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The Beginner’s Guide to American Literary Organizations

Believe it or not, it’s not just publishing houses that keep the literary world moving and grooving. There’s a whole host of foundations that keep the American publishing industry on its feet. Here’s a list of the groups, communities, and foundations helping keep literary life fun, exciting, and fair.

National Book Foundationnbf_logo

The National Book Foundation is most famous for their yearly National Book Awards, but they also host a bevy of other literary awards, like Trendsetter favorite 5 Under 35, as well as events like Eat, Drink, and Be Literary, and programs like BookUp, dedicated to youth reading. The National Book Foundation wants American citizens to be excited about American literature of all kinds.

Mission Statement: The mission of the National Book Foundation and the National Book Awards is to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America.

Community of Literary Magazines and Presses

clmp-logoThe Community of Literary Magazines and Presses, or CLMP, is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a group of small, independent literary magazines and publishers who team up to make sure they are seen, heard, and appreciated. They provide resources for writers, readers, and publishers as well as put on events to aid their fundraising efforts like LitCrawl, as well as programming to help publishers and magazines be able to better sell their wares.

Condensed Mission Statement: CLMP ensures the vitality of small literary publishers and communicates the art of literary publishing to readers, writers, booksellers, librarians, educators, funders, and other literary stakeholders. We believe small publishers make up an underserved, uniquely vulnerable and essential field that connects the greatest diversity of writers to equally diverse communities of readers.

PEN America

pen-americaPEN America is one of hundreds of PEN International outposts that work together to ensure that the power of the written word is used to usher forward human rights. Through their awards and programs like their Prison Writing Project, World Voices Festival and many other projects, they want words to shape the world into a better, freer place.

Mission Statement: PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Association of Writers and Writing Programs

awp-logoThe Association of Writers and Writing Programs is perhaps most famously known for their annual conference. It’s the largest writers’ conference in the United States. AWP brings together writers and college writing programs from all over the nation to advance writing and writing education. AWP itself also offers career services, a magazine, and resources on applying to writing programs across the country.

Mission Statement: AWP provides support, advocacy, resources, and community to nearly 50,000 writers, 550 college and university creative writing programs, and 150 writers’ conferences and centers. Our mission is to foster literary achievement, advance the art of writing as essential to a good education, and serve the makers, teachers, students, and readers of contemporary writing.

National Endowment of the Arts

The NEA provides grants nea_logoto individuals and organizations to allow them to pursue creative efforts. The NEA is perhaps most well known for their award, the National Medal of Arts. Previous authors who have won include Sandra Cisneros, Stephen King, Tobias Wolff, and Maxine Hong Kingston. While these winners are not necessarily related to literature, the NEA provides several translation and creative writing grants each year.

Condensed Mission Statement: Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America.

National Endowment of the Humanities
neh-logoThe NEH provides grant money to groups, institutions, and individuals so that they can continue their work in the humanities. This money goes to all US states and territories. Not unlike the NEA, these grants go to humanities beyond the written word, but several authors have won this award throughout the years, such as Ron Chernow, Isabel Wilkerson, Elaine Pagels, and James McBride from 2015 alone.

Mission Statement: The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency created in 1965. It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.

Because democracy demands wisdom, NEH serves and strengthens our republic by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans. The Endowment accomplishes this mission by awarding grants for top-rated proposals examined by panels of independent, external reviewers.

Center for Fiction

center-for-fictionHoused in New York City’s historical Mercantile Library, the Center for Fiction is exactly as advertised: a single site that serves as an event space and bookstore. The Center for Fiction also gives out several different annual awards, including The First Novel Prize, and puts on classes and reading groups. Their goal is to create a community of readers and writers around fiction in whatever way possible.

Condensed Mission Statement:  The Center for Fiction is the only nonprofit literary organization in the U.S. solely dedicated to celebrating fiction, and we work every day to connect readers and writers.

We recognize the best in the world of fiction through our annual awards, and we operate one of the few independent fiction book shops in the country.


Readers, publishers, and authors alike have these organizations – and many others! – to thank for keeping America’s literary trajectory on the upward track.

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