MEMBER PROFILES: Brandon Jordan Brown & Danielle Moody



MEMBER PROFILE: Brandon Jordan Brown

When did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
In 2014.

Why did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
I became a PEN Center USA member when I was awarded the Emerging Voices Fellowship.

What is most exciting to you about PEN Center USA?
I think the most incredible thing about being a part of PEN Center USA is feeling like I am plugged into a vibrant community of authors and writers who are all on the same team. We may be working in our own cities, genres, or spheres of influence, but it’s nice to feel like you are contributing to something larger.

What is your favorite memory/story of PEN Center USA or a PEN Center USA event?
Too easy: I’ll never forget how thrilled I was to get a phone call saying I’d been selected as an Emerging Voices Fellow. The joy of that news was followed by meeting the other five 2014 Fellows, who quickly became good friends of mine.

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?
It means adopting a worldview based on openness, and not fear, because fear leads to control and oppression.

What do you wish other people knew about PEN Center USA?
How active it is in supporting the literary arts, and how that funnels down into the overall creative consciousness of the nation.

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?
The more writers we have on the ground who are actively focused on engaging in—and reflecting on—their worlds, the more readers are able, for a time, to take up residence in those worlds and expand as people. Poetry and prose provide unique access points for individuals to find words for their own experiences and grow in their empathy and understanding for others.

What are you reading now?
I just read the first chapter of Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee, over at The Guardian, and I can’t wait to read more. Being from Alabama, I have a thing for Southern writers. I know there is a lot of controversy surrounding the book and its publication, and I hope it wasn’t an exploitative endeavor. I guess those comments are for another forum.

Tell us a story in one sentence.
It was a Tuesday morning, and everyone in Lenoir City was awake to see where the tornado would decide to land.

Brandon Jordan Brown was born in Birmingham, Alabama and raised in the South. In 2014, he was selected as a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow in poetry, and his work has been published in Day One, decomP, Rufous City Review, Cultural Weekly and more. Brandon reviews poetry for Invisible City, a literary arts blog, and lives in Los Angeles, where he is currently writing a monthly column that explores art & spirituality and working on his first book. You can find him online at brandonjordanbrown.com.


MEMBER PROFILE: Danielle Moody

When did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
I have been a member since 2011.

Why did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
I learned about the important humanitarian work that PEN Center USA performs on behalf of writers around the world from mentors and colleagues in the MFA program at Antioch University, and wanted to be part of it.

What is most exciting to you about PEN Center USA?
Belonging to a worldwide community of professional writers.

What is your favorite memory/story of PEN Center USA or a PEN Center USA event?
My favorite experiences stem from my involvement in PEN In The Community. During one residency, I asked students to read Ruth Forman’s “Poetry Should Ride the Bus” aloud, with each student reading a line. One girl read her line so softly that I could barely hear her, so I asked her to read it again. When it was still inaudible, I asked her to say it a third time. Frustrated, she read it louder and with a bit of exasperated sarcasm. I responded, “Excellent use of attitude!” She smiled and I never had to ask her to speak up again.

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?
Freedom to Write means freeing oneself from shackles, whether those shackles are real or metaphorical, and whether they are imposed from without or within.

What do you wish other people knew about PEN Center USA?
When I talk to people about PEN Center USA, they are sometimes unaware that it’s an international organization, and they seem surprised to learn of PEN Center USA’s advocacy for writers who have been imprisoned or imperiled.

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?
Writers who are also journalists are essential to a free society. Today, anyone with a cellular phone can “report the news;” however, journalists are trained to be honest and fair in gathering, reporting, and interpreting information. Professional journalists heed a code of ethics that require them to treat sources, subjects, and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect, and as such are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers, and each other.

What are you reading now?
In addition to Harper’s Magazine (I read it cover to cover every month), I’m imbibing Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.

Tell us a story in one sentence.
Her motorcycle crashed and she nearly died, but she still rides.

Danielle Moody’s work as an independent writer, translator, and editor includes materials for visitor center exhibits, themed entertainment, and biographical profiles. She has been a creative writing instructor for more than fifteen years and has been published in Poetry magazine.


Check out our past Member Profiles here.