2020 African American Voices in Children's Literature Writing Contest

Alyssa Lochner
April 6, 2020

Sponsored by Strive Publishing and Free Spirit Publishing

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. Submission deadline is June 22, 2020.

For full contest details and Submittable link, visit www.freespirit.com/contest.

Eligible entries will include original fiction or nonfiction manuscripts for ages 0–4 (50–125 words) or 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.


  • To enter you must be:
  • of African American heritage
  • a resident of Minnesota
  • at least 18 years of age

All entries must be your original work, unpublished, and not accepted for publication anywhere at the time they are entered in the contest.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

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 August 3, 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 non-cash 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.