Attention Unpublished, Underrepresented Women Writers: Apply To LitUp!

Margaret Kingsbury

Contributing Editor

Margaret Kingsbury grew up in a house so crammed with books she couldn’t open a closet door without a book stack tumbling, and she’s brought that same decorative energy to her adult life. Margaret has an MA in English with a concentration in writing and has worked as a bookseller and adjunct English professor. She’s currently a freelance writer and editor, and in addition to Book Riot, her pieces have appeared in School Library Journal, BuzzFeed News, The Lily, Parents,, and more. She particularly loves children’s books, fantasy, science fiction, horror, graphic novels, and any books with disabled characters. You can read more about her bookish and parenting shenanigans in Book Riot’s twice-weekly The Kids Are All Right newsletter. You can also follow her kidlit bookstagram account @BabyLibrarians, or on Twitter @AReaderlyMom.

Calling all diverse women writers! LitUp—a writer’s fellowship from Reese’s Book Club—is accepting fee-free applications from unpublished, underrepresented women writers. Reese’s Book Club, along with We Need Diverse Books, have created this fellowship to aid diverse emerging writers so “more diverse stories are seen, heard, and read by all.” LitUp has partnered with Hello Sunshine and Madcap Retreats to offer five writers: 

  • An all-expenses-paid writer’s retreat, which will be held at the beginning of 2022 
  • A three-month mentorship with a published author 
  • Marketing support from Reese’s Book Club

This is a fantastic opportunity for new writers!

To qualify, writers must identify as a woman from a diverse background and be unagented and unpublished. Writers are considered published if they have any book published, including self-published books. Published essays, short stories, poems, etc., do not make an applicant ineligible. The unpublished stipulation applies to just book-length works (in other words, if you have a short story published in an anthology, you can still apply, but if you self-published your own short story collection, you’re ineligible). Applicants must also be a U.S. citizen, living in the United States, and 18 years of age or older.

LitUp uses We Need Diverse Book’s definition of diversity, as follows:

“We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, Native, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

*We subscribe to a broad definition of disability, which includes but is not limited to physical, sensory, cognitive, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, chronic conditions, and mental illnesses (this may also include addiction). Furthermore, we subscribe to a social model of disability, which presents disability as created by barriers in the social environment, due to lack of equal access, stereotyping, and other forms of marginalization.”

Applicants must also have a completed manuscript of young adult or adult fiction centering a woman character. Non-fiction and children’s books will not be accepted. They do accept genre fiction. In addition to the manuscript, applicants will need to submit a 750-word synopsis and answer a series of short questions about their work and their literary influences.

Applications are due June 13, 2021*. The five winning writers will be notified by the end of this year or the beginning of 2022. A team from Reese’s Book Club and We Need Diverse Books will evaluate the manuscripts. The final round of judging might also include a video interview.

As the New York Times reported last year, publishing is incredibly white. While I could find no statistics on the number of LGBTQ+ and disabled writers (this would be difficult to calculate for many reasons), they too are far underrepresented. Even when underrepresented writers are picked up from a publisher, they struggle for the same marketing as books by white, cishet, non-disabled writers. Fellowships like LitUp aim to aid these underrepresented writers so that their stories can be told and read and shared.

Apply to the LitUp Writer’s Fellowship here by June 13th*. And good luck! I can’t wait to read the winning novels.

Editor’s Note: The original deadline of May 31st has been extended to June 13th.