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.
This program is administered by Scholarship America®, the nation’s largest designer and manager of scholarships and other education support programs for corporations, foundations, associations, and individuals. Eligibility for individual programs is determined at the sole discretion of the sponsor and eligible applications are reviewed by Scholarship America’s evaluation team.
Applicants to the Penguin Random House Creative Writing Awards Program in Partnership with We Need Diverse Books must:
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.
Only the first 1000 applications will be accepted.
Family members, employees of Bertelsmann, Penguin Random House, its subsidiaries, divisions or affiliates are ineligible.
Entries that have won previous awards are not eligible.
Awards will be distributed as follows:
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.
Winners will be announced and posted on the Penguin Random House Creative Writing website at https://social-impact.penguinrandomhouse.com/creativewriting/ in early June.
Payment of Scholarships
Scholarship America will process scholarship award payments on behalf of Penguin Random House. All awards will be paid over four (4) years, and cannot be deferred beyond one year.
Penguin Random House reserves the right to review the conditions and procedures of this scholarship program and to make changes at any time including termination of the program.
Literary compositions are judged by their technical merit (25%); artistic expression (25%); voice (25%); originality (25%). The top 100 scoring applications will be deemed the potential winners. Penguin Random House and We Need Diverse Books committee will make the final selections.Odds of winning a prize depend on the number and quality of eligible entries received. Penguin Random House will notify each potential winner in early June 2024. To claim a prize, the potential winner must follow the instructions contained in the notification. To the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, Penguin Random House may require each potential winner to sign and return, within seven days of being notified by Penguin Random House, an affidavit of eligibility, liability and publicity release, and other legal, regulatory or tax-related documents required at Penguin Random House’s discretion in order to claim a prize (“Affidavit and Related Documents”). If (i) the attempted notification is returned as undeliverable; (ii) the Affidavit and Related Documents are not signed and returned within seven days of the date of notification email is sent by Penguin Random House; or (iii) if potential winner is otherwise unable to accept the prize as stated, the prize will be forfeited and will be awarded to an alternate winner in accordance with the judging criteria.
We are looking for writing with a strong, clear voice by authors who are daring, original and unafraid to take risks.
All judging will be under the supervision of We Need Diverse Books and Penguin Random House by a specially selected panel of judges. The decision of the judges will be final. In the event there is an insufficient number of entries in any category which meet the minimum standards established by the judges, Penguin Random House reserves the right not to award any prize. Winners agree to the use by Penguin Random House or any of its subsidiaries, divisions or affiliates of their names, addresses, likenesses, photographs and entries for promotional and similar purposes without further compensation or notification. Winners are solely responsible for any applicable state, federal or other taxes. Penguin Random House and Scholarship America cannot be held responsible for lost, late or misdirected mail or e-mail communications. No entries will be returned.
By competing and/or accepting a prize, applicants agree that Penguin Random House, and its respective parent companies, assigns, subsidiaries and affiliates, and advertising, promotion and fulfillment agencies and all of their respective employees, officers and directors will have no liability whatsoever, and will be held harmless by entrants for any liability for any injuries, losses, or damages of any kind to person and property resulting in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from the acceptance, possessions, misuse, or use of the prizes, or participation.
When uploading your creative entry, please follow these important steps:
If you are uploading a spoken word transcript, you must also email the audio version (MP3, MP4, etc.) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your application ID# and entry title in the email.
Note: all submissions must be typed, double-spaced with a minimum 12-point font and no longer than 10 pages. A four-page minimum is recommended in the fiction/drama genre.
If you need assistance with submitting your file, please contact Scholarship America at email@example.com or call 1-800-537-4180.