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. View and search our archive of Award winners here.
Submissions for the 2021 Literary Awards cycle will open on June 15, 2020. Nominations for the PEN America Career Achievement Awards are open to PEN America Members. Please see individual awards below for submission and nomination guidelines or visit our Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.
For information on our Grants & Fellowships, click here.
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2020 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 achievement in international literature, multi-genre. Previous winners include Sandra Cisneros (2019), Edna O’Brien (2018), and Adonis (2017). Learn more >>
FICTION (back to top ↑)
POETRY (back to top ↑)
Recognizing a poet whose distinguished and growing body of work to date represents a notable and accomplished presence in American literature. Nominations are requested from Professional Members of PEN America. Previous winners include Kamau Brathwaite and Ed Roberson. Learn more >>
NONFICTION (back to top ↑)
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 >>
TRANSLATION (back to top ↑)
For the translation of Paraguayan literature from Spanish or Guarani into English. It is open to both established and emerging Paraguayan writers. The award carries a cash stipend of $3,000 for the living author and another $3,000 is given to the winning translator in order to bring the work to the English-speaking world. Previous winners include Javier Viveros and Nathalia María Echauri Castagnino. Learn more >>
DRAMA & PERFORMANCE WRITING (back to top ↑)
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 >>
For a writer whose work exemplifies excellence and influence in the world of theater, television, or film. Learn more »
OFF-YEAR AWARDS (back to top ↑)
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 >>
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 >>
Recognizing the high literary character of the published work to date of a new and emerging American poet of any age and the promise of further literary achievement. Poets nominated for the award may not have published more than one book of poetry. Previous winners include Natalie Scenters-Zapico and Saeed Jones. Learn more >>