2021 Black Voices in Children’s Literature Writing Contest

All children deserve to see themselves and their lives represented in books. To help make that happen, Free Spirit has partnered with Strive Publishing to bring you the Black Voices in Children’s Literature Writing Contest, now in its third year and expanding eligibility to the Midwest region!

In case you missed it, the winner of the 2019 contest was Mélina Mangal, whose book Jayden’s Impossible Garden published this March. Timeless and vibrant, this story highlights the beauty of intergenerational relationships and the power of imagination and perseverance in bringing the vision of a community garden to life. The second-place winner of the 2019 contest was Marit Woods, whose book Who Loves Malik? will be published April 2022. And you can find all the winners and their stories from the 2020 contest in our announcement post here.

Entries are accepted from May 10, 2021 through September 20, 2021. Details on how to enter can be found at freespirit.com/contest.

The Black Voices in Children’s Literature writing contest is open to Black authors who are:

  • at least 18 years of age
  • residing in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, or Wisconsin

Eligible entries will include original fiction or nonfiction board books for ages 0–4 (50–125 words) and picture books for ages 4–8 (300–800 words) featuring contemporary, realistic Black characters and culture and focusing on one or more of the following topics:

  • character development
  • self-esteem
  • diversity
  • getting along with others
  • engaging with family and community
  • other topics related to positive childhood development

And don’t forget! There are awards and cash prizes.

We will be awarding first-, second-, and third-place prizes.

First Place:

  • $1,000 cash prize
  • a T-shirt from Strive
  • a tote bag from Free Spirit
  • a meeting with Mary Taris, founder of Strive, and an editor from Free Spirit to discuss the winner’s project
  • serious consideration for publication by Free Spirit, cobranded with Strive (publication is not guaranteed)

Second Place:

  • $500 cash prize
  • a T-shirt from Strive
  • a tote bag from Free Spirit

Third Place:

  • $250 cash prize
  • a T-shirt from Strive
  • a tote bag from Free Spirit

The deadline for submitting entries is September 20, 2021. Guidelines, judging criteria, and submission information can be found at freespirit.com/contest.


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.


FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2021 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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