MEMBER PROFILES: Antonio Sacre & Shawna Kenney



MEMBER PROFILE: Antonio Sacre

When did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
In 2010.

Why did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
To become a PEN In The Community instructor at Venice High School.

What is most exciting to you about PEN Center USA?
For sure, it is the work they do to place incredibly skilled writers with wonderfully challenging students.

What is your favorite memory/story of PEN Center USA or a PEN Center USA event?
I will never forget the moment the seniors at Venice High School received the published book that they worked so hard to create.

PEN Centers share a Freedom To Write mission, which means we believe that people should be able to read and write freely. What does Freedom To Write mean to you?
Sharing the truth of what is happening—personally, societally, and globally—without fear that our concerns, observations, and dreams will be silenced.

What do you wish other people knew about PEN Center USA?
PEN Center USA puts some of today’s finest writers into places that absolutely need the tools that art, literature, and expression can provide. A profound and deeply moving experience happens after every PEN In The Community residency I’ve done. It’s an essential part of my life, not just as an author, but as a human being.

In light of the changing ways in which news is being shared, what role, if any, do you think writers and journalists play in disseminating information or encouraging action?
A dear friend of mine, in his new book, quotes storyteller Elizabeth Ellis: “If they have to live it, we have to be able to look at it.” The job of the writer is to look at things and describe them as accurately as possible, seeing into the heart of what is happening, so the rest of us can know what is really needed.

What are you reading now?
Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other by Sherry Turkle. It’s an exploration of the ways that today’s technology changes who we are and how we interact.

Tell us a story in one sentence.
My son said he wanted to be a writer like me when he grows up, because my work looks really, really easy.

Antonio Sacre is an internationally touring storyteller, author, and solo performance artist based in Los Angeles. His books and storytelling CDs have won many national awards. As a solo performer and playwright, he has performed to popular and critical praise in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
@antoniosacre / antoniosacre.com




MEMBER PROFILE: Shawna Kenney

When did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
In July 2015.

Why did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
The Los Angeles literary community has given me so much that I wanted to give back in some way, so I was especially hoping to become involved in PEN In The Community. When I was in college years ago, Ice-T played at our school (the University of Maryland) and I covered the protests for my school newspaper (this was when "Cop Killer" was released, by his band Body Count). Freedom of speech has long been at the forefront of my mind. Also, my own work has been censored in certain instances, which has reinforced my commitment to freedom of expression.

What is most exciting to you about PEN Center USA?
I’m a newish member, but I’ve always loved the overall mission. Those committed to the power of the written word are my kind of people.

What is your favorite memory/story of PEN Center USA or a PEN Center USA event?
I’ve written a few letters of recommendation for former students applying for the Emerging Voices Fellowship. I don’t know if that reduces the value of my endorsement, but it’s something that honestly thrills me.

PEN Centers share a Freedom To Write mission, which means we believe that people should be able to read and write freely. What does Freedom To Write mean to you?
I worked with an NGO called Crossing Borders years ago, in which I met young journalists from Northern Africa and the Middle East, and I was shocked by their stories of censored reportage and their difficulty in writing around laws prohibiting “defamation” of royal families. The repercussions they faced for doing what most good journalists aim to do—tell the truth—were frighteningly real. I was humbled by their courage. Freedom to Write means the freedom to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) without fear of retribution or persecution. Personal writing is emotionally risky business as is. Expressing one’s self or shining the light on important issues should be celebrated and must be protected.

What do you wish other people knew about PEN Center USA?
There are different levels of membership and many ways to get involved! I think I was intimidated by the idea of joining until I actually looked into it and did it.

In light of the changing ways in which news is being shared, what role, if any, do you think writers and journalists play in disseminating information or encouraging action?
I’m excited by the idea of citizen journalism. News is not just disseminated from hallowed halls and institutions anymore, but is written and shared by the people living it, through social media and blogs. I’m also a huge proponent of the personal essay being, as Phillip Lopate says, “the best way for marginalized people to reach the dominant culture.”

What are you reading now?
Painting Their Portraits in Winter by Myriam Gurba, Spent by Antonia Crane, and the latest issue of Creative Nonfiction magazine.

Tell us a story in one sentence.
Her house was full of appliances she never learned how to use.

Shawna Kenney is the author of I Was a Teenage Dominatrix (Last Gasp), coauthor of Imposters, and editor of Book Lovers: Sexy Stories from Under the Covers (Seal Press). Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Vice, Playboy, Ms., Bust, and more.


Check out our past Member Profiles here.