Over 20 Distinct Awards and Grants are Conferred Each Year: $380,000 to be Awarded to Writers & Translators in 2023.


(NEW YORK)– The literary and free expression organization PEN America today announced the opening of submissions and nominations for the 2023 PEN America Literary Awards. Submissions for book awards will be accepted in 10 categories, from fiction, poetry, biography, essays, and science writing to debut novel, short story, translation and multi-genre. Publishers and literary agents are invited to submit books published in the 2022 calendar year.

Since 1963, the PEN America Literary Awards have honored outstanding voices in literature across fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, biography, children’s literature, and drama. With the help of their partners, the PEN America Literary Awards confer over 20 distinct awards and grants each year, and will be awarding some $380,000 to writers and translators in 2023.

PEN America also opens submissions to the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers, and the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, offered every two years. Nominations are now open for the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing and the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award

Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf, Senior Director of Literary Programs, said: “It was a special honor for all of us at PEN to celebrate the extraordinary writing among this year’s winners of our literary awards, as we returned to the Town Hall stage for the first time in two years. We can’t wait to do it all over again next spring to honor a new group of literary stars whose novels, biographies, memoirs, poems and translations will define the meaning of excellence for readers everywhere.”

Award and prize winners will be celebrated live during the Literary Awards Ceremony, which will take place in-person in the spring of 2023.

Detailed submission guidelines and instructions for the 2023 PEN America Literary Awards are available here. For more information on the Literary Awards, visit our website.

The 2022 PEN America literary awards were celebrated in New York City’s Town Hall on Feb. 28 the first in-person awards ceremony since March 2020. Emmy Award-winning late night host Seth Meyers hosted the event, with writers and translators receiving 11 juried awards, grants and prizes. PEN America conferred its annual career achievement awards to Elaine May and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, two visionaries whose influence has resonated across generations, and Jackie Sibblies Drury, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.

Kentucky library bill potentially jeopardizes our freedom to read

from PEN America

Bill Allows County Executives to Reject Appointees Recommended by Library Boards and Appoint Whomever They Want


(New York)– PEN America has issued the following statement in response to a new bill passed by the Kentucky Legislature, Senate Bill 167, which would, in effect, politicize county library boards, allowing county executives to reject recommended appointees and take control of the boards through political appointees. The bill becomes law in January 2023.

In response, Summer Lopez, Senior Director of Free Expression programs at PEN America, stated: “Though often unheralded as such, public libraries are the beating heart of democracy, making access to the universe of knowledge and information open and equitable for all. At a moment when book bans are sweeping the nation, this effort to hand power to politicians to wield vast control over libraries in Kentucky should be viewed as a massive alarm bell. These attempts to politicize decisions about what information the public can access and what books they can or can’t read, pose a direct threat to the freedom to read.”

Under the bill, county library boards would make initial recommendations of appointees for the boards. Previously, the county judge or executive was required to choose from among the library boards’ recommendations. Under the new law, the county judge/executive can reject all the recommended names and reject the next set of recommendations from the state Department of Libraries and Archives, and then appoint whomever they want.

Senate Bill 167 appeared dead last week following a veto from Governor Andy Beshear and not enough votes from the state House of Representatives. But it was revived by supporters through an override vote and passed on Tuesday.

About PEN America

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. Learn more at


Pen America News Release

One-time grant program to support writers in financial need


(New York, NY) — PEN America today announced the reopening of its U.S. Writers Aid Initiative, a direct grant program for writers facing acute financial need. Part of the broader PEN America Writers Emergency Fund, the initiative extends one-time emergency grants to U.S.-based fiction and non-fiction authors, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, translators, and journalists.

“Amid the pandemic, writers struggled, losing teaching jobs, bookstore gigs, adjunct roles, and the other financial lifelines that help many writers stay afloat,” said Dru Menaker, COO of PEN America. “While the U.S. Writers Aid Initiative isn’t a panacea, it can provide crucial economic assistance that some writers, even with an economic recovery, still require. PEN America is a community of writers and their allies, and we believe in solidarity with those in need.”

Writers can learn more at Applicants will be asked to outline their professional history and indicate how a one-time grant will help them to cope with a financial crisis. During the first year of the pandemic, PEN America disbursed some $655,000 in funds to some 700 individuals, with grants ranging from $500 to $1,000. This cycle, PEN America will increase the amount of the grants available, up to $3,500 per applicant depending on need. Earlier this spring, the NYC Literary Action Coalition—of which PEN America is a convening member—found that some 27 percent of writers based in New York City reported losing more than $10,000 in income over the past year, and one-third had to cancel at least 10 income-generating opportunities.

PEN America’s U.S. Writers Aid Initiative, part of the PEN America Writers Emergency Fund, is made possible by generous support from the Lannan Foundation, The Haven Foundation, MacKenzie Scott, PEN America Members, and other donors. Questions may be addressed to


January 26, 2021 News Release from PEN America

(New York, NY) — Today PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection is releasing its Safety Guide for Artists, a comprehensive, first-of-its-kind guide available in English, French, and Spanish to help artists navigate, counter, and overcome threats and persecution from those seeking to silence their voices. In 2019, ARC—a project that connects imperiled artists worldwide with resources— had its highest number of caseload referrals since its founding in 2017 and has already broken that record in 2020, indicating the dire situation globally for artists and advocates.

The recommendations in the guide were informed by ARC’s experience connecting artists at risk to assistance as well as the vast knowledge of its global network of partners working to defend artistic freedom, whose research, campaigns, and collaborations provided instrumental information.

“This year, we’ve seen an explosion of protest movements worldwide, but also the desperate attempts by governments to unjustly and at times violently muzzle artistic freedom and dissent,” said Julie Trebault, director of ARC and one of the guide’s lead authors. “Artists have been leaders in the global movement for rights and justice, and are often targeted for arrest, detention, kidnapping and even murder. The potency of creative expression in kindling passions and changing minds is what makes regimes view artists as threatening. We hope that our guide will be a go-to resource for those facing danger and for the organizations worldwide doing their utmost to protect artistic freedom expression.”

“Facing risk can be an incredibly isolating and confusing experience,” says Mai Khoi, a dissident Vietnamese musician who had to flee her country after experiencing persecution related to her pro-democracy activism in 2018. “A resource like this guide, which can help artists understand their vulnerabilities, learn how to overcome them, and hear from artists who have been in similar situations, will surely help future artists at risk feel less alone and better-equipped to withstand pressures.”

In the past year, artists have helped lead protest movements in the U.S. following George Floyd’s murder, as well as in Chile, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Belarus, and elsewhere around the world. The rise in global activism has led to a simultaneous rise in the risks of speaking out. Freemuse’s State of Artistic Freedom report earlier this year counted over 700 incidents in which artists’ rights were violated in some 93 countries, including censorship, assault and harassment, arrest and imprisonment, kidnapping, torture, and even murder.

These realities have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as many governments have exploited the health crisis to crack down on dissent through national security and disinformation laws, while other governments fail to take proper steps to protect the health and livelihood of cultural workers. As part of the manual, ARC interviewed 13 leading artists to help inform the guide, surfacing the strategies they’ve used to counter repression, what resources exist, and what guidance or help others might need.

The guide offers robust recommendations to help protect artists and creative professionals who are being silenced for their work. Topics covered include:

  • Tactics governments and non-state agents use to attack artists
  • Methods of identifying and assessing risks
  • Digital security threats and best preventative practices
  • Strategies for developing a personal safety plan
  • Actions artists can take to gather evidence and ensure accountability
  • Overview of the field of support available to artists at risk, as well as a list of resources

“Over the past four years, we’ve seen that artists are at the forefront of the growing global movement to speak out: singing songs, penning slogans, painting murals, staging exhibitions and performances,” said PEN America’s Trebault. “The costs of such artistic freedom have risen dramatically. And while there are thousands of courageous artists who speak out despite the dangers, there are untold creative minds who live in fear, self-censored into silence.”

The guide breaks down how to manage threats from governments, but also from political groups, the police, and military, as well as the threats posed by extremist groups, fundamentalist communities, and even one’s neighbors or family. It comes as ARC itself has seen a skyrocketing caseload, with the vast majority of those accessing ARC’s network of supporters seeking help with relocation and emergency grants. 

The full guide is available here and a downloadable PDF is available here.


Losing the News – Local News in Peril

As local news outlets are gutted and shuttered, reporters laid off, publication schedules cut, and resources tightened across the country, Losing the News: The Decimation of Local News and the Search for Solutions sounds the alarm about the existential threat facing local watchdog journalism and proposes big-picture solutions for its revitalization.

Source: Losing the News – PEN America

This important report shows how news coverage of local issues in local newspapers is being lost: “Most Americans do not yet realize that their local news sources are on the brink of collapse and only a small minority pay for local news.”

“Local” is–obviously–where we live, and as we lose local watch-dog reporting and coverage of on-going issues, we are entering a paradoxical situation where we know more about what’s going in Washington, D. C., and other major cities than we do in the towns where we live.

Why does local journalism matter and what must we do to save it? If this subject resonates with you, click on the link above to see the report and its conclusions. As a former college journalism instructor, you have my gratitude if you read and share this report.



For discussion: do you support this view of publishing and writing?

from PEN America



(New York, NY) – Following news that the publisher of American Dirt plans to cancel its book tour, PEN America issued the following statement:“We have been closely following the debate concerning American Dirt, which implicates concerns at the heart of PEN America’s mission. Our organization has long been committed to the vital work of amplifying lesser-heard voices, and we are staunch advocates of increased diversity, equity, and inclusion in publishing. In our public programming, we strive to present the broadest array of writers from across the country and around the world. We have dedicated programs focused on fostering writing among individuals who are incarcerated, undocumented immigrant youth, and others who might be locked out of the literary community due to resources, background, or other factors. And we have engaged deeply over the last two years in combating online harassment, and recognize its particular silencing impact on women writers and writers of color.“As writers, we believe in the necessity of reasoned discourse across differences. The breadth of passionate perspectives unleashed by this controversy has sparked an overdue public conversation. We urge that this dialogue unfold in the realm of ideas and opinions, and avoid descending into either ad hominem attacks or caricature. As defenders of freedom of expression, we categorically reject rigid rules about who has the right to tell which stories. We see no contradiction between that position and the need for the publishing industry to urgently address its own chronic shortcomings. If the fury over this book can catalyze concrete change in how books are sourced, edited, and promoted, it will have achieved something important. It is past time to equip, resource, and elevate a wider group of voices to speak for themselves and about their experiences. As a nearly 100-year-old organization, we have our own historic legacies, blind spots, and challenges to reckon with. We look at this debate through the lens of how we can continue to evolve to better fulfill our mission.

“Finally, we reject all threats of violence, as well as vitriol aimed to shut down discussion and enforce silence. In our digital discourse, harsh invective too easily gives way to threats and intimidation that have a chilling effect not only on their targets, but on entire topics or points of view. We believe such approaches impair, rather than advance, what is an urgent and essential debate.”


If you haven’t been following the “American Dirt” controversy, you can find information here.

PEN America to Focus on the Right to Read in the Nation’s Prisons 

“America’s prison system implements that largest book ban in the United States. This year, as part of national Banned Books Week (Sept. 22 – 28), the free expression and literary organization PEN America will launch a weeklong initiative to shed light on the practice of banning books in the nation’s prisons and jails. ‘Literature Locked Up: Banned Books Week 2019’ will feature events across the country, online activities, and public education to highlight restrictions of the right to read for the 2.2 million people currently incarcerated in the United States.”

Source: As Part of National Book Banning Week, PEN America to Focus on the Right to Read in the Nation’s Prisons – PEN America

We hear about prisoners’ lack of access to books from time to time, but it always seems isolated to one jail or another. That obscures the issue. Book banning in prisons is worse than all the book challenges in all the school and public libraries put together.

We’re not talking about books with titles like “How to Tunnel out of Sing Sing” or “Bomb Making for Dummies.” I often wonder under what authority does the warden or those he reports to ban the same titles the rest of us are reading.

I hope PEN America’s initiative brings the problem to the attention of more people and shows how pervasive it is.