Claim your ticket for VIRUS

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the way we live our lives. It has also shown us our weak points and failures as a society. This Literary Conversation will feature authors who, in their work, have explored viruses and pandemics as well as the effects of those on human nature.

You won’t want to miss this fascinating and especially relevant conversation featuring literary powerhouses Stephen King (The Stand), Lauren Beukes (Afterland), and Emma Donoghue (The Pull of the Stars). They will be joined by moderator and author Daniel H. Pink.

DATE: October 19, 2020

TIME: 7 pm EDT

Get your ticket now!

If you’re interested in delving into the themes behind these authors’ works ahead of the event, we’ve compiled a small list of resources that you can start with.

  1. Stephen King is Sorry You Feel Like You’re Stuck in a Stephen King Novel (NPR)
  2. Emma Donoghue’s ‘The Pull of the Stars‘ is Eerily Perfect for These Times (Shondaland)
  3. What If a Pandemic Killed All the Men? (Electric Literature)

This year, PEN/Faulkner has decided to adopt a Pay-What-You-Will model for our Literary Conversations to ensure that they remain accessible to all audiences. If you’re able to, please consider making a donation when you claim your ticket so we can continue to provide high quality literary programs that matter to you.

Claim your ticket for Literature on Screen: You

We are incredibly excited to announce that Penn Badgley, star of the hit Netflix series You, will be joining author Caroline Kepnes in this third installment of Literature on Screen!

DATE: September 23, 2020

TIME: 7 pm EDT

Caroline Kepnes will be in conversation with Penn Badgley and moderator Chris Klimek (NPR, Washington Post) to discuss the adaptation of her books into a hit Netflix series, as well as the modernization of stalking in the digital age that takes place in her novels.

This unique Literary Conversation will feature a reading from the novel, clips from the show, and a Q&A with the audience.

Get your ticket now!

If you’re interested in delving into the themes behind You ahead of the event, we’ve compiled a small list of resources that you can start with.

  1. What Penn Badgley Wants Us to Learn From ‘You’ (NY Times)
  2. The guys who won’t hear “no” (Salon)
  3. Caroline Kepnes and Ani Katz on Using Fiction to Dissect Toxic Masculinity (CrimeReads)

Further, if you’re not following us on Instagram yet, now’s your chance!

Catch Caroline Kepnes‘ takeover of our Instagram feed next Thursday!

She’ll be sharing more about what led her to write You, advice she has for aspiring writers, what she’s currently reading, and more.

Mark your calendar and make sure you follow our Instagram here.



This year, PEN/Faulkner has decided to adopt a Pay-What-You-Will model for our Literary Conversations to ensure that they remain accessible to all audiences. If you’re able to, please consider making a donation when you claim your ticket so we can continue to provide high quality literary programs that matter to you.

Announcing Our Upcoming Literary Conversations

We’re excited to announce the start of our fall virtual Literary Conversations! We’ll be launching the season with the third installment of our Literature on Screen mini-series in which we feature authors whose work has been adapted for film or television.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020 at 7:00pm EDT

LITERATURE ON SCREEN: YOU will feature Caroline Kepnes, author of the best-selling book turned hit series You. (Available on Netflix.) Caroline and Chris Klimek (NPR, Washington Post) will discuss the adaptation of her work and the modernization of digital-age stalking that takes place in her novels.


Monday, October 19, 2020 at 7:00pm EDT

Coming up in October is VIRUS, a discussion of viruses and pandemics in literature. The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the way we live our lives. It has also revealed our weak points and our societal failures. What can literature teach us about our present moment?

This fascinating and uniquely relevant conversation will feature literary powerhouses Stephen King (The Stand), Lauren Beukes (Afterland), and Emma Donoghue (The Pull of the Stars). They will be joined by moderator and author Daniel H. Pink.

This year, PEN/Faulkner has decided to adopt a Pay-What-You-Will model for our Literary Conversations to ensure that they remain accessible to all audiences. If you’re able to, please consider making a donation when you claim your free ticket so we can continue to provide high quality literary programs that matter to you.

Voices from PEN/Faulkner Interns: Natalie Davis (Part 2)

This spring, we were joined by incredible interns who each wrote essays inspired by their time in the organization. We are thrilled to present the second essay by Natalie Davis, our spring Education Programs intern. You can also read her first, on her BookTube channel, and a piece by Alice Tsai on culturally responsive classrooms.

“Twilight Is My Harry Potter”

Author’s Note: The following post may slightly offend those that are of the houses Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, and Hufflepuff. You have been warned.

There once was a girl who had never given much thought to how she might become deeply mesmerized by an enchanting saga that would forever fill her hopeless romantic heart. This was a much simpler time. Also, what she didn’t know was that, although her world was Forks, Washington, she missed out on the exciting discovery of Hogwarts.

It was 2007 and the girl noticed the Harry Potter series at her first-ever Scholastic Book Fair. No other kids she knew seemed to be as interested as she was, but she still decided to look into the series herself. Due to the high demand of the books, all physical copies had been checked out. The girl was only able to get her hands on the audiobook for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone from her local library. She was beyond excited to get her first listen. She was perhaps halfway through the third audiobook when she later learned that the series was being adapted into films. She wanted—no she needed—to see the movies, since she couldn’t find a way to get her hands on all seven books. After begging her dad to buy her one of the movies, she finally had in her possession Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. She watched that movie a number of times, at least enough times for her to hold Harry Potter-related conversations, but a day came where the continuous movie watching was over. She was nine, and her parental guardian felt as though the supernatural might not simply be fiction, and put an abrupt end to her Harry Potter experience.

Being a Potterhead meant nothing to her.

Three years later, in 2010, one of the girl’s friends came to her talking about this other book series they had recently become engrossed in. It was as fantasy-filled as Harry Potter, but with a romantic twist of two star-crossed lovers; “a love story with a bite.” Thanks to that friend, the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer became the girl’s new fascination. Once again, the girl never got her hands on the physical books themselves, but thanks to FX she was able to watch the first three novels that had been adapted into films and brought to TV— Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse. She remembers FX doing a Twilight Movie Marathon one weekend. She was flipping through the channels as she recognized the opening scene to the first film. That night her sole focus was watching those movies and commencing her dying love for Bella, the Cullens, the Pack, vampires, and werewolves. And from the age of twelve, Forks became her world.

In 2013, she was fifteen, and by that time she was able to read and watch what she wanted without parental control. That summer her mentor gifted her all four volumes, which led her to devoting most of her time indoors reading during her entire summer break. Well, all of July and two weeks in August. She literally read the first three in a period of three weeks! She would stay up until breaking dawn—pun intended—her head buried in those books, escaping into a story her teen heart yearned for. She confessed her love for Twilight soon thereafter, although some would say it was an obsession, because it had gotten to the point where she started committing the movies to memory. Every line, character’s actions, props placement, and scene settings were embedded in her brain for good. She became a Twihard, and that was when the true fan-girling for her began.

Her Twilight collection grew as she—really, her parents—invested in the volumes of graphic novels, the novella, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, the Funko Pop figures of Bella and Edward, the Twilight Tenth Anniversary Edition novel, Life and Death, and the Twilight Forever: The Complete Saga DVD collection. Despite the multiple memes of why vampires shouldn’t sparkle, the multiple reviews/critiques on why the entire saga is a terrible read, or the multiple comparisons to Harry Potter, she loved every part of it. Sure, the saga had its flaws, but for her it was about romance, the literary quotes, the coming-of-age story about figuring out one’s true nature/self, the meaning of friendships, the meaning of family, sacrifices, and having a love that will last a lifetime. Forever.

That girl was me.­

Natalie Davis was our Spring 2020 Education Programs intern. If you’re interested in becoming a Literary Outreach/Education Programs Intern with PEN/Faulkner, our Fall 2020 application for virtual internships is now open

Voices from PEN/Faulkner Interns: Alice Tsai

We continue our spotlight on the wonderful interns we worked with this spring with an essay by our Research and Evaluation intern, Alice Tsai. You can also read Natalie Davis’ two essays, on her BookTube channel and becoming a Twihard.

As the population of the United States becomes increasingly diverse, it is important that students are in classrooms that are culturally responsive in nature. But what exactly is a culturally responsive classroom? 

A culturally responsive classroom can consist of different components, but the focus should be on helping build connections between student experiences outside of school to classroom content so that students can succeed socially and academically. When students feel their identity is represented in the classroom, they can have higher self-esteem, better social-emotional functioning, and increased classroom engagement, all of which are key components for motivation and academic success. A culturally responsive classroom ensures that the diverse perspectives of all students are represented in learning. This not only includes racial and ethnic diversity, but also cultural identity, gender, class, and other identities. 

A key component of having a culturally responsive classroom is to expose students to multicultural literature. It is important that students can see themselves reflected in the books that they read. When people see themselves in books, they are able to connect with the story and gain a greater understanding of themselves and others. Representative stories help students affirm their own identities, allowing them to feel valid and valued. The book becomes more meaningful to them. 

Likewise, students will be able to learn about other cultures, helping them empathize with other communities by relating to the characters in diverse stories. Not only do diverse stories help students with building an understanding of themselves and others, they assist with getting students interested in reading. When students can identify with the characters in a book, their attention becomes captured by the story. 

Think back to your own childhood. Many of those classic stories that you remember so fondly were centered around a narrative with a white protagonist and characters. Do not get me wrong, there are a few multicultural books that have managed to break into the standard set of stories many children are familiar with, such as Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears. However, there cannot just be that one token multicultural book, or even a handful of books, that tell the story of any demographic group. As Chimamanda Adichie says in her well-known TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story,

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

A single story has the power to perpetuate stereotypes that can be damaging. Children can feel disconnected from their own culture and society because they do not connect with the stereotypical narrative the single story presents. However, with a diverse range of multicultural stories, students can see that there is more than one story and envision a reality outside of the stereotypical norm. Stories have the power to validate a child’s identity and to inspire them to pursue their dreams. Characters that students are able to connect to can help prompt students to step outside of the stereotypes that society has boxed them into.

So teachers, take care to include a wide range of representation of characters in the stories you keep in your classroom. Parents, encourage your children to read different kinds of books with diverse characters. And for yourself, be open minded about the books that you read and surround yourself with. Try something new. There is always more than one story.

Alice Tsai was our Spring 2020 Research and Evaluation intern. If you’re interested in becoming a Research and Evaluation Intern with PEN/Faulkner, our Fall 2020 application for virtual internships is now open

Voices from PEN/Faulkner Interns: Natalie Davis (Part 1)

This spring, we were joined by Natalie Davis, our amazing Education Programs intern, who wrote two essays inspired by her time in the organization. We are excited to share the first of them with you. You can also read her second, on becoming a Twihard, and a piece by Alice Tsai on culturally responsive classrooms.

“A Street Where Books and YouTube Meet”

There was a time where I wasted my breath ranting to people about my latest reads. I would spend ongoing minutes sharing my favorite and least favorite characters, how the tropes worked well with the storyline (my favorite tropes are Fake Boyfriend and Enemies to Lovers), the dialogue, the beauty of the physical book itself, and how I longed to see it adapted into a movie or show. I got sick and tired of talking people’s heads off who weren’t even the slightest bit interested in my bookish ramblings. So, I searched online for an audience that appealed to my interests and BookTube was it! 

BookTube is a community of collective channels that belong to book lovers who discuss everything bookish on YouTube. Video discussions range from specific book genres, tropes that are loved and those that are hated, vlogs (video blogs) of book marathons/challenges, readers fawning over authors’ new releases, and positive and negative rant reviews. We also share videos of recent books we’ve acquired a.k.a book hauls, monthly wrap-up videos (talking about and reviewing books we’ve read for the month), and videos of Booktubers organizing our bookshelves or giving our subscribers a tour.

Not only is the community tech-savvy and producing great content, but the language/booklovers vernacular we use in our videos are so cool. A blogger by the name of Fictionally Sam created a glossary to better help herself and her fellow readers to understand most of the terms. For example, general terms include: 

  • TBR – To Be Read
  • ARC – Advanced Reader’s Copy
  • DNF – Did Not Finish
  • OTP – One True Pairing/the ultimate ship
  • NOTP – Not One True Pairing; basically the exact opposite of OTP
  • TW – Trigger Warning
  • GR – Goodreads
  • Book Slump / Reading Slump – A period of time when you just don’t feel like reading. Typically cured by re-reading a favorite book
  • Book Hangover –A period of time after you finish an amazing book where you cannot for the life of you stop thinking and obsessing over said book.”

I’ve had my channel–This Is Nat’s Nook–for about eight months now and, like any other YouTube channel, it takes a lot of time, effort, and interest sitting in front of a camera to share your ideas. With me, Booktube is more about sharing a piece of literature I’m deeply in love with, or I simply can’t stand. To sit in front of my cellphone camera and record a video then putting myself learned editing skills to the test to content for my viewers. Booktube also allows authors to put faces to those who are in support of their craft. With me, it’s not about the views and the likes in the first few hours I’ve uploaded a video, it’s about passionately getting my viewpoints and opinions across to those who will soon find my videos. BookTube is the ideal place for anyone who may not be able to escape into books so easily, but who has an eagerness in wanting to know which book (or books) might be the perfect read for them, a place where book lovers can comfortably gush about books, rant their reviews, and long for more reading time. 

Natalie Davis was our Spring 2020 Education Programs intern. If you’re interested in becoming a Literary Outreach/Education Programs Intern with PEN/Faulkner, our Fall 2020 application for virtual internships is now open

Lydia Davis Wins the 2020 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story

WASHINGTON, DC—The PEN/Faulkner Foundation announces that Lydia Davis has been selected as the winner of the 2020 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. Presented since 1988 in honor of the late Bernard Malamud, the award recognizes writers who have demonstrated exceptional achievement in the short story form.

“Wildly inventive, fiercely observant, a master of concision, Lydia Davis is arguably one of the most creative, funny, playful, cranky, and joyful short story writers at work today,” wrote PEN/Faulkner Board member Susan Coll on behalf of the PEN/Malamud Award selection committee. “She can craft a satisfying arc from a one-sentence missive about geography, or from a letter of complaint to a candy manufacturer, while also mastering more traditional narrative forms. She has a lot to say about eating fish, too. It’s tempting to say that Davis subverts form, but what she really does is teach us that the meaning of the word ‘story,’ itself, is endlessly elastic.”

Lydia Davis is the author of Varieties of Disturbance, which was a National Book Award Finalist, Samuel Johnson Is Indignant, Almost No Memory, The End of the Story (a novel), and Break It Down. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, which combines the story collections above, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2009. Her most recent collection of stories is Can’t & Won’t (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014). Davis’s Essays One, her first nonfiction book, was published in 2019 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Her work has appeared in Conjunctions, Harper’s, The New Yorker, Bomb, The Paris Review, Tin House, McSweeney’s, and many other magazines and literary journals. Davis is a translator of French works by Maurice Blanchot, Michael Leiris, Marcel Proust’s (Swann’s Way) and Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary). Among other honors, she has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lannan Literary Prize, and she has been named Chevalier and Officier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Government. In 2003, she won the French-American Translation Prize, and in 2005 she was inducted into the Academy of Arts & Sciences. In May 2013, she won the Man Booker International Prize, a biannual award for achievement in fiction on the world stage, which is distinct in that it considers literary excellence across the writer’s body of work. She lives in upstate New York with her family.

“I’m particularly pleased to be receiving the PEN/Malamud award for three reasons: my admiration for the work that PEN/Faulkner has been doing over so many years, my long-continuing respect for the writing of Bernard Malamud, and my personal memory of at least one occasion that my family spent time with Bernard Malamud and his family in London eons ago when I was a youngster,” wrote Lydia Davis. “What a happy, positive conjunction!”

Last year’s winner was John Edgar Wideman. 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 Spender, Peter Taylor, John Updike, Eudora Welty, and Tobias Wolff.

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.”

Davis will be honored at a virtual PEN/Malamud Award Ceremony on Friday, December 4, 2020, held in partnership with American University. Ticket information for the virtual ceremony, which will be open to the public, will be available this fall.

The PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story was established by Bernard Malamud’s family to honor excellence in the art of short fiction. The basis of the award fund was a generous gift from the Malamud family. The fund continues to grow through the generosity of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation’s friends and supporters.

The PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story is awarded annually to writers who have demonstrated exceptional achievement in the short story form. Awardees are selected by a committee of writers who serve on the PEN/Faulkner Board of Directors. Nominations are made by committee members as well as by an advisory board of writers.

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation celebrates literature and fosters connections between readers and writers to inspire and enrich individuals and communities. We are dedicated to the notion that our culture thrives when stories from a diverse variety of perspectives enrich our daily lives and when no voices are excluded from our conversations, and we believe that the written word plays an essential role in contributing to civil discourse and in creating empathy within and among communities.

PEN/Faulkner administers two of the country’s preeminent literary awards: the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the largest peer-juried award for fiction in the United States, and the PEN/Malamud Award, honoring excellence in the short story. In Washington, DC, PEN/Faulkner’s Writers in Schools program brings books and authors into public and public charter school classrooms to inspire the next generation of readers and writers. The organization also curates an annual series of Literary Conversations centered around the work of accomplished authors that are designed to inspire public discourse about deeply relevant subjects.

A Statement from Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Chair and Tracy B. McGillivary, President

PEN/Faulkner extends its condolences to the family and friends of George Floyd and the countless black families who have lost loved ones at the hands of the police. We stand in solidarity with activists, racial justice advocates, and other members of the community who are outraged by these repeated instances of racism, violence, murder, and abuse of public trust. This is the civil rights movement of our time, and we stand firmly behind the principles of equality and empowerment. We share the righteous indignation of those who are protesting.

As an institution that promotes the literary arts, PEN/Faulkner has a role to play. We must empower artists to chronicle these turbulent times, and we must bring those narratives and conversations into our communities. That is the tradition of literature. PEN/Faulkner commits to bringing writers and readers together to address these important issues.

In the meantime, we have curated the following reading list. As an organization, we devote ourselves to reading and self-education to better understand the fears and frustrations of marginalized communities, and we encourage others to do the same:

We are living in the most turbulent moment of this newly-formed century, but our faith in the power of the written word to transform minds and hearts is unwavering. 

Please join us in donating to The Hurston/Wright Foundation and Cave Canem, organizations that make it their mission to amplify and celebrate black voices. Other organizations working to eradicate injustice and racism include Black Lives MatterBlack Visions Collective, and CTULAll of these organizations need your support right now.

Summer Writing Programs Are Going Virtual!

Although we are disappointed we can’t gather in person with our young writers to grow and learn together, we are excited to still offer a dynamic and engaging writing camp virtually this summer. Led by our team of writers, young people will explore different craft aspects of creative writing, meet with editors and authors to talk about their roles in making words come alive, and explore themes of social justice. Young writers interested in any genre of writing are encouraged to sign up.

For the first time this year, we’re expanding our Summer Writing Programs to include rising 6th-8th graders through our Creative Writing Camp and rising 3rd-5th graders through Literacy All-Stars! These June literacy workshops will bring together hands-on activities for young people and their families. 

AMPLIFIED –  Summer Writing Program for Teens is an opportunity for teens to grow as writers while connecting with others in a safe space. This summer, teens can sign up to participate in as many workshop sessions as they want. From book club discussions to comedy writing to plot and character in fiction to personal statement coaching to an exploration of #OwnVoices–-there’s a session for every writer! 

In our Creative Writing Workshops for Middle Schoolers, young writers will learn how to personify an animal, write about monsters and other creatures, decorate their writing like a cake, and talk about books they love and hate.

Literacy All-Stars! from Ages 7-11 is a space for students ages 7-11 to put on their creative hats in daily sessions that bring together reading, writing, and creativity through hands-on and interactive activities. Families welcomed and encouraged!

Thanks to the generosity of local funders, we offer our Summer Writing Programs at no-cost to students attending public or charter schools in Washington, DC. 

If your young writer attends school elsewhere, please consider making a donation for participation in the workshop to help us cover the costs of offering engaging and dynamic literacy programming. You can donate here:


Our Video Celebration of the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award

Please join us in paying tribute to our 2020 winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, Chloe Aridjis’ Sea Monsters, as well as our four finalists: Yiyun Li’s Where Reasons EndPeter Rock’s The Night Swimmers; Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s We Cast a Shadow; and Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. We hope you’ll agree that the authors you’re about to hear from represent the full depth and diversity of an amazing year in fiction.

We want to thank everyone who has stood by us under difficult circumstances. At a time when we’re all having to maintain our distance, literature can still bring us together. By supporting PEN/Faulkner, you can ensure that we keep living up to that ideal.

You can help us keep donating free books to DC students. You can help us keep bringing authors into DC schools to inspire the next generation of readers and writers. You can help us continue to hold provocative Literary Conversations for the DC community. You can make sure that we keep being able to recognize major achievements in literary fiction.

You can make a tremendous difference for PEN/Faulkner right now. Any amount you can contribute will definitely help. This is a difficult moment for non-profit organizations everywhere, and we thank you so much for your support.