PEN America Best Debut Short Stories

“The pieces showcase a wide breadth of human experiences, representing numerous racial, ethnic, and cultural identities. . . . Sharp, engrossing, and sure to leave readers excited about the future of the craft.” —Booklist

“These dozen stories tend to the dark side, with rare moments of humor in a moody fictive landscape; they’re thus just right for their time . . . A promise of good things to come from this year’s roster of prizewinners.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A book of gems, each carrying its own clarity and cut, that teaches students of writing how limitless the short story form can be.” —Marie-Helene Bertino, author of 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas

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PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2018 celebrates twelve outstanding stories by today’s most promising new fiction writers and the literary magazines that discovered them. The characters within these pages include a college dropout dressed up as Hercules at Disney World; a college graduate playing a prostitute in a ghost town in Montana; a father from Trinidad leading a double life on a temporary visa; and a housewife in Taipei perfectly performing her familial and marital duties while harboring secret desires.

This year’s selections were made by three award-winning writers, themselves innovators of the short story form: Jodi Angel, Lesley Nneka Arimah, and Alexandra Kleeman. Each work is accompanied by commentary from the editors who first published it, explaining what made the piece stand out from the submissions pile, and why they were moved to share it with readers.

For the full list of 2018 honorees and journals, please click here.


“A welcome addition to the run of established short story annuals, promising good work to come.”Kirkus Reviews

“Urgent fiction, from breakout talents.”Booklist

Buy from Catapult

Or order from:

Amazon Ι Barnes & Noble Ι IndieBound


Many writers who are household names today got their start when an editor encountered their work for the first time and took a chance. This book celebrates twelve such moments of discovery. The first volume of an annual anthology, launched alongside PEN America’s new Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers, it recognizes writers who have had outstanding fiction debuts in a print or online literary magazine.

The winning stories collected here—selected this year by judges Marie-Helene Bertino, Kelly Link, and Nina McConigley—take place in South Carolina and in South Korea, on a farm in the eighteenth century and among the cubicles of a computer- engineering firm in the present day. They narrate age-old themes with current urgency: migration, memory, technology, language, love, ecology, identity, family.

Each work comes with an introduction by the editor who originally published it, explaining why he or she chose it. The commentaries provide insight into a process that often remains opaque to readers and students of writing, and showcase the vital work literary magazines do to nurture contemporary literature’s new voices.

For the full list of 2017 honorees and journals, please click here.