Literary Awards Program Director

PEN America, a nonprofit organization that stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide, seeks a creative, detail-oriented, and collaborative Literary Awards program director to lead the day-to-day operations of this high-profile program, continuing to support its strength and growth. This is a full-time position in New York.

The Literary Awards program is one of the most public ways PEN America recognizes the literary excellence that free expression rights make possible. PEN America confers more than 20 distinct awards, fellowships, grants, and prizes each year, awarding nearly $350,000 to the most outstanding voices in literature across diverse genres, including fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, biography, children’s literature, drama, and translations. The program director will be responsible for a year-round cycle of activities involving awards submissions, the designation of judges, creation and announcement of long and shortlists, determination of final awardees, and the annual awards ceremony. The role also offers the opportunity to expand the range of the program, including by linking the authors recognized with awards to other aspects of PEN America’s activity.

The successful candidate will thrive as part of a close-knit, mission-driven staff in a professional environment that treasures ideas, free expression, and the written word. The candidate must have demonstrated success in working with substantial autonomy, and should be prepared to interact directly with hundreds of writers and publishing professionals. The program director will enjoy an extraordinary vantage point on the breadth of modern literature and new and emerging voices in the literary scene. This position offers an unparalleled opportunity for a dedicated, skilled, and seasoned professional to work in an intellectually enriching environment, and in the literary and human rights sectors.


  • Set the annual awards calendar in coordination with other PEN America departments, and ensure that all deadlines are met
  • Organize annual meeting of the Literary Awards Committee and coordinate judge outreach with chair of the committee; identify and confirm more than 70 award judges, with special attention to involving a wide range of literary voices
  • Facilitate communication with judges over email and conference calls; support judges as needed and ensure they meet all deadlines for submitting their choices
  • Publicize award availability through appropriate print and online channels
  • Manage communications with publicists, agents, and authors throughout the awards cycle, including organizing the shipment of books by publishers to judges and drafting and sending notification/congratulatory letters to honorees
  • Oversee the submission vetting process: recruit and supervise volunteers in the timely vetting of over 1,200 submitted titles and applications; provide thoughtful final determination of eligibility; oversee, evaluate, and assign submissions for PEN America’s manuscript awards using the online platform Submittable
  • Administer all electronic communications for the awards including: draft press releases and webpages for awards announcements; create and disseminate e-blasts; create/update all awards webpages on; organize social media promotion
  • Create mailing lists for hard copy mailings; administer all print communications
  • Assist with the creation of graphic design artwork and printing of event marketing materials (save-the-dates, invitations, and program); proofread materials and manage printing timeline
  • Achieve revenue goals through advertising outreach to publishers, literary agencies, and other relevant organizations for the ceremony printed program
  • Work closely with director of communications and senior social media manager to prepare and schedule social media posts; oversee creation of promotional images for announcements
  • Ensure the timely, accurate, and courteous flow of information to Awards donors, including updates on awards decisions and shipment of finalists/winners books to donors
  • Ensure that all action items within award agreements with donors are met and successes are clearly communicated to donors, working in close collaboration with the chief development officer
  • Work closely with the Literary Programs team and assist with the logistics for the annual PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony: coordinate with caterer, bookseller, venue staff, and other vendors; draft run-of-show and presenter scripts; manage and track sales of reception tickets; prepare winner’s award checks and certificates
  • Curate and collaborate with the Literary Programs team to present events featuring awards finalists and winners, and related events as necessary
  • Support the senior director of Literary Programs and chief development officer in fundraising activities (researching donor prospects, cultivating donors for new PEN America Awards, etc.)
  • Recruit and oversee Awards interns


  • A minimum of 4–6 years of fast-paced and detail-oriented program management experience involving a large volume of information (admissions office and/or foundation administrative experience may be relevant)
  • Demonstrated passion for writers and writing, and exposure to the literary world and/or the publishing industry
  • Superb organizational and process management skills
  • Excellent attention to detail and proofreading skills
  • Willingness to attend events recognizing literary excellence and engage with the literary community in New York and beyond
  • Exceptional interpersonal skills, and ability to think creatively and collaboratively
  • Formidable work ethic and high energy level, with the ability to multitask effectively
  • Exemplary team player with professional demeanor and ability to work independently
  • Demonstrated ability to face challenges with creativity and problem-solving skills
  • Familiarity with Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, Photoshop, etc.) a plus

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

To Apply: Please submit a cover letter, resume, unedited writing sample, and the contact information for three references. Please submit the entire application to [email protected] One PDF is preferred. Please use “Program Director, Literary Awards” and your name as the subject of your email. 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.