Pen Parentis is delighted to announce the winners of our Tenth Anniversary Writing Fellowship for New Parents. First let us congratulate every single writer who managed to complete a sentence and crown all of you that not only finished new work but sent it in to our competition on this, the tenth anniversary year of the Pen Parentis Writing Fellowship for New Parents.

Our 2020-2021 Fellowship goes to Dawn Ryan of Brooklyn, for the short story “The Cats.”

She wins $1000 cash as well as a year’s mentorship to help support her incredible talent (and her two year old daughter). “The Cats” is the first award we have ever given to a story in the literary horror genre. We found “The Cats” a hard, enigmatic, and exquisitely weird story that perplexed and haunted us. It stood out among all the other stories as addressing every topic and no topic, as a fable of parenting without featuring a single parent-child relationship. For all its nightmare scenarios, it is still an absolutely riveting and ghastly realistic story of a child forced to take on someone else’s very disturbing responsibility. There are so many layers of horror in this story that it feels almost impossible that it is under 700 words. You won’t be able to forget this tiny little tale, and we are excited that our winner will be published by Dreamers Writing Magazine in the months to come.

Quarantine is an excruciating time for writers who have very small children at home. We are honored this year to be in a position to be able to help a few more of these writers. In this light, we are thrilled to announce that in honor of our Tenth Anniversary, and because of the added challenges that these times have afforded to all writer-parents, we have decided to bestow one-time only Tenth Anniversary Jurors’ Prizes to our second and third place winners in addition to awarding our annual Fellowship.

Becky Fine-Firesheets of Brooklyn, NY wins a special Jurors’ Prize of $500 for her outstanding Second Place story “2021,” about a young psychic trying to help a teenager caught beneath a subway train during a second wave of COVID. It is a hopeful, positive story that shows stewardship and care of others in an upbeat way, despite the circumstances.

This year’s fellowship opened for entries on March 1, and several entries arrived before the full force of the coronavirus was felt. This second place story showed, however, that the author allowed current events to flow through the creation of her excellent work, and she was able to be influenced, but not stymied by the incredible challenges that quarantined parents are facing at this time.

Third place, which this year comes with a special Jurors’ Prize of $100, goes to Audrey Burges of North Chesterfield, VA, who has two children. “If it’s your Time to Go” is a haunting and surprising tale of realistic fiction, set at a train track crossing in Phoenix. Grounded in the scents and sounds of rural Arizona, the main character’s attitude– “Life is only ever a portrait in progress, and the artist doesn’t like you,” is echoed and exacerbated by her life. The writing was evocative and literary. The ending surprised everyone. It was beyond perfect.

All of the stories that made the short list this year deserve mention (they are in no order):

“Making it” by Shawna Gamache, Seattle, WA (3 kids)

“The Reciprocity Sessions” by Andrea Appleton of Baltimore, MD (2 kids)

“A Hundred Thousand Dollar Day” by Peyton Roberts of Stanford, CA (2 kids)

“Coconut” by Monica Nathan of Toronto, ON Canada (2 kids)

“Fish” by Reena Shah of Brooklyn, NY (2 kids)

“As Good As New” by Jennie Aylward of South Orange, NJ (1 kid)


“Hidden Worlds” also Audrey Burges of North Chesterfield, VA.


Congratulations to all the winners and to everyone who managed to write and submit a story on this our tenth anniversary of awarding this fellowship to a writer with at least one child under ten years old. Your dedication to writing inspires us all! We are looking forward to seeing your entries next year and we hope with ever fiber that it will be a gentler world by then. Keep Writing.

ALL ENTRANTS SHOULD FEEL WELCOME to follow us on Instagram for inspiration, advice, stories, and videos of past Salons. Follow us on Twitter to be the first to know about our events. Follow us on Facebook and join our secret Pen Parentis Behind Closed Doors group to meet other writer-parents and hear about parent-specific writing opportunities. Look at our new website to list your writing side-gig or to look up residencies and colonies for writer parents (currently under construction). More jobs-minded? Find our group on LinkedIn and join! Explore the rest of if you might want to become a member or join a weekly accountability group with other writer-parents. We are @PenParentis on all social media – we want to help writer parents stay on creative track after they start a family. That’s you. We are here for you all year. Thanks for writing a really cool story. Keep up the good work.

Our new IGTV has a series of inspiring conversations with writers who are balancing successful careers with a vibrant family life. You will also see the archival footage of the conversation that M. M. De Voe held with Dr. Michelle Tichy, educational psychologist with an emphasis on social justice and deep knowledge of wholistic homeschooling tactics to keep working parents who homeschool productive. This conversation can help you stay on creative track if your kids are quarantined with you at home.

Stay safe & be well & write whenever you can.

THANK YOU to Brook Yimer who created our IGTV and whose paid internship is generously sponsored by The Rose O’Neill Literary House of Washington College in Chestertown, MD. Their executive director, James Allen Hall, just won the 2020 Levis Prize for poetry! His new collection Romantic Comedy will be published in 2023 by Four Way Books. We love our literary partners!