The Sarton Awards and the Gilda Prize
The Sarton Women’s Book Awards are named in honor of May Sarton, who is remembered for her outstanding contributions to women’s literature as a memoirist, novelist, and poet and for her encouragement of young women writers. Sarton Award winners are distinguished by their strong female protagonists and the compelling ways they honor the lives of women and girls. They are currently granted in five categories:
- Contemporary Fiction (novels set entirely or primarily in the 21st century);
- Historical Fiction (includes novels set in the 20th century—#7 below);
- Middle Grades Fiction (prose, no graphic novels);
- Nonfiction: Biography, edited diaries, studies of women’s literature.
The Middle Grades category is new in 2022. We welcome indie-published novels that include diverse characters and address contemporary issues that may have once been considered almost exclusively the province of books for young adults: sexual awakening, sexual identity, mental illness, suicide, eating disorders, addictions. With book banning currently spreading like a plague across the country, it seems important to recognize middle grade fiction that tackles these difficult subjects—and does it well. (While we enjoy graphic novels, they are not included in this category.)
The Gilda Prize: “It’s Always Something” is named for Gilda Radner, whose comedic performances made her an entertainment legend and whose courage won our hearts. It is awarded for memoir, novels, and collections of personal essays (nonfiction) that show us something important about the human spirit and make us laugh (even if we want to cry).
Both competitions are open to women authors whose work is published in the United States and Canada. The awards are limited to submissions originally written in English and published by author-publishers (self-publishing authors) and independent publishers (that is, not an imprint of a larger press) and university presses with editorial offices headquartered in North America. Entries from/about women and girls of color and LBT+ women and girls are welcome in all categories. Debut authors are especially encouraged. Professional librarians not affiliated with SCN select the winners from finalists chosen by first round jurors. Winners and finalists will be announced in April 2023 via social media, on the Story Circle Network website, and to SCN’s extensive email list.
- Winners receive a cash prize of $100, a commemorative award, gold seals, and a virtual seal for their websites, as well as advertising in SCN’s eletters and website and a year’s membership in SCN. Winners are also invited to attend and be honored at Stories from the Heart, SCN’s national conference (virtual or onsite).
- Finalists receive silver seals, a virtual seal for their websites.
Guidelines for 2022
The Sarton Women’s Book Awards and the Gilda Prize
Applicants are responsible for reading and observing these requirements. Query us if you have questions.
Early Bird Entry (through August 1, 2022): $90. Regular Entry (August 2– October 31, 2022): $110. (All entries include a one-year membership in Story Circle Network).
The entry submission package consists of the application form, the entry fee ($90 Early Bird; $110 thereafter), and either 1) three bound, reader-ready copies or 2) an electronic copy (.epub or .pdf file format) of the work.
The application must be completed, payment received, and books postmarked no later than October 31, 2022. If any part of the package is missing by this date, the submission is incomplete and ineligible for the current year’s contest. However, books that are received after the deadline may be held for the following year’s competition.
1. Works in English by women authors originally published during January 1, 2019 – December 31, 2022 in the United States and Canada are eligible.
2. An eligible book is published:
a. by the author or authors;
b. by a single-author press;
c. by a university press; or
d. by an independent press.
3. Ineligible: books published by large publishers Amazon Publishing, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House (including Sourcebooks), Simon & Schuster, Cengage, and their imprints, as well as publishers headquartered outside the U.S. and Canada. The publisher’s eligibility is determined at the time the book is entered into the competition. Some publishers are imprints of the larger houses and are not "independent." If you need a ruling on the eligibility of your publisher, please contact us before you enter. Query us if you're in doubt; we will rule promptly.
4. Not eligible at this time: Collections of fictional works by single authors and fictional works or collections of fictional works by multiple authors; collections of memoir essays by single and multiple authors.
5. Works published as e-books only are not eligible. The book must be currently available in print.
6. Memoirs written in collaboration are eligible if both authors experienced the events described in the narrative (for example, a mother/daughter collaboration about their lives together). As-told-to memoirs (memoirs written by or with anyone other than the person or persons who experienced the events therein) are generally not eligible, although exceptions may be considered; please query before submitting.
7. If your novel is set entirely or chiefly in the late 20th century (1950s-1990s), it is eligible for either the contemporary or historical categories. Sarton coordinators reserve the right to change the category designation without consulting the applicant.
8. By entering, you assert that the work is eligible. Ineligible books will be disqualified and entry fees will not be refunded.
9. A book may be entered in more than one category. A book may be entered in more than one year, as long as it was published within the current eligibility period.
10. Anyone (author, publisher, publicist, SCN member, non-SCN member, other) may submit one or more eligible works.
11. A complete entry consists of THREE print copies or an electronic file of the published book, either .epub or .pdf format. The cover and text must be in one file; ensure that the cover is the cover of the edition currently being distributed. (Ebook submissions without current, full-color covers are incomplete and will be disqualified without notice to the applicant.) Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) or galleys with complete covers are acceptable, but the book must be scheduled for release by the closing date of this year’s competition. (See #1 above.) Do not enclose promotional material.
12. Mailing and entry confirmation. Package books to withstand rough, cross-country postal handling. Bubble-lined poly mailer or box is preferred. Do NOT send signature-required. We do not notify applicants that their books have been received. If you wish to confirm receipt of your entry, enclose a stamped, self-addressed postcard. To be fair to all applicants, inquiries concerning receipt will not be answered.
13. The entry fee for an incomplete submission will not be returned. Incomplete submission packages will not be returned.
14. An award will not be made if the judges deem that no entry merits it.
IMPORTANT: If you are in doubt about whether your book is appropriate to this competition, you should review our rubrics (the scoring guides our jurors and judges use to help determine winners). Our list of previous winners may also be helpful.
We subscribe to the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) Contest Code of Ethics:
“CLMP’s community of independent literary publishers believes that ethical contests serve our shared goal: to connect writers and readers by publishing exceptional writing. We believe that intent to act ethically, clarity of guidelines, and transparency of process form the foundation of an ethical contest. To that end, we agree to 1) conduct our contests as ethically as possible and to address any unethical behavior on the part of our readers, judges, or editors; 2) to provide clear and specific contest guidelines; and 3) to make the mechanics of our selection process available to the public. This Code recognizes that different contest models produce different results, but that each model can be run ethically. We have adopted this Code to reinforce our integrity and dedication as a publishing community and to ensure that our contests contribute to a vibrant literary heritage.”
Questions? Contact us via email: email@example.com or mail: Story Circle Network, 723 W University Ave #300-234, Georgetown TX 78626.
The 2022 competitions are now closed. Watch this page for the 2023 competitions.