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Best Debut Short Stories 2023: The PEN America Dau Prize with Richard Chiem and Catapult Books

Best Debut Short Stories is an annual celebration of the most promising short story writers today. Selected by a panel of distinguished judges, these twelve stories are the 2023 winners of the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers, which recognizes each writer’s outstanding debut in a literary magazine. The prize is generously supported by the family of the late Robert J. Dau, whose commitment to the literary arts has made him a fitting namesake for this career-launching prize.

The winning stories are published by Catapult in their annual anthology, Best Debut Short Stories: The PEN America Dau Prize. This year’s stories were selected by judges Venita Blackburn, Richard Chiem, and Dantiel W. Moniz, innovators of the short story form. Each story is accompanied by an introduction from the journal editor who first published it, providing insight about what’s exciting in fiction right now, and recognizing the vital work literary magazines do in nurturing new voices.

The stories in this year’s anthology encompass fraught family gatherings, death, inheritance, reproduction and birth, translation, secrets, and betrayals. They show us what we would rather not face: a grandmother’s repeated resurrection, the loss of a child, a family’s excuses for a predator. They direct our attention away from fluorescence and to the natural world: iguanas climbing into beds, a reflection in an orange, sweat like rain drops, gossamer petals, a child named Ant. They question how well we can ever know other people: partners reconsidering each other on the brink of divorce, an imaginary roommate. They remind us that some questions have no perfect answer: Why pretend not to understand someone in need? What can anyone do with anxieties over becoming a parent?

Register here to attend

The event will include readings from:

Jo Saleska

Ren Arcamone

Lisa Wartenberg Vélez

Patrick J. Zhou

Annabelle Ulaka

Clara Mundy

Sonia Feldman

Mengyin Lin

Faire Holliday

Dailihana Alfonseca

Read interviews with this year’s winners here. 


Richard Chiem is the author of You Private Person (Sorry House Classics, 2017), and the novel, King of Joy (Soft Skull, 2019), which was long-listed for the 2020 PEN Open Book Award. He was named a 2019 Writer to Watch by the Los Angeles Times. He was also a judge for the 2023 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. He lives in Seattle.