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PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000)

The PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay aims to preserve the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature. The winner receives a cash award of $10,000 and will be honored at the PEN Literary Awards.

There are no restrictions on the subject matter of the essays; books are judged solely on the basis of literary character and distinction of writing, and equal consideration is given to the work of both renowned essayists and more recently established writers. Essays may deal either with a range of subjects or may explore one specific theme, but the book, taken as a whole, should be a series of individual essays, not conceived as a single booklength work of nonfiction. Individual essays included in books may have been previously published in magazines, journals, or anthologies.

In 1991 PEN Member and author Barbaralee Diamonstein and Carl Spielvogel, former New York Times columnist, founded the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay to preserve the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature. The award took a hiatus from 2005-2010.

Past Winners: Bernard Knox, Martha Nussbaum, David B. Morris, Frederick Crews, Stanley Fish, John Brinckerhoff Jackson, Thomas Nagel, Cynthia Ozick, Adam Hochschild, Marilynne Robinson, Annie Dillard, David Quammen, David Bromwich, William H. Gass, Stewart Justman, Mark Slouka, Christopher Hitchens, Robert Hass, James Wolcott, and Ian Buruma.

Eligibility and Submissions for the 2016 Awards

Submissions closed on August 15, 2015. This award will be offered again during the 2017 PEN Awards cycle, for which submissions will open in mid-2016.

Who is eligible

  • PEN will only accept submissions from publishers or literary agents. Authors may not submit their own book for this award. 
  • One need not be a Member of PEN to submit
  • Eligible titles must have been published by a U.S. trade publisher between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015.
  • Candidates must be permanent U.S. residents or American citizens.
  • There are no restrictions on the candidate’s age or on the style of his or her work.
  • Self-published books are not eligible.

If you submit a book for this award, you may not submit it for any additional PEN American Center awards. Please note that the PEN/Faulkner and PEN/Hemingway Awards are not considered PEN American Center awards.

How to apply

1. Please download the award's Declaration of Eligibility here. Complete all fields and have a company executive sign in order to confirm the book's eligibility. If eligible, please mail this form along with one copy of the book to PEN's office (see step 3).

2. Complete the awards online submission form. As submissions have closed, the form has been deactivated. Each submission is $50*. If you would like to pay by check, please enter CHECK in the coupon code field at checkout. Checks should be made out to PEN American Center. Be sure to print your receipt. Please also submit a verified email address on the submission form; your order cannot be processed without an email address, as this info will be used to later contact you regarding the shipments of your submission. Please note that submission fees are not refundable.

3. Mail one copy of the candidate's book to the address below during the open submission period. Please note that we also accept galleys.

PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay
PEN American Center
588 Broadway, Suite 303
New York, NY 10012

4. Once the submitted book is received and reviewed for eligibility by PEN, you will be contacted by [email protected] before the end of the year and asked to ship one copy of the book to each of our four awards judges. Please add [email protected] to your safe sender list.

*Submission fees may be waived for publishers whose annual net sales are less than $4 million. In order to have your dues waived, please have a company official write a letter on company letterhead stating that your press' annual net sales are less than $4 million. Please send this letter as an attachment (.doc or .pdf) to [email protected]. Once received, you will be provided with a coupon code to use at check-out in order to have your submission fees waived. One fee waiver may be used for all 2016 PEN Awards; you do not need to submit a separate fee waiver for each award.