PEN America will only accept submissions from editors of eligible publications. Authors may not submit their own short story for this award. Submissions will not be considered unless officially submitted via Submittable, with the corresponding declaration of eligibility and consent.

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 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 The PEN America Best Debut Short Stories, which will acknowledge the literary magazines and websites where the stories were originally published.



Submissions for the 2020 Awards cycle will be accepted from June 1, 2019, through November 15, 2019.


  • Submissions from editors of eligible publications. Authors may not submit their own work.
  • Stories must have been published or forthcoming in 2019.
  • Participating publications may be online magazines, print magazines distributed in the U.S., or cultural websites.
  • Editors from eligible publications may only submit a short story by a debut writer. The story must be the writer’s first English publication of ANY genre that has undergone an editorial review process and been accepted and published in a literary journal, book, media outlet, or other publication that the author is not academically or professionally associated with.
  • Editors from eligible publications may submit up to four eligible stories from eligible debut authors in a given award year.
  • Editors from eligible publications may submit short stories that are up to 12,000 words in length.
  • The editor and author must agree to the award’s declaration of eligibility and consent, which outlines serial rights for Catapult’s forthcoming anthology.


Submission guidelines

  • PEN America will only accept submissions from editors of eligible publications.
  • Authors may not submit their own short story for this award.
  • Editors from eligible publications must download and complete the award’s declaration of eligibility and consent. 
  • Upload all application materials and submit online via  Submittable.



Are writers still eligible if they have published poetry and/or nonfiction before?
No. This award is for emerging writers whose first publication is a short story. 

The story I plan to submit does not fit the exact formatting specifications (Times New Roman, 12 pt. font, double-spaced). Do I need to reformat? 
We understand that many literary journals publish stories according to their formatting conventions and that therefore, the style of the PDFs does not conform to the formatting specifications. If the copy is legible online and in hard copy, you do not need to reformat.

We would like to nominate an author who had a short story published on another online magazine almost simultaneously. We accepted the writer’s story first, but the magazine published their work first. Which publication is eligible to submit?
Under normal circumstances, we would consider whichever work was readable to the public first. If, however, the timing is too close to call, please have a discussion with the other publisher and decide which journal should submit to the prize and consult with the author. If this situation presents itself as an issue, please write to [email protected] for more clarification.

An author has previously published work on a blog or as a part of a school project. Are they still eligible?
An author becomes ineligible if the previous work underwent an editorial review process with a publication the author was not affiliated with academically or professionally.  

The author I wish to nominate has a piece that was accepted to our magazine in 2019, but the story will be published in 2020, can I still submit their work for the 2020 awards cycle?
For the 2020 awards, stories must be published in 2019 to be considered eligible. If the story is published in 2020, you may submit it for the 2021 awards cycle.

Can I submit PDFs from our forthcoming Fall or Winter issue?
Yes. You may submit PDFs for forthcoming stories as long as they are published by the end of the required calendar year.

I have had one story published before, but it was in a tiny journal that is not listed in your list of publications. Can I still be nominated?
The only exceptions we are open to are authors who have published in a foreign-language literary journal before their first official English-language publication. Please email us at [email protected] for more specific questions.

If an author has only published one short story during their career but has self-published writing online or as a book, does that in any way interfere with the author’s eligibility for this prize?
Please email us at [email protected] with the number of copies sold and the year it was self-published and we will let you know.

We’re publishing a debut short story as an ebook. Do you accept galleys?
An author would be ineligible if they are being published in a book with a press.

Would a creative nonfiction story be eligible for the  PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers?
No, the prize is for works of fiction only.

Are the writers signing a contract with Catapult for 1st North American rights? Does this contract include digital rights?
Writers would sign with Catapult for non-exclusive, second serial rights for print and digital. All other rights will be retained by the author. It’ll be as author-friendly as it can get.

For more information, visit our FAQ page here.