Announcing the 2024 PRH Creative Writing Award Winners & $10,000 Scholarship Recipients

By Coll Rowe | June 5 2024 | Creative Writing

Six exceptional public high school seniors from across the country have been chosen as winners of the 2024 Penguin Random House Creative Writing Awards in partnership with We Need Diverse Books, a national grassroots organization that advocates for diversity in children’s literature. This year marks the first time the Freedom of Expression Award has been presented.

The Freedom of Expression Award was specifically created in response to the rise in book bans across the country, and to celebrate the power of books and stories. Applicants to the new award were asked to answer the prompt, “Tell us about one banned book that changed your life and why.”

Book bans have reached an all-time high in recent years, according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, climbing 65 percent in 2023 versus 2022. 47 percent of the 4,240 unique book titles targeted for removal in 2023 featured LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC characters.

Prizes were awarded in the following categories: the inaugural award for the Freedom of Expression Award, the Michelle Obama Award for Memoir, the Amanda Gorman Award for Poetry, the Maya Angelou Award for Spoken Word, fiction & drama, and the NYC Entrant Award.

The 2024 award winners and first-place $10,000 scholarship recipients are:

  • Freedom of Expression Award: Allison Curletto of Fremont High School, Plain City, UT for The Impact of A Wrinkle of Time by Madeline L’Engle
  • Michelle Obama Award for Memoir: Sofia Hernandez of Stuyvesant High School, New York, NY for My Everything
  • Amanda Gorman Award for Poetry: Anika Bukkapatnam of Woodbridge Academy Magnet School, Woodbridge, NJ for What’s In a Name
  • Maya Angelou Award for Spoken Word: Kellen Hunnicutt of West High School, Salt Lake City, UT for Our Light
  • Fiction & Drama: Ella Ferrell of Oviedo High School, Oviedo, FL for Obituary for an Eyesmith
  • NYC Entrant: Amber Shen of Stuyvesant High School, New York, NY for Saran Wrap

Claire von Schilling, EVP, Director Corporate Communications and Social Responsibility, Penguin Random House said, “Every year, we are blown away by the caliber of talent of our Creative Writing Award winners, and this year was no exception. Together with We Need Diverse Books, we are excited to uplift these captivating and diverse stories—and proud to champion young people’s voices in the face of rampant book bans and censorship efforts.”

Caroline Richmond, Executive Director of WNDB said, “We are thrilled to present the first Freedom of Expression Award, and to celebrate these outstanding young voices. These exceptional entries showcase valuable perspectives and remind us that diverse viewpoints are essential and life-saving.”

More than 1,000 students from nearly 900 high schools across 50 states and two territories entered the competition, which is celebrating its 31st year. Each first-place recipient of the Penguin Random House Creative Writing Awards will receive a $10,000 college scholarship and a week of summer professional development from Penguin Random House, including a one-on-one coaching from some of the industry’s best editors, networking workshops, a panel about career opportunities in publishing, and a fireside chat with a Penguin Random House author. The week concludes with a virtual awards ceremony.

In addition, 78 honorable mentions are awarded to outstanding entries. These honorees will receive a “Creativity Kit,” which includes writing resources and books.

Every submission to the competition was given individual consideration via a rigorous scoring process by WNDB and Penguin Random House.

To learn more about our Creative Writing Awards click here.