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Submit To Black Voices in Children’s Literature: Writing Contest 2023

The Black Voices in Children’s Literature: Writing Contest 2023 is sponsored by Strive Publishing and Free Spirit Publishing.

Black Voices in Children’s Literature: Writing Contest 2023

Black Competition 2023

The Black Voices in Children’s Literature: Writing Contest 2023 is sponsored by Strive Publishing and Free Spirit Publishing.

Open for submissions from June 19 to July 24, 2023.

About The Black Voices In Children’s Literature: Writing Contest 2023 

The Black Voices in Children’s Literature Writing Contest is celebrating its fifth year! The contest is open to Black authors who at the time of entry are at least 18 years of age and residing anywhere in the United States.

As always, the contest’s mission is to elevate authentic, culturally relevant children’s stories written by and about Black people. Every entry is considered for publication and three cash prizes will be awarded.

About Strive Publishing

Strive Publishing’s vision is a world where Black narratives are centered, valued, and empowered for freedom, equity, and justice.

Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Strive Publishing exists to help solve two problems: the need for culturally relevant children’s books and the underrepresentation of Black authors. While giving all children the opportunity to see Black culture from different perspectives, Strive Publishing aims to create opportunities for emerging Black authors. We all have a stake in the critical work of uplifting Black voices in children’s literature, 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 almost 40 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, an imprint of Teacher Created Materials, 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.

What to Enter

Eligible entries will include original children’s books for ages 0–4 (50–125 words) or for ages 4–8 (300–800 words) featuring authentic, realistic Black characters and culture and focusing on one or more of the following topics: character development, self-esteem, identity, diversity, getting along with others, engaging with family and community, or other topics related to positive childhood development. 

Religious messages (outside of the representation of religious practices) and fantasy themes will not be considered.

Eligibility Criteria For Black Voices in Children’s Literature: Writing Contest 2023

Eligible writers are Black residents of the United States, 18 years of age or older. Employees of Free Spirit Publishing, Teacher Created Materials, and Strive Publishing are not eligible. Previous contest winners are not eligible.

Guidelines For Submission Black Voices in Children’s Literature: Writing Contest 2023

Only one entry per person. All entries must be:

  • Your original work
  • Unpublished (traditionally or self-published)
  • Not accepted for publication anywhere at the time of entry
Please include the following items in your entry:

  • Book text along with illustration ideas (no need to send art; written ideas are preferred)
  • A letter briefly describing your book, specifying the intended audience (including age range), and telling why you decided to write it
  • Your brief biography and current email address
  • No manuscripts will be returned. Entries that do not conform to contest rules will be disqualified.

Questions about the guidelines? Email contest@freespirit.com.

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


The Contest begins at 7:00:01 a.m. (CDT) on June 19, 2023, and ends at 11:59:59 p.m. (CDT) on July 24, 2023 (“Entry Period”). Mailed entries must be postmarked, and emailed entries must be received, by 11:59:59 p.m. CDT on July 24, 2023.

To Submit an Entry Online

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

To Submit an Entry via Email
1. Title the manuscript and include your name on the first page.
2. Send your entry as an attachment in Word or as a PDF.
3. Email to contest@freespirit.com

To Submit an Entry via Mail
1. Title the manuscript and include your name on the first page.
2. Print out your submission double-spaced on letter-sized paper and mail to:

Strive/Free Spirit Writing Contest
Free Spirit Publishing
9850 51st Avenue North, Suite 100
Minneapolis, MN 55442

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: logical flow, accuracy of information, sound advice

Winner Notification

Winners will be notified by email on or around December 15, 2023. 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, or 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 December 31, 2023. 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.

Winners List

A Winners List will be posted after winners have been notified.

Grant of License

By entering this Contest and in consideration for the same, the three selected winning Entrants grant Free Spirit Publishing and Strive Publishing an irrevocable, exclusive, fully paid license to use, publish, and distribute the winning Entrant’s Contest submission and all content submitted in connection therewith. 

Winning Entrants agree to sign documents deemed necessary by Sponsor to confirm and document the license. The license granted pursuant to this paragraph does not divest Entrant of ownership of the Contest submission.



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Pawners Paper: Submit To Black Voices in Children’s Literature: Writing Contest 2023
Submit To Black Voices in Children’s Literature: Writing Contest 2023
The Black Voices in Children’s Literature: Writing Contest 2023 is sponsored by Strive Publishing and Free Spirit Publishing.
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