Six New Regional Chapters of PEN America to further mobilize activism and organizing within the greater writing community

American bison (Bison bison bison) in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, United States. Only a week after this photo was taken, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act, officially making the American bison the national mammal of the United States. Please also notice the moose photobombing the bison on the left / photo courtesy © Frank Schulenburg under CC BY-SA 4.0

“I’m proud and thrilled that PEN America is working actively to foster and support literary culture in six critical regions and create a home for writers, readers, and advocates. I look forward to joining with our members to insist upon the cultural and civic value of literary expression, and protect the freedoms that make it possible—locally, nationally, and internationally.” Jennifer Egan, President of PEN America



PEN America, the organization of writers and readers advancing free expression and celebrating the power of literature, announced today the launch of six regional chapters across the United States. These new chapters – in Austin, Birmingham, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, the Piedmont Region of North Carolina, and Tulsa – are led by PEN America members and extend the reach of PEN America’s New York headquarters and offices in Washington and Los Angeles.

“At a time of exceptional threats to free expression and open discourse, our chapters will bring years of mobilization, activism and organizing among writing communities across the country to the next level. We are exceptionally proud of the local leaders who are driving forward this effort,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. “With 7,500 members across the country and tens of thousands of allies, our movement – called PEN Across America – is pushing back against the breakdown of civil discourse, the marginalization of vital voices, and encroachments on press freedom, driving forward PEN America’s mission at a time when it has never been more essential.’’

For nearly 100 years, PEN America has worked as an association of novelists, non-fiction authors, poets, playwrights, others from the literary community, and readers to protect and celebrate free expression. PEN America campaigns to free writers imprisoned around the world, monitors press freedom, elevates emerging writers and honors prominent authors, and addresses contested speech on campuses, fraudulent news, hate speech, online harassment, and the other complexities of expression in our digital age. The launch of these new chapters brings members together to stage writers in conversations, advocacy campaigns, public debates, and more, drawing on PEN America’s national resources and the creative energy and priorities of the local literary community.

The bald eagle was chosen June 20, 1782 as the emblem of the United States of America, because of its long life, great strength and majestic looks. / Illustration courtesy of Peter K Burian under CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

“Readers are my people, and one of the chief delights of going on a book tour is connecting with communities of readers and writers across America,” said PEN America President Jennifer Egan. “I’m proud and thrilled that PEN America is working actively to foster and support literary culture in six critical regions and create a home for writers, readers, and advocates. I look forward to joining with our members to insist upon the cultural and civic value of literary expression, and protect the freedoms that make it possible—locally, nationally, and internationally.”

After the 2016 presidential election, PEN America became convinced that the organization’s mission to both celebrate and defend free expression demanded reaching beyond the coasts. The groundwork for these new chapters has been laid through convenings, partnerships, and dozens of events PEN America has supported in 20-plus cities during the last two years — from advocacy-themed open mics and local author conversations at independent bookstores to meet-your-newsmaker gatherings and interactive media literacy workshops.

The new chapters will be helmed by literary leaders who emerged during this preparatory phase of PEN Across America, and already have a rich network of writers, academics, librarians, booksellers, activists, and other allies in their communities. The Austin chapter will be headed by Chaitali Sen, author of the novel The Pathless Sky, and Tim Staley, who leads the Austin Public Library Foundation. Poets Ashley M. Jones and Alina Stefanescu will lead the Birmingham branch. In Dallas/Fort Worth, novelist and scholar Sanderia Faye will take the reins of that region’s chapter, alongside Deep Vellum publisher, translator, and bookstore owner Will Evans. In Detroit, writer and social worker Amber Ogden takes on the chapter alongside PEN America Literary Award Winner, Jonah Mixon-Webster. In North Carolina, writer and performer Deonna Kelli Sayed will lead the PEN America Piedmont Region. And the Tulsa group will be led by author and editor Jeff Martin, founder and executive director of the Tulsa Literary Coalition and Magic City Books.

“Since our founding in 1922, our greatest strength has been our Membership – a community of writers and readers committed to celebrating literary excellence, defending free expression, and protecting persecuted writers,” said PEN America’s Director of Membership Rebecca Werner. “Rather than pre-ordaining a select list of geographies, to build these chapters we have worked hand-in-hand with local leaders, focusing on the communities that have been most energized and organized as the leading edge in our drive to become a more fully national organization.”

This post is courtesy of PEN America and Wikipedia.

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


Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

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Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


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

2019 LitFest to Honor screenplay: “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

Fred Rogers and François Clemmons reprising their famous foot bath in 1993. The scene was a message of inclusion during an era of racial segregation. Photo courtesy of Dr. François S. Clemmons under CC BY-SA 4.0 license

“When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heroes changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.” The World According to Mister Rogers



PEN America‘s announced that on November 1st it will recognize A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a film about Fred Rogers, his television show, and the effect Mr. Rogers had on the life of a reporter, at PEN’s 2019 LitFest Gala. The film is considered one of this year’s most acclaimed works.

Screenwriters Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster will receive the Award for Screenplay Excellence. Fitzeman-Blue and Harpster are Peabody Award-winning and Emmy-nominated writers and producers.



The Rev. Fred Rogers / This photo is under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Fred Rogers (1928 – 2003): An American television personality, musician, puppeteer, writer, producer, and Presbyterian minister was known as the creator, composer, producer, head writer, manager and host of the preschool television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968–2001). The program was marked by its slow pace and Fred Roger’s signature calm manner.

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood ran for almost nine-hundred episodes, until 2001. The program emphasized children’s developing psyche, feelings, sense of moral and ethical reasoning, civility, tolerance, sharing, and self-worth. Difficult topics such as the death of a family pet, sibling rivalry, the addition of a newborn into families, moving and enrolling in a new school, and divorce were also addressed.

Rogers died on February 27, 2003 of stomach cancer. His work in children’s television is still widely praised. Fred Rogers received over forty honorary degrees and several awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002 and a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 1997. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999. Rogers influenced many writers and producers of children’s television shows, and served as a source of comfort during tragic events, even after his death.

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” Spoken in 1994, quoted in his obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (Courtesy of MentalFloss)



A poster for the 2019 film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. / published under Fair Use

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2019, and is scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on November 22, 2019, by Sony Pictures Releasing, just in time for our Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday season.  What could be better timing? What the world needs now is more of Mr. Rogers and more people like Mr. Rogers. I’m delighted though I won’t get to see it until it comes to Amazon or Netflix.

THE PREMISE: A cynical, award-winning journalist, Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), begrudgingly accepts an assignment to write an Esquire profile of the beloved television icon Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). Vogel’s perspective on life is transformed after his encounter with Rogers.

If you are viewing this post from an email subscription, it is likely you’ll have to link through to the site to view this movie trailer:

A sweater worn by Rogers, on display in the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History courtesy of Rudi RietFlickr under CC BY-SA 2.0

“Whenever a great tragedy strikes—war, famine, mass shootings, or even an outbreak of populist rage—millions of people turn to Fred’s messages about life. Then the web is filled with his words and images. With fascinating frequency, his written messages and video clips surge across the internet, reaching hundreds of thousands of people who, confronted with a tough issue or ominous development, open themselves to Rogers’ messages of quiet contemplation, of simplicity, of active listening and the practice of human kindness.” Rogers biographer Maxwell King

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This post is courtesy of Pen America, Wikipedia, and Mental Floss. For more info on the the LitFest Gala 2019 to be held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, November 1st, link HERE.

 PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

About / Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook

Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


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

Where Literature Hits the Streets

“Workingman’s Cottages” built by philanthropist Alfred Tredway White as low-cost housing in 1876 (2009) / Cobble Hill area of Brooklyn / photograph released into the Universal Public Domain

“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” F. Scott Fitzgerald



Another one of those events that not only sounds like great fun but similar events could easily be organized in any community anywhere in the world.

For the fifth season, PEN America is presenting its Lit Crawl NYC: Where Literature Hits the Streets on Saturday, October 12. This vibrant festival of books and culture will wind its way through Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill this fall, featuring lively conversations and events staged at local businesses throughout the neighborhood. This pub crawl style festival this year includes Monique Truong and Dr. Jessica Harris, and events curated by local literary organizations.

All events are free of charge:

LIT CRAWL NYC SCHEDULE OF EVENTS – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12

6:00 to 7:00pm
A Multilingual Most Exquisite Corpse
Warby Parker, 55 Bergen St.

Words Without Borders and SLICE Literary present a Multilingual Most Exquisite Corpse. Join four international writers who, along with their translators, will stitch together a story in multiple languages.

Words Without Borders (WWB) is an international magazine opened to international exchange through translation, publication, and promotion of the world’s best writing and authors who are not easily accessible to English-speaking readers.



7:00 to 8:00pm
Queens Lit in Brooklyn
Bien Cuit, 120 Smith St.

Out boroughs unite! Queens is the most diverse county in the country—and the writing produced there reflects the voices of many races, religions, ages, gender identities, and sexualities, as well as those with dis/abilities and immigration stories. Newtown Literary, a nonprofit literary organization, publishes and nurtures the voices of Queens poets and writers through the publication of a literary journal and free writing classes. Come and hear poetry and prose from some of the organization’s volunteers and participate in a Queens trivia contest. Featuring Tim Fredrick, Jackie Sherbow, Malcolm Chang, and Sokunthary Svay. Presented by Newtown Literary.

2018 Queens Pride Parade: Caribbean Equality Project

Queens is a borough of New York City, coterminous with Queens County, in the U.S. state of New York. It is the largest borough geographically and is adjacent to the borough of Brooklyn at the southwestern end of Long Island. To its east is Nassau County. Queens also shares water borders with the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx. The borough of Queens is the second largest in population (after Brooklyn), with an estimated 2,358,582 residents in 2017, approximately 48 percent of them foreign-born. Queens County also is the second most populous county in the U.S. state of New York, behind Brooklyn, which is coterminous with Kings County. Queens is the fourth most densely populated county among New York City’s boroughs, as well as in the United States. If each of New York City’s boroughs were an independent city, Queens would be the nation’s fourth most populous, after Los Angeles, Chicago, and Brooklyn. Queens is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world.



8:00 to 9:00pm
Literary Appetites: Women on Food
Malai Ice Cream, 268 Smith St.

Charlotte Druckman’s Women on Food is a “variety show of previously unpublished essays, interviews, and ephemera from women working in the world of food.” We bring the show to life with Charlotte and two of her contributors who will discuss their roles in the book, and chat about the literary aspect of food writing and the impact gender, race, and socioeconomics have had on that tradition and in shaping their own work. Moderated by Sabrina McMillin of Grey Horse, and featuring Charlotte, novelist and food writer Monique Truong, and author, journalist and culinary historian Dr. Jessica Harris. Presented by Grey Horse.

October 29, 2010 publication date

Literary Appetities

Women on Food unites the radical, diverging female voices of the food industry in this urgent, moving, and often humorous collection of essays, interviews, questionnaires, illustrations, quotes, and ephemera.

Edited by Charlotte Druckman and featuring esteemed food journalists and thinkers, including Soleil Ho, Nigella Lawson, Diana Henry, Carla Hall, Samin Nosrat, Rachael Ray, and many others, this compilation illuminates the notable and varied women who make up the food world. Exploring issues from the #MeToo movement, gender bias in division of labor and the workplace, and the underrepresentation of women of color in leadership, to cultural trends including food and travel shows, the intersection of fashion and food, and the evolution of food writing in the last few decades, Women on Food brings together food’s most vital female voices.

This post is courtesy of Pen America and Wikipedia.


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


Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

About / Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook

Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


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

Go-To Digital Guide to Campus Free Speech

Permanent Free Speech Wall in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. courtesy of Daniel Rothamel under CC BY 2.0

“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.” I saw hate in a graveyard, Stephen Fry, The Guardian, 5 June 2005”



As the U.S. lurches into what promises to be a vitriolic campaign season, battles over free speech on campus are simmering again. Students, administrators, and faculty are certain to find themselves at the vortex of a national conversation on threats to free speech and how to address them.

To avert censorship on campus and prevent free speech controversies from causing turmoil, PEN America just published a first-of-its-kind digital resource, the PEN America Campus Free Speech Guide. The guide provides step-by-step instructions for scenarios involving invited speakers, academic freedom, hateful expression, and campus protests, among other topics. The online resource is rooted in PEN America’s own Principles on Campus Free Speech and the organization’s extensive research on campus free speech issues. The guide provides a concrete, accessible reference for how to cope with speech-related challenges in the classroom, on the quad, and online.

“Now more than ever, university leaders and students need a go-to resource to understand how to protect free speech and keep their communities open and thriving,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of PEN America’s campus free speech project. “For the past three years, PEN America has been working with administrators, faculty, students, and staff across the country. This guide brings together their collective wisdom, and aims to fill their need for detailed, actionable guidance on how to balance protections for free speech on campus with efforts to advance diversity and inclusion. We hope the guide serves as a starting to place to inform campus stakeholders not only about the law, but also about best practices for how to promote dialogue, encourage the free exchange of ideas, and ensure an inclusive environment where all community members have opportunities to be heard.”

PEN America’s Campus Free Speech Guide walks users through some of the thorniest campus speech scenarios. It offers case studies on how to address hateful speech; a legal roadmap for public and private universities to adhere to the First Amendment and uphold precepts of academic freedom; a resource library stocked with advice, sample policies, and sample statements; and FAQs specifically designed to answer the questions of administrators, faculty, and students.

“Since we began our campus speech work, educators across the country have been crying out for a roadmap to help them navigate clashes that can erupt into violence and destroy careers,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. “Our university campuses are crucial breeding grounds for the broadest range of ideas and opinions. This guide offers concrete tools and methods to help them stay that way, while dealing constructively with inevitable clashes of opinions and values. Building on years of research and consultation, we are moving beyond finger-pointing over curbs on speech to advance concrete solutions that enable everyone on campus to have their say.”

EVENT THIS EVENING  / 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time / New York / Free and Open to the Public but seating is limited / Registration Required

The launch of this new resource coincides with a panel event at NYU on September 26, “Campus at a Crossroads: Free Speech, Truth, and Democracy in an Election Year.” Co-sponsored by PEN America and New York University’s Center for the Humanities and Institute for Public Knowledge, the panel will bring together academics, writers, and students for a discussion of debates over free speech, truth, and the university. Read more about the event here.

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This post is courtesy of PEN America, The Guardian, Wikipedia, and my bookshelf.  The Poet by Day actively supports freedom of speech and artistic expression and human rights.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions 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.