The Mark Blog

Observing Day of the Imprisoned Writer

To mark Day of the Imprisoned Writer, we have highlighted three writers from across the world who are currently imprisoned or are in danger of being imprisoned. In their profiles, you will find the sentence they are currently facing, observation and assessment from outside the court stating the discrepancies in these accusations, and their freedoms that have now been denied.

PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee observed the first Day of the Imprisoned Writer on November 15th, 1981. Since then, this day has been observed annually by all of the PEN centers throughout the world.

This event is integral to PEN Center USA’s mission of promoting literary culture, building a worldwide community of writers and thinkers, and preserving the freedom to write domestically and abroad. It is a day of mourning, one where we pause to consider the appalling fact that writers continue to struggle with harassment, intimidation, threats, imprisonment, violence, and even death when they exercise their fundamental right to self-expression. But it is also a day of action, when we recommit ourselves to fight for the day when all writers, everywhere, can write freely and openly on any topic without the least fear of reprisal.

We ask that you lend us your support by applying the graphics available on this page to your social media accounts, reading about the profiled writers, and helping to spread the word about censored, imprisoned, and otherwise abused writer around the world.  


Enoh Meyomesse

Imprisonment Discrepancies
Current Sentence: 30 days of solitary confinement and torture for allegedly stealing gold which would be used to buy weapons to overthrow the government. He faces a trial that did not meet international standards of fairness and transparency.

Supporters and International Observers: Meyomesse, writer of 15 books of poetry and prose, is being targeted for his political beliefs. Mr. Meyomesse was arrested less than one month after announcing his candidacy challenging the sitting president.

Freedoms Denied: Publishing freely, expressing political beliefs, seeking public office | Source: Huffington Post

Enoh Meyamesse, 57, is a writer, blogger, historian, and political activist who has published more than 15 books of poetry, prose, essays, and works on political and cultural themes, and is a founding member and president of the Cameroon Writers Association. On December 14, 2012, after 13 months in prison, Enoh Meyomesse was found guilty of theft and illegal sale of gold.

On December 27, 2012, he was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 200,000 CFA, as requested by the state prosecutor. No witnesses or evidence were presented during the trial, and he was not allowed to testify in his own defense. According to Meymesse, he was sentenced "without any proof of wrong-doing on my part, without any witnesses, without any complainants, and, more than that, after having been tortured during 30 days by an officer of the military." 


Wajeha Al-Huwaider

Imprisonment Discrepancies
Current Sentence
: Convicted and sentenced to prison for ten months, with an additional two-year travel ban.

The Independent: "In 2011, Wajeha and Fawzia responded to a plea for help from Nathalie Morin, a Canadian woman. They received a text message saying that Nathalie and her children were locked in her house and in need of food. Upon arriving close to Nathalie’s home, they were confronted by police and arrested. The charge they were ultimately convicted of was “supporting a wife without her husband’s knowledge, thereby undermining the marriage.” Al-Huwaider was sentenced to 10 months in prison."

International Observers: This was likely a set-up, a scheme to frame Al-Huwaider and stifle her activism on behalf of Saudi women.

PEN International: "She has been the victim of a sustained harassment campaign since May 2003, when she was banned from publishing in Saudi Arabia."

Freedoms Denied: Right to express political opinions, right to publish freely | Source: The Independent

Wajeha Al-Huwaider has been subjected to harassment since May 2003, when she was first banned from publishing. A prominent Saudi Arabian author and journalist, Al-Huwaider wrote for the Arabic-language daily Al-Watan and the English-language daily Arab News.

In 2011 al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni were charged with kidnapping for attempting to help Nathalie Morin escape her abusive husband and go to the Canadian embassy in Riyadh. The charges were dropped due to the influence of a prominent politician in the region, but a year later al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni were charged with the lesser crime of takhbib (inciting a separation between a husband and wife). On June 15, 2013 Al-Huwaider and Al-Oyouni were convicted and sentenced to prison for ten months, with an additional two-year travel ban. 


Lê Quốc Quân

Imprisonment Discrepancies
Current Sentence: 30 months in jail for tax evasion after substantial mistreatment by the Vietnamese government.

Supporters and International Observers say: Politically motivated trial meant to silence his political writings on human rights abuses in Vietnam. The typical penalty for tax evasion in Vietnam is less severe than what Quân is facing.

Freedoms Denied: Publishing freely, expressing political beliefs | Source: BBC News

On March 8, 2007, Quân was detained after he returned to Vietnam from a fellowship with the United States-based National Endowment for Democracy. The detention led United States presidential candidate John McCain and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright to write to Vietnam in protest and Amnesty International to name him a prisoner of conscience. During Quan's detention, United States Ambassador Michael Marine invited his wife to tea at the United States Embassy, but was unable to meet her when police blocked her from entering. Vietnamese authorities accused Quan of "activities to overthrow the people's government", but did not formally charge him. He was released three months later.

Quân is a Roman Catholic and an advocate for religious freedom. He participated in a march of Catholics on January 29, 2008 at Saint Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi, protesting the government's occupation of land also claimed by the church. He later told reporters that he had been beaten by guards during the march.

On April 5, 2011, he was re-arrested along with Pham Hong Son when attempting to observe the trial of democracy activist Cu Huy Ha Vu. The pair were held for "causing public disorder". Son's wife Vu Thu Ha stated that Son had been assaulted by police with batons prior to his arrest. After the U.S. government and human rights groups called for the men's release, both were released without charge on April 13, 2011.

He was arrested by the Vietnamese government on charges of tax evasion on December 27, 2012, convicted on October 2, 2013, and sentenced to 30 months in prison. The arrest was condemned by international human rights organizations and the United States government.


Participate in Day of the Imprisoned Writer by creating awareness of the event on social media. Join the PEN Center USA team by downloading the following graphics and using them on your Facebook and Twitter accounts. We encourage everyone to discuss topics pertaining to Day of the Imprisoned Writer on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Your support is what makes this day powerful.

Click here to download the Day of the Imprisoned Writer graphic for your Facebook banner.

Click here to download the Day of the Imprisoned Writer graphic for your Facebook profile picture.

Click here to download the Day of the Imprisoned Writer graphic for your Twitter banner.

Click here to download the Day of the Imprisoned Writer graphic for your Twitter profile picture.

PARTICIPATE: Day of the Imprisoned Writer

PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee observed the first Day of the Imprisoned Writer on November 15th, 1981. Since then, this day has been observed annually by all of the PEN centers throughout the world.

This event is integral to PEN Center USA’s mission of promoting literary culture, building a worldwide community of writers and thinkers, and preserving the freedom to write domestically and abroad. It is a day of mourning, one where we pause to consider the appalling fact that writers continue to struggle with harassment, intimidation, threats, imprisonment, violence, and even death when they exercise their fundamental right to self-expression. But it is also a day of action, when we recommit ourselves to fight for the day when all writers, everywhere, can write freely and openly on any topic without the least fear of reprisal.

Join PEN Center USA, and all of the PEN centers across the world, on November 15, 2013, in observing Day of the Imprisoned Writer.

In preparation for this day, we ask that you lend us your support by applying the graphics available on this page to your social media accounts to display our international unity against oppression of expression, read about the profiled writers on The Mark Blog, and help spread the word about censored, imprisoned, and otherwise abused writers around the world.  

This year, we will focus our coverage on three writers whose freedom to write has been threatened by their governments. They are Enoh Mayamesse of Cameroon, Wajeha Al-Huwaider of Saudi Arabia, and Le Quac Quan of Vietnam.

Enoh Meyamesse, 57, is a writer, blogger, historian, and political activist who has published more than 15 books of poetry, prose, essays, and works on political and cultural themes, and is a founding member and president of the Cameroon Writers Association. On December 14, 2012, after 13 months in prison, Enoh Meyomesse was found guilty of theft and illegal sale of gold.

On December 27, 2012, he was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 200,000 CFA, as requested by the state prosecutor. No witnesses or evidence were presented during the trial, and he was not allowed to testify in his own defense. According to Meymesse, he was sentenced "without any proof of wrong-doing on my part, without any witnesses, without any complainants, and, more than that, after having been tortured during 30 days by an officer of the military." 


Wajeha Al-Huwaider has been subjected to harassment since May 2003, when she was first banned from publishing. A prominent Saudi Arabian author and journalist, Al-Huwaider wrote for the Arabic-language daily Al-Watan and the English-language daily Arab News.

In 2011 al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni were charged with kidnapping for attempting to help Nathalie Morin escape her abusive husband and go to the Canadian embassy in Riyadh. The charges were dropped due to the influence of a prominent politician in the region, but a year later al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni were charged with the lesser crime of takhbib (inciting a separation between a husband and wife). On June 15, 2013 Al-Huwaider and Al-Oyouni were convicted and sentenced to prison for ten months, with an additional two-year travel ban. 



Lê Quốc Quân is a Vietnamese human rights lawyer, democracy activist, and prominent Catholic blogger. He was arrested by the Vietnamese government on charges of tax evasion on December 27, 2012, convicted on October 2, 2013, and sentenced to 30 months in prison. The arrest was condemned by international human rights organizations and the United States government.

 

 

 

 


Participate in Day of the Imprisoned Writer by creating awareness of the event on social media. Join the PEN Center USA team by downloading the following graphics and using them on your Facebook and Twitter accounts. We encourage everyone to discuss topics pertaining to Day of the Imprisoned Writer on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Your support is what makes this day powerful.

Click here to download the Day of the Imprisoned Writer graphic for your Facebook banner.

Click here to download the Day of the Imprisoned Writer graphic for your Facebook profile picture.

Click here to download the Day of the Imprisoned Writer graphic for your Twitter banner.

Click here to download the Day of the Imprisoned Writer graphic for your Twitter profile picture.

Bookmark This: My First Nemesis

Bookmark this hilarious essay by author Rebecca Makkai on dealing with a literary nemesis, real or imagined. Here's an excerpt:

"I believe that every writer—maybe every creative person, maybe anyone whose life is ruled by ambition, by a calling beyond rationality—has an imaginary nemesis. The person isn’t imaginary, mind you. But the rivalry is.

Here’s what I mean by nemesis: The guy in your undergraduate workshop who couldn’t tell its from it’s, and now his novel’s being turned into a movie. The woman who’s probably never heard of you but who has edged you out for five different fellowships. The debut author whose book came out the same week as yours from the same press, and wound up as the One City, One Book pick for your city. Not her city, mind you. Yours. I could go on, but I don’t think I have to. I think you know what I’m talking about. What I’m going to tell you instead is the story of my first nemesis. I was twelve."

For more on her essay, click here.

Writers' Reel: How To Write A Strong Beginning

In this week's Writers' Reel, watch Michael Arndt, award-winning screenwriter of Toy Story 3, break down how to write a strong beginning using Pixar films as examples.

Here are his first three tips:

1. When you introduce a character, show them doing the thing they love the most, the thing that defines them as a person.
2. Your character needs a flaw. What's key here is that your character's flaw comes out of his or her grand passion.
3. Create trouble for your character by introducing conflict in the form of an outside force.

Boo! Mark: The PEN Staff Picks Their Favorite Scary Lit

Oh, the horror! The PEN staff picks the stories and poems that have kept them up all night. Click on the pictures of PEN staff members in their best Halloween getups and get ready to be terrified. Happy Halloween!

Libby "Loathsome" Flores
"Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" by Joyce Carol Oates
“ARNOLD FRIEND! This is a nightmare scenario. Like the “Misfit,” Friend is one of the most memorable fictional predators I have ever read. Note: Never read this in an empty house.”

Grant “The Ghoul” Hutchins
"Game" by Donald Barthelme
“I chose this story for its claustrophobic sense of doom. Barthelme explores the circumstances and contingencies that undergird human violence.”

Daniel “Demonic” Lisi
"The Call of C’Thulhu" by H.P. Lovecraft
“I don’t typically get scared by horror stories. H.P. Lovecraft uses enough detail for your brain to fill in the gaps.”

Michelle “Malevolent” Meyering
"Batty" by Shel Silverstein
"What's scarier than the dark? The light!"


 

Lilliam “Lucifer” Rivera
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
"Missing limbs and a hideous smell. That’s all I need to be completely freaked out by this particular scene in the book."

Adam “Afraid” Somers
Christine by Stephen King
“If you are into cars—this is scary.” *Note on picture: “When I was eighteen. I wanted to go as a car, but it didn't quite work out.”

Stacy “Stone-Cold” Valis
"The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allan Poe
“This story has continuously scared me since eighth grade.”


Writers' Reel: Ta-Nehisi Coates On Writing And Failure

"Breakthroughs come from putting an inordinate amount of pressure on yourself and seeing what you can take and hoping that you grow some new muscles," says Ta-Nehisi Coates. Watch the award-winning senior editor of The Atlantic and MIT professor Ta-Nehisi Coates talk candidly about his own battle with stress and how writing is closely related to the act of failure.

Read more about Ta-Nehisi Coates here.

 

Bookmark This: Faulkner's Best Writing Advice

Bookmark this Huffington Post list of William Faulkner's best writing advice. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Writing is not about the author, but the product.
Faulkner said in an interview with Paris Review:

"If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us. Proof of that is that there are about three candidates for the authorship of Shakespeare's plays. But what is important is Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream, not who wrote them, but that somebody did."

2. There's nothing wrong with borrowing.
In a lecture to a writing class, Faulkner said the following:

"I think the writer, as I’ve said before, is completely amoral. He takes whatever he needs, wherever he needs, and he does that openly and honestly because he himself hopes that what he does will be good enough so that after him people will take from him, and they are welcome to take from him, as he feels that he would be welcome by the best of his predecessors to take what they had done."

3. The best writers are insatiable.
In the same Paris Review interview, the author remarked rather boldly:

"Ninety-nine percent talent... ninety-nine percent discipline... ninety-nine percent work. He must never be satisfied with what he does. It never is as good as it can be done. Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself."

Click here for the full list.

Writers' Reel: Harryette Mullen's 11 Tips on Tackling Revision in Poetry

Harryette Mullen, a 2013 Emerging Voices Fellowship mentor, discusses her method of revising her pieces of work. Our favorite tip includes reading your work aloud. "I might go one round just looking for the rhythm," she says. "Reading it aloud. Hearing where the stumbles are." Her latest poetry collection, Urban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary, is a Los Angeles Times top pick.

Bookmark This: Remembering Pulitzer Prize Winner Oscar Hijuelos

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Oscar Hijuelos passed away this week. In this New York Times essay, the Cuban American novelist reflects on his lost childhood.

"To this day it is hard for me to speak about possessing any real sense of a home, at least during my childhood and adolescence. Or, to put this idea more precisely: whatever sense of a secure home life, of belonging, that I once felt as a boy was whisked out from under my feet at a tender age.

I was born in the summer of 1951 in Manhattan, at Woman’s Hospital in Harlem, the first four years of my life passing serenely in our ground-floor walk-through on West 118th Street, where my parents, fresh up from Cuba, had settled in the mid-1940s. What few and primitive memories I have from those years are of a busy and boisterous household, with relatives and newly arrived boarders constantly filling the spare beds and cots we kept in a back room; and of crawling along the floors during the many weekend parties that my papi, a spendthrift Cubano to the core, often gave. On such occasions, our living room, facing the street, became a cozy, if smoke-filled, dance hall, replete with dim lights, music, food and booze — fetes that attracted Cubans and other Latinos to our home from every part of the city.

These were family affairs, with folks of every age, from old abuelitas, or grandmothers, to mothers with newborns. As songs like “The Peanut Vendor” by the Cugat orchestra gushed out of the record player, and people ate plates of arroz con pollo with tostones or some crispy lechón, others — mostly young couples in love, like Frankie the exterminator and his fiancée — took to the dance floor and mamboed away."

To read more of the essay, click here.

Writers' Reel: Man Booker Prize Winner Eleanor Catton

Recently announced Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton discusses the pitfall writers have of writing a plot-driven novel and losing the literary form. Eleanor explains how she set out to write her sprawling book, The Luminaries, as a challenge to tackle that struggle.