The We Need Diverse Books Short Story Contest

by We Need Diverse Books

The We Need Diverse Books Short Story Contest

We Need Diverse Books (“WNDB”) is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. WNDB is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality. We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process.

WNDB is proud to announce that Phoebe Yeh, VP/Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House, has acquired publication rights to the Middle Grade WNDB Anthology, working title “Stories For All Of Us.” Ellen Oh, President of WNDB, will edit the anthology, which will have a January 2017 release date. Contributing authors include: Kwame Alexander, Sherman Alexie, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Pena, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Rachel Renee Russell, and Jacqueline Woodson.

The anthology will be in memory of Walter Dean Myers and it will be inspired by his quote: “Once I began to read, I began to exist.” Every new story contribution to this anthology will be by a diverse author.

WNDB is proud to announce that the anthology will have one story reserved for a previously unpublished diverse author. WNDB will fill that slot via a short story contest. The winner will be included in the anthology and will receive a payment of $1000 US.

General Rules

  • Entries will be accepted after 9:00AM EST on April 27th until 5:00PM EST on May 8th, 2015. Any submission made prior to or after the entry period will not be considered.
  • Entry is free.
  • Submissions will not be returned.
  • All applicants must include a 75 word bio and headshot.
  • Winner will be announced on June 15, 2015.

Short Story Rules

  • All submissions (short story or illustrated story) must be in English and never before published in any medium, print or digital.
  • Submissions must be no longer than 5000 words.
  • All submissions must be electronic and sent to the following email address:
  • All submissions must also be appropriate for a middle grade audience, ages 8 to 12.
  • If your submission is illustrated, it must be in a graphic novel format, but no longer than 10 pages.
  • Illustrations must be submitted electronically. Do NOT mail hard copy submissions to WNDB. They will not be reviewed, nor will they be returned.


  • Open to diverse writers from all diverse backgrounds (as defined above). Applicants must include this information in their bio.
  • Open to diverse writers who have not been published in a traditional print fiction book format, including self-pubbed, independents, small and medium publishing houses, in all genres whether for the children’s or adult market.
  • EXCEPTION – Short story publication credit in a magazine, literary journal, or periodical will not disqualify the applicant.


  • First prize winner will receive an award of $1000 plus their entry will be published as part of the WNDB Anthology to be released by Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House Children’s Books in January 2017.
  • Two runner-up winners will receive honorable mentions and awards of $250 each.


Any submissions sent in before the entry period will be deleted, the email address flagged, and the author automatically disqualified.


Who can apply?

We recognize anyone from a diverse background, including but not limited to, LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities currently marginalized in North America.

What should the story be about?

It can be about anything as long as it relates to the prompt “Once I began to read, I began to exist” and a diverse experience. The story must also be appropriate for a middle grade audience, ages 8 to 12.

What about a submission in verse?

We accept submissions in free verse only.

What about entries that are a combo of both text and graphics? For example, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid format? Are they acceptable?


Do the winners get free copies of the book? How many?

The winner will receive 1 copy of the Anthology when it is published.

Are joint authors for a project okay?

As long as both authors are diverse as defined above. Joint authors will share any prizes given by WNDB.

Is non-fiction acceptable?


Does having a mental illness qualify as having a diverse background?

WNDB recognizes mental illness as a disability and therefore part of our definition of diversity.

What genres are eligible? Fantasy, historical, contemporary, etc?

Submission can be of any genre as long as it is MG (middle-grade).

My self-published book is no longer in print/on the market. Does this disqualify me as an author?

If we can search your name and find a published book online anywhere, you will be disqualified.

Does the exception for a short story publication credit extend to a credit in an anthology series?

The exception only applies to short story credit in a magazine, literary journal, or periodical.

If I’m white am I disqualified?

If you self-identify as a diverse person from one of the definitions stated above, you are still eligible.

If I’m disqualified for this anthology, will I remain eligible for for future opportunities?

We cannot say at this time.

Do authors have to be over 18?

Parental consent will be required upon signing of contract if the winning author is under the age of 18.

What if I’m already published in a language other than English?

Previously published authors in any language are not eligible. The only exception is if the published work is a short story credit in a magazine, literary journal, or periodical.

Can international authors apply?

As long as your submitted work is in English and you are not a previously published author.

What if I have a question not covered in this FAQ?

You can email questions to While we can’t answer every email personally, we will post any new and relevant questions directly to this FAQ.

4 thoughts on “The We Need Diverse Books Short Story Contest

  1. I was curious: If I am preparing a book for self-publication in the Spring, but after the May 8th deadline, would that disqualify me from being considered, particularly if I am able to release it before the June 15th announcement?

    Thank you.

  2. I am a supporter of yours. On January 10 I went to an all day programin San Francisco put on by the magazine, Poets and Writers. There were several panels and performances. As far as I saw, no blacks and perhaps one Asian and one Southeast Asian. I thought this was very strange, especially considering the racial and ethnic diversity of the area. P&W had an evaluation which I completed and noted this problem as well as telling them the parts I enjoyed. I have not heard one word from them.
    I am thinking part of the problem is the organizations they worked with in SF. One was Narrative Magazine and the other was Dave Eggars’ The Grotto.
    Do you have any suggestions of my next steps? I was dismayed because I am a writer but I fall squarely outside the demographics on the stage- mostly white and mostly male and mostly 40 and under. I am an older African American woman.
    Thank you for reading this email.

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