What We Do

PEN/Faulkner is a nonprofit literary organization that promotes a lifelong love of reading and a connection to writing through public events, in-school education, and public promotion of exceptional literary achievement. We annually administer the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, one of the highest honors available to American fiction writers.


Our History

The PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction was founded in 1980 by National Book Award winner Mary Lee Settle. Her goal was to establish a national prize that would recognize literary fiction of excellence, an award juried by writers for writers, free of commercial concerns. The prize was named for William Faulkner, who used his Nobel Prize funds to establish an award for younger writers, and PEN, the international writers’ organization.

The first Award was given in May 1981, at a ceremony held in the Rotunda at the University of Virginia.  Today, the PEN/Faulkner Award is one of the top three national fiction awards, and the largest annual peer-juried prize in America. As Philip Roth noted when he received the 2007 Award, “PEN/Faulkner has consistently recognized works of quality.” The Award frequently recognizes new and emerging writers.

In 1983, Dr. O.B. Hardison Jr., then director of Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., offered to house the administration of the PEN/Faulkner Award within the Folger. Shortly after the move to Washington, PEN/Faulkner organized itself as an independent charitable arts foundation and began hosting a series of public fiction readings at the Folger. In 1989 the foundation launched the Writers in Schools program.

An essential cultural organization, PEN/Faulkner continues to provide arts enrichment to the Washington metropolitan area. Mary Lee Settle’s mission–to create a community of writers, honor excellence in American fiction, and encourage a love of reading–has found ever-expanding expression in the work and outreach of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation.


Click below for more information about our programs:

The PEN/Faulkner Event Series: Literary Conversations

This series brings leading authors together for public readings and discussions of their work in venues around Washington, D.C.

Writers in Schools

Each year we work with educators to bring local and international authors into DC public and public charter high schools for engaging talks about their work. 

The PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

This national prize honors the year’s best published works of fiction by American citizens.

The PEN/Malamud Award 

Named after Bernard Malamud, this annual award honors excellence in the art of the short story.

Click here to make a donation to PEN/Faulkner to help support these programs.