(NEW YORK) — Twelve debut writers chosen for originality, craft, and pushing the boundaries of the genre 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 in the annual anthology Best Debut Short Stories: The PEN America Dau Prize.

“This year’s recipients of the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers represent the breadth of powerful short fiction published in the last year,” said Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf, chief program officer, Literary Programming at PEN America. “We’re thrilled to honor these talented emerging writers whose outstanding stories point to promising futures.”

Now in its eighth 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 — Sindya Bhanoo, Sidik Fofana, Ayşegül Savaş — selected the stories from a range of dynamic literary publications. The winning stories are:

Daisy the Whale (The Sewanee Review) Josie Abugov
What Child Is This? (New England Review) Annie Barnett
Rocket” (Bellevue Literary Review) Jason Baum
Alfhild” (The Cincinnati Review) Alex Boeden
Return to Sender: Big Time Tief (Transition Magazine) Winelle Felix
A Good Word” (Transition Magazine) Zkara Gaillard
Napa Valley Inn and Spa” (The Southern Review) Molly Gott
“Daughterhouse” (The Rumpus) Kelly X. Hui
Carry On” (Virginia Quarterly Review) Eleni Linas
Guilty Parties” (Salamander Magazine) Leanne Ma
The Trick (Boston Review) Noel Quiñones
Patience (Salamander Magazine) Benjamin Van Voorhis

Since 1963, the PEN Literary Awards have honored outstanding writers across fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, 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 on April 29 in New York City.

Before his death, Robert J. 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. Hemingway spent a winter writing in Dau’s hometown of Petoskey, and Robert loved Hemingway’s  connection to his hometown. He also loved that Hemingway wrote his Nick Adams stories about places he knew personally. Dau’s admiration for Hemingway resulted in the creation of the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story 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