Own Voices, Own Stories Award/ How To Submit ( Award: $2,000)

Mar 22, 2024by Kelechi Okoro0

In a quest to celebrate the richness of diverse perspectives in children’s literature, Sleeping Bear Press proudly presents the Own Voices, Own Stories Award.

They are committed to fostering diverse narratives and providing a platform for underrepresented authors. Sleeping Bear Press paves the way for a future where children can see themselves reflected in the pages of books.

This annual award endeavors to uplift and amplify the voices of new authors from historically marginalized communities. They want to share authentic narratives through the captivating medium of picture books.


Read: 5 Tips For Freelance Writers To Improve Their Writing Skills 


Submission Guidelines For Own Voices, Own Stories Award

  • For aspiring authors eager to participate, adherence to specific submission guidelines is imperative.
  • Manuscripts should authentically reflect the experiences and viewpoints of BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ communities.
  • Each submission must cater to children aged four through ten. The maximum word count is at 1,300 (excluding backmatter or ancillary material).
  • It’s essential to ensure exclusivity, as manuscripts submitted to other publishers, agents, or contests simultaneously will not be considered.
  • Sleeping Bear Press seeks manuscripts that resonate with the ethos of diversity, equity, and inclusion, captivating young readers with narratives that inspire and empower.
  • Stories featuring human protagonists and spanning the realms of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry are welcomed. However, such pieces should offer an authentic portrayal of underrepresented voices and communities.
  • Entries failing to adhere to the specified word count, exclusivity requirements, or thematic alignment with marginalized perspectives may not meet the judging criteria.
  • Manuscripts previously submitted will not be considered, emphasizing the need for originality and fresh perspectives.
  • Click here to submit your work.


Eligibility Criteria

  • The Own Voices, Own Stories Award is open exclusively to new authors identifying as BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+, residing in the United States, and aged 18 years or older.
  • Only unpublished children’s book manuscripts will be considered, ensuring a platform for emerging voices in children’s literature.
  • Authors with self-published works are eligible, provided the submitted story is original and unagented.


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Author Rights

By submitting their manuscripts, authors grant Sleeping Bear Press the opportunity to offer publishing contracts to selected winners and inclusion in the Own Voices, Own Stories collection.

Projects selected for publication will receive standard advance and royalties, offering authors a pathway to share their stories with a broader audience.



Grand Prize winners of the Own Voices, Own Stories Award will receive a generous cash prize of $2,000, alongside a publishing contract with Sleeping Bear Press.

Additionally, Honor Award winners will be awarded a $500 cash prize and a consulting session with a Sleeping Bear Press editor, enhancing their journey towards publication.



Submissions for the Own Voices, Own Stories Award are open from January 2 to April 30 annually.

Manuscripts received outside this window will not be considered. Winners will be notified in the fall, with announcements made publicly to celebrate their achievements.




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