Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 15, 2020

NO FEE: 2020 African American Voices in Children’s Literature: Writing Contest



2020 African American Voices in Children’s Literature: Writing Contest

Sponsored by Strive Publishing and Free Spirit Publishing

Deadline extended! Open for submissions through August 31, 2020.

The contest is open to authors of African American heritage who are residents of Minnesota and at the time of entry are at least 18 years of age and residing in Minnesota.

About Strive Publishing

Strive Publishing’s vision is to be the leading publishing company in providing contemporary African American stories. We will begin by filling the need for picture books and young adult novels that our children can see themselves in and will work toward filling the need for African American adult representation in other genres. Through publishing and illuminating the stories of creativity, wonder, determination, and success of generations of African Americans, we will help tear down stereotypes and build up bridges that connect to a more diverse publishing industry.

Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Strive Publishing exists to help solve two problems: the need for culturally relevant children’s books and the underrepresentation of African American authors. While giving all children the opportunity to see African American culture from different perspectives, Strive Publishing aims to create opportunities for emerging African American authors. We all have a stake in the critical work of getting books by and about African Americans into the hands of all children, and we can make the greatest impact by working together.

About Free Spirit Publishing

Whether at home, at school, or out in the world, all kids face challenges in their lives. No matter how many choices, changes, and opportunities young people encounter, Free Spirit has had the same mission for more than 35 years: to provide children and teens—and the adults who care for and about them—with the tools they need to think for themselves, overcome challenges, and make a difference in the world.

Minneapolis-based Free Spirit Publishing is known for its unique understanding of what kids want and need to navigate life successfully. We’re not afraid to tackle tough topics such as teen depression, kids and anxiety, grief and loss, juvenile justice, and conflict resolution. Free Spirit also offers sound advice with a sense of humor on relevant issues including stress management, character building, school success, self-esteem, community involvement, youth leadership, and more. We aim to meet all kids—toddlers, teens, and everyone in between—where they are (not where we wish they were), and support them to develop their talents, build resiliency, and foster a positive outlook on life so they can reach their goals.


Eligible entries will include original fiction or nonfiction board books for ages 0–4 (50–125 words) and picture books for ages 4–8 (300–800 words) featuring contemporary African American characters and culture and focusing on one or more of the following topics: character development, self-esteem, diversity, getting along with others, engaging with family and community, or other topics related to positive childhood development.


All entries must be your original work, unpublished, and not accepted for publication anywhere at the time they are entered in the contest. Please include the following items in your entry:

  • Picture book text along with illustration ideas
  • A letter briefly describing your book, specifying the intended audience (including age range), and telling why you decided to write it
  • A brief biography and current email address

Awards & Cash Prizes

First Place: $1,000 cash prize, a T-shirt from Strive, a tote bag from Free Spirit, and a meeting with Mary Taris, founder of Strive, and an editor from Free Spirit to discuss the winner’s project. The winning submission will be seriously considered for publication by Free Spirit, cobranded with Strive; however, publication is not guaranteed.
Second Place: $500 cash prize, a T-shirt from Strive, and a tote bag from Free Spirit
Third Place: $250 cash prize, a T-shirt from Strive, and a tote bag from Free Spirit

Want to share this contest on Twitter? Click here.

To Submit an Entry Online

  1. Title the manuscript and include your name on each page
  2. Upload your entry on Submittable:


To Submit an Entry via Email

  1. Title the manuscript and include your name on each page
  2. Send your entry as an attachment in Word or as a PDF
  3. Email to

To Submit an Entry via Mail

  1. Title the manuscript and include your name on each page.
  2. Print out your submission double-spaced on letter-sized paper and mail to:
Strive/Free Spirit Writing Contest
Free Spirit Publishing
6325 Sandburg Road, Suite 100
Minneapolis, MN 55427-3674

Judging Criteria

  • Cultural relevance and authentic voice
  • Presentation (follows submission guidelines, neatness, legibility)
  • Suitability (fits publishing category; targeted age group and length are appropriate for children’s manuscripts)
  • Content (tightness, clarity, structure, strength of lead/beginning, transitions, impact, satisfactory close)
  • Alignment with the spirit of the Contest
  • For nonfiction proposals: logical flow, accuracy of information, sound advice

Winner Notification

Winners will be notified by email on or around September 30, 2020.  All potential winners are subject to verification. Each prizewinner may be required to sign and return to Sponsor, within ten (10) days of the date notice is sent, an affidavit of eligibility/liability and publicity release (except where prohibited) in order to claim their prize if applicable. If a potential winner of any prize cannot be contacted, fails to sign or return the affidavit of eligibility/liability and publicity release within the required time period, the prize or prize notification is returned as undeliverable, or the potential winner is deemed ineligible, the potential winner forfeits prize, and Sponsor will award the applicable prize to an alternative winner selected from all remaining eligible entries. Upon confirmation of eligibility, prizes will be awarded no later than October 31, 2020. Prizes will be awarded in accordance with these Official Rules. Sponsor’s determination of eligibility and selection of winners is binding on all participants.

The total number of prizes is three (3). The total prize value for all three (3) prizes is $1,750 in cash plus merchandise listed in the prize descriptions. All prizes will be awarded in connection with this Contest in accordance with the Official Rules. Within approximately thirty (30) days after confirmation of the winners, Sponsor will provide the winners with their prizes (e.g., check, gift certificate, or other document giving winner unconditional right to receive the respective prize). All prizes are nontransferable and nonassignable, and noncash prizes cannot be redeemed for cash. All costs, fees, expenses, and taxes (including, without limitation, federal, state, and local taxes) associated with any element of a prize are the sole responsibility of the winners.

Everyone who enters the contest has the chance at publication.

Click here to share this contest on Twitter!

Winners List

A Winners List will be posted at and after winners have been announced.

Talk tomorrow,


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