Voices from PEN/Faulkner’s Interns

This summer, PEN/Faulkner had the privilege of being joined by three amazing interns: Jess Karan, Anna Hotard, and Olivia Guerrero. Before they left us, they each wrote essays inspired by their time in the organization. It’s our honor to share them with you.


Queerness is an often invisible identity: one that can’t be known just by looking at someone. It’s also one of many identities that’s been heavily excluded from the literary sphere, even though its present in every culture, generation, religion and ethnicity. When it has been celebrated in both history and literature, furthermore, the voices of white, wealthy, educated, male, and cisgender queer writers have been given the most attention. Many queer writers with different identities have flown under the radar and died without recognition.

In 2019 it’s not only crucial, but necessary to read diversely. Knowing how identity informs literature means seeking out writers whose identities might not match our own. Below are three writers, activists, and educators who deserve infinitely more credit than they were given while alive. It is my hope that by sharing them, I can help make sure that their names are repeated and remembered.

Nancy Cárdenas

Nancy Cárdenas was born in the town of Parras, in the Mexican state of Coahuila, in 1934. She described the town as having “one million trees, 20,000 people, and only one access road.” She studied at the Autonomous University of Mexico before moving to Yale University, where she studied staging, film, and theater. At twenty, she became a radio announcer and later became a stage actress. It was only in the 1960s that she began to write, publishing her first one-act play El cántaro seco (The Empty Pitcher) and working later as a journalist. She is considered to be the first publicly out lesbian in Mexico, upon revealing her sexuality at age thrity-nine on the TV show 24 horas, hosted by James Zabludovsky, during an interview. Her collection of poetry, Cuaderno de amor y desamor (Book of Love and Hate) deals with lesbian love and eroticism. She died of breast cancer in 1994 at the age of 59.

Carole LaFavor

Carole LaFavor was an Ojibwe novelist, activist, and nurse born in Minnesota in 1948. She was a member of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS from 1995-1997; was a founding member of Positively Native, an organization supporting indigenous people with HIV/AIDS; and was the author of two detective novels: Along the Journey River and Evil Dead Center. Amid large-scale protests about missing and murdered indigenous women, LaFavor spoke publicly about her sexual assault at the hands of two white men in the Minneapolis proceedings of the Pornography Civil Rights Hearings. She identified as both lesbian and two-spirit, an indigenous gender identity, and her novel Along the Journey River is, according to Kansas State University Professor Lisa Tatonetti, “arguably the first novel with an indigenous lesbian protagonist.”

Ifti Nasim

Ifti Nasim was born in Pakistan in 1946 and emigrated to the US to escape persecution for his sexuality in 1971. He was the fifth of seven children and describes himself as “the invisible child.” Upon moving to the US, he became a columnist, radio show host, and even a luxury car salesman—notably, he sold a Mercedes to Oprah Winfrey. However, he is known best for his poetry. His post-prolific collection, Narman (the Persian word for “hermaphrodite”) was published in Urdu in 1994 and was thought to be the first-ever expression of homosexual desire in the Urdu language. The book — along with his co-founding of Sangat/Chicago, a South Asian LGBT organization — awarded Nasim an induction into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame in 1996.

PUNCTUATED by Anna Hotard

There are three types of communication: verbal, nonverbal, and written. 

Verbal communication is straightforward, as it focuses on the meaning of the words spoken. Nonverbal communication refers to gestures, eye contact, tone of voice, and body language to relay intent and emotions. When those two types of communication meet on paper, it is easy for the latter to become lost in the mix. An author has to explicitly state the intent or meaning of a sentence or actively describe its nonverbal elements.

Or it is up to the fourteen official punctuation marks to carry the weight of interpretation? (Especially the three end-points.) Question marks and exclamation points have their assigned purposes, which leaves the majority of the work to the multifunctional period. Other techniques like bolding and capitalization are often used for emphasis. Similarly, italics have the added use of representing inner dialogue. Ellipses denote silence or a trailing off in dialogue, and dashes are used for more abrupt terminations of dialogue.

On paper — to indicate irony, certitude, sarcasm, doubt, adoration, rhetorical questions, and similar sentiments — an author has to specify tone through the use of verbs or adverbs. If it’s left up to interpretation, the reader could misinterpret the meaning of a statement, a scene, or even an entire novel. But what if punctuation could fill those voids and salvage the author’s intent in fewer words? 

Henry Denham, a English printer in the 1580s, created the “percontation point” to designate rhetorical questions with a reverse question mark ( ؟). It made appearances in predominantly hand-scribed works, since new type was expensive until the 17th century.

The call for a punctuation mark for irony has its roots starting in 1668 with John Wilkes, an English vicar and philosopher, who wrote a book calling for an increase in the taxonomy of letters and symbols for all notions of discourse. He proposed the inverted exclamation point (¡); however, Alcanter de Braham, a French poet whose real name was Marcel Bernhardt, proposed a whip-like glyph (pictured here) that resembled an extended reverse question mark that took off in 1899 and was used irregularly until 1960.

In the early 1920s, British politician Thomas Driberg proposed a new typeface called “the ironics,” with text slanted the opposite direction of italics. American journalist H.L. Mencken brought it to the US in the 1940s, and it appeared sporadically in newsprint until the 1980s. In 1966, Hervé Bavin, a well-known French author, created his own pointe d’ironie in 1966. It resembles the Greek Psi with an additional dot underneath. He also proposed five other punctuation marks in his book, Plumons l’oiseau: divertissement. A love point, a point of conviction, an authority point, a point of acclimation, and a point of doubt.

In a similar vein, as recently as 2007, the Collective Promotion for the Dutch Book or CPDB designed the ironieteken. The ironieteken was made available in a number of fonts. Its fall into disuse is attributed to someone pointing out that two ironietekens in a row slightly resembles the infamous Nazi SS insignia. More irony point propositions have appeared from 2001 to 2010, likely in an attempt to accommodate the ironic tone of digital age, but none have entered wide use.

Like the search for an irony punctuation mark, the hunt for a way to denote sarcasm also has a long and rocky history. In 1887, critic Ambrose Bierce presented a “snigger point” or “note of cachinnation” in his essay “For Brevity and Clarity.” This point resembled a grin and could be inserted in the middle of sentences.

In September of 1999, the Ethiopian sarcasm mark, called Temherte Slaq, was a topic of debate at the International Unicode Conference in San Jose, California. This mark, which appears as an inverted exclamation point at the end of a sentence (¡) has been used in editorial cartoons, children’s literature, and poetry for years. In 2001, American blogger Tara Liloia proposed using the underused tilde (~) to denote sarcasm as it would not require a new typeface to be created. It would also replace the winking face emoticon that was originally used [ ; ) ]. The tilde would be revitalized in 2006 when typographer Choz Cunningham would launch his website TheSnark.org and propose the tilde be merged with the period(.~).

In 2008, the search for sarcasm punctuation would enter infamy as American engineer Paul Sak and his son, Douglas J. Sak, would launch the SarcMark, which they would file for a trademark in 2010. You’ll have to look up the symbol yourself as it costs $1.99 to use for non-commercial purposes. Due to this, the SarcMark has been heavily blacklisted by several critics, both in print and online.  In 2011, Mencken’s reverse italics took on a new meaning with the launch of Sartalics.com, which took to Twitter and Reddit in an attempt to popularize its refurbished font for sarcasm.

Despite the long-term struggles of punctuation past, the invention of new marks has found triumph in its star child: the interrobang. In 1962, Martin K. Speckter, editor of Type Talks, grew frustrated with the choppy use of a question mark and exclamation mark for rhetorical questions, so he combined the two. His creation was called the exclamaquest or the interrobang, and he invited readers to submit their potential designs for this necessary addition. The original design was rendered by art director Jack Lipton, but it didn’t take off until 1967,  when graphic designer Richard Isbell included it in his typeface, Americana (‽).

The new punctuation point became a subject in the July 1967 edition of Time magazine. In the autumn of 1968, it was included in the Remington Rand Model 25 Electric typewriter. The interrobang fell out of disuse in the 1970s with the rise of the Linotype machine that supported only the traditional punctuation marks and symbols. However, it did not fade into obscurity, and thanks to a resurgence of its use on social media, it was included in the 10th edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. In 2011, it was used in a legal ruling by Frank Easterbrook, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, and has since made steady appearances.

New words are entered into the dictionary every year, so why can’t we have new punctuation؟ Next time you sit down to write your next text message, term paper, social media status update, or novel, consider giving the period the break it deserves.

For more in-depth background on your favorite punctuation mark, check out Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks by Keith Houston or the Cecilia Watson’s Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark.

LITERARY EARWORMS by Olivia Guerrero

For Christmas last year, my father gave me a copy of the collected works of Emily Dickinson. As I was reading it on my commute to the PEN/Faulkner offices last week, and looking at the little black bird silhouettes that ink the top of each page, I suddenly recalled the first poem I ever had to memorize. And, somehow, I still remember every word.

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—

That perches in the soul—

And sings the tune without the words—

And never stops — at all—

It was sixth grade when I memorized that poem for class. We all chose poems and recited them, and my eleven-year-old literary research skills brought me to one of Dickinson’s most well-known poems. It’s only due to chance (and cadence) that I still remember it. But I started thinking— what else do I have tucked away, memorized by obsessive accident?

I think the two fragments of literature that come back to me most often are from The History of Love by Nicole Krauss and an e.e. cummings poem, respectively. The first:

For the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges, and absorbs the impact.

The second:

i do not know what it is about you that closes

and opens; only something in me understands.

These both pop into my head from time to time, when I am overwhelmed with some feeling, an unexpected pang or a sudden rush, loud joy or quiet love. They comfort me, they give me a way of capturing feeling when my own words fail me. I never intended to remember these lines; they just stuck, and keep sticking.

I asked around, to see if my family, friends, and coworkers had little bits of literature that resurface in their memories from time to time. (I am glad to say that not everyone is as sappy as me when it comes to unconscious memorization.) My mother, who walks the dog daily in the New Hampshire forests, responded to my question with Frost’s “Whose woods are these, I think I know…” and “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both.” A friend sent me these simple lines about words: “how very useless / they are not,” from Craig Arnold’s “Bird-Understander.” Others recalled the quotes included below, and I hope you will appreciate, as much as I do, that
these are the things that we think to ourselves at times when our own means of expression don’t quite cut it:

A light here required a shadow there.

— Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse


but tonight, Motown crackling in the hot twilight… my parents dance without ever touching…

but the story goes that my father would not open a stick of gum without saving half for my mother

the story goes my mother saved all those halves in a jar.”

— Safia Elhillo, “Alien Suite”

I never saw a wild thing

sorry for itself.

A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough

without ever having felt sorry for itself.

— D.H. Lawrence, “Self-Pity”


The art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

— Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art”


Heart to heart was never known,

mind with mind did never meet;

we are columns left alone

of a temple, once complete

— Christopher Pearse Cranch, “Enosis”


When you swear you still love me, the lights flicker.

— Megan Falley, “The Honest House”


there is a light somewhere.

it may not be much light but

it beats the darkness

— Charles Bukowski, “The Laughing Heart”


I’ll never get to Constantinople like this.

— Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts


I do not know which to prefer,

The beauty of inflections

Or the beauty of innuendos,

The blackbird whistling

Or just after… It was evening all afternoon.

It was snowing

And it was going to snow.

The blackbird sat

In the cedar-limbs.

— Wallace Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”


It is more sane and sunly

and more it cannot die

than all the sky which only

is higher than the sky

— e.e. cummings, “[love is more thicker than forget]”


On me your voice falls as they say love should,

like an enormous yes.

— Philip Larkin, “For Sidney Bechet”

Reader, I married him.

— Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre


Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

— Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”

Announcing the 2019 PEN/Malamud Award Winner!

WASHINGTON, DC—John Edgar Wideman has been selected as the winner of the 2019 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. Given since 1988 in honor of the late Bernard Malamud, the award recognizes a body of work that demonstrates excellence in the art of short fiction.

“John Edgar Wideman’s short stories render an internal and external world as vivid and intricate as Faulkner’s, as emotionally painful as Baldwin’s, and as unique as his own streets and stoops of Homewood,” wrote the PEN/Malamud Award selection committee. “Through complex, lyrical language, Wideman creates intimate portraits of the characters in his sprawling family, in his classrooms, in prison, and elsewhere, characters whose conflicts mirror the larger world as it struggles with history and identity. Wideman challenges readers to consider what defines, separates, and unites us.”

Wideman’s books include American HistoriesWriting to Save a LifePhiladelphia Fire, Brothers and Keepers, Fatheralong, Hoop Dreams, and Sent for You Yesterday. He is a MacArthur Fellow, has won the PEN/Faulkner Award twice, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and National Book Award. He divides his time between New York and France.

“I am very excited,” said Wideman. “I feel honored, lucky, and grateful to join such a distinguished group of writers.”

Previous winners include Sherman Alexie, John Barth, Richard Bausch, Anne Beattie, Saul Bellow, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Frederick Busch, Peter Ho Davies, Junot Diaz, Andre Dubus, Stuart Dybek, Deborah Eisenberg, Nathan Englander, Richard Ford, Nell Freudenberger, George Garrett, Amina Gautier, Barry Hannah, Adam Haslett, Amy Hempel, Edward P. Jones, Jhumpa Lahiri, Nam Le, Ursula K. Le Guin, Alistair MacLeod, William Maxwell, Maile Meloy, Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, Joyce Carol Oates, Cynthia Ozick, Edith Pearlman, James Salter, George Saunders, Joan Silber, Elizabeth Spencer, Peter Taylor, John Updike, Eudora Welty, and Tobias Wolff.

“It’s thrilling to be able to add as accomplished an artist as John Edgar Wideman to the list of distinguished PEN/Malamud Award-winning writers,” said PEN/Faulkner Executive Director Gwydion Suilebhan. “His presence enriches the legacy of this award.”

About the art of the short story, Bernard Malamud said “I like packing a self or two into a few pages, predicting lifetimes. The drama is terse, happens faster, and is often outlandish. A short story is a way of indicating the complexity of life in a few pages, producing the surprise and effect of a profound knowledge in a short time.”

Wideman will be honored at the PEN/Malamud Award ceremony on December 6. Ticket information for the ceremony, which will be open to the public, will be available later this summer.

Fall 2019 Internship

Love literature, the arts, and education? Want to learn how a nonprofit operates from the ground up? If you answered yes, The PEN/Faulkner Internship program is perfect for you. We are currently looking to fill positions for Fall 2019.

  • Research and Evaluation Intern
  • Literary Events Intern
  • Writers in Schools Intern

Spring 2019 Interns

Writers in Schools Internship (Multiple positions available)

Writers in Schools (WinS) is PEN/Faulkner’s K-12 literary arts education and community outreach programming. WinS brings contemporary literature and living writers into under-resourced DC public schools, public charter schools, community organizations, and the DC Jail; donates books to low-income readers; administers an annual Youth Essay Contest; hosts in-class personal essay writing workshop residencies with professional writers; provides bilingual Spanish/English books and programming; and offers summer youth programming. We believe that through literature and writing students develop self-confidence and imagination; come to see reading as both an act and an identity; view writing as self-expression and self-narrative; experience the personalization of literary expression; and develop a sense of global citizenship and community.

Tasks include:

  • Helping coordinate author visits; attending visits as an Author Ambassador.
  • Supporting the PEN/Faulkner Day of Gala Author Visits in the Fall.
  • Researching contemporary authors and books to add to our roster.
  • Writing and editing book synopses and author bios for outreach purposes.
  • Researching multi-media texts (essays, poetry, videos, songs, visual art) to support student learning of our core texts.
  • Crafting content for print and web.
  • Generating content for multiple social media platforms.
  • Supporting information management of book lists, author database, website, and volunteers.
  • Researching DC public and charter school partners, publishers, and community organizations.
  • Assisting with program evaluation.
  • Supporting the PEN/Faulkner volunteer program.
  • Supporting, where possible, PEN/Faulkner’s Literary Conversations events (author readings).
  • General administrative tasks.


Literary Events Internship (Multiple positions available)

The Literary Events Internship will focus on marketing, program development, and research centered around our public literary events and projects. These include our “Literary Conversations” series, the annual PEN/Faulkner Award Ceremony, the annual PEN/Faulkner Gala, and many more exciting events featuring today’s most popular and talented authors!

Tasks include:

  • Researching contemporary authors for upcoming literary events, as well as potential local and national event partners
  • Assisting with the logistics of upcoming author visits, such as scheduling, travel bookings, and accommodations
  • Crafting book synopses and author bios for upcoming programs
  • Generating content for multiple social media platforms
  • Tracking event ticket sales and donor contributions
  • Attending our literary events and assisting with audience management, set up/take down, and book sales
  • Organization and categorization of PEN/Faulkner archival materials
  • General copywriting and administrative tasks


Research and Evaluation Internship (1 position available)

Writers in Schools (WinS) is PEN/Faulkner’s K-12 literary arts education and community outreach programming. WinS brings contemporary literature and living writers into under-resourced DC public schools, public charter schools, community organizations, and the DC Jail; donates books to low-income readers; administers an annual Youth Essay Contest; hosts in-class personal essay writing workshop residencies with professional writers; provides bilingual Spanish/English books and programming; and offers summer youth programming. We believe that through literature and writing students develop self-confidence and imagination; come to see reading as both an act and an identity; view writing as self-expression and self-narrative; experience the personalization of literary expression; and develop a sense of global citizenship and community.

We are seeking applicants for an internship position that will work directly on projects that demonstrate our impact through program evaluation and research.

Tasks include:

  • Collecting and entering survey data.
  • Researching, reading, and summarizing external studies and reports related to WinS’s work, to include best practices and current trends in education, particularly arts and literacy education, and education reform.
  • Assisting in creating and editing summaries of data and findings, both internal and external.
  • Assisting in using research and evaluation to help shape the WinS narrative about our work and impact in alignment with our logic model and theory of change.
  • Assisting with the writing and editing of WinS research reports, publications, and others.
  • Helping, as needed, to coordinate author visits; attending visits as an Author Ambassador.
  • General administrative tasks.



Hours: Minimum 10 hours/week. Candidates must be able to work shifts of at least 4-hours.

  • Compensation: Unpaid
  • Who can apply: Undergrad students, graduate students, and recent graduates.
  • Deadline to apply: July 31. Interviews and hirings are done on a rolling basis, and positions may fill prior to this date.
  • Start date: Mandatory orientation on Saturday, September 7
  • End date: Week of December 2


Send an email (noting the position and semester you are applying for in the subject line) with a current resume and cover letter to applications@penfaulkner.org. In your cover letter, please explain what you will bring to the position, as well as what you hope to gain from the experience.


Our office is located in the WeWork Wonder Bread building 1 block from the Shaw-Howard University Metro station.


This is an unpaid internship. Academic credit can be provided. Travel within the work day for internship duties are paid for by PEN/Faulkner. Upon completion of the internship, PEN/Faulkner will provide a travel stipend for interns.

No phone calls, please.

Announcing the 2019 PEN/Faulkner Award Winner

WASHINGTON, DC—Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi’s Call Me Zebra (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) has been selected as the winner of the 2019 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

“We are truly delighted to be able to honor such a rare and remarkable work of art,” said PEN/Faulkner Executive Director Gwydion Suilebhan. “Along with our other four finalists, Call Me Zebra makes absolutely clear what a towering moment this is for American fiction.”

This year’s judges—Percival Everett, Ernesto Quiñonez, and Joy Williams—considered more than 400 novels and short story collections by American authors published in the US during the 2018 calendar year. Submissions came from more than 180 publishing houses, including small and academic presses.

“History is the ultimate judge,” wrote Everett, Quiñonez, and Williams, “And it will certainly treat all five finalists with kindness. However, once in a while a singular, adventurous, and intellectually humorous voice appears that takes us on an inescapable journey. Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi’s Call Me Zebra is a library within a library, a Borges-esque labyrinth of references from all cultures and all walks of life. In today’s visual Netflix world, Ms. Van der Vliet Oloomi’s novel performs at the highest of levels in accomplishing only what the written novel can show us.”

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Call Me Zebra, which was longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award, and Fra Keeler, which received a Whiting Writers’ Award and was a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” selection. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship and a Fellowship from the Institució de les Lletres Catalanes in Barcelona. Van der Vliet Oloomi is an Assistant Professor in the English Department’s MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame.

“I discovered William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury alongside Toni Morrison’s Beloved almost two decades ago in my senior year of high school,” said Van der Vliet Oloomi. “These two books have remained an integral part of the evolution of my literary consciousness; I consider them material proof that the vital energy of life can be transmitted to readers across time and space and that literature has the potential to heal both the individual and the social body. Call Me Zebra represents an homage to the great writers of the past and present who have had the courage and intellectual stamina to think with their hearts about what it means to be human in a world where justice and equality remain scarce for so many. Winning the PEN/Faulkner Award at such a delicate and trying juncture in our nation’s troubled history is an honor I am infinitely grateful to carry. It is, for me, a reminder from our mysterious universe that honest writing can allow us to speak humbly with one another, an intimation to love and to listen deeply each time I set pen to paper.”

The PEN/Faulkner Award is America’s largest peer-juried prize for fiction. As winner, Van der Vliet Oloomi will receive a $15,000 prize. Each of the four finalists—Blanche McCrary Boyd, for Tomb of the Unknown Racist; Richard Powers, for The Overstory; Ivelisse Rodriguez, for Love War Stories; and Willy Vlautin, for Don’t Skip Out on Me—will receive $5,000. Recent winners include Joan Silber, for Improvement; Imbolo Mbue, for Behold the Dreamers; James Hannaham, for Delicious Foods; Atticus Lish, for Preparation for the Next Life; and Karen Joy Fowler, for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, among many others.

All five authors will be honored at the 39th Annual PEN/Faulkner Awards, which celebrates the winner as “first among equals.” The ceremony will be held at Arena Stage’s Mead Center for American Theater, which is located at 1101 6th Street NW in Washington, DC, on Saturday, May 4 at 7 pm. Washington Post book critic Ron Charles will serve as master of ceremonies for an evening that will include presentations of new writing by all five finalists. Tickets are $95 for the reading ceremony and formal reception, which will feature specialty cocktails and an hors d’oeuvres buffet. Tickets can be purchased online at https://pfaward19.eventbrite.com.

4/30 | Literature On Screen: The Hate U Give

Don’t miss our final Literary Conversation of the season on Tuesday, April 30th at AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center! Get your tickets now!

Join us in welcoming author Angie Thomas and actor Russell Hornsby to DC as they discuss the translation of the bestselling novel, The Hate U Give, to the critically acclaimed movie adaptation, as well as the very real events that inspired the story. This unique Literary Conversations event will feature a reading from the novel as well as select clips from the film The Hate U Give.

The conversation will be moderated by MahoganyBooks Co-Founder Ramunda Young, and will be followed by a Q&A and book signing. Copies of Thomas’ novel The Hate U Give will be available for sale.

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her award-winning, acclaimed debut novel, The Hate U Give, is a #1 New York Times bestseller and major motion picture from Fox 2000, starring Amandla Stenberg and directed by George Tillman, Jr. Her second novel, On the Come Up, is on sale now.

Actor Russell Hornsby has amassed a catalog of film, television and stage credits that any actor would envy. From comedies and science fiction to dramas and stage plays, his craftsmanship has always rung sharp and true. Hornsby starred in the Oscar-nominated film FENCES, opposite Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, and held his own with a powerhouse presentation of his character, Lyons, which Hornsby played in the Broadway revival of FENCES in 2010, also with Washington & Davis. Hornsby also starred opposite Regina King in the critically acclaimed Netflix mini-series “Seven Seconds” from writer Veena Sud (“The Killing”), appeared in an arc in the recent season of Showtime’s “The Affair,” and can currently be seen starring in the hit Fox series “Proven Innocent,” from showrunner Danny Strong (“Empire”).

Up next, Hornsby will star in the NBC pilot “Lincoln” (aka The Bone Collector), a drama series based on the bestselling book series by Jeffery Deaver that adapted into the 1999 movie starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. Hornsby will play the titular role of ‘Detective Lincoln Rhyme,’ a New York City police detective and a maverick who becomes obsessed with taking down the Bone Collector, an elusive serial killer who enjoys taunting the police while tormenting the victims.

Hornsby is perhaps recently best known for his outstanding role in the box office hit sequel CREED II, opposite Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone. Additionally, Hornsby has garnered much praise for his award buzzworthy role in the Fox 2000 film THE HATE U GIVE, for which he was nominated for an NAACP image award for Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture. Hornsby’s other film credits include roles in the Jim Sheridan-directed GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN’ and the Sundance Grand Jury Award nominated film LUV from director Sheldon Candis.

In term of television, Hornsby is no stranger to America’s living rooms, having starred on numerous drama series including the critically-acclaimed ABC Family show “Lincoln Heights” as police officer Eddie Sutton. He could also be seen fighting to keep humanity safe from things that go bump in the night, in his role as hard-nosed detective Hank Griffin on NBC’s smash hit “Grimm.” Additionally, Hornsby is known for his role as ‘Luke’ on HBO’s “In Treatment,” opposite Gabriel Byrne (THE USUAL SUSPECTS).

Hornsby also has an extensive theatre background and became an aspiring thespian after auditioning and winning the role of the Scarecrow in his high school production of THE WIZ. Hornsby has taken the more traditional – and currently less traveled – route to his success cutting his teeth on stage. While the phrase “paying his dues” is about as cliché as it gets when referring to an actor’s journey, Russell is its embodiment as he progressed from backroom performances to the bright lights of New York’s famed theater district, Broadway, where he’s appeared in numerous productions including a stint in August Wilson’s FENCES. Hornsby’s run the gambit with TV, film and even video game voice work on his resume.

Born and raised in Oakland, California, Hornsby was in the theatre program at Boston University and studied for a summer at the British Academy of Dramatic Arts program at Oxford University. Hornsby currently resides with his family in Los Angeles.

Ramunda Lark Young and her husband Derrick are Co-Founders and Owners of the nationally recognized and award-winning MahoganyBooks located in the historic Anacostia community of Washington, DC. A bookstore focused on books for, by, and about people of the African Diaspora in Washington, DC. Young has successfully worked with celebrity authors like ballet icon Misty Copeland, R&B legend Charlie Wilson, Civil Rights leader Congressman John Lewis, award winning actor Omar Epps and countless others.

Young is the founder of The Ramunda Young Group (formerly Ramunda Young, Inc). – a company dedicated to Encouraging Extraordinary Women to SOAR – Surpass Obstacles and Rise! Built on the principle that women can exceed beyond their expectations when given the proper tools to build authentic business relationships. Young also currently serves as Vice Chair of the Prince William County Human Rights Commission.

She has been named to the Root 100 list of Most Influential African Americans in the nation (2018) and featured in Essence Magazine, Vanity Fair, the Washington Post and others. Ms. Young graduated from Langston University in Oklahoma with a degree in Business. She and her husband are excited parents of a precocious teen named Mahogany.


“Diverse Voices in Latinx Children’s Literature” Mini-Conference

In early March I attended the “Diverse Voices in Latinx Children’s Literature” Mini-Conference at the Bank Street College of Education in New York where I had the opportunity to listen to panels about graphic novels and pictures books and how these authors use their Latinx identity and Spanish language to influence their writing. Panelists such as Duncan Tonatiuh, Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, Anika Aldamuy Denise, Pablo Cartaya, and Aida Salazar spoke about the importance of Latinx representation throughout literature; coming from a mixed-race family and how that affects one’s identity; and the need to have uncomfortable yet necessary conversations about race and borders.

One of the goals of PEN/Faulkner’s Nuestra Voz programming is to spark these types of conversations about immigration, identities, and borders by providing students with opportunities to read books by and about authors who are immigrants or from immigrant families, who struggle with their identities, and who want to speak out about inequality in today’s society.

As the Nuestra Voz Program Associate, I work closely with Latinx/Hispanic authors, texts, and students to make these conversations happen. In her introduction to the conference, the president of the American Library Association, Loida Garcia-Febo, highlighted the importance of books and having a personal library. “Libraries equal strong communities,” she said. Similarly, Writers in Schools, the education arm of PEN/Faulkner which Nuestra Voz is part of, believes in building personal libraries, developing a joy of reading and writing, and in building community.

As a native Spanish speaker myself, listening to the panelists intertwine Spanish words into their conversation and express their concerns about the use of brackets, asterisks, and italics when using Spanish words in an English text was refreshing. Miranda-Rodriguez stated, “If you want to know what it means, pull out your smartphone and Google it.”

At PEN/Faulkner, we value literature and representation and we strive to create a space for Latinx/Hispanic voices to be heard. “If you don’t relate to it, learn from it,” stated Hilda Burgos.

To read more and watch the conference in full, click here.

Nina Arroyo Santiago, Nuestra Voz Program Associate

Announcing the 2019 PEN/Faulkner Award Finalists!

Judges have selected the five finalists for the 2019 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, America’s largest peer-juried prize for fiction. The finalists are: Blanche McCrary Boyd for Tomb of the Unknown Racist (Counterpoint), Richard Powers for The Overstory (W.W. Norton), Ivelisse Rodriguez for Love War Stories (Feminist Press New York), Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi for Call Me Zebra (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and Willy Vlautin for Don’t Skip Out on Me (Harper Perennial).

“This year’s finalists are proof that we are living in an age in which tremendous, significant stories are being told by a multiplicity of unique voices,” said PEN/Faulkner Executive Director Gwydion Suilebhan. “We are honored to be able to call attention toward such profound, thrilling artistry.”

This year’s judges—Percival Everett, Ernesto Quiñonez, and Joy Williams—considered more than 400 novels and short story collections by American authors. The judges made the following collective statement about their selections:

“In this year’s fiction we experienced more honesty and generosity than in any head of state. In a time when our leaders are telling us that our lives don’t matter, that language exists only to convey misinformation, we found all entrants speaking loudly, eloquently, and timelessly, reaffirming that our lives do. Our finalists were chosen for their genuine and emotional possession of an American narrative that includes us all, beyond walls or any lines.”   

The winner, who will receive $15,000, will be announced on April 29, 2019. The remaining four finalists will each receive an honorarium of $5,000. In a ceremony that celebrates the winner as “first among equals,” all five authors will be honored during the 39th Annual PEN/Faulkner Award ceremony on May 4 at 7 pm. This year’s ceremony will be held at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Tickets are $95 for the reading ceremony and cocktail reception, which will feature specialty cocktails and an hors d’oeuvres buffet. Tickets can be purchased online at https://pfaward19.eventbrite.com

About the Finalists

Blanche McCrary Boyd is an American novelist, journalist, essayist, and professor. She is the author of five novels and a collection of autobiographical journalism (The Redneck Way of Knowledge, 1981). Her newest novel, Tomb of the Unknown Racist (2018), completes The Blacklock Trilogy. Tomb of the Unknown Racist is narrated by the same character as The Revolution of Little Girls (1991) and Terminal Velocity (1997), although the three novels function independently. Boyd’s essays and reporting have appeared in venues such as the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Ms, Vanity Fair, and Village Voice.
Blanche McCrary Boyd grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, the source of her ‘redneck’ roots, and much of her writing radiates from her Southern background. Her works traverse the racial and political contradictions of the second half of the 20th century, intertwining personal and psychological adventures with feminist protests, lesbianism, racial conflicts, and a confrontation with the violent white supremacist subculture.

Richard Powers is the author of twelve novels, including The Overstory (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize), Orfeo (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), The Echo Maker and The Time of Our Singing. He is the recipient of a MacArthur grant and the National Book Award and has been a Pulitzer Prize and four-time National Book Critics Circle finalist.


Born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Ivelisse Rodriguez earned a PhD in English and creative writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an MFA from Emerson College. She has published fiction in All about Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color, as well as Obsidian, Label Me Latina/o, the Boston Review, Kweli, Aster(ix), and the Bilingual Review, among other publications. Love War Stories is her first book.


Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Call Me Zebra, published in the U.S. by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in February 2018 and in the U.K. by Alma Books in May 2018, and Fra Keeler, published in 2012 by Dorothy: a publishing project, and by Giulio Perrone Editore in Italy. Van der Vliet Oloomi won a Whiting Writers’ Award and a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” award; she was a finalist for the Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Emerging Author Award, and on the longlist for the PEN Open Book Award. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a Fellowship from the Institució de les Lletres Catalanes in Barcelona, and residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and Ledig House. Her work has been compared to that of Vladimir Nabokov, Alfred Hitchcock, and Rachel Kushner. Van der Vliet Oloomi’s work has appeared in Electric Literature, The Paris Review, GRANTA, Guernica, BOMB, and the Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly Journal, among other places. Call Me Zebra is forthcoming from Paralela 45 in Romania and Paris Yayinlari in Turkey. She is an Assistant Professor in the English Department’s M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame, splitting her time between South Bend, Indiana, and Florence, Italy.

Born and raised in Reno, Nevada, Willy Vlautin started playing guitar and writing songs as a teenager and quickly became immersed in music. It was a Paul Kelly song, based on Raymond Carver’s “Too Much Water So Close to Home” that inspired him to start writing stories. Vlautin has published five novels: The Motel Life (2007–NYT Editor’s choice and notable book, made into a major motion picture starring Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsh, Stephen Dorff, and Kris Kristofferson), Northline (2008), Lean on Pete (2010-Winner of the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction, short-listed for the IMPAC award, and a major motion picture starring Steve Buscemi and Chloe Sevigny), and The Free (2014-Winner of the Oregon People’s Choice Award). His fifth novel, Don’t Skip Out on Me, has just come out in paperback. His work has been translated in ten languages.

3/10: Don’t Miss Fantastic Women at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation & the National Museum of Women in the Arts present “Fantastic Women.” Tickets on sale now!

Join us in celebrating the work of Lesley Nneka Arimah, Kelly Link, and Carmen Maria Machado, women writers who all use elements of the fantastic in their work, often in ways that allow them to explore crucial themes (power, sexuality, identity, the body) without the constraints imposed by strict realism. These authors play with the boundaries of time and space through short stories and novels, and use their writing to push back against the traditional boundaries of women’s fiction.

The conversation, moderated by DC native Amber Sparks, will be followed by a Q&A and a book signing reception. This will be an unforgettable night of engaging dialogue and conversation, and we hope to see you there!

Fantastic Women is presented as a part of PEN/Faulkner’s Literary Conversations series and the NMWA’s Cultural Capital Program.

Black Lives Matter Week of Action

Black Lives Matter at School

Today kicks off the DC area Black Lives Matter Week of Action in DC public and charter schools across the city. All this week, PEN/Faulkner’s Writers in Schools program will be hosting conversations between Black writers and students in schools across four wards of the city, with a special emphasis on how the power of stories and storytelling can improve the school experience for students of color.

Each conversation will be rooted in books about the Black experience and will be led by writers interested in connecting their writing and lived experience to that of young people. A bit about the books and writers:

  • In the illustrated picture book A Card From My Father, Samantha Thornhill writes about a young girl struggling with loss and grief for her incarcerated father.
  • In New Kid, graphic novelist Jerry Craft tells the story of a young man forced to navigate between two worlds: the one in which he grew up and a wealthy private arts school.
  • Local poets Alan King and Terri Cross Davis emphasize the joy found in resistance and the joy family can bring (however individual students define “family”).
  • For the youth writers of Beacon House and Ballou High School, in partnership with Shout Mouse Press, amplifying personal narratives of pain and hope go hand-in-hand in Our Lives Matter and The Day Tajon Got Shot, collective texts sharing powerful messages of resistance.
  • Paul Butler focuses the conversation on the criminal justice system and his experience as a former federal prosecutor in Let’s Get Free.
  • Simba Sana’s memoir Never Stop recounts both his upbringing in DC in the ’70s and ’80s and his navigation of identity, faith, and American culture.
  • Writer William Jones, founder of the Afrofuturism Network, explores that representation of Black superheroes and heroines in comic book history in The Ex-Con, Voodoo Priest, Goddess, and the African King from social, political, and cultural perspectives. 

Writers were asked to reflect on and adhere to the thirteen guiding principles for the Black Lives Matter Week of Action in order to participate: diversity, globalism, Black women, Black villages, loving engagement, restorative justice, collective value, empathy, queer affirming, transgender affirming, unapologetically black, Black families, and fostering intergenerational ties.

Black Lives Matter is a non-violent peace movement that examines injustices that exist at the intersections of race, class and gender, including issues of poverty, mass incarceration, homophobia, unfair immigration laws, and access to healthcare. BLM Week of Action in DC area schools is sponsored by the DC Area Educators for Social Justice and Teaching for Change