Message to the members of PEN International, from Executive Director, Laura McVeigh

Dear Friends,

It was wonderful to see many of you in Korea at the 78th PEN International Congress last week. For those of you who did not attend I hope you enjoy the photographs, films, presentations and blogs we are featuring on the website showing highlights from the week. Special thanks to our Korean hosts who looked after everyone so well. There was a strong focus on digital issues with the Assembly of Delegates approving the PEN International Declaration on Free Expression and Digital Technologies. There was also a special focus on supporting the next generation of writers with members sharing examples of initiatives in this area. My special thanks to Dalmira (Central Asia PEN), Harruna (Ghana PEN), Tade (Nigeria PEN) and Margie (South Africa PEN) for joining me in a panel discussion on engaging young people in the work of PEN. We were also delighted to announce the launch of a PEN International New Voices Award which will enable up to 300 up-and-coming writers under 30 to have their work showcased and to participate in the Award. Full details of the New Voices programme will be sent shortly to all members and I hope your centre will take part.

This Congress saw the election of Antonio della Rocca (Trieste PEN) and the re-election of Marketa Hejkalova (Czech PEN) to the Board along with the re-election of John Ralston Saul as International President for a second term. Marian Botsford-Fraser was re-elected Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee, Ekbal Baraka was elected Chair of the Women Writers’ Committee and the Search Committee saw five candidates join: Elisabeth Nordgren, Eugene Schoulgin, Jens Lohmann, Entela Kasi, Jean-Luc Despax. We are grateful to all the candidates who stood for election – thank you.

Following the Congress the Board met for a further two days to work on key issues. As part of our focus on improving communications there will be a new quarterly report from the Board to the membership following each Board meeting – this will hopefully be of interest to you.

Next year’s Congress will be in Iceland from 8th September. We will be sharing information on the website to introduce you to the host Centre.

Now that we are back in the International office, we have turned our attention to the planning for Hay Xalapa – the first of our partnership events with Hay Festivals. Hay Xalapa takes place from the 3-7 October and there will be several PEN International events including Peter Godwin and Ed Vulliamy in conversation with Michael Jacobs, Future Shorts film screening and Wole Soyinka in conversation with Peter Godwin. We are also planning our programme for Frankfurt Book Fair later this month. We have two events at the Fair on the 10th and 12th of October, where we’ll be bringing together members of the PEN International Publishers Circle and showcasing Free the Word! German PEN has a strong presence at the Book Fair and for those members attending there is a special German PEN event, Resisting dictatorship – Living as an author in Belarus on the 11th October at 1:30 pm at the Weltempfang.

Beyond our festival activity, our planning for the Turkey delegation in November and the development of our communications and literary strategy and output, my own particular focus to the end of the year is now again turning to our fundraising which we continue to strengthen and build on. I am delighted that we can now provide better support to the Women Writers, Writers for Peace and Translation & Linguistic Rights committees alongside our strong WiPC support and am sure you will all join me in welcoming Paul Finegan into his new role as Centres & Committee Coordinator. Paul can be contacted at

All best,

Laura McVeigh

Executive Director

PEN International