Submissions for the 2020 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship are closed.

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 assist a writer at a crucial moment in their career to complete a novel-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 19 winning projects to date. You can view the full list of recipients below.

2019 Fellowship Recipient

Noni Carter for Womb Talk 
Judges: Kheryn Callender, Joseph Bruchac, Léna Roy

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

From the judge’s citation: “While a number of the manuscripts considered were quite strong, Noni Carter’s Womb Talk stood out above all the others. Written in 15-year-old Sarai’s letters to her aborted child, Womb Talk is a story that’s relevant to today’s world as its readers are able to witness Sarai’s journey of healing, while also touching on the difficult subjects of abortion, sexual assault, sexuality, and mental health, told through the eyes of a black, lower class teenage girl. This truly unique and experimental manuscript blends various elements and styles of writing, from the historical to the speculative. The powerfully lyrical, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful voice is arresting and captivated the judges from the start.”

Published Manuscripts

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)

2002 Lori Aurelia Williams, Broken China (Simon Pulse/Simon and Schuster, 2006)

2001 Graham McNamee, Sparks (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2002)




Submissions for the current grant cycle are now closed.  The 2021 cycle will be open from April 1-June 1, 2020. 

Who is Eligible
  • A candidate is a writer of children’s or young adult fiction.
  • 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 significant sales.
  • The writer’s previously published book(s) must be published by a U.S. trade publisher. Self-published works are ineligible.
  • The submitted work must be a novel-in-progress.
  • Judges will be looking for candidates whose work has not yet attracted a broad readership.
  • Please note: Graphic novels and picture books are not eligible for the fellowship. 
How to Submit

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

The online submission form requires the following:

  • Cover letter: A 1-2 page letter including a brief (1-3 sentence) summary of the project, a description of how the candidate meets the criteria for the fellowship, and a list of the candidate’s published novel(s) for children and/or young adults.
  • One professional review: Copies of or links to 1-3 reviews of the candidate’s novel(s) from professional publications.
  • Letter of recommendation: A 1-2 page letter of support from an editor or fellow writer.
  • Project outline: A brief (2-4 page) outline of the novel-in-progress being submitted. The candidate’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. The candidate’s name should not appear anywhere on the manuscript sample, in order to ensure anonymity for the judging process. The outline and manuscript sample (and only the outline and manuscript sample) will be given to the judges for consideration. Please note that graphic novels and picture books are not eligible for this fellowship.
  • Letter of Utility: A brief description (1-2 pages) of how the funds will be used to complete the project. What will the candidate be able to accomplish with this funding that they could not do otherwise? Book sales, earnings, or other relevant information may be included here.