Emerging Voices

Soleil David was born and raised in the Philippines and now lives in Los Angeles. She graduated with high distinction from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a recipient of the Julia Keith Shrout Short Story Prize, andher poetry and prose have been published in Our Own Voice, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop anthology The Margins. She is working on a collection of poems.

Ashaki M. Jackson is an applied social psychologist, program evaluator, and poet who works with youth through research, evaluation, and creative writing mentoring. She is a Cave Canem and VONA alumna who serves on the board of VIDA: Women In Literary Arts. She is also co-founder of Women Who Submit. Her work appears in CURA and Prairie Schooner, among other publications. Author of two chapter-length collections—Surveillance (Writ Large Press) and Language Lesson (MIEL)—Jackson earned her creative writing MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles and a psychology doctorate from Claremont Graduate University. She lives in Los Angeles, California. Ashaki is mentoring Soleil David.

Peter H.Z. Hsu was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and raised in the San Gabriel Valley. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received a bachelor’s degree in English literature, and California State University, Los Angeles, where he earned a master’s degree in psychology. His fiction debuted in March 2016 in The Margins and is included in the Fall 2016 issue of Pinball. Peter is currently working on a short story collection.

J. Ryan Stradal is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest, which has been translated into 11 languages, optioned for film, and was the winner of the 2016 ABA Indie’s Choice Award for Best Adult Debut Novel, the 2016 Southern California Independent Booksellers Association Fiction Award, and the 2016 Midwest Independent Booksellers Choice Award for Fiction. Born and raised in Minnesota, he now lives in Los Angeles, where he is an editor-at-large at Unnamed Press, fiction editor at TASTE Magazine, and advisory board member at 826LA. He is at work on another novel set in his home state. J. Ryan is mentoring Peter H.Z. Hsu.

Kirin Khan was raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and currently lives in Oakland, California. A Senior Analyst for YouGov, she has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Mills College and a post-baccalaureate in math from Smith College. Kirin is a 2016 VONA Voices alum and an upcoming 2017 Grotto Fellow. She is published in Uproot, sPARKLE & bLINK, and 7x7.LA. Kirin is currently working on her first novel.

Jade Chang has worked as an arts and culture journalist and editor for publications like the BBC, Metropolis, Glamour, and The Los Angeles Times Magazine. She was recently an editor at Goodreads. Jade is the recipient of a Sundance Arts Journalist fellowship, the AIGA/Winterhouse Design Criticism Award, and a Squaw Valley Writers Workshop scholarship. Her debut novel, The Wangs vs. the World (HMH) has been named a New York Times Editors’ Choice and was one of Buzzfeed’s 24 Best Books of 2016. The Wangs will be published in 11 countries and NPR said this: “Her book is unrelentingly fun, but it is also raw and profane—a story of fierce pride, fierce anger, and even fiercer love.” Jade is mentoring Kirin Khan.

Chinyere Nwodim was raised in Baltimore, Maryland, and attended Johns Hopkins University where she received a bachelor’s degree in biology and history of science. In addition to writing, she works in development at a regional community health center serving low-income populations in Los Angeles and Orange County. Chinyere currently lives in Los Angeles and is working on a short story collection.

Dana Johnson is the author of the short story collection In the Not Quite Dark. She is also the author of the novel Elsewhere, California, and the short story collection Break Any Woman Down, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, Callaloo, The Iowa Review, and Huizache, among others. Born and raised in and around Los Angeles, she is a professor of English at the University of Southern California. Dana is mentoring Chinyere Nwodim.

Jessica Shoemaker was raised in Torrance, California, and earned a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology from University of California, Santa Barbara. She now lives in San Pedro, California, and teaches middle school. Her fiction has appeared in Blue Skirt Productions, Fiction Southeast, and Lunch Ticket. Jessica is working on a collection of short stories.

Amelia Gray is the author of four books: AM/PM; Museum of the Weird; THREATS; and Gutshot. Her fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Tin House, and VICE. She is the winner of the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. She lives in Los Angeles. Amelia is mentoring Jessica Shoemaker.

Photographs of Emerging Voices Fellows by Bill Kennedy.


People ineligible for the Emerging Voices Fellowship:

  • Those who have an M.A., M.F.A., Ph.D. or minors in Creative Writing.
  • Students currently enrolled in undergraduate or graduate degree programs.
  • Those who are Professional PEN Center USA members.
  • Writers who have published one or more books through major publishing houses, university presses, or established presses.
  • Current professional magazine/newspaper feature writers or editors.
  • Writers who are widely published in top tier literary journals and/or magazines.
  • Anyone under the age of 21.

Emerging Voices is a rigorous fellowship based in Los Angeles with weekly meetings and an intense reading and writing schedule. With this in mind, participants must be willing and able to make an enthusiastic commitment to the fellowship and to their involvement as members of a group. If you are not a resident of Los Angeles and you are awarded the fellowship you will need to relocate for the seven-month period. Housing is not provided.

History of the Emerging Voices Fellowship

The Emerging Voices Fellowship originated as a mentorship project. The project grew out of PEN Center USA’s forum “Writing the Immigrant Experience,” held at the Los Angeles Central Library in March 1994, which explored the issues and challenges faced by first and second generation immigrant writers. It was evident from the forum that many of the culturally diverse communities of writers in Southern California were often isolated from the literary establishment. In the fall of 1996, PEN Center USA initiated Emerging Voices as a literary mentorship program designed to launch potential professional writers from minority, immigrant and other underrepresented communities. The program has now evolved into an seven-month writing fellowship for writers who lack access to a traditional writing education and seek financial and creative support.

Here’s a note from one of the fellowship’s supporter, Jamie Wolf, supporter of the Emerging Voices Fellowship program:

“The Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation was established in 1948 by my parents, a young businessman and his fashion-editor wife, who clearly had a great deal of confidence in their eventual financial success as well as a genuine desire to contribute to the world outside themselves. As my father formulated it in the beginning, ‘Individuals fortunate enough to receive unusual benefits from a society have the distinct obligation to return meaningful, tangible support to that society—in the form of creative energy as well as funding.’ What this has meant over the years is a pattern of rewarding excellence and accomplishment by giving awards in the fields of medicine, art and literature. In the last several decades, as the younger generation has begun to have more of a say, the goal has modulated into an emphasis on more directly encouraging excellence and accomplishment—by funding programs as well as awards, thus concentrating on setting up structures for achievement, and utilizing the multiplier effect.”

Support for the Emerging Voices Fellowship

PEN Center USA’s Emerging Voices Fellowship is generously supported by the Amazon Literary Partnership, California Arts Council, New Balloon and Catapult, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, The Ovation Foundation, and Pasadena Literary Alliance.


The 2019 Emerging Voices Application period will be open from May 1 to August 1, 2018.

Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to live in the Los Angeles area to apply to the Emerging Voices Fellowship?
You must be a US citizen or have the correct documentation to apply to the Emerging Voices Fellowship. All fellows must live in Los Angeles or close enough to commute to Los Angeles for the duration of the program. No funds are available for relocation.

Are there any age restrictions?
The Emerging Voices Fellowship is open to all writers over the age of 21.

Can I submit work that has been previously published?
Yes, if you feel it is the work that best represents you as a writer.

Can you help me decide what work to submit as my writing sample?
No, although we do strongly encourage you to submit writing that corresponds to your genre and your project proposal. Please make full use of the 20 page submission limit for prose, but do not exceed 20 pages. This allows the selection committee to gain a better understanding of your project and how you and your work could benefit from the fellowship.

How should the manuscript be formatted?
Fiction and nonfiction manuscripts should be double-spaced, 12-point font, 1-inch margins all around. You may format poetry manuscripts however you feel best represents the poetry you are submitting, as long as you do not exceed the page limit and the typed font is legible. All pages must be numbered.

What does the selection committee look for in a manuscript?
A strong writing sample. The best advice we can give is to seek the advice of other writers and instructors when preparing your manuscript.

When are applicants notified of the committee's decision?
All applicants will be notified in late November.

Can you give me feedback on my manuscript or tell me why I wasn't selected for the fellowship?
We cannot provide any comments on manuscripts or on applications submitted.

On the short answer section of the Emerging Voices application, it states you may use up to 500 words for each answer. Does this mean 500 words for each answer or 500 words for all ten questions combined?
It states each response can be up to 500 words maximum. That means each response for each individual question may be up to 500 words, not 500 words for all ten responses.
I write screenplays/graphic novels/children's books. Am I eligible?
The accepted genres for the Emerging Voices Fellowship are fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. All classes, mentors, and programming for the fellowship are based on one of these three genres. Many alumni have gone on to pursue careers in graphic novels, performance art, and screenwriting, but concentrated on either prose or poetry for the duration of the fellowship.
If offered a place in the fellowship, may I defer acceptance for another year?
You may not defer acceptance.
If not awarded the fellowship, may I reapply?
If you are not awarded a fellowship, we encourage you to reapply if interested.

For more info, please contact

Scholarship Opportunities

Bennington Writing Seminars Emerging Voices Scholarship

Bennington Writing Seminars, in partnership with the PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellowship, established a one-time creative writing MFA scholarship for Emerging Voices Fellows in 2018. Bennington will grant the scholarship amount of $10,000 across four terms for an Emerging Voices Fellow for the January 2018 residency.

Congratulations to alumna Shari Poindexter (EV ‘01) on being awarded the $10,000 Bennington Writing Seminars Emerging Voices Scholarship!

A sincere thank you to Bennington for extending two additional scholarships to fiction writers Monica Carter (EV ‘10) and Davin Malasarn (EV ‘08)!

The Bennington Writing Seminars Emerging Voices Scholarship was made possible by the generosity of the Bennington January 2017 graduating class. We are grateful to them for their support and for creating this incredible opportunity.

Shari Poindexter is a doctoral candidate in Occupational Therapy at USC who has led seminars and workshops on a range of healthcare issues specifically for cancer survivors and underserved populations. She is also a Hospice volunteer. Poindexter was a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow, and she earned a John Densmore Scholarship at UCLA and a May Merrill Miller award for outstanding short story.

Monica Carter is Program Director of the Lambda Literary Foundation's LGBTQ Writers-in-Schools program. She was a PEN Center USA MARK Program Fiction Fellow, a Lambda Literary Foundation LGBT Emerging Writer Fellow, and a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow.

Davin Malasarn is Lead Writer and Director of Presidential Communications at Cal Tech. He has a Ph.D. in biology, and was a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow. He is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a finalist for Glimmer Train's Very Short Fiction Contest, and was a featured writer for the New Short Fiction Series.

emerging voices

PEN In The Community

PITC teaching artists collaborate closely with partner schools and community sites to develop a tailored curriculum that meets the needs of the participants. For schools, the program begins with a 1-2 day summer professional development session focused on integrating creative writing into core curriculum.

At schools, the program consists of 12 workshops taught over 12 weeks by the PITC teaching artist. 6-9 of the workshops will be taught in the host teacher’s classroom, with the remaining 3-6 workshops by the teaching artist held in other teachers’ classrooms at the school.

At community sites, the program consists of 6-12 workshops designed to meet the needs of community members. Often, these residencies can be an opportunity for participants to rediscover writing as a tool for growth, healing, self-expression and communication.

Participant work at schools and community sites is collected by the PITC teaching artist throughout the residency and published by PEN Center USA in an anthology that combines work from all sites, one in fall and one in spring. The anthology is presented at a final public reading for all participating schools and communities. The fall reading will be in December; the spring reading will be in May.

Both our PITC Writer in Residence program and our Guest Speaker program are offered free of charge.

How to Request a PITC Residency or Request to Teach

If you are a teacher and would like to request a PITC Writer in Residence for 2016-17, please fill out a SCHOOL RESIDENCY REQUEST FORM.

If you work at a non-profit or community center and would like to request a PITC Writer in Residence for 2016-17, please fill out a COMMUNITY SITE RESIDENCY REQUEST FORM.

If you are a writer and would like to apply to become a PITC writing residency teaching artist for spring of 2016, please fill out a TEACHING ARTIST APPLICATION.

PITC Guest Speaker Program

For schools or sites that don’t have the capacity to host a 12-week residency but would like to have a professional writer talk to students and community members, PITC’s volunteer Guest Speakers will arrange a one-time visit. The chance to meet a writer in person can be thrilling, and also life-changing for students and other people who have never had the opportunity to think of writing as a possible path in life.

Though most of our participating writers live in Los Angeles, schools and community sites outside of L.A. can still participate via Skype. If you are a teacher or community site leader and would like to request a PITC guest speaker, please email Executive Director Michelle Franke at

If you are a writer and would like to volunteer to become a PITC guest speaker, please fill out a GUEST SPEAKER APPLICATION.

PITC Program Funding

PEN Center USA’s Emerging Voices Program is generously supported by the Amazon Literary Partnership, California Arts Council, New Balloon and Catapult, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, The Ovation Foundation, and Pasadena Literary Alliance generously support the Emerging Voices Fellowship.

The Bridge
pen in the community

Freedom To Write



PEN is gravely concerned by the pervasive attacks and threats continuously being made against Mexican journalists.

Information Saves Lives

PEN Center USA’s Freedom to Write Program dedicates itself to preserving the right to freedom of expression. In the last three years, we've launched more than 100 advocacy campaigns, advocating for imperiled writers and against governments who do not honor the international commitment to uphold this right. PEN Center USA launches a new campaign responding to current events every two weeks, mobilizing PEN Center USA members to take action on cases of critical concern, domestically and internationally.

Focusing primarily on threatened, censored, and imprisoned writers, the Freedom to Write Program also provides awareness and information on a broad spectrum of current events. By spotlighting these domestic and international cases, unwanted attention is cast on the offending authorities, often resulting in positive action benefiting the writer(s) in question.

PEN supports imperiled writers, fight against governments that impede the right to freedom of expression, and gives a platform to trusted voices speaking on current political and pressing issues.

In 2017, we continued to our fight on behalf of journalists and authors as the domestic arm of our Freedom to Write Program has become even more crucial. As an organization determined to defend the First Amendment, we have remained steadfast in our efforts to defend journalists since the new administration has been in office.

The administration has been unabashed in their outright defamation and exclusion of the press. As an outgrowth of this, we have seen more journalists arrested at the sight of protests.

Already this year, we have already run two Freedom to Write domestic petitions addressing this concern. The first petition demanded that U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips and the U.S. attorney's office for the District of Columbia drop all criminal charges against the six journalists that were arrested while covering the protests around Donald Trump’s inauguration. We were happy to report that charges have been dropped for five of the journalists. Aaron Cantú, a freelance journalist and activist, remains charged with felony rioting, according to court records.

Most recently, we called on the local authorities to drop the charges made against the six journalists including Jenni Monet, who was covering protests against the North Dakota Access pipeline.

These two petitions have garnered many signatures and inspired action among our members. PEN sees our membership and community advocating for freedom of speech more than ever before, and we will continue to watch these cases closely as we fight to protect the rights of the press.

On November 9th, 2016, the literary journal The Rattling Wall and PEN Center USA put out a call for post-election poems, stories, and essays forming Only Light Can Do That. Work poured in from across the country, not just from writers, but from teachers, doctors, activists, analysts, moms, dads, even school kids. We immediately went into production on a collection of these voices in anthology form.Only Light Can Do That serves as a testament to the voices of the resistance and to the people who will continue to write as a way to protest. 

PEN Center USA has also created the Writers Respond Essay Series where an author takes on a First Amendment issue. On the eve of the inauguration, we asked writers and journalists to share short essays of strength, hope, reflection, and resistance. These essays are a part of a series that demonstrates PEN Center USA's continued efforts to defend freedom of expression and the power of words to get these initiatives out in the world.


Amelia Gray gives us insight into the immigration crisis happening in the courtrooms.

On the eve of the inauguration, we asked writers and journalists to share short essays of strength, hope, reflection, and resistance. Natashia Deón, Chiwan Choi, Alex Espinoza, Litsa Dremousis, Bill Minutaglio, Sam Quinones, and Robert Jensen responded.

Environmental safety is a fundamental human right, and we, as a first amendment organization must ensure that writers have a space to write freely. Charles Yu, Rae Meadows, Oliver Milman (The Guardian), Kristine Ong Muslim, and Saad Z. Hossain responded.

The Emerging Voice Fellowship, a literary mentorship that aims to provide new writers who are isolated from the literary establishment, also featured essays focused on freedom to write. The first featured essay is by Fellow Kirin Khan: “To touch courage. This is the essence of the Freedom to Write. Writers throughout the world are fighting to tell stories that matter; they know that the fight for justice, for freedom, depends on their willingness to speak the truth.”


The PEN Emergency Fund for Writers is a fund for professional—published or produced—writers in acute, financial crisis. The funds give legal support, pay medical bills, and aid a writer in securing their safety. These donations provide crucial funds to writers who fall under threat, whether from censorship or prison, or in some cases death.

Awards and the Emergency Writers' Fund

Each year PEN Center USA presents the Freedom to Write and First Amendment Awards to individuals and organizations that have produced notable work in the face of extreme adversity or demonstrated exceptional courage in the defense of free expression. The awards are presented each fall at PEN Center USA’s Annual Literary Awards Festival. Recent honorees include Cuban dissident Raul Rivero, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists’ Association, the American Library Association, Sahal Abdulle, and U Win Tin.

For the Emergency Writers Fund, donations are collected with the purpose of helping other writers or their families for lawyer’s fees, bail, or medical needs.

Freedom to Write Calendar
February 21 International Mother Language Day
March 9 International Women's Day
March 21 World Poetry Day
April 24-25 Kurdish PEN/PEN Turkey Peace Conference
April 25-May 1 PEN World Voices Festival
May 3 World Press Freedom Day
May 31-June 2, 2017 In Other Words: the 2017 Biennial PEN International Writers in Prison Conference in Norway
June 17 Anniversary of the Arrest of Raif Badawi
June 20 World Refugee Day
August 19 International Youth Day
September 15 Anniversary of the Arrest of Azimjon Askarov
September 18 - 21, 2017 The 83rd PEN International Congress in Lviv, Ukraine
September 21 International Day of Peace
September 30 International Translation Day
November 2 International Day to End Impunity
November 15 Day of the Imprisoned Writer
December 8 Anniversary of the Arrest of Liu Xiaobo
December 10 Human Rights Day
RAN Archives


PEN is deeply concerned for the health and wellbeing of prominent Bahraini academic, activist and blogger Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, currently detained in Jau prison serving a life sentence for his peaceful opposition activities. According to the family, Dr. Al-Singace was urgently transferred to a military hospital last week. Doctors indicated that he had suffered severe dehydration. On March 12th, 2017, prison authorities reportedly refused to allow Dr. Al-Singace to attend a hospital appointment as he refused to wear the prison uniform and handcuffs. Dr. Al-Singace has long required specialist medical treatment for ongoing health problems, some of which result from torture and ill-treatment in prison. PEN International calls for Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace to be granted access to all necessary medical care as a matter of urgency, and continues to call for his immediate and unconditional release, as well as all those detained in Bahrain in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a state party.




PEN expresses grave concern regarding the arrest and detention of Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel, who was charged on February 27th, 2017 with incitement to hatred and making propaganda in support of a terrorist organization. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

PEN International fears that Deniz Yücel is being punished for his articles on corruption as well as the ongoing conflict in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast of Turkey. The organization calls on the Turkish authorities to release him immediately.




PEN continues to call for the release of blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah, in light of the two-year anniversary of his imprisonment last week. He was sentenced to five years in prison on February 23, 2015 following a retrial, for contravening a repressive law which restricts peaceful demonstrations. PEN believes he is imprisoned for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.

PEN is also concerned by recent reports that Abd El Fattah and other prisoners at Tora Prison Complex B (where Abd El Fattah is imprisoned) are not allowed to receive any books, apart from textbooks for study purposes. The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners states that recreational and cultural activities should be provided, and that prisoners should be allowed some contact with the outside world, including by receiving correspondence from family as well as having access to newspapers, periodicals or special institutional publications. PEN believes that books and newspapers are essential for the transmission of thought and enrichment of culture and education, and calls for the authorities to allow Alaa Abd El Fattah and all other prisoners in Tora Prison Complex B to receive books and other printed materials such as magazines and newspapers.




PEN condemns in the strongest possible terms the sentencing on March 3rd of Mehman Huseynov, Azerbaijani journalist and chairman of the country’s leading freedom of expression group, Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, to two years in jail on defamation charges. He was taken into custody from the courtroom, without being allowed to speak in his defense.

The 25 organizations who have signed this statement are deeply concerned by the continued targeting of Mehman Huseynov and call on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him and all other political prisoners, and to reverse the continuous clampdown on freedom of expression occurring in the country.




The arrest of Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel marks an alarming new chapter in Turkey’s assault on freedom of expression, and PEN calls on the Turkish authorities to release him and other detained journalists and writers immediately.

Deniz Yücel, who works for the German newspaper Die Welt, was formally charged on 27 February 2017 with spreading terrorist propaganda and incitement to hatred. He had been held in detention since 14 February 2017.

The arrest of Deniz Yücel signals a dangerous escalation of the Turkish authorities’ crackdown on media freedom,” said Jennifer Clement, PEN International President. “By prosecuting a German journalist, the authorities are clearly attempting to muzzle the foreign press and intimidate all journalists into silence.”




PEN reiterates its calls on the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Tibetan writer and editor, Kunchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang. Gopey Tsang, the co-founder/editor of the Tibetan language website Chomei (The Lamp),, was convicted of “disclosing state secrets” on November 12th 2009, and is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence. February 26th 2017 marked the eighth anniversary of his arrest. On the basis of the available evidence, PEN International believes that he is very likely to have been imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. PEN is also concerned by reports of the deterioration of Gopey Tsang’s health and calls on the authorities to ensure that he is granted access to all necessary medical care.


PEN Center USA’s Freedom to Write Committee seeks to spotlight ongoing dangers and disturbing new trends in the suppression of expression. We do this by investigating and reporting on regional and country-specific problems. Past efforts include the Nigeria Initiative, aimed at publicizing the link between oil politics and the silencing of dissent in Nigeria, and a coordinated campaign to end violent attacks against journalists in Latin America. Click here to visit the RAN Archives.



PEN is seriously concerned for the safety of PEN Honduras member and journalist Jairo López who is facing threats following a smear campaign. López, who hosts TV News program El Informador for a local television channel Canal 21 in Choluteca, southern Honduras, is known for his investigative journalism. According to López, a smear campaign against him began on February 7th, 2017 when a piece was posted on social media claiming that the Public Prosecutor had issued a warrant for his arrest for being the leader of a local criminal gang and an emissary of a well-known drug trafficker. PEN calls on the Honduran authorities to ensure the safety of Jairo López and to investigate the threats against him as a matter of urgency.

Claims such as those made against López not only damage his reputation as a journalist, but, in a country considered one of the most deadly for journalists, they also pose a serious threat to both him and his family. Since the video was posted, Lopez reports receiving threats and men on motorcycles have been seen circling his house.

PEN believes the smear campaign is in response to an unfavorable report on El Informador showing the President of the National Congress being attacked by protestors at a political gathering in Apacilagua, southern Honduras. López is believed to be targeted as he is the director of the TV news program responsible for broadcasting the video.




PEN welcomes news of the release of prominent Uzbek journalist Muhammad Bekjanov on 22 February 2017, who spent 18 years in prison on politically-motivated charges.

“We are pleased to hear that Muhammad Bekjanov has been released, although he should have never been imprisoned in the first place. One of the world’s longest-imprisoned journalists, Bekjanov was unfairly tried and tortured yet no one has been held accountable,” said Jennifer Clement, PEN International President. “We demand justice for Bekjanov. All other writers and journalists unfairly imprisoned in Uzbekistan must also be released immediately.”

Muhammad Bekjanov is the former editor of the banned Erk opposition party newspaper and brother of exiled opposition leader Muhammad Salih. He was arrested in March 1999 after being forcibly returned to Uzbekistan from Ukraine, accused of involvement in a series of explosions in Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent, the previous month. He said he was tortured into confessing yet the authorities did not investigate his allegations and in August 1999 sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Although his sentence was reduced in 2003, he received an additional five years in December 2011 for allegedly violating prison rules just weeks before he was due to be released.

During his imprisonment, Muhammad Bekjanov suffered a broken leg, lost most of his teeth and his hearing in one ear as a result of alleged mistreatment and contracted tuberculosis.

Muhammad Bekjanov is an Honorary Member of English PEN, PEN America and PEN Canada.



PEN is seriously concerned for the health of imprisoned filmmaker Keywan Karimi. The prominent Kurdish filmmaker, who has been in prison since 23 November 2016, is in need of urgent medical care after multiple episodes of pulmonary bleeding. Doctors at Tehran’s Elvin prison have said that he has bronchitis and an acute lung infection and have advised a transfer to a specialized facility. However, the prison authorities have reportedly refused to authorize this transfer. Karimi was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment and 223 lashes on 13 October 2015 by Branch 28 of Tehran Revolutionary Court for ‘insulting the holy sanctities’, ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ and ‘illegitimate relations’. An Appeals Court upheld his sentence in February 2016, ruling to suspend five of his six-year punishment for a period of five years. He is now serving a one-year prison term and he is expected to receive 223 lashes while in prison. PEN reiterates its call on the Iranian authorities to quash Karimi’s conviction. PEN is also gravely concerned about the flogging sentence, as it violates the absolute prohibition in international law against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment. The organization urges the Iranian authorities to grant Karimi all necessary medical care as a matter of urgency.




PEN is concerned at the arrest and detention of Kurdish Iranian writer and journalist Sajjad Jahan Fard, and that of his friend Hassan Baladeh, who were charged on 25 January 2017 with “membership of a terrorist organisation” after taking pictures during a tourist visit to the city of Mardin, in the predominantly Kurdish South-east of Turkey. They face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

PEN fears that Sajjad Jahan Fard and Hassan Baladeh are being targeted for their links with Kurdish intellectuals, academics and publishing houses. The organization calls on the Turkish authorities to release them immediately.




PEN condemns the decision of the Chui Regional Court in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to uphold on appeal the life sentence of journalist Azimjon Askarov on charges of complicity in murder and inciting hatred for reporting on fatal ethnic violence in June 2010.

PEN believes that Askarov was targeted solely for his critical reporting of police corruption and that he should be released immediately and unconditionally.




PEN is deeply concerned about reports that on 23 January 2017 writer and blogger Rashad Ramazanov was moved into solitary confinement at Baku Prison #2, where he is serving a nine-year sentence for his anti-government writings. He is also being denied family visits and access to his lawyer. Ramazanov suffers from a number of medical problems and PEN International has serious concerns for his well-being and physical integrity.


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Strange Cargo

On September 12 at Skylight Books, we released Strange Cargo, an Emerging Voices Anthology, PEN USA's first collection of stories, poems and nonfiction pieces by EV Fellows from 1997 to 2010.


PROGRAM MENTORS: EV fellows are paired with mentors that they are expected to contact monthly. Mentors are chosen from PEN’s membership, comprised of professional writers. EV Fellows are paired with mentors who share similar writing interests. Over the course of the program, EVs and mentors should meet twice in-person. In these meetings, mentors will offer feedback on the EV fellows’ work-in-progress.

UCLA Extension Writers’ Program

As the largest and most comprehensive continued education writing program in the United States, the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program is committed to providing the highest quality writing courses possible to a broad-based and culturally diverse community. They offer an extraordinary variety of individual courses (over 525 annually) as well as certificate programs to meet the needs of their students.

Rosenthal Family Foundation

The Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation was established in 1948 by my parents, a young businessman and his fashion-editor wife, who clearly had a great deal of confidence in their eventual financial success as well as a genuine desire to contribute to the world outside themselves. As my father formulated it in the beginning, “Individuals fortunate enough to receive unusual benefits from a society have the distinct obligation to return meaningful, tangible support to that society—in the form of creative energy as well as funding.”


Emerging Voices

Emerging Voices is an intensive eight-month program for writers in the early stages of their literary careers. The program includes free classes at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program; a one-on-one mentorship with a professional writer; Q&A evenings with professional writers, publishers, editors, and agents; Master classes by genre with a published PEN author; Workshops on various elements of publishing and a public speaking seminar; a $1,000 stipend. The program culminates with a public reading and reception.

Honorary Members

PEN USA’s Freedom to Write Committee carries out campaigns on behalf of eighty specially selected writers who are long-term prisoners of conscience. Each honorary member has several “minders” who work diligently, sometimes for years, on his/her case. Minders write letters to foreign governments and diplomatic representatives, communicate with and provide vital support to the honorary member and his/her family, and encourage American officials to implement sound policy that represents the United States’ commitment to freedom of expression.