The PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship is offered annually to an author of children’s or young adult fiction. It has been developed to help writers whose work is of high literary caliber and is designed to assist a writer at a crucial moment in his or her career to complete a book-length work-in-progress. The author of the winning manuscript, selected blindly by judges unaware of nominees’ names, will receive an award of $5,000.

The Fellowship is made possible by a substantial contribution from PEN America Member Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, the prolific author of more than 140 books, including Now I’ll Tell You Everything, the 28th and final book in the acclaimed Alice series, as well as Faith, Hope, and Ivy June and Shiloh, the first novel in a trilogy, which won the 1992 Newbery Medal. On establishing the Fellowship Mrs. Naylor said: “We truly work ‘blind,’ with no assurance whatsoever that anyone will be interested in our final product. It takes enormous stamina and resolve and optimism to live with our characters for a year or more—and it’s my hope that the Working Writer’s Fellowship, modest as it is, will let the author know that an expert panel of PEN judges has faith in the writer, admires his work, and trusts that he will be able to bring to paper what he sees in his head.”


Fellowship Recipients

PEN America has awarded grants to 18 winning projects to date. You can view the full list of recipients below.

2018 Fellowship Recipient

Vicky Shiefman for Help Me God, Please Pretty Please 
Judges: Lyn Miller-Lachman, Linda Sue Park, and Francisco X. Stork

This manuscript is not under contract. To request a manuscript excerpt, please contact [email protected].

From the judge’s citation: “Vicky Shiefman’s middle-grade novel, Help Me God, Please Pretty Please, shows 11-year-old Molly struggling with her faith and spirituality as she tries to decide what kind of bat mitzvah party she wants to have. Religion is a topic underrepresented in trade books for young readers of all ages; the judges admired the writer’s courage in addressing the topic directly by portraying both Conservative and Reform Judaism. The potentially heavy subject matter is leavened by Molly’s humorous voice: She is vulnerable, compassionate, indecisive, believable. One of the excerpt’s greatest strengths is its use of dialogue, demonstrating the writer’s skill in developing character and furthering plot without forced or awkward exposition. As Molly explores her faith through her relationships with family and friends, religion is depicted as not limited to special celebrations and observances, but a part of daily life.”

Published Manuscripts