slavery— – through 20th-c Century classics such as “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair and Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.” More contemporary contributors to this tradition include Margaret Atwood, Jesmyn Ward, Louise Erdrich, Barbara Kingsolver, Tommy Orange, Richard Powers, Valeria Luiselli, Rion Amilcar Scott, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and others.

Because of its inherent challenges and discomforts brought to a reader, socially engaged fiction is often undervalued in American letters, while its role and recognition in American culture is only growing. Historically, its advocacy has not fallen within the stated goals of major North American publishers, endowments, or other prizes for the arts. The PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction was conceived to address these deficiencies, with the hope of enlisting more U.S. writers, publishers, and readers to share in this crucial endeavor.

Who is Eligible:

  • An unpublished novel manuscript by a writer who has not sold more than 10,000 copies of a previously published book. 
  • The submission must be an original, previously unpublished novel, written by one person in English, and at least 80,000 words in length.
  • The applicant’s submission may not be under consideration by any publisher during the judging period, and the work should not be submitted elsewhere during the review period for this prize.
  • Authors must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. 
  • Authors will have published at least three pieces of short fiction, poetry, or nonfiction in a literary journal, cultural website, or media outlet, which has undergone editorial review. 
  • Individuals who were previously finalists for the PEN/Bellwether Prize cannot submit the same work again for any future offerings of this award, unless the manuscript has undergone significant revisions.


  • Applicants will be notified in early fall if their manuscript is a finalist or is no longer under consideration, at which time they should feel free to submit the work elsewhere for consideration.
  • Approximately ten finalists for the award will be notified in early fall, and are asked to continue to keep their manuscript under exclusive consideration of the judges until the winner announcement.
  • The winner announcement will be made in early 2023.

How to Submit:

  • As one PDF document, upload a one-page synopsis of the work’s plot, as well as the manuscript. The author’s name should not appear anywhere in the synopsis and manuscript document, to ensure anonymity in the judging process. Any inclusion of the author’s name disqualifies them for the prize. 
  • The one-page synopsis of the work’s plot should also include how the work functions as socially engaged fiction. 
  • The author’s typed, double-spaced (12- point font), and paginated manuscript (at least 80,000 words in length) should include the title on every page. 
  • Separately, upload a résumé or curriculum vitae of three pages maximum. The author’s name and publication history should appear on this document for the Literary Awards team to review.
  • Each submission is $40. Should this fee prove a financial hardship for the applicant, they may request a fee waiver via, no questions asked.
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