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2024 Black Voices in Children’s Literature: Writing Contest

Sponsored by Strive Publishing and Free Spirit Publishing.

Opens on June 19, 2024.

Sign up here to get an email when 2024 submissions open.

About the Contest

Welcome back to the Black Voices in Children’s Literature Writing Contest! The contest is open to Black authors who at the time of entry are at least 18 years of age and residing anywhere in the United States.

As always, the contest’s mission is to elevate authentic, culturally relevant children’s stories written by and about Black people. Every entry is considered for publication and three cash prizes will be awarded.

About Strive Publishing

Strive Publishing’s vision is a world where Black narratives are centered, valued, and empowered for freedom, equity, and justice.

Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Strive Publishing exists to help solve two problems: the need for culturally relevant children’s books and the underrepresentation of Black authors. While giving all children the opportunity to see Black culture from different perspectives, Strive Publishing aims to create opportunities for emerging Black authors. We all have a stake in the critical work of uplifting Black voices in children’s literature, and we can make the greatest impact by working together.

About Free Spirit Publishing

Whether at home, at school, or out in the world, all kids face challenges in their lives. No matter how many choices, changes, and opportunities young people encounter, Free Spirit has had the same mission for almost 40 years: to provide children and teens—and the adults who care for and about them—with the tools they need to think for themselves, overcome challenges, and make a difference in the world.

Minneapolis-based Free Spirit Publishing, an imprint of Teacher Created Materials, is known for its unique understanding of what kids want and need to navigate life successfully. We’re not afraid to tackle tough topics such as teen depression, kids and anxiety, grief and loss, juvenile justice, and conflict resolution. Free Spirit also offers sound advice with a sense of humor on relevant issues including stress management, character building, school success, self-esteem, community involvement, youth leadership, and more. We aim to meet all kids—toddlers, teens, and everyone in between—where they are (not where we wish they were), and support them to develop their talents, build resiliency, and foster a positive outlook on life so they can reach their goals.

What to Enter

Submissions should meet these qualifications:

  • Must be original children’s books for ages 0–4 (50–125 words) or for ages 4–8 (300–800 words)
  • Must feature authentic, realistic Black characters and culture
  • Must focus on one or more of the following topics: character development, self-esteem, identity, diversity, getting along with others, engaging with family and community, or other topics related to positive childhood development

What Not to Enter

The following types of submissions will not be considered.

  • Chapter books and books aimed primarily at children older than age 8
  • Essays, short stories, and poems (note: rhyme and poetic language within the narrative are eligible)
  • Religious messages and dogma (note: the representation of religion as a part of life and culture is eligible)
  • Fantasy themes (such as talking animals and magic)


Eligible writers are Black residents of the United States, 18 years of age or older. Employees of Free Spirit Publishing, Teacher Created Materials, and Strive Publishing are not eligible. Previous contest winners are not eligible.


Only one entry per person. All entries must be:

  • Your original work
  • Unpublished (including traditionally or via self-publishing)
  • Not under contract with any other publisher at the time of entry

Please include the following items in your entry:

  • Book text along with written illustration ideas if you have them (no need to include actual art)
  • A letter briefly describing your book, specifying the intended audience (including age range), and telling why you decided to write it
  • Your brief biography and current email address

No manuscripts will be returned. Entries that do not conform to contest rules will be disqualified.

Questions about the guidelines? Email

Awards & Cash Prizes

First Place: $1,000 cash prize, a T-shirt from Strive, swag from Free Spirit, and a meeting with Mary Taris, founder of Strive, and an editor from Free Spirit to discuss the winner’s project. The winning submission will be seriously considered for publication by Free Spirit, cobranded with Strive; however, publication is not guaranteed.

Second Place: $500 cash prize, a T-shirt from Strive, and swag from Free Spirit

Third Place: $250 cash prize, a T-shirt from Strive, and swag from Free Spirit


The Contest begins at 7:00:01 a.m. (CDT) on June 19, 2024, and ends at 11:59:59 p.m. (CDT) on July 22, 2024 (“Entry Period”). Mailed entries must be postmarked, and emailed entries must be received, by 11:59:59 p.m. CDT on July 22, 2024.

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To Submit an Entry Online

1. Title the manuscript and include your name on the first page.
2. Upload your entry on Submittable:

To Submit an Entry via Email

1. Title the manuscript and include your name on the first page.
2. Send your entry as an attachment in Word or as a PDF.
3. Email to

To Submit an Entry via Mail

1. Title the manuscript and include your name on the first page.
2. Print out your submission double-spaced on letter-sized paper and mail to:

Strive/Free Spirit Writing Contest
Free Spirit Publishing
9850 51st Avenue North, Suite 100
Minneapolis, MN 55442

Judging Criteria

  • Cultural relevance and authentic voice
  • Presentation (follows submission guidelines, neatness, legibility)
  • Suitability (fits publishing category; targeted age group and length are appropriate for children’s manuscripts)
  • Content (tightness, clarity, structure, strength of lead/beginning, transitions, impact, satisfactory close)
  • Alignment with the spirit of the Contest
  • For nonfiction: logical flow, accuracy of information, sound advice

Winner Notification

Winners will be notified by email on or around December 15, 2024. All potential winners are subject to verification. Each prizewinner may be required to sign and return to Sponsor, within ten (10) days of the date notice is sent, an affidavit of eligibility/liability and publicity release (except where prohibited) in order to claim their prize if applicable. If a potential winner of any prize cannot be contacted, or fails to sign or return the affidavit of eligibility/liability and publicity release within the required time period, the prize or prize notification is returned as undeliverable, or the potential winner is deemed ineligible, the potential winner forfeits prize, and Sponsor will award the applicable prize to an alternative winner selected from all remaining eligible entries. Upon confirmation of eligibility, prizes will be awarded no later than December 31, 2024. Prizes will be awarded in accordance with these Official Rules. Sponsor’s determination of eligibility and selection of winners is binding on all participants.

The total number of prizes is three (3). The total prize value for all three (3) prizes is $1,750 in cash plus merchandise listed in the prize descriptions. All prizes will be awarded in connection with this Contest in accordance with the Official Rules. Within approximately thirty (30) days after confirmation of the winners, Sponsor will provide the winners with their prizes (e.g., check, gift certificate, or other document giving winner unconditional right to receive the respective prize). All prizes are nontransferable and nonassignable, and noncash prizes cannot be redeemed for cash. All costs, fees, expenses, and taxes (including, without limitation, federal, state, and local taxes) associated with any element of a prize are the sole responsibility of the winners.

Everyone who enters the contest has the chance at publication.

Winners List

A Winners List will be posted after winners have been notified.

Grant of First Refusal

By entering this Contest and in consideration for the same, the three selected winning Entrants grant Free Spirit Publishing and Strive Publishing the right of first refusal to publish their Contest submission and all content submitted in connection therewith, using the standard publishing contract of the respective publisher. Authors retain the right to negotiate the terms of that contract.

Release of Liability

By participating, Entrant agrees to waive, release, hold harmless, and indemnify Strive Publishing and Free Spirit Publishing; their current and former officers, directors, owners, employees, agents, representatives, affiliates; and the judges (“Released Parties”) from and against any and all liability or causes of action (however named or described) and for any injuries, losses, and/or damages caused by or resulting from entry or participation in this Contest, including without limitation: (1) any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by Entrants, any Released Party, printing errors, by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Contest; (2) technical failures of any kind, including but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; (3) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Contest; (4) technical or human error that may occur in the administration of the Contest or the processing of entries; or (5) any injury or damage to persons or property that may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from Entrant’s participation in the Contest or receipt or use or misuse of any prize. If for any reason an Entrant’s entry is confirmed to have been erroneously deleted, lost, or otherwise destroyed or corrupted, Entrant’s sole remedy is another entry in the Contest during the Entry Period. Released Parties are not responsible for any expenses incurred by Entrant in connection with participation in this Contest.

This waiver and release is intended to waive all rights I may have under Section 1542 of the Civil Code of California, as well as any similar law of any other state or territory, that I may have. Section 1542 states that a “general release does not extend to claims which the creditor does not know or suspect to exist in their favor at the time of executing the release, which, if known by him or her must have materially affected their settlement with the debtor.”


Winner(s) agrees to allow Sponsor to use their submitted title(s), name, likeness, picture and/or hometown and state information for promotional purposes in all media, worldwide, as may be determined by Sponsor without additional compensation. Winner(s) agree to sign documents deemed necessary by Sponsor to confirm permission and authorization. Entrants agree to be contacted by Sponsor, including via email, in the future (and shall have the opportunity to “opt out” of such emails).

Modification of Official Rules and/or Contest Termination

Sponsor reserves the right to modify any term of this Contest and these Official Rules at any time at Sponsor’s sole discretion. Sponsor reserves the right to cancel, suspend, and/or modify the Contest, or any part of it, if any fraud, technical failures, or any other factor beyond Sponsor’s reasonable control impairs the integrity or proper functioning of the Contest, as determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion. In such event, Sponsor reserves the right to award the prizes from among the eligible entries received up to the time of the impairment.


This Contest shall be conducted in accordance with the laws of the State of Minnesota. All disputes concerning these terms and Contest shall be adjudicated in the federal and state courts having jurisdiction over Hennepin County, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.


The Sponsors of this contest are Free Spirit Publishing ( and Strive Publishing ( Free Spirit Publishing is an imprint of Teacher Created Materials. As used in these Rules, “Sponsor” means Free Spirit Publishing and Strive Publishing collectively. Administrator of this Contest is Free Spirit Publishing, who can be contacted by calling 612-338-2068 or emailing


Any attempt to enter this Contest in a manner other than in compliance with and as provided in these Official Rules shall be VOID. Entries received from persons not meeting eligibility requirements will be disqualified. Sponsor is not responsible for lost, late, incomplete, invalid, unintelligible, or misdirected entries, all of which will be disqualified.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. The 2024 Black Voices in Children’s Literature Writing Contest (“Contest”) is subject to all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Participation constitutes full and unconditional agreement to these Official Rules and Sponsor’s and judges’ decisions, which are final and binding in all matters related to the Contest. Winning a prize is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein and is not guaranteed. Employees of the Sponsors of this Contest and the Sponsors' associated imprints are ineligible to submit.