'The Collectors: Stories' is First Anthology To Win the Printz Award

The A.S. Kingedited collection of short-form fiction makes history: It's the first anthology to win the Printz, as King becomes the first person to win the award twice.

Photo courtesy A.S. King



A.S. King had an idea and a pretty talented group of friends to help pursue it.

Ever a proponent of short-form fiction, she wanted to put together an anthology and offered contributors a dual prompt: Write about a collection and its collector and make it as weird as you possibly can.

She told them to be “defiantly creative,” stressing the emotional currency of weirdness and how every teen feels weird no matter how popular they are. King didn’t seek out those who wrote “weird” already. Instead, she said, “I wanted to find my weird friends—because all writers are pretty weird—and ask [the] very, very different group of people to do the same thing and see what it would look like.”

The result, The Collectors: Stories, looks like the 2024 Printz Award winner. The surprise announcement at Monday’s Youth Media Awards ceremony created two firsts for the award: King is the first person to win the Printz twice (she received the 2020 award for her novel Dig), and The Collectors: Stories is the first anthology to earn the prize.

“It's a first for Printz, but hopefully not the last,” said Printz committee chair Courtney Waters. “We selected this anthology because every single story is so well-crafted and original; none of us had ever read an anthology where there's not a single mediocre story in the batch. We had no problems arriving at the consensus that, yes, this was our winner. Every story was a prime example of the form, and the theme of collectors and collecting allowed these amazing authors to really flex their creativity.”

There were complications, though. How would the committee notify everyone? Who exactly is the Printz winner? Who gets the Medal?

The committee called King, who alerted the rest of the writers involved. And as to who is the actual winner?

“They're all Printz winners, and we are so thrilled to honor each and every one of them,” said Waters, who noted that they will all receive a medal.

Thus, the 2024 Printz winners are King, M.T. Anderson, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, David Levithan, Cory McCarthy, Anna-Marie McLemore, G. Neri, Jason Reynolds, Randy Ribay, and Jenny Torres Sanchez. King conceived the anthology, edited it, and contributed a story.

And while all the YMA winners may say they were surprised to get the call, King was truly shocked. She had recently remembered that the ALA conference and YMA ceremony was coming up and told a friend, “I don’t have a book out this year.”

Of course she did, but as a novelist, this was just different, she said. And too different to get award consideration. Or so she thought.

When they called, she asked, “Are you sure you want to do this?” Waters assured her that they did, and King was thrilled.

“As someone who respects and adores the short form, teaches the short form, and understands how the short form made me a better novelist and made me a more astute reader, to have the short form brought to the literary table, I'm very proud of that,” she said. “Is it a little bit strange and jarring? Yep. It's strange to have an anthology win the gold, but it brings contemporary short-form fiction to the table, and I think that that's smart. Because in most high schools we’re still reading short stories, a lot more than we read novels, but it's mostly the old canon. And I love the old canon, but I think that contemporary short stories should have a fighting chance in contemporary classrooms.”

On the personal side, King is touched by the recognition.

“It means a lot,” she said. “It means that even if somebody thinks you're nuts for an idea you have, if you follow through, sometimes it can be something that changes the world—or the world that it's in.”

In this case, King hopes it will open people’s minds not only to short stories but to the value of fiction that is “a little strange, unsettling or maybe uncomfortable, but necessary.”

Mostly, though, she is proud of the team effort.

“Everybody came through and they worked their butts off,” she said. “Some of those stories were a hard edit, and we did it. And I'm just so proud. I'm proud of everybody. … And I'm happy for all my authors, especially because none of them expected this. This is just cool. I feel like when you take a risk, you get rewarded. It doesn't always happen. But that's what this feels like. I'm incredibly grateful. Wow. Incredibly grateful.”

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