The PEN/Faulkner Podcast Series

Welcome to the home of the PEN/Faulkner Podcast, a monthly podcast showcasing author events from our annual Reading Series, as well as occasional clips from our archives.

The PEN/Faulkner Podcast series is made possible by the generous support of, and is co-sponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Click on the  links below to hear or download the podcast series.


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Episode 35 – A Storied Future: Emerging Writers of the Virginia Quarterly Review

Since 1925, the storied literary and cultural journal Virginia Quarterly Review has been publishing thought-provoking works of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and journalism. Episode 35 of the PEN/Faulkner podcast features a collaborative event between VQR and PEN/Faulkner: “A Storied Future: Emerging Writers of the Virginia Quarterly Review.” Listen here to a moderated conversation between Ann Beattie and four gifted writers – Tope Folarin, Onyinye Ihezukwu, Greg Jackson, and Brendan McKennedy – at the start of their careers.

Ann_Beattie_SQAnn Beattie has been included in four O. Henry Award Collections and in John Updike’s Best American Short Stories of the Century. In 2000, she received the PEN/Malamud Award for achievement in the short story form. In 2005, she received the Rea Award for the Short Story. She and her husband, Lincoln Perry, live in Key West, Florida, and Charlottesville, Virginia, where she is Edgar Allan Poe Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia.


Tope_Folarin_SQTope Folarin won the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing for his story “Miracles.” In 2014, he was named to the Africa 39 list of the top African writers under 40. He is a graduate of Morehouse College and Oxford University, where he earned two Master’s degrees as a Rhodes Scholar. Tope lives in Washington, DC and is currently at work on his first novel.



Onyinye_Ihezukwu_SQOnyinye Ihezukwu was born and raised in Nigeria, where she worked as a journalist and broadcaster. Her work largely explores changing socio-spiritual themes in the urban Nigerian setting. She is a Poe/Faulkner fellow with the MFA program at the University of Virginia, where she received the 2014 Henfield Prize.



Brendan_McKennedy_SQBrendan McKennedy, a former fiction editor at the Greensboro Review, has published short stories in Epoch, PANK, and Night Train. He’s at work on a novel set in the American South during the early years of the recording industry. He lives in North Carolina.




Greg_Jackson_SQGreg Jackson grew up in Boston and coastal Maine. He has been a Fiction Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center and a Henry Hoyns Fellow at the University of Virginia, where he won the 2012 Henfield Prize. His fiction has appeared in the New Yorker, and his first book is a story collection entitled Prodigals (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2016). He has worked for the literary journal n+1 and with investigative journalist Ron Suskind on several bestselling works of political nonfiction.



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Episode 34 – The 26th Annual PEN/Faulkner Gala: “Danger”
From Left: Isabel Wilkerson, Ishmael Beah, Benjamin Alire Sáenz (seated), Piper Kerman (seated), Adelle Waldman, David Baldacci (seated), Rachel Pyfrom, Mitchell S. Jackson (seated), Madison Smartt Bell, Calvin Trillin, Elliott Holt (seated), Rachel Pastan, and Daniela Shia-Sevilla.

Episode 34 brings you the 26th anniversary of the PEN/Faulkner Gala, which was held on October 6th, 2014, at 6:30 p.m. The Gala celebrates and supports the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and PEN/Faulkner’s Writers in Schools program. Twelve authors joined Master of Ceremonies Calvin Trillin at the Folger Elizabethan Theatre to explore the theme of Danger through original compositions written for the occasion. The event included our high school essay contest awards winner Rachel Pyfrom and Daniela Shia-Sevilla, who read their prize-winning essays from the Folger stage alongside our other guest writers.

The episode features readings by David Baldacci, Ishmael Beah, Madison Smartt BellElliott Holt, Mitchell S. Jackson, Piper Kerman, Rachel Pastan, Rachel Pyfrom, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Daniela Shia-Sevilla, Adelle Waldman, and Isabel Wilkerson. Author and humorist Calvin Trillin served as the Master of Ceremonies.


Episode 33 – Readings from our Summer Supper & Book Club

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Episode 33 features readings from PEN/Faulkner’s Summer Supper and Book Club, which met weekly for seven weeks at the Hill Center in the summer of 2014. We discussed books, poems, and stories by authors Susan Richards Shreve (Plum and Jaggers)Danielle Evans (Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self), Elliott Holt (You Are One Of Them), David Ebenbach (Between Camelots), Matt Dembicki (District Comics), and Derrick Weston Brown (Wisdom Teeth).

We had 10 students enrolled in the course, and each week they came prepared to dine and discuss the book of the week. The authors joined us to answer questions and grab a bite, and they were kind enough to let us record short readings of their work. Thus, Episode 33 is a variety pack that includes all the participating authors except, unfortunately, Matt Dembicki, whose visit could not be recorded.


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Episode 32 – 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award Ceremony

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Episode 32 features the 34th Annual PEN/Faulkner Award Ceremony & Reading, which was held at the Folger Shakespeare Library here in Washington, DC on May 10th, 2014.

The winner of this year’s award was Karen Joy Fowler for her novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, and the four finalists for the prize were: Daniel Alarcón for his novel At Night We Walk in Circles; Percival Everett for his novel Percival Everett by Virgil Russell; Joan Silber for her collection of short stories Fools; Valerie Trueblood for her collection of short stories Search Party: Stories of Rescue.

All five of the authors joined us at the Folger for the ceremony and reading, and they were joined onstage by this year’s judges, Achy Obejas, Manuel Muñoz, and Madison Smartt Bell, who you’ll hear read their citations for each finalist and the winner.

The event opened with remarks by Frazier O’Leary, president of PEN/Faulkner’s Board of Directors, Emma Snyder, our Executive Director. The Master of Ceremonies for the event was PBS’s Jeffrey Brown.


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Episode 31 – Rebecca Mead in Conversation with Hanna Rosin & Margaret Talbot

Rebecca Mead (upper right), Hanna Rosin (lower left), and Margaret Talbot (lower right)

Episode 31 of the podcast brings you a reading by New Yorker Staff Writer and author Rebecca Mead discussing her book My Life in Middlemarch and engaging in a conversation about the book with the Atlantic’s Hanna Rosin and the New Yorker’s Margaret Talbot.

Rebecca Mead was a young woman in an English coastal town when she first read George Eliot’s Middlemarch, regarded by many as the greatest English novel. After gaining admission to Oxford, and moving to the United States to become a journalist, through several love affairs, then marriage and family, Mead read and reread Middlemarch. The novel, which Virginia Woolf famously described as “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people,” offered Mead something that modern life and literature did not.

In this wise and revealing work of biography, reporting, and memoir, Rebecca Mead leads us into the life that the book made for her, as well as the many lives the novel has led since it was written. Employing a structure that deftly mirrors that of the novel, My Life in Middlemarch takes the themes of Eliot’s masterpiece–the complexity of love, the meaning of marriage, the foundations of morality, and the drama of aspiration and failure–and brings them into our world. Offering both a fascinating reading of Eliot’s biography and an exploration of the way aspects of Mead’s life uncannily echo that of Eliot herself, My Life in Middlemarch is for every ardent lover of literature who cares about why we read books, and how they read us.

Hanna Rosin is the author of the recent book The End of Men. A senior editor at The Atlantic, she has written for The New YorkerThe New York TimesGQThe New Republic, and The Washington Post, among other publications.

Margaret Talbot has been a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine, where she covers culture and politics, since 2003. Her first book, The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and my Father’s Twentieth Century, recounts the story of her father’s (stage and screen actor Lyle Talbot) exceptionally long and varied career from 1931-1960.


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