PEN America Literary Award PEN/Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers

The PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers recognizes 12 emerging fiction writers each year for their debut short story published in a literary magazine or cultural website and aims to support the launch of their careers as fiction writers.

Each of the 12 winning writers receives a cash prize of $2,000. The independent book publisher Catapult will publish the 12 winning stories in an annual anthology entitled The PEN America Best Debut Short Stories. The literary magazines and websites where the stories were originally published will be acknowledged in the anthology. 


Judges: Tracy O’Neill, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, and Deb Olin Unferth

“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

Pre-Order from Catapult

Previous Anthologies


Previous Winners

“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  


Submissions for the next awards cycle will be accepted from June 1, 2019 – November 15, 2019. Please note that submissions will not be considered unless officially submitted via the online form AND received at the PEN America New York office with the corresponding declaration of eligibility and consent.

Who is Eligible


  • Submissions from editors of eligible publications. Authors may not submit their own work.
  • Stories must have been published (or forthcoming) in 2019.
  • Participating publications may be online magazines, print magazines distributed in the U.S., or cultural websites.
  • Editors from eligible publications may only submit a short story by a debut writer. The story must be the writer’s first English publication of ANY genre that has undergone an editorial review process and been accepted and published in a literary journal, book, media outlet, or other publication that the author is not academically or professionally associated with.
  • Editors from eligible publications may submit up to four eligible stories from eligible authors in a given award year.
  • Editors from eligible publications may submit short stories that are up to 12,000 words in length.
  • The editor and author must agree to the award’s declaration of eligibility and consent, which outlines serial rights for Catapult’s forthcoming anthology.
How to Submit
  • PEN will only accept submissions from editors of eligible publications.
  • Authors may not submit their own short story for this award.
  • Editors from eligible publications must download and complete the award’s declaration of eligibility and consent.
  • Upload all application materials and submit online via Submittable.
Frequently Asked Questions

Are writers still eligible if they have published poetry and/or nonfiction before?
No. This award is for emerging writers whose first publication is a short story. 

The story I plan to submit does not fit the exact formatting specifications (Times New Roman, 12 pt. font, double-spaced). Do I need to reformat? 
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 would like to nominate an author who had a short story published on another online magazine almost simultaneously. We accepted the writer’s story first, but the magazine published their work first. Which publication is eligible to submit?
Under normal circumstances, we would consider whichever work was readable to the public first. If, however, the timing is too close to call, please have a discussion with the other publisher and decide which journal should submit to the prize and consult with the author. If this situation presents itself as an issue, please write to [email protected] for more clarification.

An author has previously published work on a blog or as a part of a school project. Are they still eligible?
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.  

The author I wish to nominate has a piece that was accepted to our magazine in 2019, but the story will be published in 2020, can I still submit their work for the 2020 awards cycle?
For the 2020 awards, stories must be published in 2019 to be considered eligible. If the story is published in 2020, you may submit it for the 2021 awards cycle.

Can I submit PDFs from our forthcoming Fall or Winter issue?
Yes. You may submit PDFs for forthcoming stories as long as they are published by the end of the required calendar year.

I have had one story published before, but it was in a tiny journal that is not listed in your list of publications. Can I still be nominated?
The only exceptions we are open to are authors who have published in a foreign-language literary journal before their first official English-language publication. Please email us at [email protected] for more specific questions.

If an author has only published one short story during their career but has self-published writing online or as a book, does that in any way interfere with the author’s eligibility for this prize?
Please email us at [email protected] with the number of copies sold and the year it was self-published and we will let you know.

We’re publishing a debut short story as an ebook. Do you accept galleys?
An author would be ineligible if they are being published in a book with a press.

Would a creative nonfiction story be eligible for the  PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers?
No, the prize is for works of fiction only.

Are the writers signing a contract with Catapult for 1st North American rights? Does this contract include digital rights?
Writers would sign with Catapult for non-exclusive, 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.

For more information, visit our FAQ page here.