The PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship is offered annually to an author of children’s or young adult fiction. It has been developed to help writers whose work is of high literary caliber and is designed to assist a writer at a crucial moment in his or her career to complete a book-length work-in-progress. The author of the winning manuscript, selected blindly by judges unaware of nominees’ names, will receive an award of $5,000.

The Fellowship is made possible by a substantial contribution from PEN America Member Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, the prolific author of more than 140 books, including Now I’ll Tell You Everything, the 28th and final book in the acclaimed Alice series, as well as Faith, Hope, and Ivy June and Shiloh, the first novel in a trilogy, which won the 1992 Newbery Medal. On establishing the Fellowship Mrs. Naylor said: “We truly work ‘blind,’ with no assurance whatsoever that anyone will be interested in our final product. It takes enormous stamina and resolve and optimism to live with our characters for a year or more—and it’s my hope that the Working Writer’s Fellowship, modest as it is, will let the author know that an expert panel of PEN judges has faith in the writer, admires his work, and trusts that he will be able to bring to paper what he sees in his head.”


Featured Works



Fellowship Recipients

PEN America has awarded grants to 18 winning projects to date. You can view the full list of recipients below.

2018 Fellowship Recipient

Vicky Shiefman for Help Me God, Please Pretty Please 
Judges: Lyn Miller-Lachman, Linda Sue Park, and Francisco X. Stork

This manuscript is not under contract. To request a manuscript excerpt, please contact [email protected].

From the judge’s citation: “Vicky Shiefman’s middle-grade novel, Help Me God, Please Pretty Please, shows 11-year-old Molly struggling with her faith and spirituality as she tries to decide what kind of bat mitzvah party she wants to have. Religion is a topic underrepresented in trade books for young readers of all ages; the judges admired the writer’s courage in addressing the topic directly by portraying both Conservative and Reform Judaism. The potentially heavy subject matter is leavened by Molly’s humorous voice: She is vulnerable, compassionate, indecisive, believable. One of the excerpt’s greatest strengths is its use of dialogue, demonstrating the writer’s skill in developing character and furthering plot without forced or awkward exposition. As Molly explores her faith through her relationships with family and friends, religion is depicted as not limited to special celebrations and observances, but a part of daily life.”

Previous Recipients
  • 2018 Vicky Shiefman, Help Me God, Please Pretty Please
  • 2017 Phillippe Diederich, Finding Home at the End of the World
  • 2016 Ash Parsons, A Chemical Distance (Available for Publication)
  • 2015 Stephanie Kuehn, The Pragmatist (forthcoming from Dutton)
  • 2014 Linda Oatman, High The Taste of Elephant Tears (Available for Publication)
  • 2013 Amy Goldman Koss, The Intake Office (Available for Publication)
  • 2012 Sarah Dooley, Free Verse (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016)
  • 2011 Lucy Frank, Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling (Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House, 2014)
  • 2010 Pat Schmatz, Bluefish (Candlewick Press, 2011)
  • 2009 Carol Lynch Williams, A Glimpse Is All I Can Stand (Published as Glimpse, Simon and Schuster, 2011)
  • 2008 Theresa Nelson Julia Delany, The American Version (Published as The Year We Sailed the Sun, Atheneum Books/Simon and Schuster, 2015)
  • 2007 Diane Les Becquets, Genesis (Published as Season of Ice, Bloomsbury, 2008)
  • 2006 Barbara Shoup, Everything You Want (Flux, 2008)
  • 2005 A.M. Jenkins, Night Road (Harper Teen/Harper Collins, 2008)
  • 2004 Deborah Wiles [Untitled] (Available for publication)
  • 2003 Franny Billingsley, The Black Mountains (Available for Publication)
  • 2002 Lori Aurelia Williams, Broken China (Simon Pulse/Simon and Schuster, 2006)
  • 2001 Graham McNamee, Sparks (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2002)
Published Manuscripts




Submissions for the next grant cycle will be accepted from April 1, 2019 – June 1, 2019.

Who is Eligible
  • A candidate is a writer of children’s or young adult fiction in financial need.
  • Candidates must have published one or more novels for children or young adults that have been warmly received by literary critics, but have not generated sufficient income to support the author.
  • The writer’s previously published book(s) must be published by a U.S. publisher (not self-published).
  • The submitted work must be fiction and a work-in-progress.
  • Judges will be looking for candidates whose work has not yet attracted a broad readership.

NOT eligible: Graphic novels, Picture books.

How to Submit

Please note that the application process in now entirely online; hard copy applications will not be accepted. Writers may nominate themselves or a fellow writer.

The online submission form requires the following:

  • Cover letter: A 1-2 page letter describing in some detail how they meet the criteria for the fellowship, including a list of their published novel(s) for children and/or young adults.
  • Three professional reviews: Copies of or links to at least three reviews of their novel(s) from professional publications.
  • Letter of recommendation: A 1-2 pager letter of support from an editor or fellow writer.
  • Project outline: A brief (2-4 page) outline of the novel in progress that is being submitted. The writer’s name should not appear anywhere on the outline to ensure anonymity, as the outline and manuscript (and only the outline and manuscript) will be given to the judges for consideration.
  • Manuscript sample: 50–75 pages of the text. Graphic novels and picture books are not eligible. The writer’s name should not appear anywhere on the manuscript, in order to ensure anonymity for the judging process, as the outline and manuscript (and only the outline and manuscript) will be given to the judges for consideration.
  • Financial statement: A brief description of the candidate’s recent earnings and a statement about why monetary support will make a particular difference in the applicant’s writing life at this time. If the candidate is married or living with a domestic partner, please include a brief description of total family income and expense. Please note that these details will be viewed only by PEN America’s Awards Manager. This statement will not be shared with the judges and will be kept confidential.

NOTE: A link to the submission form will appear here on April 1, 2019 for the 2020 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship.