Penguin Random House is passionate about encouraging the next generation of readers and authors and promoting diverse voices and stories. For 30 years, Penguin Random House has supported this mission through the Creative Writing Awards, which in 2019 entered into an innovative new partnership with national advocacy nonprofit We Need Diverse Books. Through this program, Penguin Random House will award college scholarships of up to $10,000 each to five public U.S. high school seniors, nationwide.
Creative Writing Awards winners have gone on to become professional and award-winning authors. Since 1993, this program has awarded more than $2.9 million dollars to public high school students for original poetry, memoir/personal essay, fiction/drama, and spoken-word compositions. This signature program continues to empower and celebrate hundreds of young writers each year.
Applicants to the Penguin Random House Creative Writing Awards Program in Partnership with We Need Diverse Books must:
- Be current high school seniors at a public high school in the United States graduating Spring of 2024
- Be 21 years of age and under
- Plan to enroll in an accredited two-year or four-year college, university, or approved vocational-technical school Fall 2024
- Submit one original literary composition in English in one of the following genres of poetry, spoken word, fiction/drama, personal essay/memoir, or book bans prompt.
- All submissions must be typed, double-spaced with a minimum 12 point font size and no longer than 10 pages.
- All submissions with multiple pages must be numbered with a page number and total number of pages (Ex. 1/3, 2/3, 3/3).
- A four-page minimum is recommended for the fiction/drama genre.
- Spoken word entries must upload a typed entry along with an emailed audio format file.
- Only one entry per student may be submitted and considered.
- Freedom of Expression entries must write about the provided topic.
Book bans are on the rise in America, driven by new laws and regulations limiting the kinds of books young people can access—and books by and/or about LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities are disproportionately targeted. Penguin Random House and We Need Diverse Books believe books change lives, and that everyone deserves to see themselves in a book.
Freedom of Expression Prompt: For our new Creative Writing Award in 2023, in the face of these book bans and attacks on free expression, we are celebrating the power of books and stories. Tell us about one banned book that changed your life and why.
Awards will be distributed as follows:
- $10,000 Maya Angelou Award for Spoken Word
- $10,000 Amanda Gorman Award for Poetry
- $10,000 Fiction/Drama
- $10,000 Michelle Obama Award for Memoir
- $10,000 Freedom of Expression award for book bans prompt
- One hundred (100) Honorable Mention recipients will receive a “Creativity Kit” gift from Penguin Random House.
- In recognition of the Creative Writing Awards previously being centered in New York City and as an extension of our longtime work with local schools there, we will also offer an additional first-place prize of $10,000 to the top entrant from the NYC area.