Own Voices, Own Stories Award

Submit your manuscript via Google Forms here. To submit via email, please find instructions here.

The Own Voices, Own Stories Award is offered annually to children’s picture book manuscripts written by new authors from historically marginalized groups with the intention of recognizing and amplifying new and diverse voices with underrepresented perspectives. With this award, we hope to reflect authentic perspectives thereby highlighting the universal experience of our shared humanity through the prism of multifaceted experiences.

For the 2023 award season and in partnership with Easterseals, the Own Voices, Own Stories Award will be eligible to new authors with disabilities. Easterseals is the nation’s leading nonprofit provider of life-changing services and powerful advocacy. For more than 100 years, Easterseals has been leading the way to full equity, inclusion, and access for people with disabilities throughout the lifespan so they can fully participate in their communities and in society at large.


The Own Voices, Own Stories Award contest is open to new authors who identify as having a disability. Applicants must be United States residents and at least 18 years of age. Only projects and authors who have not had a previously traditionally published children’s book will be considered. Projects must be unagented at time of submission. Manuscripts that have been previously submitted to Sleeping Bear Press and/or the Own Voices, Own Stories Award will not be considered. Authors who have self-published books will be considered, but the submitted story must be original (i.e. not the self-published title).


  1. Submissions are open January 1 through April 30. Applicants must submit via the award submission form linked above. The form is only active while submissions are open.
  2. Submitted children’s stories should speak to the authentic experiences and perspectives of people with disabilities with the purpose of engaging readers in narratives that reflect underrepresented voices and communities. Consistent with our dedication to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion, those stories should both inspire and empower readers.
  3. Submissions should be for ages four through ten and may be fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. Text must come in at under 1,300 words (not including backmatter or ancillary material).
  4. Only stories with human protagonists will be considered.
  5. Authors may submit up to two manuscripts per award period. Each manuscript must come via separate submission.
  6. Please note that these must be exclusive submissions. Manuscripts cannot be submitted to additional publications, publishers, agents, or contests concurrently.
  7. Sleeping Bear Press is not responsible for late, lost, or incorrectly submitted projects.


Grand Prize winners will receive a $2,000 cash prize, in addition to a publishing contract with advance and royalties standard for new Sleeping Bear Press authors. Honor Award winners will receive a $500 cash prize as well as one consulting session with a Sleeping Bear Press editor. Submissions selected for the Sleeping Bear Press Own Voices, Own Stories collection will be offered a publishing contract.


  1. Manuscripts can be submitted from January 1 through April 30. Manuscripts arriving before or after those dates will not be considered.
  2. Winners will be notified and announced in the fall.
  3. At least one Honor Award will be offered each year, but Grand Prize winners and stories selected for the collection will be offered at the discretion of the judging committee. All judgments are final.
  4. In cases where an author has acquired an agent after award submission, and in keeping with the spirit of the award to lend opportunity to underrepresented, unagented writers, Own Voices, Own Stories projects will be executed directly with the award recipient, excluded from new agent purview.