Don’t Miss Our First Literary Conversation of the Season!

PEN/Faulkner’s first Literary Conversation will focus on the role of graphic novels and comics in today’s world of visual media. Tickets on sale now!

What happens when the visual arts meet the literary arts? For years, comic books and cartoons have dominated the realm of visual storytelling in print. Now, with the rise of the graphic novel, the potent, vivid immediacy of illustrations is being united with long form prose to redefine 21st century literature. With their incredible diversity of style, graphic novels are telling stories across genres, including memoir, historical fiction, and young adult fiction. Join the PEN/Faulkner Foundation for an evening of conversation with some of the biggest names in graphic novels, as they talk about artistic collaborations and the evolution of storytelling in a new era.


Ebony Flowers
Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez
Gene Luen Yang
Scott McCloud (Moderator)

Buy your tickets today!

Tickets Now on Sale for PEN/Faulkner’s Annual Gala!

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation’s Chair, Co-Chairs, Honorary Co-Chairs, Benefit Committee, and Board of Directors request the pleasure of your company at


Saturday, October 26, 2019
Katzen Arts Center, American University
4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC

6:30 pm • Cocktails
7:30 pm • RISE UP! Readings and Dinner Program

Cocktail attire • Complimentary garage parking

Nell Freudenberger
Matt Klam
Alice McDermott
Francine Prose
José A. Rodriguez
Rachel Louise Snyder
Nafissa Thompson-Spires
Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi

& two award-winning DC student writers

Calvin Trillin, back by popular demand

Now in its 31st year, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation’s Annual Gala is a unique evening that celebrates important voices in contemporary American literature and supports arts education in our city’s schools. Those who attend will begin their evening with a cocktail hour, followed by a formal seated dinner in the Rotunda of the Katzen Arts Center. The night will feature readings of original pieces written especially for the occasion by some of the most highly acclaimed authors in the literary world. Our authors will also be joined on stage by Katrina Tracy and Queenal Ayaba, the DC students who won our Writers in Schools program’s city-wide essay contest. All who take the stage will speak in their own words on this year’s theme: “Rise Up!”
Join Us—Get Your Tickets Now!

Meet Our 2019 Annual Gala Committee

GALA CHAIR: Willee Lewis

CO-CHAIRS: Lisa Brennan Barry • William Dunlap • Julie Arthur Garcia • Dale LeFebvre • Katherine Field Stephen • Annie Simonian Totah • Jayne Visser

HONORARY CO-CHAIRS: Senator Patrick Leahy Senator Lisa Murkowski

HONORARY BENEFIT COMMITTEE: Senator Roy Blunt Representative G.K. Butterfield Representative Debbie Dingell Senator Amy Klobuchar Representative John LewisSenator Ed Markey Representative Jackie Speier Senator Christopher Van Hollen Senator Mark Warner

Cynthia Howar and Susan Pillsbury, Co-Hosts

Anonymous • Shalom & Beth Baranes • Wendy Benchley & John Jeppson • Lee & Wayne Berman • Afsaneh and Michael Beschloss • BP America • Cathy Brentzel • Ludmila and Conrad Cafritz • Byron Carlock • Debbie Driesman & Frank Islam • Molly Elkin & Ivan Wasserman • Shannon Fairbanks & Thor Halvorson • Rhona & Don Friedman • James Gale • Elizabeth & Michael Galvin • Jon Garcia • Renee & Stephen Gardner • Hank & Carol Brown Goldberg • Denise Grant & Frank Raines • Beverly & Stuart Halpert • The Honorable Jane Harman • Mimi & Richard Houstoun • Kay Kendall & Jack Davies • Dale LeFebvre • Finlay Lewis • Tracy & Greg McGillivary • Virginia Newmyer & Philip F. Zeidman • The Paley Family • Michael Pillsbury • Politics & Prose • Robert & Margie Shanks • Eileen Shields-West & Robin West • Nancy & Simon Sidamon-Eristoff • Douglas & Gabriela Smith • Andrew Stephen • Elizabeth & George Stevens, Jr. • Robert A. Stewart/JBG Smith • Lucretia Dewey Tanner

H.G. Carrillo, Chair • Tracy McGillivary, President

Louis Bayard • Jackson R. Bryer • Conrad Cafritz • Susan Coll • Molly Elkin • Renée K. Gardner • Ginny Grenham • Mary Haft • Mimi Houstoun • Joanne Leedom-Ackerman • Dale LeFebvre • Tony Lewis, Jr. • Willee Lewis • Richard McCann • Dr. Malcolm O’Hagan • Frazier O’Leary • Lisa Page • Dolen Perkins-Valdez • Anas “Andy” Shallal • Katherine Field Stephen • Deborah Tannen

Youth Essay Contest Winners and Runners-up!

PEN/Faulkner is excited to announce the winners and runners-up for this year’s Youth Essay Contest! Writers were asked to submit personal essays on the theme of “Rise Up.” Each of the winners and runners-up will receive a monetary prize, and the two winners will read on stage alongside authors Alice McDermott, Francine Prose, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, and Rachel Louise Synder, among others, at our 31st Annual Gala held at the Katzen Center on Saturday, October 26.

We’re proud of all the young writers who submitted to the contest. Find out more about the annual PEN/Faulkner Youth Essay Contest and annual Gala.

Queenal Ayaba, Capital City Public Charter School
“The Lion Anger Has Resurrected”

Each day, my friends from Cameroon sent me video clips about people being killed like birds being hunted. You could see the veins and skeletons of people laying on the floor; some had deep holes in their heads to the point that you could see the eyes staring at you like they wanted revenge. The water that had been held deep in my eyes started pouring out and dripping on the ground like stormy rain.

“Make we na come oh.”

“Ma house di burn.”

“ They don finish me oh. Ma pickin don die. They don burn my house.”

“Watti I don do?” said a man in one of the videos sent to me by my friend.

Throughout the torture that I faced seeing the spirits of the innocent death weeping and crying, I knew deep in me that there was cheetah who wanted to rise up and make a change, but I did not know how. The ashes that held together firmly in the fire started flaking off.

“Where is the flame that is burning in me,” I said. I could not bear to see more houses burning and people fleeing from their homes and villages.

Katrina Tracy, Hardy Middle School
“Sometimes Your Stick Out”

It felt like I was walking around with a sign on my forehead that read, “American.” Maybe I could lie and say I’m from Kyrgyzstan — technically true, my mother grew up there — but I didn’t know any Kyrgyz, and what if they asked? So after a second of deliberation, I reluctantly said it.

“I’m from America.” My brother liked the attention they gave us then, their faces had a look of almost-masked shock, changing into a calculating look. Like, “What questions do you think we can get away with?” I gritted my teeth, hoping my brother didn’t say anything silly.

“What type of car do you have?” The boy started.

“A Honda.” If I had met someone from a country I had never been to, I would ask more interesting questions, like the food, or what their favorite color was.

“Hmmm, well I guess that’s a respectable car.” He peered at me disapprovingly, as if saying, do better.

Sacha Gregoire, Hardy Middle School
“My Greatest Fear”

We arrived at the swing. It looked even more monstrous up close. There were thin wires snaking up, with rusty brown chains around them leading up to the top. The top seemed hundreds of feet up, putting the people on it at the top of the world- and then the wires would let go of the swing, which left the victims on the swing swooping downwards, their lives being risked every second. Despite me insisting that I was not going on, the chaperone had made me put on the safety equipment, saying that I might change my mind at the last second. Group by group, people went on the swing, but I did not have the heart to look at them—I looked the opposite direction and closed my eyes for good measure. I could hear the screams of my classmates. I was sure an accident had happened, that someone had died. I turned around. The last group was going onto the swing. They were a group of two—Daniel and Morgan.

“Hey!” the park worker said. “The swing needs at least three people on it, we can’t send two people up! Who hasn’t gone?” Everyone started saying my name, some pointing at me.

Alexander Suggs, Capital City Public Charter School
“The Guardsmen”

As my great grandfather told me once, the winter far east along the Volga was always cold, especially back when he was young, way before I was even born. That was at the same time when he told me of the communist revolution he fought against, and how brother turned on brother, father on son.


In the year 1917, as my great grandfather described it, the communist visionary Vladimir Lenin was released from exile, allowed back into Russia by the people, who were growing sick and tired of the Tsar’s rule. Lenin turned the people against the Tsar who had long since abandoned the hope of his people,driving them into a war which was already costing the poor workers and soldiers more lives and money. Lenin and his supporters took up arms, forming a people’s army to overtake the one already existing in defense of the Tsar. One of the first to join the so-called “White Guard,” an anti-communist brigade, was my great grandfather, who had already completed service in the Ukraine against the Austrians.

Hastily, the White Guard set out. My grandfather and his friends marched to the edge of the Volga River to stop the revolutionary forces.

As they stood in wait, the snow fell upon them. “Like God himself had left us all to ourselves,” my great grandfather said. “The winter froze everything over. Rifles, boots, skin. Everything.”

Arianna Camacho-Mendez, Capital City Public Charter School
Sosina Gebremichael, Banneker High School
Arwen Gorham, McKinley Tech High School
Mikalah Scott, Cardozo Education Campus
Alexis Toro Juarez, McKinley Tech High School

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 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, 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 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

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