How is PEN different from other freedom of expression organisations?
There are a number of differences. First, PEN International is a membership organisation: that is, our members, via PEN Centres wordwide, always inform the work we do. Therefore the connection between the international office and the Centres is very strong. Although the international office is the hub of the organsiation, setting strategy and coordinating activities, it is not more important than any one Centre; we are all equal.
Second, we campaign for freedom of expression and uphold literature as a force of world culture at the same time. We don’t believe it is possible to have a vibrant literary culture without freedom of expression: the two go hand in hand.
Third, we define ‘freedom of expression’ in a slightly different way from our colleagues elsewhere. For us, it means the right to have your voice heard (whether as text or speech) across languages and cultures; the right to an education; and the right to read as much as the right to write. These core principles are expressed through the various campaigns, projects, programmes and events that PEN International supports every year.
Finally, our definition of a ‘writer’, as well as the people we support (particularly in our campaigning work) is all-inclusive: a writer, for us, can be a novelist, poet, journalist, academic, publisher, translator, blogger, biographer, playwright, etc. – in short, it refers to anyone involved with the written or spoken word. This broad definition is what truly makes us the worldwide movement that we are.
How do I join?
If you are a writer – and as described above, that’s anyone involved with the written or spoken word – we ask that you first join at Centre level, because we would like every PEN member to be engaged with our work locally as well as internationally. Writers have an important voice in their own communities, and we believe it is vital that communities join and work together whenever possible. Have a look here to see if there’s a Centre near you. If there are none nearby, it might be possible to join a Centre in a neighbouring country, or one formed on the basis of your language or culture.
Can PEN help me get published?
PEN International is not a publishing house, though we do work closely with publishers to strengthen our activities and to make sure that we stay involved with writing from around the world. We do not act on behalf of writers looking for a place to publish their work. We do, however, publish our own online magazine, so please take a look at our guidelines to see what sort of writing we’re looking for.
Can PEN provide me with financial support?
PEN International only offers financial support, through our Emergency Fund, to persecuted writers and their families when they need it most. We also work closely with PEN Centres and our funders to develop programmes, projects and events that reflect our principles, promote freedom of expression and celebrate literature. For more details, please take a look through the rest of our website.
How can I support PEN International?
We depend on our support base to continue developing our work. See our Support Us page for details.
Who funds PEN?
PEN International is funded by a number of individuals, companies and organisations. We also receive a small amount of money from PEN Centres in the form of membership dues. If you’d like to know who supports our work, please see our Support Us page.
Can I set up a new PEN Centre?
The PEN International office works to support PEN Centres around the world. If you’re interested in learning about the procedures to set up a new PEN Centre, please get in touch with Paul Finegan, the Centres and Committees Officer at: paul.finegan [at] pen-international.org