The PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers recognizes 12 emerging writers each year for their debut short story published in a literary magazine, journal, or cultural website, and aims to support the launch of their careers as fiction writers. The 12 winning stories are selected by a committee of three judges who are well-respected experts in the art of the short story. The winning writers each receive a $2,000 cash prize and will be published by Catapult in their annual anthology, Best Debut Short Stories: The PEN America Dau Prize.
The prize is generously supported by the family of the late Robert J. Dau, whose commitment to the literary arts has made him a fitting namesake for this career-launching prize. Inspired by Dau’s hometown in northern Michigan and its proximity to Walloon Lake, where Ernest Hemingway spent much time and derived inspiration from, the prize promotes emerging voices and spotlights the next generation of fiction writers.
Judges: Sabrina Orah Mark, Emily Nemens, Deesha Philyaw
“A Wedding in Multan, 1978” (The Asian American Literary Review) Yasmin Adele Majeed
“All We Have Left is Ourselves” (Reckoning) Oyedotun Damilola Muees
“Beat by Beat” (Barrelhouse Magazine) Emma Shannon
“For Future Reference: Notes on the 7-10 Split” (The Cincinnati Review) Patch Kirschenbaum
“Man, Man, Et Cetera” (The Virginia Quarterly Review) Cal Shook
“Sacrilege” (BOMB Magazine) Edward Salem
“The Black Kite and the Wind” (Virginia Quarterly Review) Erin Connal
“The Cacophobe” (Ploughshares) Seth Wang
“The Chicken” (The White Review) RZ Baschir
“Them Bones” (Hobart) CK Kane
“Work Wives” (Typehouse Literary Magazine) Preeti Vangani
“Writing with Blood” (Flock) Catherine Bai
“Force, Mass, Acceleration” (The Southern Review), Heather Aruffo
“Good Girls” (Barrelhouse), Lindsay Ferguson
“The First Time I Said It” (The Georgia Review), Isaac Hughes Green
“Maria” (Waxwing Magazine), Amy Haejung
“The Math of Living” (Virginia Quarterly Review), Nishanth Injam
“Transit” (Virginia Quarterly Review), Khaddafina Mbabazi
“Re:Frankie” (Porter House Review), Mackenzie McGee
“The Strong-Strong Winds” (adda), Mathapelo Mofokeng
“Salt” (Michigan Quarterly Review), Alberto Reyes Morgan
“The List” (Kestrel: A Journal of Literature and Art), Stanley Patrick Stocker
“Taxi” (Midwest Review), Pardeep Toor
“Mandy’s Mary Sue” (Sine Theta Magazine), Qianze Zhang
“Bat Outta Hell” (Foglifter Journal), Damitri Martinez
“Cats vs. Cancer” (New England Review), Valerie Hegarty
“Dog Dreams” (Quarterly West), Sena Moon
“Don’t Go to Strangers” (Zyzzyva), Matthew Jeffrey Vegari
“Evangelina Concepcion” (Epiphany), Ani Sison Cooney
“Failure to Thrive” (The Paris Review), Willa Richards
“Gauri Kalyanam” (The Rumpus), Kristen Sahaana Surya
“Madam’s Sister” (Granta), Mbozi Haimbe
“Summertime” (Michigan Quarterly Review), Mohit Manohar
“The Good, Good Men” (Puerto del Sol, Black Voices Series), Shannon Sanders
“The Other Child” (The Threepenny Review), David Kelly Lawrence
“The Water Tower and the Turtle” (Granta), Kikuko Tsumura, translated by Polly Barton
“The Rickies” (Nimrod Journal), Sarah Curry
“Mother and Child” (The Sun), Laura Freudig
“The Manga Artist” (The Iowa Review), Doug Henderson
“Good Hope” (Auburn Avenue), Enyeribe Ibegwan
“Cicadas and the Dead Chairman” (Epiphany), Pingmei Lan
“Without a Big One” (Kweli Journal), John Paul Infante
“Last Days, Part 1” (Black Warrior Review), Tamiko Beyer
“Tornado Season” (Alaska Quarterly Review), Marilyn Manolakas
“Bad Northern Women” (Conjunctions), Erin Singer
“The Unsent Letters of Blaise and Jacqueline Pascal” (Conjunctions), Kelsey Peterson
“Today, You’re a Black Revolutionary” (The Rumpus), Jade Jones
“Vain Beasts” (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet), A. B. Young
“1983” (The Baltimore Review), Elinam Agbo
“Appetite” (SLICE), Lin King
“Bellevonia Beautee” (The Rumpus), Lauren Friedlander
“Black Dog” (Black Warrior Review), Alex Terrell
“Brent, Bandit King” (The Brooklyn Review), Grayson Morley
“Candidates” (Washington Square Review), Megan Tucker
“New Years in La Calera” (EPOCH), Cristina Fries
“Six Months New” (New England Review), Celeste Mohammed
“Stay Brave, My Hercules” (McSweeney’s), Ernie Wang
“The Crazies” (One Story), Maud Streep
“Videoteca Fin del Mundo” (Black Warrior Review), Ava Tomasula y Garcia
“Zombie Horror” (The Baltimore Review), Drew McCutchen
“Galina” (Fifth Wednesday Journal), Angela Ajayi
“The Handler” (Southwest Review), Amber Caron
“Tell Me, Please” (The Common), Emily Chammah
“The Asphodel Meadow” (The Summerset Review), Jim Cole
“Solee” (The Southern Review), Crystal Hana Kim
“The Manual Alphabet” (Fence), Samuel Clare Knights
“Goldhawk” (The Malahat Review), Katherine Magyarody
“A Modern Marriage” (Boston Review), Grace Oluseyi
“1,000-Year-Old Ghosts” (Hyphen Magazine), Laura Chow Reeve
“State Facts for the New Age” (The Rumpus), Amy Sauber
“A Message” (Epiphany: A Literary Journal), Ruth Serven
“Edwin Chase of Nantucket” (Harvard Review), Ben Shattuck
Eligibility and Submission Guidelines
- Stories must be submitted by editors of literary magazines, journals, or cultural websites and published in the English language. Publications may be based and/or distributed anywhere in the world, so long as the story submitted was originally written in and published in English. Authors may not submit their own work.
- Participating publications include literary magazines, journals, or cultural websites published on a recurring schedule.
- Stories must have been published or forthcoming in the applicable calendar year.
- Editors from eligible publications may only submit a writer’s debut short story. “Debut” is defined as the writer’s absolute first fiction publication in any language, which has undergone an editorial review process and been accepted and published in a literary outlet that the author is not academically or professionally associated with. Translations are ineligible. Writers who have published one or more books which have undergone editorial review are ineligible.
- Editors from eligible publications may submit up to four eligible stories from debut authors in a given award year. Stories may not exceed 12,000 words in length.
- Both the editor and debut author must agree to and sign the award’s declaration of eligibility, which outlines serial rights for Catapult’s forthcoming anthology, and upload all application materials and submit online via Submittable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, so long as the story submitted is the writer’s first fiction publication. Writers who have published one or more books of poetry, nonfiction, or other writing which has undergone editorial review are ineligible for the prize.
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 consider only whichever work was readable to the public first. If this situation presents itself as an issue, please write to [email protected] for more clarification.
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. Blog posts that have not been reviewed by an editor do not render the writer ineligible.
Submitted stories must be published in the calendar year prior to the corresponding Awards Ceremony. For example, for the 2020 awards cycle, stories must have been published in 2019 to be considered eligible. If the story is published in 2020, you may submit it for the 2021 awards cycle.
Yes. You may submit PDFs for forthcoming stories as long as they are published by the end of the required calendar year.
This prize is for a writer’s first fiction publication that has gone through an editorial review process. If the self-published writing has generated significant sales or readership, please email [email protected] with the number of copies sold, years self-published, and other relevant information to confirm eligibility.
An author would be ineligible if they are being published in a book with a press. Stories published in anthologies are ineligible.
No, the prize is for works of fiction only.
Writers would sign with Catapult for nonexclusive, 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.
Yes, so long as this is your first piece of fiction writing published that has also undergone editorial review.
No, stories whose first publication is in an anthology are ineligible. Participating publications include literary magazines, journals, or cultural websites published on a recurring schedule.
No. The debut short story must be originally published in English. Translations are not eligible.
No, the debut story has to be the writer’s first short story or piece of fiction ever published in any language that has undergone an editorial review process.
Yes, so long as the stories were originally published in English and meet all the eligibility requirements.
Get the Free Speech News You Need
PEN America has a new weekly newsletter, PEN Points, bringing you a digest of the biggest free expression news of the week, plus the analysis and insights you trust from PEN America experts.