Beginning with the 2012 prize cycle, The Bellwether Prize founded by Barbara Kingsolver, the largest monetary prize for an unpublished work of fiction in North America, has become the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. Consisting of $25,000 and publication, it is awarded biennially to an unpublished novel manuscript by a writer who has previously published articles or short stories but not a major novel. Submissions are accepted in odd-numbered years.
Manuscripts are judged blind, to avoid any form of bias; the identity of the author of the winning manuscript (and all other submissions) is not known by any judge or prize administrator until after the decision is finalized. Manuscripts are judged by a rotating panel of authors whose work exemplifies the type of literary fiction this prize seeks to support. Previous judges include Russell Banks, Ursula K. LeGuin, Barry Lopez, Toni Morrison, John Nichols, Ruth Ozeki, Anna Quindlen, Paula Sharp, and others.
Established in 1999, the Bellwether Prize has has launched the careers of many new literary voices, writers with outstanding literary skills, moral passion, and the courage to combine these strengths in unusually powerful fiction. Visit the Pen America website for more information, updates, and the application form.