Since 1963, the PEN America Literary Awards have honored outstanding voices in translation, fiction, poetry, science writing, essay, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, and drama. With the help of our partners, PEN America confers over 20 distinct awards, fellowships, grants and prizes each year, awarding nearly $350,000 to writers and translators. Please see individual awards below for submission and nomination guidelines.
View and search our archive of award winners here. Visit our Frequently Asked Questions page for more information or email [email protected]. For information on our Grants & Fellowships, click here. For regular updates on our Literary Awards, subscribe to our mailing list.
*Please note, the deadlines to submit and nominate have been extended to August 19 at 11:59pm ET.
2021 Awards Offered
For a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact. Previous winners include Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black (2019) and Layli Long Soldier’s WHEREAS (2018). Please note that candidates for this award are nominated internally by a panel of judges. Learn more »
For an exceptional book-length work of any genre by a writer of color. Previous winners include Nafissa Thompson-Spires’ Heads of the Colored People (2019) and Alexis Okeowo’s A Moonless, Starless Sky (2018). Learn more »
For achievement in international literature, multi-genre. Previous winners include Sandra Cisneros (2019), Edna O’Brien (2018), and Adonis (2017). Learn more »
Honoring a magazine editor whose high literary standards and taste have, throughout their career, contributed significantly to the excellence of the publication they edit. Candidates for this biennial award include current editors-in-chief, literary editors, and “back-of-the-book” editors of serious general interest magazines, book reviews, or literary reviews and quarterlies, whose intellectual discernment and wide range of interests recall the late PEN member Nora Magid. Learn more »
FICTION (back to top ↑)
For an exceptional debut short story collection. Previous winners include Will Mackin’s Bring Out the Dog (2019) and Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart (2018). Learn more »
For debut short stories published in a literary magazine or cultural website in 2020. Each of the 12 winners receives a $2,000 cash prize and publication in Catapult’s annual anthology, The PEN America Best Debut Short Stories. Learn more »
For a previously unpublished novel-in-progress that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. The winning manuscript receives a publishing contract with Algonquin Books. Past winners include Katherine Seligman’s If You Knew (2019) and Lisa Ko’s The Leavers. Learn more »
POETRY (back to top ↑)
NONFICTION (back to top ↑)
For an exemplary book of individual essays, exploring one specific theme or a range of subjects, published in 2020. Previous winners include Michelle Tea’s Against Memoir (2019) and Ursula K LeGuin’s No Time to Spare (2018). Learn more »
For a work that exemplifies literary excellence on the subject of the physical or biological sciences and communicates complex scientific concepts to a lay audience. Previous winners include Ben Goldfarb’s Eager: The Surprising, Secret Lie of Beavers and Why They Matter (2019) and Lindsey Fitzharris’s The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine (2018). Learn more »
For a biography of exceptional literary, narrative, and artistic merit, based on scrupulous research. Previous winners include Imani Perry’s Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry (2019) and John A. Farrell’s Richard Nixon: The Life (2018). Learn more »
For a distinguished book of general nonfiction possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective that illuminates important contemporary issues and that has been published in the United States. Previous winners include Mathew Desmond’s Evicted (2017) and Sheri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial (2015). Learn more »
TRANSLATION (back to top ↑)
For a book-length translation of poetry from any language into English published in 2020. Previous winners include Richard Sieburth’s translation of A Certain Plume (2019) and Simon Armitage’s translation of Pearl: A New Verse Translation (2017). Learn more »
For a book-length translation of prose from any language into English published in 2020. Previous winners include Martin Aitken’s translation of Love, by Hanne Ørstavik (2019) and Len Rix’s translation of Katalin Street by Magda Szabo (2018). Learn more »
DRAMA & PERFORMANCE WRITING (back to top ↑)
For a writer whose work exemplifies excellence and influence in the world of theater, television, or film. Learn more »
For a mid-career playwright of great promise. Previous winners include Lynn Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks, Luis Alfaro, Young Jean Lee, Tarell Alvin McCraney, and Sibyl Kempson. Learn more »