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2019 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers

The PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers recognizes 12 emerging fiction writers each year for their debut short story published during a given calendar year in a literary magazine or cultural website and aims to support the launch of their careers as fiction writers.

Each of the 12 winning writers receives a cash prize of $2,000. The independent book publisher Catapult will publish the 12 winning stories in an annual anthology entitled The PEN America Best Debut Short Stories. The literary magazines and websites where the stories were originally published will be acknowledged in the anthology.

Click here for additional information, including submission guidelines, for the award.

2019 Best Debut Short Stories anthology cover

2019 Winners

“The Rickies” (Nimrod Journal), Sarah Curry
“Mother and Child” (The Sun), Laura Freudig
“The Manga Artist” (The Iowa Review), Doug Henderson
“Good Hope” (Auburn Avenue), Enyeribe Ibegwan
“Cicadas and the Dead Chairman” (Epiphany), Pingmei Lan
“Without a Big One” (Kweli Journal), John Paul Infante
“Last Days, Part 1” (Black Warrior Review), Tamiko Beyer
“Tornado Season” (Alaska Quarterly Review), Marilyn Manolakas
“Bad Northern Women” (Conjunctions), Erin Singer
“The Unsent Letters of Blaise and Jacqueline Pascal” (Conjunctions), Kelsey Peterson
“Today, You’re a Black Revolutionary” (The Rumpus), Jade Jones
“Vain Beasts” (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet), A. B. Young


DANIELLE EVANS is the author of the story collection Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, winner of the PEN American Robert W. Bingham prize, the Hurston-Wright Award, the Paterson Prize, and a National Book Foundation 5 under 35 selection. Her stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies including The Best American Short Stories, The Paris Review, A Public Space, American Short Fiction, The Sewanee Review, Callaloo, and New Stories From the South.

ALICE SOLA KIM, a left-handed anchor baby currently residing in New York, is a winner of the 2016 Whiting Award. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in places such as Tin House, The Village Voice, McSweeney’s, Lenny, BuzzFeed Books, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy. She has received grants and scholarships from the MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Elizabeth George Foundation.

CARMEN MARIA MACHADO‘s debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, was a finalist for the National Book Award, the Kirkus Prize, LA Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, the World Fantasy Award, the Dylan Thomas Prize, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, and the winner of the Bard Fiction Prize, the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, the Brooklyn Public Library Literature Prize, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize. In 2018, The New York Times listed Her Body and Other Parties as a member of “The New Vanguard,” one of “15 remarkable books by women that are shaping the way we read and write fiction in the 21st century.”

Her essays, fiction, and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Granta, Harper’s Bazaar, Tin House, VQR, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, The Believer, Guernica, Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Michener-Copernicus Foundation, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the CINTAS Foundation, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She is the Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania and lives in Philadelphia with her wife.


PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2019, out now from Catapult

“Each story displays a mastery of the form, sure to inspire readers to seek out further writing from these adept authors and publications.” —Booklist

The stories collected here represent the most recent winners of the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers, which recognizes twelve writers who have made outstanding debuts in literary magazines in the previous year. Chosen by a panel of distinguished judges, themselves innovators of the short story form, they take us from the hutongs of Beijing to the highways of Saskatchewan, from the letters of a poet devoted to God in seventeenth-century France to a chorus of poets devoted to revolution in the “last days of empire.” They describe consuming, joyful, tragic, complex, ever-changing relationships between four friends who meet at a survivors group for female college students; between an English teacher and his student-turned-lover in Japan; between a mother and her young son.

In these stories—selected by judges Danielle Evans, Alice Sola Kim, and Carmen Maria Machado—a woodcutter who loses his way home meets a man wearing a taxidermied wolf mask, and an Ivy League–educated “good black girl” climbs the flagpole in front of the capitol building in South Carolina. Each piece comes with an introduction by its original editors, whose commentaries provide valuable insight into what magazines are looking for in their submissions, and showcase the vital work they do to nurture literature’s newest voices.

Read a Q&A with 2019 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers winner A.B. Young here »

Read a PopMatters review of the anthology here »