Assistant, Literary Awards

PEN America, a growing nonprofit organization that stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression and celebrate the power of writing, seeks a highly organized, skilled, and energetic literary awards assistant. This role is a core to PEN America’s Literary Awards program, which confers over $330,000 each year to writers and translators at all stages of their careers, administering distinct awards and grants in the fields of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, science writing, biography, translation, and more. This is a full-time position based in New York and reports to the program director of literary awards.

The ideal candidate is an enthusiastic self-starter and highly organized with high attention to detail; strong written and verbal communication skills; experience in project management using a range of approaches and techniques; and experience working on multiple timelines and projects at once. The literary awards assistant is a hands-on role on a tight-knit team accustomed to working on a range of projects at a fast pace. This is a full-time position based in New York and reports to the literary awards program director and will work closely with the literary programs department and other key members of staff.

The literary awards assistant’s primary duties include managing awards data and submissions; scheduling and assisting judge deliberations; communicating with industry professionals via email and in-person and virtual meetings; handling donor relations; creating industry reports; processing check requests and acknowledgement letters; and assisting with planning and executing the annual literary awards ceremony. Additional duties include working closely with the communications department on marketing the literary awards program and coordinating efforts with the finance department. Creativity, determination, imagination, and strategic thinking are important aspects of the role, as are strong organizational skills, efficient follow-through on all assignments, and an interest in developing systems to increase efficiency for the program. Professionalism, attention to detail, confidentiality, and discretion are fundamental to this role.

This is an ideal position for an early career professional with at least one year of relevant office experience. The successful candidate will have exposure to multiple aspects of the publishing industry, with significant opportunities to develop a portfolio of skills related to relationship stewardship and events production and to have increased responsibilities over time. The candidate will gain hands-on experience and learn the operational details of executing a literary awards program, from book submissions to industry communications to ceremony production.

Candidates representing diverse backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply.


  • Support overlapping programmatic timelines and calendars, ensuring all deadlines are met
  • Manage databases, recordkeeping, event logistics, expense and communications tracking, and other administrative tasks for the awards program as appropriate
  • Maintain accurate records, including deadlines, contact information, communications, and other data relevant to awards program 
  • Draft and edit content for PEN America’s website and social media, press releases, one-sheets, and other communications materials, including marketing campaigns on behalf of the literary awards program and ceremony
  • Cultivate and sustain positive relationships with partners, including high-profile judges, honorees, and committee members
  • Track and manage communications with judges to ensure meetings and timelines are met as they deliberate on longlists, finalists, and winners
  • Organize and track digital and physical book materials for judges, as well as catering and materials related to the ceremony
  • Assist in setting up internal and external meetings, preparing advance briefings and supporting materials, and provide meticulous note-taking and follow-up communications
  • Liaise with finance department to track funding and process check requests, winner payments, and honoraria
  • Support the PEN America’s awards ceremony from inception to completion, including project tracking, solicitations and other correspondence, events logistics, research, and audience development
  • Provide other assistance to the literary programs department as needed
  • Assist with recruitment, training, and managing interns


  • At least one year of relevant professional experience
  • Knowledge of contemporary literature
  • Meticulous attention to detail and focus on precision in all aspects of work, including understanding brand guidelines and copyediting
  • Demonstrated project management and organization skills, including meeting the logistical needs of multiple projects simultaneously and ability to prioritize multiple tasks or adapt to new priorities in a fast-paced environment
  • Excellent interpersonal and written/oral communications skills; ability to exercise appropriate level of professionalism and discretion when dealing with information of a highly confidential nature
  • Exceptional problem-solving skills, and the ability to follow through from the identification of a challenge to its solution
  • Strong research, writing, and communication capabilities, including capacity to create engaging content targeted toward specific audiences
  • Collaborative, personable energy, with an enthusiasm for building new networks and partnerships
  • Ambitious work ethic and ability to produce high-quality contributions both independently and as part of professional, fast-paced team
  • Commitment to diversity and inclusiveness through proactive approaches and ability to support relationships with diverse stakeholders
  • Demonstrated interest in acquiring new skills, and ability to do so quickly
  • Ability to research, compile, and summarize data for reports
  • Knowledge of Excel/Google Sheets (required) and Microsoft Office Suite


  • Attention to detail and demonstrated capacity for creative problem-solving are crucial
  • Strong ability to communicate in writing in a range of forms and contexts
  • Ability to handle relationships with stakeholders with tact and maturity
  • Ambitious work ethic and ability to work both autonomously and as part of departmental or cross-departmental team
  • Exceptional organizational skills and the ability to prioritize multiple tasks
  • Exemplary capacity to maintain confidentiality and discretion

Salary and Benefits: PEN America offers competitive compensation and benefits, commensurate with experience.

To Apply:

Please submit a cover letter, resume, and the contact information for three references. Please submit the entire application as one PDF to [email protected]. Please use “Literary Awards Assistant” and your name as the subject of your email (for example, “Literary Awards Assistant – Jane Doe”). Only complete applications will be reviewed, and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

PEN America is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices, and in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

No phone calls, please.

About PEN America:

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.