PEN America Opens Submissions and Nominations for 2021 PEN America Literary Awards

The multiple interconnected crises facing our nation have forced us to reimagine our norms and institutions from the ground up,” said poet and PEN America Trustee Gregory Pardlo. “As individuals and organizations, we have had to call on the ingenuity of our foremothers to ‘make a way out of no way,’ as Zora Neale Hurston puts it, ingenuity that yields opportunity where, previously, there had only been struggle.



PEN America today announced the opening of submissions and nominations for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards. Publishers and agents can submit books between now and August, and PEN America Members can nominate writers for the organization’s landmark career achievement awards.

Opportunity Knocks For

WRITERS OF COLOR

This year, PEN America announced it has increased the cash purse for the PEN Open Book Award to $10,000. The award is offered annually to a writer of color. It’s meant to challenge the lack of diversity in publishing by championing literary voices that traditionally do not see wide media coverage, encouraging the development of these talented writers, and recognizing the exemplary publishers and small presses who discover, nurture, and publish writers of color. Past winners of the PEN Open Book Award include Claudia Rankine, Meena Alexander, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, among others.

“The multiple interconnected crises facing our nation have forced us to reimagine our norms and institutions from the ground up,” said poet and PEN America Trustee Gregory Pardlo. “As individuals and organizations, we have had to call on the ingenuity of our foremothers to ‘make a way out of no way,’ as Zora Neale Hurston puts it, ingenuity that yields opportunity where, previously, there had only been struggle. Strategic alterations to the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards demonstrate PEN America’s resourcefulness in pursuit of real structural change. Through the reimagined Literary Awards, PEN America redoubles its commitment to celebrating the talent and voices of the poets and writers most often marginalized by business as usual, and marshals its influence to counter inequities that distort the American literary landscape.”

PEN/Voelcker Award for

POETRY COLLECTION

The literary and free expression group will also offer a newly reimagined award, the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection, for the best poetry collection of the year. In partnership with Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, PEN America will confer an increased cash purse for the 2021 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. PEN America will additionally confer two PEN/Jean Stein Grants for Literary Oral History, with increased cash prizes of $15,000 each.

Director of PEN America’s public programs Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf and the organization’s senior director of literary programs Chip Rolley are available to discuss:

  • The role literary awards play in diversifying the American literary canon;
  • How PEN America’s awards have changed careers over its half-century history;
  • And what PEN America’s enhanced awards program will offer emerging and established writers at a moment of acute financial difficulty for writers nationwide.

The 2020 PEN America Literary Awards, held March 2, conferred some $330,000 of transformative support on writers and translators. Hosted by Late Night’s Seth Meyers, it was the largest ceremony in the Awards program’s 56-year history. Honorees included Yiyun Li, Tom Stoppard, Tanya Barfield, M. NourbeSe Philip, and Rigoberto González, among others.

Click here to learn more about the PEN America Literary Awards.


Jamie Dedes:

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“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

On the 31st Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre . . .

A replica of the memorial in the Polish city of Wrocław depicting a destroyed bicycle and a tank track as a symbol of the Tiananmen Square protests. The original was destroyed by Security Service despite the fact that it was after the 1989 elections./ Photograph courtesy of Masur and generously released into the Public Domain.

The Tiananmen Square protests or the Tiananmen Square Incident, commonly known as the June Fourth Incident were student-led demonstrations held in Tiananmen Squarei n Beijing during 1989. The popular national movement inspired by the Beijing protests is sometimes called the ’89 Democracy Movement. The protests started on April 15 and were forcibly suppressed on June 4 when the government declared martial law and sent the military to occupy central parts of Beijing. In what became known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, troops with assault rifles and tanks fired at the demonstrators and those trying to block the military’s advance into Tiananmen Square. Estimates of the death toll vary from several hundred to several thousand, with thousands more wounded. MORE



On June 4th, the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, PEN America announced it will bestow the 2020 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award on Chinese essayist, civil rights activist, and lawyer Xu Zhiyong. Xu, a longtime civil rights leader, was detained February 15 for penning an essay criticizing the leadership of China’s president Xi Jinping, including his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, and calling on Xi to resign.



Xu Zhiyong / Photograph courtesy of Shizhao under CC BY 3.0

Xu Zhiyong (b. 1973) is a Chinese civil rights activist and formerly a lecturer at the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications. He was one of the founders of the NGO Open Constitution Initiative and an active rights lawyer in China who helped those underprivileged. He is the main founder and icon of the New Citizens’ Movement in China. In January 2014 he was sentenced to four years in prison for “gathering crowds to disrupt public order”. He was detained again on 15 February 2020, in the southern city of Guangzhou.Xu was born in Minquan County, Henan Province.  He is married to Cui Zheng, a journalist. Their daughter was born on January 13, 2014, while Xu was in a detention center facing trial. He had been in hiding since late 2019 and was detained by Chinese police on February 15, 2020.

Xu received his Bachelor of Law degree from Lanzhou University in 1994 and Doctor of Law degree from Peking University in 2002.

Xu is currently being held incommunicado in state custody, and it is widely expected that he will soon be formally charged with “subverting state power,” an offense that carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence. Earlier this spring, PEN America labeled China as the top jailer of writers worldwide based on a global census published in the PEN America 2019 Freedom to Write Index.



The PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, given annually, recognizes an imprisoned writer targeted for the exercise of free expression. Of the forty-seven jailed writers who have received the this honor since 1987, forty-one have been released due in part to the global attention and pressure the Award generates. By conferring the award on Xu, PEN America kickstarts a global campaign for his release.

“Xu Zhiyong has guts,” said Suzanne Nossel, PEN America’s CEO. “His essays have served as calls to conscience at pivotal moments in China’s recent history. The one that resulted in his arrest was a detailed, blistering analysis of President Xi Jinping’s blind spots and shortcomings as a leader, published while COVID-19 still raged in China. His detention forms part of a Chinese government effort to control the global narrative about the outbreak, including by disciplining Chinese doctors and journalists who tried to sound alarm bells and punishing critics of the government response to the pandemic. In his writings, Xu has been a persistent voice calling out Beijing’s intolerance for dissent—and campaigning for social equity, rule of law, and a joyful vision for his country’s future.”

Alongside his human rights advocacy, Xu is well known for his series of online essays concerning contemporary social issues in China. He has written prolifically online on issues including access to fair education, governmental mistreatment and repatriation of migrant workers, corruption, and wasteful government spending. His essays have achieved the status of samizdat-like writing among reform-minded intellectuals and advocates across China. In the essay published just before his detention, entitled “Dear Chairman Xi, It’s Time for You to Go,” Xu wrote: “If you are determined to set yourself against history, you will surely visit disaster upon this country. What China needs above all other things is freedom! Only with freedom will creativity truly flourish and progress be possible.”

“Thirty-one years ago today, Chinese dissidents and activists peacefully protesting to demand greater liberty—including the freedom to speak openly and without fear—were massacred in Tiananmen Square,” said novelist and PEN America’s president Jennifer Egan. “As our own country reels in crisis, citizens peacefully demanding that leaders be held accountable must be protected. We stand in passionate solidarity with those who use language as a tool of protest—in words and writings, and as a spur to mobilize others and drive forward public debate—around the world and here at home. We are proud to honor Xu Zhiyong for his indomitable will to speak the truth in the face of grave danger, and we pledge that his voice will not be silenced, nor his name erased. We will fight on his behalf until he is free.”

PEN AMERICA’S 2019

FREEDOM TO WRITE INDEX

PEN America’s 2019 Freedom to Write Index, the organization’s first annual global count of writers and public intellectuals unjustly detained or imprisoned worldwide, found that China held 73 writers and public intellectuals in prison or detention for their writing in 2019—more than any other country.

Traditionally bestowed at PEN America’s annual New York City gala, the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write award kicks off a campaign of advocacy for the awardee’s freedom. Past honorees include Saudi writer-activists Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and Eman Al-Nafjan (2019); Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo (2018, freed in 2019), Ukrainian writer and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov (2017, freed in 2019), Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji (2016, freed in 2018), Azerbaijani investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova (2015, freed in 2016 with continued restrictions on her movement), and Uyghur professor Ilham Tohti (2014).

PEN America’s annual gala is scheduled for December 8, 2020 at the American Museum of Natural History, health and safety permitting.

This post is complied courtesy of PEN America and Wikipedia.


Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

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Maintain the movement.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

Twenty-eight Leading Press Organizations Sign an Open Letter to U.S. Law Enforcement To Stop Attacks on Journalists

A meeting at the National Press Club photograph courtesy of Terissa Schor from Washington, DC under CC BY 2.0

“The nation’s leading journalism and press freedom organizations today called on law enforcement, mayors and governors across the country to halt the unprecedented assault against journalists in the field covering the protests for social justice.” National Press Club



On Monday an open letter to law enforcement officials nationwide was signed by twenty-eight press freedom organizations calling on police officers to cease their attacks on journalists providing coverage of the nation’s recent protests.

The signatories include:

PEN America reports that in addition to indiscriminate use by the police of pepper spray, rubber bullets, tear gas, and riot gear against unarmed civilians at protests, the targeted arrests of and attacks on journalists covering these events marks a potentially devastating departure from the American tradition at a critical national moment.

“These violent attacks against the working press are an affront to our Constitutional values, namely the First Amendment and the protections it provides to the free press,” said PEN America’s Washington director Thomas O. Melia. “By trying to silence journalists, law enforcement officers are seeking apparently to prevent reporters from fulfilling their invaluable mission of informing the public, holding our leaders accountable, and providing vital information to citizens across the country. As an organization whose mission focuses on fostering dialogue across differences and amplifying lesser-heard voices, we at PEN America thank the National Press Club for leading on this timely letter reminding our nation’s police that their duty remains the protection of all law-abiding citizens, including journalists. In order for reporters to effectively bear witness to this movement at a decisive moment for our nation, these assaults must immediately cease.” 

This post is courtesy of the National Press Club and PEN America.


Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

Maintain the movement.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

Writers Rally Against Anti-Asian Hatred Amid Pandemic; May 27, United Against Hate: A Day of Online Solidarity

Man Mo Temple; Hollywood Road, Tai Ping Shan, Hong-Kong, Hong Kong, Photograph courtesy of Nicolas Hoizey, Unsplash

“We realize that this anti-Asian sentiment comes alongside an equally troubling uptick in xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-Black violence,” said writer and PEN America Trustee Min Jin Lee. “This is a clarion call that all forms of racist hatred, especially at this moment, are unwelcome, unacceptable, and intolerable. As writers, we reckon with the power of words each day, and we know that along with the physical violence, poisonous rhetoric is also visiting a different kind of violence on all too many people. We’re here to say: We won’t stand for it.” 



PEN America and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop today released a joint statement from well over one-hundred writers, artists, actors, and creative professionals calling for an end to anti-Asian and Asian-American sentiment amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Signed by Riz Ahmed, Ayad Akhtar, Alexander Chee, Min Jin Lee, Celeste Ng, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and C. Pam Zhang, among many others (click here for a full list of signatories), the statement comes as the two organizations also announced a May 27 online day of action “United Against Hate: A Day of Solidarity” to condemn hate and celebrate Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander writers.

“The time to turn back this wave of hate is now,” the statement reads (full text below). “We, the undersigned, call on everyday citizens to join us in standing in solidarity with all those targeted by hate during COVID-19. Together, we can use the power of our collective voices to call for a more just, equal, and inclusive society. As members of the global literary community, we know well that diversity is a pillar of any liberal democracy, providing rich and varied stories to celebrate.”

The statement comes against the backdrop of a surge in hate crimes, violence, and other assaults against Asians, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders, spurred by hateful rhetoric and often taking place in public spaces. The statement also highlights that public officials and leaders have not taken sufficient steps to address such attacks, and in some cases are promoting theories that blame Asian people for the coronavirus pandemic.

“We realize that this anti-Asian sentiment comes alongside an equally troubling uptick in xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-Black violence,” said writer and PEN America Trustee Min Jin Lee. “This is a clarion call that all forms of racist hatred, especially at this moment, are unwelcome, unacceptable, and intolerable. As writers, we reckon with the power of words each day, and we know that along with the physical violence, poisonous rhetoric is also visiting a different kind of violence on all too many people. We’re here to say: We won’t stand for it.”

“The long history of organizing in the AAPI community parallels a longer history of anti-Asian bigotry, and the recent wave of hate is an unfortunate reminder that these racist tropes have been harming Asian American communities for decades,” said AAWW’s executive director Jafreen Uddin. “The AAWW is proud to partner with PEN America in taking a stand against this dangerous rise in bigotry. Our partnership embodies the spirit of coalition-building that has long been at the heart of organizing within the Asian American community and the AAWW’s own work in amplifying marginalized voices through the power of storytelling. History has proven time and again that we are stronger together, and with allies like PEN America on our side, we are able to meet the challenge of this moment as a forceful, united front.”

UNITED AGAINST HATE:

A DAY OF SOLIDARITY

On Wednesday, May 27, PEN America and AAWW will host a virtual day of action “United Against Hate: A Day of Solidarity.” The daylong program will include readings, lectures, poetry, and a teach-in to discuss strategies for combatting and defending against hateful actions and rhetoric. Click here for the full lineup.

Events include a teach-in featuring Jennifer Ho, Floyd Cheung, Pawan Dhingra, and Kathleen Yep; an AAWW Lit Lunch on Instagram Live with Huiyan B. Chan; a panel on countering hate speech with Nadine Strossen, Ishmael Beah, and Helen Zia; and a poetry reading with George Abraham, Kazim Ali, Regie Cabico, Marilyn Chin, Staceyann Chin, Tarfia Faizullah, Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, Jenny Xie, Monica Youn, and others.

STATEMENT OF SOLIDARY

AGAINST ANTI-ASIAN HATRED

The surge in hate crimes, violence, and verbal assaults against Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders in recent months is a painful reminder that racism, bigotry, and xenophobia are persistent challenges in the United States. Many of these attacks have been brazen, occurring in public spaces and online. They have been egged on at times by an administration drawing on racist tropes and stereotypes, eager to distract from its own missteps.

Reports of any individuals being spit on, stabbed, beat up, or verbally assaulted are disturbing enough when they are isolated incidents. However, when such attacks are collectively driven by hate, and when they occur in such large volume, the onus lies heavily on civil society and on our elected representatives to condemn them. Shamefully, such voices have been too few in recent months. Attacks continue to be reported in large numbers, and one recent poll found that 32 percent of Americans have witnessed someone blaming Asian people for the coronavirus pandemic. The alarming rise in xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-Black violence during this pandemic demands a robust civic response.

The time to turn back this wave of hate is now. We, the undersigned, call on everyday citizens to join us in standing in solidarity with all those targeted by hate during COVID-19. Together, we can use the power of our collective voices to call for a more just, equal, and inclusive society. As members of the global literary community, we know well that diversity is a pillar of any liberal democracy, providing rich and varied stories to celebrate. On behalf of PEN America and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, we invite you to join us on May 27 for a day of action to condemn this scourge; celebrate Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander writers; and to raise your voice to call out hate in all its heinous forms.

Click here to add your name.

This post is courtesy of and in support of PEN America and the Asian-American Writers’ Workshop.


Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

Maintain the movement.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton