Penguin Random House Creative Writing Awards

Penguin Random House is passionate about encouraging the next generation of readers and authors and promoting diverse voices and stories. For 27 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 organization We Need Diverse Books. Through this program, Penguin Random House will award college scholarships of up to $10,000 each to five 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 $2.8 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 scholarship, tuition assistance and other education support programs for corporations, foundations, associations, and individuals. Awards are granted without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability, or national origin.

Annual Amount

Awards will be distributed as follows:

  • $10,000 Maya Angelou Award for Spoken-Word Poetry
  • $10,000 Poetry
  • $10,000 Fiction/Drama
  • $10,000 Personal Essay/Memoir

Fifty Honorable Mention recipients will receive a “Creativity Kit” gift from Penguin Random House.

Additional Selection Criteria

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
  • 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 2021
  • Submit one original literary composition in English in one of the following genres of poetry, spoken word, fiction/drama or personal essay/memoir.
    • All submissions must be typed, double-spaced with a minimum 12 point font size and no longer than 10 pages.
    • All literary pages 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.

Only the first 1000 applications will be accepted.

Family members, employees of Bertelsmann, Penguin Random House, its subsidiaries, divisions or affiliates are ineligible.

Application Process


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 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)
  • Only PDF, JPG or PNG files are accepted. Please convert all Word documents to PDF. PDF files are preferred.
  • 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 submission 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 1-800-713-3193.


March 2, 2021

For the application or more information go to: