Message to the members of PEN

Dear friends,
It has been a very busy couple of months here in the International Secretariat as I know it has been for many of you. Here is some of our latest news:

I hope by now you have received details of this year’s Congress to be held in Reykjavik, Iceland between 9 – 12 September. Our hosts Icelandic PEN have put together a dedicated Congress website at: where you can register online. This year’s Congress has a strong Free the Word! festival planned in partnership with the Reykjavik Festival of Literature and we are organising a vibrant programme of workshops, readings and open events which we very much hope as many delegates as possible will take part in – we would like you to share your writing with the people of Iceland. For queries about the Congress please contact Paul Finegan (

Writers in Prison Committee Conference
I look forward to seeing those of you attending the Writers in Prison Committee Conference in May in Krakow, Poland. This conference will also provide a key space to develop PEN’s work on Digital Freedom – taking forward the next steps of the Declaration on Digital Freedom, a theme which will continue through to the Congress in September. Now, more than ever, the work of the Writers in Prison Committee is an essential part of PEN’s work worldwide. We will be welcoming Ann Harrison, incoming Writers in Prison Committee Programme Director, to Krakow and I know she is greatly looking forward to meeting many of you and learning more about PEN’s work in this area.

Writers for Peace Committee Conference
I will also have the opportunity to meet with many of you at the Writers for Peace Committee Conference in Bled in May. This year we will be holding the meeting of the International Board at Bled in advance of the conference and we thank Slovenian PEN for their kind assistance in helping us organise the Board meeting as part of the overall Bled programme.

Free the Word!
We continue to develop our partnership with Hay Festivals and other literary festival partners this year as we take Free the Word! events and festival activity most recently to Columbia, Lebanon, Wales and later in the year to Scotland and Iceland among other destinations. I would like to thank all those PEN centres who partner with us to deliver vibrant programming reaching out to new audiences for PEN’s work. This is an aspect of PEN’s work we continue to build and grow – for further information about Free the Word! and ways to get involved please contact our literary manager James Tennant (

New projects in partnership
The first round of partnership working within our SIDA funding is now underway and I am delighted that so many centres put forward excellent project proposals. To find out more about the Beacon Centres programme and the Civil Society programme and all the PEN Centres involved see We are working in the first round of civil society programmes with Cambodia, Central Asia, Ghana, Guinee, Malawi, Nepal, Puerto Rico, Uyghur PEN. The first group of Beacon Centres – centres with which PEN International will work closely on centre development and capacity building – are Central Asia PEN, Sierra Leone PEN, Zambia PEN, Philippines PEN, Haiti PEN and Afghanistan PEN.

We will be launching the second call for proposals later in the summer and I hope many of you will participate in this ongoing and developing opportunity.

PEN Awards
Many centres run a fantastic programme of PEN Awards and we are building up the full international picture of PEN awards at present. Please send details of your current Awards programmes to our Communications Manager Sahar Halaimzai ( so that we can feature them online. This year also sees the launch of the PEN International/New Voices Award – the submissions window is currently open until 20 June. Please encourage young writers (aged 18 – 30) in your country to get involved. Full details of the prize and award programme are available at

China Report
On World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, we will be launching The PEN Report: Creativity and Constraint in Today’s China as part of the World Voices Festival in New York. Thank you to all members who have participated in the creation of the report and to those supporting the Open Letter which will accompany the launch. For further details contact Sahar Halaimzai (

PEN Publications
We are delighted that the second publication in the PEN International Publishers Circle Series – Write Against Impunity – is now available both online and in print. Many centres publish excellent collections of writing by PEN members and we would like to feature these in a new online bookshop as part of the website redevelopment underway. Please send details of your Centre’s publications to Sahar Halaimzai ( for inclusion.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the upcoming PEN International events.
Warm regards,

Laura McVeigh
Director, PEN International