One of the wonderful things about language and, by extension, literary discourse is that we always have the opportunity to re-read and reconsider our choices, both on the page and in the way we read, receive, and respond to work by other writers. We are grateful to be part of an ecosystem that seeks to course correct whenever possible.
Last year we started the Own Voices Prize, inspired by the term coined by Corinne Duyvis to recognize and celebrate marginalized writers writing about their own experiences, to publish work by debut writers of color. For the first iteration of the prize, we opened submissions to poetry chapbooks. Poet Aria Aber, author of Hard Damage (University of Nebraska Press, 2019) and 2020 Whiting Award Winner, served as Guest Judge and she chose There Is Still Singing in the Afterlife by JinJin Xu and BINT by Ghinwa Jawhari as the winning manuscripts.
Recently, there have been growing concerns that the term #OwnVoices has been coopted by the larger publishing industry to box in writers. The team behind We Need Diverse Books has also decided against using the phrase for children’s literature.
It is to that effect that we have decided to rename the prize to The Megaphone Prize. Megaphones amplify the voice, and have played an important role in protests and social movements. We remain committed to amplifying writers of color and publishing the complex, nuanced narratives that spring forth from their experience.
This year, for The Megaphone Prize, we will be accepting short story collections from debut writers of color. We are honored that author Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, winner of the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, will serve as Guest Judge for this year’s prize.
Submissions open July 15. Stay tuned for more information.