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The application is now closed for the 2024-2025 academic year.

The application program will be available again in October 2024. Please return then to view the updated Eligibility and Awards for the upcoming  academic year! If you are an applicant who would like to discover more scholarship opportunities you might qualify for, please continue to the Scholarship America Hub and sign up!

Penguin Random House Creative Writing Awards
Application status: Closed

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:

  • 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.

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.

Award Information

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.


Winners will be announced and posted on the Penguin Random House Creative Writing website at 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.

General Rules and Criteria

  1. All submissions must be typed, double-spaced with a minimum 12 point font size, and no longer than 10 pages.
  2. All submissions with multiple pages must be numbered with a page number and total number of pages (Ex. 1/3, 2/3, 3/3).
  3. A four-page minimum is recommended in the fiction/drama genre.
  4. All uploaded entries must be clear and legible.
  5. You may submit only one entry to the competition.
  6. All entries must be original works. We do not accept plagiarism or copyright infringement.

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.

Process for uploading your work for award consideration:

  • Use the “Apply Now” link at the bottom of this informational landing page
  • Register for an account on the Scholarship America Hub (new users) or log in to your Scholarship America Hub account (returning users)
  • Complete or update your Profile and navigate to the Scholarships page to find the Penguin Random House Creative Writing Awards program
  • Complete the application form and Upload your entry piece before submitting the application
  • You will receive an email acknowledgment of your submitted application

When uploading your creative entry, please follow these important steps:

  • Include your application ID (located at the top of the screen, labeled “ID”, 6 or 7 digits) and title to the creative entry document prior to uploading.
  • Name the file name with your Application ID# and the title of your entry. (ex: 123456_Entry Title.pdf)
  • All submissions must be uploaded in a PDF format. Please convert all Word documents to PDF.
  • Files must be 2MB or smaller. Files may need to be broken down to multiple smaller files to meet this requirement. Make sure to add the sequence to the file names (ex: 12345_Entry Title_Part 1.pdf, 12345_Entry Title_Part 2, etc.)
  • Once you have completed the fields for one file, click the “Add document” button. Once the document description name appears on this page, click it to preview your file. Ensure all the text on the document is clear and legible. If it is not, please re-scan your document until the file is legible. Unreadable or illegible submitted files will not be considered.
  • When you are finished uploading all required documents, click the “Review” button. Your files will be viewable at the bottom of the Review page.

If you are uploading a spoken word transcript, you must also email the audio version (MP3, MP4, etc.) to 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 or call 1-800-537-4180.

Penguin Random House has partnered with Scholarship America. Click the button below to be directed to the Scholarship America Student Hub!

Please make sure to add as well as the program email address provided below in the footer as safe senders in your email contact list.