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PEN International celebrates International Youth Day

Monday 12 August 2013 - 1:00am

PEN International joins the world in celebrating Youth on 12 August 2013.

Giving a voice to young people has always been an integral part of PEN‘s work over the last 90 years. In early 1917, Catherine Amy Dawson Scott who would go on to establish PEN in 1921, set up the Tomorrow Club as a space for young aspiring writers to meet already established writers, publishers and agents. The club immediately attracted speakers such as Siegfried Sassoon, T.S. Eliot. and H.G. Wells. In 1928 Herman Ould, International Secretary, felt strongly that it was important for PEN to maintain focus on helping emerging writers, and so established a ‘Young PEN’ chapter.

Today, recognising that engaged citizenship, reading, writing and speaking out from an early age provide the basis for healthy civil societies where literature and freedom of expression can blossom PEN Centres around the world continue to create programmes that give young people a platform through which to develop. Our Centres run school clubs, organise human rights summer schools, build school libraries, translate children literature to minority languages, hold creative writing workshops, continuing to create opportunities for young people to freely express themselves.

Alongside this, PEN’s education policy builds on the PEN Centres’ work on youth engagement and is guided by the importance of ideas, of literature and of writing – of freedom of expression - in forming engaged citizens and civil societies. Our goal is to empower individuals and communities across all languages and cultures through reading and writing and the exchange of ideas. Our education policy and advocacy work has three main areas of focus: improving the quality of education; widening community access to literature, in particular minority language literature; and promoting human rights education.

As part of our work with young people around the world PEN International recently launched the annual New Voices Award to encourage new writing and to provide a much needed space for young and unpublished writers. We are very excited to have received the first group of entries from young PEN writers and are looking forward to announcing the winners at the upcoming PEN International Congress in Iceland in September 2013.

You are alone and you think of Cendrars
The prose of the Trans Siberian is a century old
Little Jehanne of France is long gone
And the train still dashes,
Takes me to the essence of the journey
Where I was born
Where from the hight of my childhood I could feel the deepness of my soul
Where the dream was my life
Where I held beauty in a box
And Everything was still possible
And Everything is not much anymore

(Excerpt from the Travels Notebook by Emmanuel Lickel-Skiba, Haïti, longlisted for the PEN International/New Voices Award 2013)

For more information on our New Voices Award please visit or contact

For more information on our Education policy please visit or contact

For more information on our International Programmes please click on the photos below and visit or contact

A Selection of PEN Centre Youth Programmes: