The We Need Diverse Books Short Story Contest
We Need Diverse Books (“WNDB”) is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. WNDB is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality. We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process.
WNDB is proud to announce that Phoebe Yeh, VP/Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House, has acquired publication rights to the Middle Grade WNDB Anthology, working title “Stories For All Of Us.” Ellen Oh, President of WNDB, will edit the anthology, which will have a January 2017 release date. Contributing authors include: Kwame Alexander, Sherman Alexie, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Pena, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Rachel Renee Russell, and Jacqueline Woodson.
The anthology will be in memory of Walter Dean Myers and it will be inspired by his quote: “Once I began to read, I began to exist.” Every new story contribution to this anthology will be by a diverse author.
WNDB is proud to announce that the anthology will have one story reserved for a previously unpublished diverse author. WNDB will fill that slot via a short story contest. The winner will be included in the anthology and will receive a payment of $1000 US.
Entries will be accepted after 9:00AM EST on April 27th until 5:00PM EST on May 8th, 2015. Any submission made prior to or after the entry period will not be considered.
Entry is free.
Submissions will not be returned.
All applicants must include a 75 word bio and headshot.
Winner will be announced on June 15, 2015.
Short Story Rules
All submissions (short story or illustrated story) must be in English and never before published in any medium, print or digital.
Submissions must be no longer than 5000 words.
All submissions must be electronic and sent to the following email address: email@example.com
All submissions must also be appropriate for a middle grade audience, ages 8 to 12.
If your submission is illustrated, it must be in a graphic novel format, but no longer than 10 pages.
Illustrations must be submitted electronically. Do NOT mail hard copy submissions to WNDB. They will not be reviewed, nor will they be returned.
Open to diverse writers from all diverse backgrounds (as defined above). Applicants must include this information in their bio.
Open to diverse writers who have not been published in a traditional print fiction book format, including self-pubbed, independents, small and medium publishing houses, in all genres whether for the children’s or adult market.
EXCEPTION – Short story publication credit in a magazine, literary journal, or periodical will not disqualify the applicant.
First prize winner will receive an award of $1000 plus their entry will be published as part of the WNDB Anthology to be released by Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House Children’s Books in January 2017.
Two runner-up winners will receive honorable mentions and awards of $250 each.
Any submissions sent in before the entry period will be deleted, the email address flagged, and the author automatically disqualified.
Who can apply?
We recognize anyone from a diverse background, including but not limited to, LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities currently marginalized in North America.
What should the story be about?
It can be about anything as long as it relates to the prompt “Once I began to read, I began to exist” and a diverse experience. The story must also be appropriate for a middle grade audience, ages 8 to 12.
What about a submission in verse?
We accept submissions in free verse only.
What about entries that are a combo of both text and graphics? For example, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid format? Are they acceptable?
Do the winners get free copies of the book? How many?
The winner will receive 1 copy of the Anthology when it is published.
Are joint authors for a project okay?
As long as both authors are diverse as defined above. Joint authors will share any prizes given by WNDB.
Is non-fiction acceptable?
Does having a mental illness qualify as having a diverse background?
WNDB recognizes mental illness as a disability and therefore part of our definition of diversity.
What genres are eligible? Fantasy, historical, contemporary, etc?
Submission can be of any genre as long as it is MG (middle-grade).
My self-published book is no longer in print/on the market. Does this disqualify me as an author?
If we can search your name and find a published book online anywhere, you will be disqualified.
Does the exception for a short story publication credit extend to a credit in an anthology series?
The exception only applies to short story credit in a magazine, literary journal, or periodical.
If I’m white am I disqualified?
If you self-identify as a diverse person from one of the definitions stated above, you are still eligible.
If I’m disqualified for this anthology, will I remain eligible for for future opportunities?
We cannot say at this time.
Do authors have to be over 18?
Parental consent will be required upon signing of contract if the winning author is under the age of 18.
What if I’m already published in a language other than English?
Previously published authors in any language are not eligible. The only exception is if the published work is a short story credit in a magazine, literary journal, or periodical.
Can international authors apply?
As long as your submitted work is in English and you are not a previously published author.
Can I enter more than 1 story? Do you accept international submissions?
Yes and yes.
If I’ve published on a digital site such as Wattpad or MeeGenius, am I still eligible? What about an e-book on Amazon? What if I’ve published academic papers?
Yes, you are still eligible.
My first novel won’t be published/released until after the deadline for the anthology is over. Am I still eligible to enter?
Sorry, but you are no longer eligible to enter.
I’ve signed with a publisher, but no date has been set for publication yet. Am I still eligible?
Sorry, but you are no longer eligible.
Are non-fiction published authors eligible?
I’m bisexual. Am I eligible?
For projects with an author AND and illustrator, are both required to provide bios and headshots? Are both required to meet all eligibility criteria? Can a bio and headshot be of someone other than the author and/illustrator?
Both author and illustrator are required to provide bios and headshots and meet eligibility criteria. Entrants sending in bios and/or headshots of other people will be disqualified.
For illustrated submissions, does the 10 page limit also include the title page? What about guidelines for page spread?
Yes, the 10 page maximum includes the title page. Regardless of page spread, 10 pages is the maximum.
I came across your anthology contest this evening. It was posted on of the boards for my M.F.A. program. I must say, at first I couldn’t help but think what a great theme to go for in an anthology. I immediately began to think of stories I had that would be a perfect fit for you.
Until I kept reading and found out that in your quest for diversity you achieved only discrimination.
You see, I am straight, white, and male. The only combination that is disqualified from your contest. Yes, despite it having nothing to do with the diversity in my story, or the inspiration I could bring to children of all backgrounds, I’m not allowed to submit because of the singular combination of my race, gender, and sexual orientation.
This is the very definition of discrimination.
Imagine if it were changed so that everyone could apply except homosexual Chinese females (random)? The blatant wrongness would be blasted by all as horrific practice, yet that is exactly what you have done to straight white males.
If you truly want to teach children a lesson about diversity and acceptance, I urge you to change your submission rules so that they include all people, regardless of background.
We urge you to recognize the enormous amount of privilege you reveal in your statement.
You indicate “religious minorities currently marginalized in North America.” I need clarification. I am a Jewish woman. Like the “straight, white, male” I recognize in general I am privileged. However, on many occasions I choose to not reveal my religion because of very real prejudice. Would being Jewish qualify as having a diverse background for the We Need Diverse Books Short Story Contest?
If you self-identify as a “marginalized religious minority” without the benefit of white privilege, then you are eligible to apply.
Regarding the prompt “Once I began to read, I began to exist,” are contestants encouraged or permitted to take abstract approaches to this theme, or is it intended to be a straightforward submission?
The prompt is simply a prompt. However you choose to apply it is up to you.
I published a series of small poetry chapbooks/ a single chapter in a novel project. I do not know if this makes me ineligible for the short story contest.
You have been previously published and/or have a work in print, so unfortunately are no longer eligible to enter.
Are stories in translation eligible for the contest, so long as the translator is listed, the author meets the eligibility criteria, and the translation is submitted with the author’s permission?
Any submitted works has to be written by the person submitting it. No translated work in print is eligible.
Should submissions be sent as attachments or embedded within the body of the email?
What about works that went to print in student publications? Does this mean I’m no longer eligible?
You are still eligible to enter.
A comic I have written is going to be published in a comic anthology. Am I still eligible to enter?
Unfortunately, you are not eligible.
Am I be eligible if I have a disability such as social anxiety and severe depression?
Clinical depression and anxiety that has been diagnosed by a medical doctor is a disability recognized by WNDB.
I have posted my poems anonymously on a forum blog, and I donated one poem for an electronic anthology. What about if I already published my story on Lulu.com? Am I still eligible?
Yes, you are still eligible, as these are electronic publications, not print.
I am turning 18 years old. I am still eligible to enter despite that? I’m assuming there is no age limit as long as the story is proper for the intended audience (8-12th grade).
There is no age restriction for the submitting author. Middle grade audience is made up readers who are 8-12 years OLD, NOT in 8-12thgrade.
If the winner doesn’t send his/her own illustration/s, will the creators of this anthology create some for the winner?
This will be up to the publisher.
Does the submission have to be based on a true story? Does it have to be based in my own country? Are international authors disqualified?
No to all of the above.
I am diverse, but my first book is scheduled to be published October 2015. Since the submission deadline takes place prior to the release date, would I still qualify as a previously unpublished author?
Unfortunately, you are no longer eligible.
I have been published in previous anthologies with historical pieces and poetry. Am I still eligible if I submit a brand new work? What if I’ve self-published a joint work with someone?
If the anthologies or self-published works were published in print format, then you are no longer eligible.
Is there a specific format in which the story should be sent? (Ex: Microsoft, PDF, etc)
Attachment should be a word document.
Would an unpublished work, by an unpublished author, who writes in a language other than English, be OK to submit as an English translation? (The translation could certainly be submitted by the author, with the translator credited.)
All submissions must be an original work created and directly submitted by the author, not a translator.
What if I have a question not covered in this FAQ?
You can email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. While we can’t answer every email personally, we will post any new and relevant questions directly to this FAQ.