(NEW YORK)— Twelve debut writers chosen for originality, craft and subject urgency were announced today as winners of the $2000 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. Their exceptional short stories will be published by Catapult Books in the annual anthology Best Debut Short Stories: The PEN America Dau Prize.

“This year’s prize winners reflect outstanding short stories published over the last year in a range of vibrant literary magazines, journals and cultural websites,” said Donica Bettanin, director of PEN America’s Literary Awards program. “We’re delighted to celebrate these emerging authors whose creativity and dedication to their craft mark them as writers to follow.”

Now in its seventh year, the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers annually recognizes 12 emerging writers for an outstanding debut short story. Previous winners who have gone on to enjoy wide readership and book publication include Crystal Hana Kim (2017), Celeste Mohammed (2018), Doug Henderson (2019) and Willa C. Richards (2020). The prize is generously supported by the family of the late Robert J. Dau, whose commitment to the literary arts made him a fitting namesake for this career-launching prize.

This year’s judges — Venita Blackburn, Richard Chiem, and Dantiel W. Moniz— selected the 12 stories from a range of dynamic literary publications. The winning authors are:

Dailihana Alfonseca, “Spanish Soap Operas Killed My Mother” (Driftwood Press)

Ren Arcamone, “Allen” (HEAT)

Sonia Feldman, “Outgrowth” (Waxwing Magazine)

Stephenjohn Holgate, “Delroy and the Boys” (West Trade Review)

Faire Holliday, “Standing Still” (Cincinnati Review)

Jo Saleska Lange, “Acts of Creation” (Peatsmoke)

Mengyin Lin, “Magic or Something Less Assuring” (Epiphany)

Clara Mundy, “Schism in a Soul So Tender” (Apricity Magazine)

Verity McKay, “Filth” (Hypertext Magazine)

Annabelle Ulaka, “My Grandmother’s Feline Soul” (West Trade Review)

Lisa Wartenberg, “What is Ours” (Nimrod International Journal)

Patrick J. Zhou, “Taidu” (Carve Magazine)

PEN America previously announced finalists for this year’s individual book prizes and the winners of the 2023 career achievement awards. The PEN America Literary Awards hosted by actor and author Kal Penn will take place on Mar. 2 at the Town Hall in New York City. Since 1963, the Awards have honored outstanding voices in literature across diverse genres, including fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, and drama. With the help of our partners, PEN America confers over 20 distinct awards, fellowships, grants and prizes each year, and will confer over $350,000 to writers and translators at this year’s ceremony.

Before his death, Robert Dau, a lifelong Michigan resident, requested that a prize be established to promote budding writers. He knew that Ernest Hemingway spent summers with his family in northern Michigan and was a contemporary of Dau’s mother.  He also knew Hemingway spent a winter writing in Dau’s hometown of Petoskey.  Robert loved the connection of Hemingway to his hometown. He also loved that Hemingway wrote his Nick Adams stories about places he knew personally. This resulted in the creation of the PEN/Dau Prize for Emerging Writers.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057