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2018 PEN AMERICA LITERARY AWARDS, a literary lens on human experience and a spotlight on women’s voices; Ursula K. Le Guin on shortlist for “No Time to Spare”


PEN America announced the finalists for the 2018 Literary Awards last week, revealing a diverse roster of authors and works to recognize today’s best literature and translation spanning genres and continents.

For the first time, the finalist pool for the prestigious PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction is comprised entirely of women and includes:

  • Hannah Lillith Assadi for Sonora (Soho Press),
  • Venita Blackburn for Black Jesus and Other Superheroes: Stories (University of Nebraska Press),
  • Carmen Maria Machado for Her Body and Other Parties: Stories (Graywolf Press),
    Emily Fridlund for History of Wolves (Grove Atlantic), and
  • Jenny Zhang for Sour Heart (Lenny).

The announcement also included finalists for the $75,000 PEN/Jean Stein Award for book of the year, one of the largest U.S. literary prizes, established last year by the late author and oral historian. Addressing some of the key themes of our time from fraudulent news to systemic racism, the list includes:

  •  White Tears by Hari Kunzru (Alfred A. Knopf),
  • We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World),
  • Whereas by Layli Long Soldier (Graywolf Press),
  • Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News by Kevin Young (Graywolf Press), and
  • The Changeling by Victor LaValle (Spiegel & Grau).

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018), whose death on January 22nd in Portland is deeply felt, is shortlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award, Art of the Essay for her No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, which is the collected writing from the blog she started at 81 years.

According to the New York Times obit, Ms. Le Guin published twenty novels, a dozen poetry collections, over one-hundred short stories, seven collections of essays, thirteen children’s books, and five volumes of translation. The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination is a worthy addition to every writer’s bookshelf. Recommended.

The video below is of Ms. Le Guin’s wisdom-filled acceptance speech for the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th National Book Awards on November 19, 2014.

“We will need writers,” she says, “who remember freedom . . . poets, visionaries … the realists of a larger reality.”

(If you are viewing this post from an email subscription, it’s likely you’ll need to link through to the site to watch the video.)

The new film adaption of Ms. Le Guin’s science fiction fantasy, A Wrinkle in Time, is due out in theaters on March 9.)

Ms. Le Guin’s photograph © 2003 by Joyce Scrivner


PEN, Exc. Dir. Suzanne Nossel

“It is fitting that our Literary Awards this year spotlight five new women’s voices in fiction, as well as a dazzling diversity of writers for our flagship Stein prize and in other categories,” said PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel. “PEN America’s Literary Awards celebrate some of the greatest fruits of free expression—stories that inspire, spark empathy, and change minds. At a time when the fabric of our discourse is being torn by polarization, technological change, and political upheaval, literature has the power to help us see past impasse and imagine a different future.” 

Winners of the 2018 PEN America Literary Awards will be revealed at the February 20 ceremony at the NYU Skirball Center in New York.  The ceremony will feature performances of honored works and will be followed by a champagne toast. Link pen.org/2018finalists for the complete list of finalists. PEN announced that for the first time it is offering a limited number of tickets to the general public. PURCHASE TICKETS.

For over fifty years, the PEN America Literary Awards have honored many of the most outstanding voices in literature across such diverse fields as fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, translation, and drama. With the help of its partners and supporters, PEN America will confer twenty-four distinct awards, fellowships, grants, and prizes in 2018, awarding more than $350,000 to writers and translators.

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Sources: Ms. Le Guin’s website, PEN America, Amazon, Wikipedia, and the New York Times. PEN America nonprofit logo by Mltellman under CC BY-SA 4.0 license; photo credit Suzanne Nossel by PEN America under CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

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.


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May 22 Literary Gala to Honor Stephen King and Celebrate Free Speech and the Power of Words to Bridge Divides

I thoroughly enjoyed  Stephen King on Writing, A Memoir of the Craft. Entertaining. Practical. Down to earth. Recommended.

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.” Stephen King


PEN America will honor legendary suspense writer Stephen King with the 2018 PEN America Literary Service Award at its annual Literary Gala on May 22 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. PEN America confers the Literary Service Award each year to a critically-acclaimed writer whose body of work helps us understand and interpret the human condition, engendering empathy and imagination in even the darkest hours.

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide best-sellers and many—including such classics as It, The Stand, The Dark Tower, Misery, Lisey’s Story, 11/22/63, On Writing, Under the Dome, and many more—providing the basis for major motion pictures and serving as cultural hallmarks for generations.

Among King’s many accolades are the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and the 2014 National Medal of Arts presented by Barack Obama. His depictions of horror and violence have also earned him a title as one of the most banned or challenged authors in recent decades.

King is an impassioned advocate of freedom of expression, literacy, and access to information, which he and his wife Tabitha support through their philanthropy.

King’s Haven Foundation provides unique and generous support to writers and other freelancers in the arts who have suffered personal hardship.

Stephen King’s outspoken defense against encroachments on free speech and pointed public criticism of policies that infringe on this and other rights have resulted in his being blocked by President Trump on Twitter.

Can be pre-ordered HERE.

Scribner will release King’s newest novel, The Outsider, on May 22, the day of the PEN America award presentation.

“No stranger to the dark side, Stephen King has inspired us to stand up to sinister forces through his rich prose, his generous philanthropy, and his outspoken defense of free expression,” said author Andrew Solomon, president of PEN America. “Stephen has fearlessly used his bully pulpit as one of our country’s best-loved writers to speak out about the mounting threats to free expression and democracy that are endemic to our times. His vivid storytelling reaches across boundaries to captivate multitudes of readers, young and old, in this country and worldwide, across the political spectrum. He helps us all to confront our demons—whether a dancing clown or a tweeting president.”

If you are reading this post from an email subscription, you’ll have to link through to the The Poet by Day site to view it: Creative Writing Lessons: Creative Writing Tips from Stephen King.


Courtesy of Stephen King, photo credit Shane Leonard

STEPHEN KING (b. 1947) is an American author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy. His books have sold more than 350 million copies.  King has published over fifty novels, including seven under the pen name Richard Bachman, and six non-fiction books. He has written around 200 short stories, most of which are in book collections. Mr. King’s Amazon page is HERE.

His novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption was the basis for the film The Shawshank Redemption widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. It was in fact voted the greatest film of all time by Empire magazine readers in “The 201 Greatest Movies of All Time” poll in March, 2006. 


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. PEN America’s mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


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New York State Tries to Restrict Prison Access to Books; PEN America’s Annual Prison Writing Contest; Prison Foundation Publishes Books of Inmates and Returning Citizens

Partial View of Gowanda Correctional Facility with Power Plant in Background at Left, September 1996

Efforts to restrict inmates’ access to books in New York State prisons reveal a troubling disregard for inmates’ right to read and appear to have no reasonable basis, PEN America announced on Monday.

In New York State, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Directive 4911A, put in place December 4, 2017, restricts prisoners’ ability to receive packages and articles: packages must be sent from a list of approved vendors, or face possible rejection. As of January 8, only six vendors are approved to send books. As a result, Directive 4911A prevents inmates from being sent books—including used books or books unavailable through purchase in any catalog—outside of these vendors’ limited lists.

Currently, the Directive is a pilot program, and applies only to three correctional facilities: Greene, Green Haven, and Taconic, with the possibility that the Directive will later be applied to all state facilities.

While this Directive does not restrict access to prison library facilities, NYC Books Through Bars has noted in a January 3 letter to Governor Cuomo that they have received requests for books from prison employees who are “struggling to stock libraries for the general population.”

“The State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision needs to promote moral and responsible prison policies that uphold inmates’ access to information and safeguard the right to read,” said Summer Lopez, PEN America Senior Director of Free Expression Programs. “Directive 4911A, a ruinously over-broad restriction on inmates’ ability to access published materials, goes in the opposite direction. We encourage the Department and the Governor’s office to revoke this ill-considered directive, and to ensure inmates have access to as much outside publications as possible.”


PEN’S ANNUAL PRISON WRITING CONTEST

PEN America Center’s annual writing contest is open to anyone incarcerated in a federal, state or county prison in the year prior to September 1, the annual deadline for poetry, fiction, drama and nonfiction. No submission fees. Cash award for first, second and third place. Details HERE.

Link HERE to read the winning manuscripts from the 2017 contest.

PEN America has run a national prison writing program for over forty years, including the above referrenced contest.

“Founded in 1971, the PEN Prison Writing Program believes in the restorative, rehabilitative power of writing and provides hundreds of inmates across the country with skilled writing teachers and audiences for their work. It provides a place for inmates to express themselves freely and encourages the use of the written word as a legitimate form of power.”

The program includes a free Handbook for Writers in Prison and a Mentoring Program.


PRISONS FOUNDATION

Prisons Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, “seeks a more creative and fulfilling world for both incarcerated and free citizens.”

Manuscript Submission Guidelines All books by prisoners and returning citizens and those who write about them and books by all citizens who donate are welcome for publication.Click Here for further information and submission guidelines for inmates.


Photo credit: Gawanda photograph courtesy of Daniellagreen under CC BY-SA 3.0 license; NY Correctional State Services logo is public domain.

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


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Fire, Fury and Lots of Flurry


In response to reports that a lawyer representing President Trump attempted to halt publication of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel released the following statement yesterday.

“PEN America is deeply alarmed by reports that a lawyer representing President Trump is attempting to halt publication of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which purports to provide a behind-the-scenes look at the Trump White House. The President’s attempt to ​halt​ publication of a book because of its content is ​flagrantly unconstitutional​. ​President Trump’s threats represent a ​brazen ​attempt at imposing unlawful prior restraint, a form of censorship repeatedly rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. For the President of the United States criticism comes with the territory. The President should immediately withdraw and repudiate this outrageous demand, allowing the American people to render their own judgement of the book.​” ​

Note: The book came out today and is available for purchase online and at brick and board stores should you care to read it. Before its release today, the book and e-book both reached number one on Amazon.com and the Apple iBooks Store. Michael Wolff is an Internet entrepreneur, a journalist and news commentator.

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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. PEN’s mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.