Episode 54 – A Tribute to Robert Stone

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Robert Stone wrote eight novels, as well as numerous short stories and a memoir.  In his writing, Stone vividly captured the chaos and elation of the 1960s and the darkness at the heart of American empire-building.  His novel Dog Soldiers won the National Book Award in 1975.  He was also a finalist for the Pulitzer and the PEN/Faulkner award, and served as the chairman of the PEN/Faulkner Board for over 30 years.

On May 2, 2016, we gathered at the Folger Shakespeare Library to celebrate the life and work of this remarkable man.  Authors Madison Smartt Bell, Stephen Goodwin, Lauren Groff, and Tim O’Brien joined us on stage for an evening of reminiscences and readings from his work and that of writers he influenced.

“Numerous sentences from the novels of Robert Stone are permanently lodged in my mind.  I didn’t sit down to memorize them – they’ve stayed with me because Stone… had the power of being memorable.”
– George Packer, The New Yorker

Thank you to Benedict Kupstas and Field Guides for donating the music used in this episode. Listen here to Field Guides’ album Boo, Forever.

April 7: The Displaced: An Evening with Laila Lalami, Shobha Rao and Luis Urrea

The Displaced

The Displaced: An Evening with Laila Lalami, Shobha Rao, and Luis Urrea
Moderator: Sarah Stillman

Friday, April 7th, 2017  |  7:30 PM
Purchase a single ticket for $15

Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol St., SE
Washington, DC 20003 

Four Moroccans cross the Strait of Gibraltar in an inflatable boat bound for Spain. A Mexican village is left empty of men who have fled to the United States in search of economic opportunity. A new mother is trapped on the wrong side of the India-Pakistan border. Laila Lalami in Hope and Other Dangerous PursuitsShobha Rao in An Unrestored Woman, and Luis Urrea in Into the Beautiful North speak to lives that are never stationary and to communities that have been uprooted. They’ll come together on-stage to read from their work, and discuss what it means to be a citizen in our volatile world.

Join us on at the Folger Shakespeare Library on Friday, April 7th, for this complex and necessary discussion.

Image result for laila lalami hope and other dangerous pursuitsLaila Lalami was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain, and the United States.  She the the author of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award; Secret Son, which appeared on the Orange Prize longlist; and The Moor’s Account, which won the American Book Award, the Arab American Book Award, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.  Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, The Nation, the Guardian, the New York Times, and in many anthologies.  In 2016, she was named a columnist for The Nation magazine and a critic-at-large for the Los Angeles Times. She is the recipient of a British Council Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship and is currently a professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside.

“The Moor’s Account is more than a good story, it’s a great one: rich, vivid and gripping; a thoughtful investigation into how we frame the narratives of our own lives. “
– Sarah Crown, The Guardian

Image result for an unrestored womanShobha Rao moved to the US from India at the age of seven.  She is the winner of the 2014 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction, awarded by Nimrod International Journal. She has been a resident at Hedgebrook and is the recipient of the Elizabeth George Foundation fellowship. Her story “Kavitha and Mustafa” was chosen by TC Boyle for inclusion in the Best American Short Stories 2015.  An Unrestored Woman is her debut.

“Rao demonstrates her enormous power, summing up the complexities of an entire life in diamond-cut sharp scenes and dialogue.”
– Siobhan Fallon, New York Journal of Books

Image result for into the beautiful northLuis Urrea, Tijuana-born, is a prolific writer who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph. Urrea is the critically acclaimed and best-selling author of 16 books, winning numerous awards for his poetry, fiction and essays. Into the Beautiful North has been selected by more than 30 different cities and colleges as a community read.  A Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005 (nonfiction), he’s won the Kiriyama Prize (2006), the Lannan Award (2002), an American Book Award (1999) and was named to the Latino Literary Hall of Fame.  He is a creative writing professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago

“Reading The Water Museum is like listening to a great album on a long drive through what the band Modest Mouse called “the lonesome crowded west.”
–Michael Schaud, NPR


March 28th: World War One and America


World War One and America

Featuring: Elliot Ackerman, Maurice Decaul, Nicole Rizzuto, and Kayla Williams

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017  |  7:00 – 9:00 PM

Hill Center @ the Old Naval Hospital
921 Pennsylvania Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20003 

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S.’s involvement in World War I.  The PEN/Faulkner Foundation and Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital, with support from the Library of America, are hosting a panel on World War I that will explore the impact that the Great War had in shaping 20th century culture and practice, as well as its continuing resonance in today’s contemporary life and literature.

Veteran writers Elliot Ackerman, Maurice Decaul and Kayla Williams, along with Georgetown University professor Nicole Rizzuto, will each read a WWI-era American text and explain its greater significance, to themselves and to the conflict as a whole.  After the reading, our panel will join together in a wide-ranging discussion of the historical and literary legacy of the conflict, with parallels to America’s current conflict in the Middle East.

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Elliot Ackerman has served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and is the recipient of the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. A former White House Fellow, his essays and fiction have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, and Ecotone, among others. He is the author of Green on Blue and, most recently, Dark at the Crossing.


Image result for maurice decaulMaurice Decaul, a former Marine, is a poet, essayist, and playwright, whose writing has been featured in the New York Times, Sierra Magazine, Narrative and others. His poems have been translated into French and Arabic and his theatrical works – Holding it Down, Sleep Song, Dijla Wal Furat: Between the Tigris and the Euphrates – have been produced and performed in New York, Washington, DC, Paris and Antwerp. Decaul is currently working toward his MFA in playwriting at Brown University.

Image result for kayla williams authorKayla Williams, a former sergeant and Arabic linguist in a Military Intelligence company of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), is the author of Love My Rifle More than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army, a memoir about her experiences negotiating the changing demands on today’s military and Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War, her story of their family’s journey from trauma to healing. Williams is currently the Director of the Center for Women Veterans – a center that advocates for a cultural transformation in recognizing the service and contributions of women Veterans and women in the military.

Image result for nicole rizzutoNicole Rizzuto is currently an Associate Professor in the English Department at Georgetown University, specializing in twentieth-century and contemporary British and Anglophone literature, transnational modernism, and critical theory. Her book, Insurgent Testimonies: Witnessing Colonial Trauma in Modern and Anglophone Literature investigates how British, African, and Caribbean fiction and nonfiction raise questions about the ethics and politics of bearing witness to historical traumas that occurred during the second half of the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth: World Wars I and II and anti-colonial insurgencies and counter-insurgencies in India, Jamaica, Mexico, and Kenya.

March 13th: We Wear the Masks: Manuel Gonzales, Yona Harvey, and Gary Jackson

We Wear the Masks

We Wear the Masks: Poetry and Fiction Inspired by Comic Books with Manuel Gonzales, Yona Harvey, and Gary Jackson
Co-sponsored by the O.B. Harrison Poetry Series

Monday, March 13th, 2017  |  7:30 PM
Purchase a single ticket for $15

Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol St., SE
Washington, DC 20003 

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation and the O.B. Hardison Poetry Series come together to explore the evolving influence that comic books have on writers. The writers will read from their work and participate in a post-reading conversation moderated by Dr. Tara Betts, Visiting Lecturer at University of Illinois-Chicago. Using handwritten poems and passages, the artists of Ink Brick, a micro-press for comic book poetry, will create one-of-a-kind comic book broadsides for this event.

Join us on at the Folger Theatre on Monday, March 13th, for this exciting and wide-ranging conversation.


Manual Gonzales is the author of The Miniature Wife and Other Stories (Riverhead) and the forthcoming novel, The Regional Office is Under Attack! (Riverhead). His fiction and nonfiction have been published in McSweeney’sFence, Tin HouseOpen CityOne StoryThe Believer109.com, and various other publications. He is the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Sue Kaufman Prize for Fiction and the John Gardner Fiction Book Award. He teaches writing at the University of Kentucky and the Institute of American Indian Arts.

“Gonzales writers with an abundance of imagination, riffing on comic book and pop culture plot lines and characters while adding his own unique perspective.”
-Publishers Weekly


Yona Harvey is the author of the poetry collection Hemming the Water, winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award from Claremont Graduate University and finalist for the Hurston-Wright Award. Her work has been anthologized in many publications including A Poet’s Craft: A Comprehensive guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry and The Force of What’s Possible: Accessibility and the Avant-Garde. She has received an Individual Artist grant in nonfiction from The Pittsburgh Foundation and participated in workshops and residencies at the inaugural Cave Canem retreat and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. She is an assistant professor in the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

“An extraordinary debut book in which the devastations is very much alive.”
–Toi Derricotte, Poet and Cofounder of Cave Canem


Gary Jackson is the author of Missing You, Metropolis (Graywolf Press, 2010), which was selected by Yusef Komunyakaa as winner of the 2009 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. He was born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, and received his MFA degree in poetry from the University of New Mexico in 2008. His poems have appeared in The Laurel Review, Blue Mesa Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Literary Bohemian, Inscape, and Magma, and he was nominated for a 2010 Pushcart Prize. He has been a fierce lover of comics for nearly twenty years.

“A heartbreaking debut that leads not to nowhere but to the knowledge that how we embrace our childhood wonder determines how we arrive at adulthood.
–Jennifer Chang,  Poetry Society of America

Announcing the 2017 PEN/Faulkner Award Finalists!

2017 PF Award Finalists

Judges Chris Abani, Chantel Acevedo, and Sigrid Nunez have announced their list of finalists for the 2017 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, April 4th. Following the announcement, the 37th Annual PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Ceremony & Dinner will be held on Saturday, May 6th at 7:00 p.m. at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Congratulations to our finalists:

Viet Dinh
, author of After Disasters






Louise Erdrich, author of LaRose






Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You






Imbolo Mbue, author of Behold the Dreamers






Sunil Yapa, author of Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist




March 6th: Class in the Black Community: Margo Jefferson, Angela Flournoy, and Marcus Guillory


Class in the Black Community: Margo Jefferson, Angela Flournoy, and Marcus Guillory

Monday, March 6th, 2017  |  7:30 PM
Purchase a single ticket for $15

Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol St., SE
Washington, DC 20003 

Margo Jefferson’s memoir Negroland is a meditation on race, sex, and American culture through the privileged prism of Chicago’s Black elite. Angela Flournoy’s novel The Turner House tells a multi-generational saga through the decline of Detroit’s East Side. Marcus Guillory’s Red Now and Laters gives us a coming-of-age story set in the Creole and cowboy-infused East Texas of the 1980s. These authors write on race and class, privilege and oppression and offer stories—both funny and heartbreaking—that are caught at the intersection.

Join us on at the Folger Theatre on Monday, March 6th, for this important and wide-ranging conversation.


Margo Jefferson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural critic. She has been a staff writer for The New York Times and Newsweek; her reviews and essays have appeared in New York MagazineGrand StreetVogueHarper’s and many other publications. Her book, On Michael Jackson, was published in 2006. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Rockefeller Foundation/Theater Communications Group grant. She has also written and performed two theater pieces at The Cherry Lane Theatre and The Culture Project.

“Jefferson’s candor, and the courage and rigor of her critic’s mind, recall a number of America’s greatest thinkers on race.”
-Tracy K. Smith, The New York Times

the turner house

Angela Flournoy is the author of The Turner House, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and a New York Times notable book of the year. The novel was also a finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and an NAACP Image Award. She is a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Honoree for 2015. Her fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, and she has written for The New York Times, The New Republic, The Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere.

“An elegant and assured debut.”
–Stacia L. Brown, The Washington Post

red now and laters

Marcus J. Guillory, Houston-born, Los Angeles-based, writer/producer, has worked as a screenwriter for over 10 years and is the first American to have written and produced a Bollywood film. Under the moniker “Mateo Senolia”, Guillory has recently teamed up with LA radio icon/tastemaker Garth Trinidad (89.9 KCRW) to create a fusion of spoken literature and house music called “Lit House” with the intent of introducing non-readers to literature with an upcoming EP “Postcards From Strangers” on house legend Osunlade’s Yoruba Records. His shorts stories and magazine articles can be found on the web and onf newsstands.

“Guillory’s story provides insights—simultaneously provocative, angry, and compassionate—into one of America’s neglected communities.”
–Publishers Weekly

Episode 53 – Louise Erdrich

The PEN/Faulkner Podcast is back!

Louise Erdrich Credit Paul Emmel

Louise Erdrich is the author of fourteen novels, a volume of short stories, several books of poetry, and a series of children’s books. Her novel The Round House won the 2012 National Book Award; she is a former Guggenheim Fellow and has received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. 

In 2015, Erdrich received the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, a lifetime achievement award, presented at the National Book Festival. On May 10th, 2016, Erdrich joined PEN/Faulkner at an event co-hosted by the Library of Congress to read from her novel, LaRose.

“Book by book, over the past three decades, Louise Erdrich has built one of the most moving and engrossing collections of novels in American literature.”
– Ron Charles, Washington Post Book World

Thank you to Benedict Kupstas and Field Guides for donating the music used in this episode. Listen here to Field Guides’ album Boo, Forever.

February 21st: Cli-Fi: Nathaniel Rich and Kate Walbert


Cli-Fi: Nathaniel Rich and Kate Walbert

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017  |  7:30 PM
Purchase a single ticket for $15

Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol St., SE
Washington, DC 20003 

The latest novels of Nathaniel Rich (Odds Against Tomorrow) and Kate Walbert (The Sunken Cathedral) masterfully portray visions of climate, landscape, and contemporary American life all in a state of flux.Their recent novels press us to more carefully consider our understandings of environmental and climate change, urban life and locations, and the implications of our landscapes edging towards doom. Join us on Tuesday, February 21st for what is sure to be a crucial and timely conversation on environmental disaster and the role fiction plays in the broader debate.


Nathaniel Rich is the author of two novels: Odd Against Tomorrow and The Mayor’s Tongue. He is a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine and his essays have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Rolling Stone, and The Daily Beast. Rich’s novel Odds Against Tomorrow introduces us to an insurance analyst who, after accurately predicting natural disaster, braves the rising tides of a submerged city. Rich currently lives in New Orleans.

“This brilliantly conceived and extremely well-executed novel…is the opposite of a disaster, a knockout book by a young writer to keep your eye on.”
-Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered




Kate Walbert is the author of A Short History of Women, chosen by The New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of 2009 and a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize, Our Kind, a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction in 2004, The Gardens of Kyoto, winner of the 2002 Connecticut Book Award in Fiction in 2002, and Where She Went, a collection of linked stories and New York Times notable book. Her most recent novel The Sunken Cathedral tells the intersecting stories of neighbors in a weather-threatened, flood-prone Manhattan. She currently lives in New York City with her family.

“A powerful elegy for a fading New York City and for the planet as a whole.”
–Courtney Sullivan, The Boston Globe

PEN/Faulkner is looking for a new Executive Director

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The PEN/Faulkner Foundation seeks a dynamic and experienced leader to serve as Executive Director starting in the summer of 2017.

PEN/Faulkner is a national literary organization with deep roots in Washington, DC. We work to honor excellent American fiction, connect writers with their readers, and support public school teachers and students in studying – and learning to love – contemporary literature.

The Executive Director will oversee a small team of experienced program staffers who administer one of the country’s premier literary prizes, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction; coordinate public reading events in Washington, DC; and manage a Writers in Schools program that annually runs hundreds of author visits across 40 public schools in DC and Baltimore.

The ideal candidate will be a strategic thinker and experienced manager with at least 5 years at a director-level position helming an arts non-profit. The ED’s core responsibilities will focus on strategic planning, governance, communications, and fundraising. This is an extremely exciting position for someone eager to shepherd a storied literary organization into a future full of possibility.

Competitive salary and benefits package commensurate with experience.

Please submit a cover letter and resume to applications@penfaulkner.org by Wednesday, January 25, 2017.

January 10th: Urgently Human: Roxane Gay and Morgan Parker in Conversation

Urgently Human: Morgan Parker and Roxane Gay in Conversation

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017  |  7:30 PM
Purchase a single ticket for $15

Lutheran Church of the Reformation (across the street from the Folger Shakespeare Library)
212 East Capitol St., NE
Washington, DC 20003 

Morgan Parker and Roxane Gay are two of our most incisive cultural observers. Their singular works press us to more carefully consider our understandings of racial and gender identity, movies and magazines, torture and love and joy. Join us on Tuesday, January 10th for what is sure to be a wide-ranging and urgent conversation.


otherpeoplescomfort_smallMorgan Parker is the author of Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night, selected by Eileen Myles for the 2013 Gatewood Prize and also a finalist for the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award. Her second collection, There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, will come out in February of 2017. She works as an editor for Little A and Day One, teaches creative writing and co-curates the Poets With Attitude (PWA) reading series.


“Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night is hilarious and hard-hitting, and it ripples with energy, insight and searing music.
Tracy K. Smith




difficulttRoxane Gay is a fiction writer and essayist whose most recent works are the best-selling essay collection, Bad Feminist, the memoir, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, and the short story collection Difficult Women. Her writing has appeared in Tin House, Oxford American, American Short FictionVirginia Quarterly Review, the New York Times, the Guardian, Bookforum, Time, the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, and many others. She is a recipient of the PEN Center USA Freedom to Write Award, among other honors. She splits her time between Indiana and Los Angeles.

“A strikingly fresh cultural critic.”
–Ron Charles, the Washington Post