About the Award
The New Voices Award is given annually by children's book publisher Lee & Low Books for a children’s picture book manuscript by a writer of color or Indigenous/Native writer.
Established in 2000, the New Voices Award encourages writers of color and Indigenous/Native writers to submit their work to a publisher that takes pride in nurturing new talent. Past New Voices Award submissions we have published include The Blue Roses, winner of the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People; Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story, a Texas Bluebonnet Masterlist selection; and It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, winner of the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award Honor.
The New Voices Seal was redesigned in 2022 to commemorate our co-founder, Tom Low, who passed in 2020. Tom Low was a staunch supporter of new voices and conceived of the idea of of the New Voices Award as a way for Lee & Low to stay true to its roots of nurturing unpublished BIPOC authors.
2021 Winner and Honor
Maleeha Malik of Baltimore, Maryland, is the winner of the company’s twenty-second annual New Voices Award. Her picture-book manuscript At Home in My Skin features a child with vitiligo—a skin disorder that causes depigmentation—who embraces their individuality by drawing connections between their skin’s ever-changing patterns and the designs in nature. Jessica Mehta from Hillsboro, Oregon, will receive the New Voices Award Honor for her picture-book manuscript One of Kokum’s Kids. Inspired by Mehta’s experience adopting her daughters, One of Kokum’s Kids explores the everyday life of an Indigenous/Native child in the foster care system and the meaningful friendships and bonds they build with others in their community.
Read more about the 2021 winner and honor recipients.
- The contest is open to writers of color and Indigenous/Native writers who are residents of the United States and at least 18 years old at the time of entry, and who have not previously had a children’s picture book traditionally published.
- Participants remain eligible if they have published work in other venues and genres, including children’s magazines, middle-grade and young adult fiction or nonfiction, and adult fiction or nonfiction. Authors of self-published books are also eligible, but they should submit a new manuscript, not a project that has been previously self-published. Writers cannot have had a picture book traditionally published if they’re applying for the New Voices Award.
- Only unagented manuscripts will be considered.
- Manuscripts previously submitted for this award or to LEE & LOW BOOKS’ general submissions will not be considered.
- Manuscripts should address the needs of children of color and Native nations by providing stories with which they can identify and relate, and which promote a greater understanding of one another. Themes relating to non-traditional family structures, gender identity, or disabilities may also be included.
- Submissions may be FICTION, NONFICTION, or POETRY for children ages 5 to 12. Only stories with human protagonists will be considered.
- Manuscripts should be no more than 1500 words in length and accompanied by a cover letter that includes the author’s name, address, phone number, email address, brief biographical note, relevant cultural and ethnic information, how the author heard about the award, and publication history, if any.
- Manuscripts should be typed double-spaced.
- Up to two submissions per entrant. Each submission should be submitted separately.
- The manuscript you submit to the New Voices contest may not be submitted to other publishers, agents, mentorship contests, writing contests, or to LEE & LOW’s general submissions while under consideration for this award.
- LEE & LOW BOOKS is not responsible for late, lost, or incorrectly submitted manuscripts. Be sure you leave enough time to resubmit if technical difficulties occur.
Dates for Submission
All submissions must be submitted between May 1, 2021, and August 15, 2021 11:59 p.m. EDT (Eastern Daylight Time).
The Award winner receives a cash prize of $2,000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first-time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash prize of $1,000.
Announcement of the Award
- The Award and/or Honor Award winners will be notified no later than December 31, 2021.
- We will announce the winners by January 18, 2022.
- The judges are the editors of LEE & LOW BOOKS. The decision of the judges is final.
- At least one Honor Award will be given each year, but LEE & LOW BOOKS reserves the right not to choose an Award winner.
- For FAQ and previous winners, visit leeandlow.com/writers-illustrators/new-voices-award.
Check out the New Voices Award Winners & Honors Collection.