The PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay aims to preserve the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature. The winner receives a $10,000 prize.
All winners and finalists for this award are eligible to receive PEN America’s official winner or finalist seal. If you are a publisher of a shortlisted or winning book for this award and are interested in obtaining PEN’s award seal, please write to [email protected].
Current Cycle: 2019
Honoring books published in 2018.
Featured Honoree: Michelle Tea, 2019 Winner
From the judges’ citation: “Tea’s anti-memoir harkens back to the days when queer was truly counterculture. On subjects as varied as marriage and Minor Threat, in a manner quick-witted and unabashedly intelligent, these essays rove, plunge, and spike. Each seems to set out with almost uninhibited bravery as she walks the terrain of memory or explores the mysteries of pop culture, all with sober precision; in other moments, the prose barrels forward in jubilant riffs, rendered with the fast, energetic, and angry strokes of punk. One senses in her work not just the art of writing but the art of having fun while doing it. Tea uses her own experience to add a sense of proximity and emotional depth that, taken together, vault her sentences toward unexpected poetry. Something ineffable lives within these pages; any subject in her hands—be it a band, a crush, or getting lost in a faraway city—feels organic and alive. Tea is one of those rare writers whose style is immediately recognizable yet inimitable, whose voice is as singularly irresistible as the punk culture that shaped her.”
2019 Michelle Tea, Against Memoir (Feminist Press)
2013 Robert Hass, What Light Can Do (Ecco)
Jill Lepore, The Story of America (Princeton University Press)
Daniel Mendelsohn, Waiting for the Barbarians (New York Review Books)
2012 Christopher Hitchens, Arguably (Twelve)
André Aciman, Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere
Robert Gottlieb, Lives and Letters
2011 Mark Slouka, Nick of Time (Graywolf Press)
Elif Batuman, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Alex Ross, Listen to This (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
[The award went on hiatus from 2005-2010]
2004 Stewart Justman, Seeds of Mortality (Floyd Skloot)
2003 William H. Gass, Test of Time (Knopf)
2002 David Bromwich, Skeptical Music (University of Chicago)
2001 David Quammen, The Boilerplate Rhino (Scribner)
2000 Annie Dillard, For the Time Being (Knopf)
1999 Marilynne Robinson, The Death of Adam (Houghton Mifflin)
1998 Adam Hochschild, Finding the Trapdoor (Univ. of Syracuse)
1997 Cynthia Ozick, Fame and Folly (Knopf)
1996 Thomas Nagel, Other Minds (Oxford)
1995 John Brinckerhoff Jackson, A Sense of Place, A Sense of Time (Yale)
1994 Stanley Fish, There’s No Such Thing as Free Speech…And It’s A Good Thing Too (Oxford)
1993 Frederick Crews, The Critics Bear It Away: American Fiction and the Academy (Random House)
1992 David B. Morris, The Culture of Pain (University of California)
1991 Martha Nussbaum, Love’s Knowledge (Oxford)
1990 Bernard Knox, Essays Ancient and Modern (Johns Hopkins)
ELIGIBILITY AND SUBMISSION GUIDELINES
Submissions for the next awards cycle will be accepted from June 1, 2019 – August 1, 2019.
- Eligible titles must have been published by a U.S. trade publisher between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018.
- Candidates must be permanent U.S. residents or American citizens.
- There are no restrictions on the candidate’s age, publishing history, or reputation. Equal consideration is given to both renowned essayists and more recently established writers.
- No restrictions on the subject matter of the essays. Essays may deal either with a range of subjects or may explore one specific theme.
- The book should be a series of individual essays.
- Individual essays may have been previously published in magazines, journals, or anthologies.
- If you submit a book for this award, you may not submit it for any additional PEN American Center awards. Please note that the PEN/Faulkner and PEN/Hemingway Awards are not considered PEN American Center awards.
- Self-published books are not eligible
- A single book-length work of nonfiction
- PEN will only accept submissions from publishers or literary agents; authors may not submit their own book for this award.
- Please download the Declaration of Eligibility here. Complete all fields and have a company executive sign in order to confirm the book’s eligibility. If eligible, please upload this form along with the rest of your application.
- Each submission is $85*. If you would like to pay by check, please enter CHECK in the coupon code field at checkout. Checks should be made out to PEN American Center. Please also submit a verified email address on the submission form; your order cannot be processed without an email address, as this info will be used to later contact you regarding the shipments of your submission. Please note that submission fees are not refundable.
- Mail one copy of the candidate’s book to the address below between June 1 and August 15, 2018. Please note that we also accept galleys and bound manuscripts.
PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay
588 Broadway, Suite 303
New York, NY 10012
- Once the submitted book is received and reviewed for eligibility by PEN, you will be contacted by [email protected] before the end of the year and asked to ship one copy of the book to each of our four awards judges. Please add [email protected] to your safe sender list.
*Submission fees may be waived for publishers whose annual net sales are less than $2 million. In order to have your dues waived, please have a company official write a letter on company letterhead stating that your press’ annual net sales are less than $2 million. Please send this letter as an attachment (.doc or .pdf) to [email protected]. Once received, you will be provided with a coupon code to use at check-out in order to have your submission fees waived. One fee waiver may be used for all 2019 PEN Awards; you do not need to submit a separate fee waiver for each award.