What We Read and Loved in 2018

Not surprisingly, we’re a staff of book lovers and voracious readers. We asked around our office for the best book our staff and interns read this year. While this list doesn’t always include books published in 2018, we hope you’ll find something new to pick up, or to re-read, as we dive headfirst into the new year.


The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani, translated by Sam Taylor

This was a year of reading nonfiction and re-reading beloved novels. However, Leila Slimani’s brilliant, fast-paced The Perfect Nanny is a standout of tight narrative writing, controlled point-of-view shifts, and an emotional undercurrent that veers from horrified to empathetic and back again. The novel, which won France’s Prix Goncourt, is set in contemporary Paris, where the dynamics of class, feminism, and immigration come together around the character of Louise, a thin, doll-like nanny notable for her racial identity (she’s a white, French citizen) and her uncanny devotion to the family for whom she works. Louise’s maniacal perfection in all things domestic and childrearing comes under increasing strain as her financial desperation and decades of subservience to many masters—her late husband, landlord, and the creditors among them—escalate to a devastating climax. Slimani successfully weaves together expectations of womanhood and motherhood with dynamics of class, all set against whispers of terrorism, immigration, and a changing society in this forceful novel that I consumed in one sitting. – Lacey N. Dunham, Writers in Schools  


My Year of Meats by Ruth L. Ozeki

Ozeki’s novel is the captivating tale of Jane Takagi-Little, a Japanese-American trying to make it in the TV industry as a producer of a new show, My American Wife!. The catch? The show she is directing is centered around “perfect” American families and the meat industry. As Jane maneuvers her way around her misogynist bosses, she is constantly finding herself making difficult decisions involving the meat industry and the not-so-perfect families. Jane’s commitment to transforming the show makes an impact on someone she would never have suspected, ultimately leaving her to decide between her career and her heart.

The voice of the protagonist is witty, sarcastic, yet lovable. Readers will be completely invested in what is going to happen not only to Jane, but to all of the people that she inspires along the way. It’s the first book I’ve read that manages to combine both American and Japanese voices and to expose the meat industry, combined with a deeper narrative about love, betrayal, brutality, and inspiration. – Caroline Evashavik, Media and Development


Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

As a creative writing student, I read a lot of books over the course of the school year. While many of these book are written by revered authors, it’s contemporary writer Carmen Maria Machado who wrote the best book I read in 2018, Her Body and Other Parties. This collection of short stories tells of the woes, hardships, and celebrations that women (and their bodies) face in their daily lives.

What makes Her Body and Other Parties different from any other short story collection? First, they aren’t set in one genre. Machado flawlessly flips from fantasy to sci-fi to comedy to horror. You truly don’t know what you’ll get with each turn of the page, which makes you want to read on if only to find out what else is in store. These stories aren’t of the typical “women’s” genre of fiction. That’s to say: they aren’t stuck in the heteronormative cycle so many women’s stories seem to be in. There’s a raw sexual quality to how Machado writes about womenno demure sugarcoating here. It’s a book that I believe all lovers of fictionor writing in generalshould read for craft’s sake, and one that everyone should read for their own good. –  Elizabeth Phan, Literary Events


The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Originally published in 1984, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is one of the greatest novels ever written. A bit dramatic of claim, but I can’t say this of any other novel that I’ve read. Written in Czech and translated into English, the novel moves between characters and geographical locations with ease, highlighting the intricacies of human relationships. Centered on the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, Kundera portrays the impact of war within Czech society.

Kundera’s prose skillfully incorporates dialogue and character interactions with philosophical reflections. He begins with a discussion of Nietzsche’s idea of “eternal return,” which prepares the reader for the later events of the novel. He details the opposing sides of the argument: whether everything we experience happens an infinite number of times, or, if our lives happen only once, our experiences are deemed insignificant, carrying no weight. The narrator ponders which perspective is better, raising the question of lightness or weight. As you might have guessed from the title, each of the characters reach a decision on this argument by the time the story concludes.

While some writers might become bogged down by such a heavy topic, Kundera’s eloquent prose makes for an easy read. Give The Unbearable Lightness of Being a try on your next lazy Sunday, and it might just become one of your all-time favorite novels too. – Mary Berset, Literary Events


Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians is more than just a typical romantic comedy. It’s a captivating love story that also provides an intriguing insight into the world of “crazy rich” Asians.  Nicholas Young was born into a world of wealth, secrecy, and deep familial values; Rachel Chu is the daughter of a single mother who immigrated from China years ago. The two fall in love, but when Rachel is thrown into the world of rampant gossip and guarded secretsall with the trappings of truly opulent wealthshe begins to feel brutally rejected by Nick’s friends and family. Kevin Kwan uses more sarcasm and wit than expected from a traditional romantic comedy to portray both what it’s like to fall in love with someone from a different class and the personal lives of the super rich.  –Yevette Smith, Writers in Schools


Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

I started reading this book after I binge-watched the TV series and learned that there’s a lot more to story than is shown in the HBO series. After putting it off for close to a year, I picked up the books back in June and have been hooked ever since. For the first time since reading the Harry Potter series I fell into the excitement of a new mythical world. Reading the books has developed my understanding of each character on a deeper level, and I appreciate even my least favorite characters a little bit more. Martin provides captivating details that are easy to look past in the show. I found myself unable to put it down! – Laura Sincage, Writers in Schools


Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

After reading Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day, I was interested to explore his other works. A thought-provoking dystopian novel, Never Let Me Go appeals to a broad range of age groups. I have always been interested in dystopian fiction, but this novel explored the dystopian in a new way. The novel’s melancholy tone builds the slow reveal of this dystopian universe in a way that feels eerie. The absurdity of this universe is buffered by its supposed focus on humanity, innocence, and mortality, and allows the story to transcend the boundaries of genre to create a timeless coming-of-age novel with a moral imperative.

Given our current state of social and political chaos, this not-so-distant world offers readers a mental exercise in perspective and a reminder of the most basic principles of humanity. Never Let Me Go’s foundation in the dignity of life makes it relatable and a necessary read, and adolescent love and passion is considered seriously as a basis of human connection. – Emily Herman, Development and Media


Happy Holiday Reading! 


PEN/Faulkner’s Spring Season!

PEN/Faulkner’s got an exciting season of Literary Conversations and public events coming up in 2019! Check back here for ticket information!

January 14, 2019
Beyond La Frontera
Featuring: Jennifer Clement & Luis Alberto Urrea
Moderated by: Maria Hinojosa

Join PEN/Faulkner at the Lansburgh Theatre for “Beyond La Frontera”, the first Literary Conversation of 2019. On Monday, January 14th, we will hear from PEN International President Jennifer Clement and American Book Award Winner Luis Alberto Urrea, as they discuss relevant issues regarding immigrant narratives, gun violence, and social justice. Both authors have a thread of activism woven through their work, Clement through her writing on hidden women and the far-reaching arm of human-trafficking, and Urrea in his stories of the border, a space where narratives have traditionally been overlooked. You won’t want to miss this night of compelling conversation and captivating literature!

February 12, 2019
What Was, What Is, and What Will Be: A Cross-Genre Look at Afrofuturism
Featuring: Tananarive Due, NK Jemisin, & Airea D. Matthews

Cultural critic Mark Dery coined the term “Afrofuturism” in his essay “Black to the Future,” and its meaning has expanded to encompass alternative visions of the future influenced by astral jazz, African-American sci-fi, psychedelic hip-hop, rock, rhythm and blues, and more. Join us as we delve into the genre with three of its most highly acclaimed writers: Tananarive Due, N.K. Jemisin, and Airea D. Matthews. This Literary Conversation is co-sponsored by Folger Shakespeare Library’s O.B. Hardison Poetry Series, and The Library of Congress’s Center for the Book and Poetry and Literature Center. Tickets can be purchased here!

March 10, 2019
Fantastic Women
Featuring: Lesley Nneka Arimah, Kelly Link, and Carmen Maria Machado

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation & the National Museum of Women in the Arts present “Fantastic Women.” 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 Fantastic Women event will be an unforgettable night of engaging dialogue and conversation, and we hope to see you there!

April 2019
Literature On Screen: The Hate U Give

Image result for angie thomas

Join us for our second installment of Literature On Screen, featuring Angie Thomas, author of the bestselling novel, The Hate U Give. Angie will discuss the translation of her book to the critically acclaimed movie adaptation, starring Amandla Stenberg, as well as the very real events that inspired her novel.

May 4, 2019
PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Ceremony
Featuring: Judges Percival Everett, Ernesto Quiñonez, and Joy Williams
And Finalists & Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award (Announced April 2019)

Don’t miss our 2019 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Ceremony, held at a new and exciting venue, Arena Stage! Our five finalists will be announced in March, and the winner of the Award will be announced in April. Join us as we celebrate all five authors for their achievements in the world of literature. The Ceremony will feature award citations by this year’s judges, Percival Everett, Ernesto Quinonez, and Joy Williams, as well as readings by our honored writers. The ceremony will be followed by a dinner reception.


Announcing PEN/Faulkner’s New Executive Director: Gwydion Suilebhan!

Washington, DC: The PEN/Faulkner Foundation is delighted to announce the selection of Gwydion Suilebhan as the organization’s new Executive Director. Suilebhan, who is currently serving as the Director of Brand and Marketing for Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, will be joining the PEN/Faulkner staff on January 15, 2019.

“Gwydion is an inspiring leader with an extensive track record of innovation,” said Tracy B. McGillivary, the President of PEN/Faulkner’s Board of Directors. “He has devoted his entire career to advocating for writers of all ages, and his passion and curiosity are absolutely infectious. His deep understanding of the challenges facing writers in the 21st century, as well as his passion for answering those challenges, thrilled us.”

Suilebhan currently serves as a member of the senior staff of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, one of the most important, critically-acclaimed theaters in the United States producing new plays. As Woolly’s brand steward, he’s responsible for connecting the theater’s rousing, visceral, enlightening work to an increasingly diverse and demanding modern audience. Suilebhan also holds a second position as the Project Director of the New Play Exchange—the world’s largest digital library of scripts by living writers—for the National New Play Network. As the platform’s chief architect and evangelist, he has radically transformed the ways in which writers and producers share and discover work.

“To lead the PEN/Faulkner Foundation—an organization that’s deeply committed to the beautiful notion of writers both celebrating and educating other writers—is a profound and meaningful opportunity for me,” said Suilebhan. “I cannot wait to build on four decades of literary history, both national and local, and to ensure that the PEN/Faulkner mission stays relevant and vital.”

In addition to his work as an administrator, which has included stints in both publishing and academia, Suilebhan is an accomplished writer. A member of the Dramatists Guild Council and a co-founder of The Welders—a Helen Hayes Award-winning playwrights collective—Suilebhan writes and devises new work for both stage and screen. Earlier in his career, after earning his M.A. from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, he wrote poetry and served as the poetry editor of Barrelhouse magazine.

“Gwydion is the right person to lead our organization for several reasons, not least of which is because he already understands the significance of the work we do,” said novelist and PEN/Faulkner board member H.G. Carrillo, who serves as the chair of the Foundation’s Awards and Human Resources committees. “We ran a thorough search process to find our new Executive Director, and we’re incredibly lucky to have found a leader with a rare combination of experience and credentials. He has tremendous insight, and he’s going to do great things.”


GWYDION SUILEBHAN, the newly-appointed Executive Director of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, is an American writer, innovator, and arts advocate. A playwright, screenwriter, and poet, Suilebhan has served as a Council member of the Dramatists Guild of America since 2017. He is the architect of the New Play Exchange for the National New Play Network and a founding member of The Welders, a Helen Hayes Award-winning playwrights collective in Washington, DC. Suilebhan previously served as the Director of Brand and Marketing for the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

As a writer, Suilebhan’s work has been noted for its “dexterous theatricality and unexpected pleasure” (Washington Post). He is the author of several plays, including The Butcher, Reals, Abstract Nude, Let X, and the Helen Hayes Award-nominated Transmission, among others. His work has been commissioned, developed, and produced by Centerstage, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Gulfshore Playhouse, Forum Theatre, Theater J, and Theater Alliance, among others. Suilebhan is also the author of Anthem, a short film directed by Hal Hartley, and a forthcoming (2019) web series called All Souls.

Earlier in his career, Suilebhan primarily wrote poetry and non-fiction. He served as the poetry editor of Barrelhouse from 2004 to 2006 and taught creative writing as an adjunct member of the faculty of the Maryland Institute, College of Art. Two of his plays—Abstract Nude and Cracked—have been published by Original Works. Suilebhan has received two Individual Artist Fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, two from the Montgomery County Arts Council, and one from the Maryland State Arts Council. He was also the recipient of a Larry Neal Writers Award from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

Suilebhan earned a Master of Arts in poetry in 1993 from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, where he studied with Allen Grossman and Peter Sacks. In 1990, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in writing from Northwestern University, where he studied with essayist Joseph Epstein and poets Mary Kinzie and Alan Shapiro.

Tickets On Sale Now For The 2018 PEN/Malamud Award Ceremony!

Don’t miss out on attending the 30th Annual PEN/Malamud Award Ceremony on Saturday, December 8, 2018. This ceremony will be held at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue at 7:30pm. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at bit.ly/penmalamud.

The PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story was established in 1988 by Bernard Malamud’s family to honor the best published collections of short fiction. This year’s winners, Amina Gautier and Joan Silber, will be honored in a ceremony at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, where they will read from their work and be presented with the $5,000 prize.

Books by the honored writers will be available for sale, and the ceremony will be followed by a book signing onstage.

*This event is not sponsored by Sixth & I

Get tickets now for Finding Home!

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation & GWU’s Institute for Middle East Studies invite you to delve into the intricacies of Arab American identity through the individual experiences of some of today’s most celebrated literary voices.

Join notable Buzzfeed reporter Hannah Allam as she sits down with Osama Alomar, Susan Darraj, and Laila Halaby to discuss what “Finding Home” looks like for an Arab American, especially in today’s political climate.

Tickets are on sale now! Don’t miss out on PEN/Faulkner’s second Literary Conversation of the year!

20 Book-ish Halloween Costume Ideas

1. Handmaids from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Forced to live as obedient servants in a dystopian world of totalitarian theocratic rule, the handmaids fight back to regain female agency. The government mandates that each handmaid wear a long red dress, hooded cape, and a white bonnet. This uniform becomes a symbol for the resistance in the novel–and in present society as well–and would make a simple, fun Halloween costume! Dust off your favorite old white bonnet and red cape (or just red winter coat if you’re short on time) and you’re officially a handmaid. – Mary Berset, Literary Events Intern


2. Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Known for her daunting presence and wild demeanor, Bertha Mason acts as the “ghost” who haunts the titular character of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel. She’s the forgotten wife of Mr. Rochester who, in attempts to conceal her madness, locks her away in the attic of his estate – thus creating her nickname “The Madwoman in the Attic.” This costume won’t require much, just a couple of items and willingness to DIY. Throw on an old, raggedy white nightgown, dark makeup, and tease your hair into a rat’s nest and you’re all set. -Elizabeth Phan, Literary Events Intern

3. Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

For the most over-the-top Halloween costume enthusiasts, the full Effie Trinket look is perfect. The posh escort of District 12, Effie over-enthusiastically leads Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark to the capital for the 74th Annual Hunger Games. Effie’s grandiose personality is mirrored by her appearance as she flaunts towering wigs and cartoonish makeup. To get her look, pile on the costume jewelry, powdery makeup, a huge hairpiece, and the most comically extravagant dress you can find. May the odds be ever in your favor! -Emily Herman, Literary Events Intern

4. Anne Boleyn from Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Accused of witchcraft and high treason and the most infamous of Henry VIII’s six wives, Anne Boleyn lost her head in 1536, but her aura and mystique lives on in Mantel’s first book of a trilogy narrated by Thomas Cromwell, who plays a prominent role in her downfall. This costume is all in the accessories: part your hair down the middle, glue gold studs onto a black headband, wrap strings of pearls around your neck, and add a gold-plated letter “B” for that authentic Boleyn touch. With a long black gown and a dusting of white powder (baby powder works well), you’ve transformed into the mother of the future Queen Elizabeth I. – Lacey N. Dunham, Writers in Schools Director

5. Nancy Drew from the Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene

Teenage sleuth Nancy Drew stars in a series of novels created by publisher Edward Stretemeyer and ghost-written by numerous authors. Often described as “Supergirl,” Nancy Drew has become a cultural icon through her work as a detective. Always impeccably dressed, a Nancy Drew halloween costume should entail a collared blouse, sweater, pencil skirt, tights, and flats. Add a headband and carry a flashlight or magnifying glass, and you’re ready to solve any mystery that may come your way this Halloween. – Mary Berset, Literary Events Intern

6. Joe Hardy from the Hardy Boys Series by Franklin W. Dixon

As a precursor and partner to Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys Series was created by publisher Edward Stretemeyer and written by ghostwriters under the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon. Joe Hardy, alongside his brother Frank, solve mysteries together, and put a stop to crimes such as murder, drug peddling, race horse kidnapping, diamond smuggling, and much more. Dress up as Joe Hardy with a collared button-down, red sweater, khaki pants, and a magnifying glass or flashlight! This costume also works for couples, as the iconic Joe Hardy and Nancy Drew team. – Mary Berset, Literary Events Intern

7. Madeline from Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

A series of stories surrounding the exciting adventures of a seven-year-old girl in a Parisian boarding school, Madeline’s sweet yet sneaky attitude has charmed readers since it was published in 1956. From scheming ways save her school from closing to finding her way around Miss Clavel’s strict rules, Madeline is a a simple yet recognizable literary costume. All you need is a camel colored straw hat with a black bow around the brim, a blue dress with a long red neck tie, white stockings, and black ballet flats. – Caroline Evashavik, Writers in Schools Intern

8. Klaus Baudelaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

As the middle child and only boy, Klaus is described as the intelligent sibling. He’s an avid reader and loves to research everything and anything during his free time. He is known for standing by his older sister’s side and using big words and phrases that no one but him understands. Just one of the three beloved characters in Lemony Snicket’s, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Klaus’s school uniform is easy to replicate. All you need is grey slacks, a black vest and dress shoes, white button up, red tie with white stripes, and a maroon dress jacket. To make the costume more authentic, you can print out his schools emblem and pin it on the left side of the dress jacket. –Laura Sincage, Writers in Schools Intern. 

9. Violet Baudelaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

As the eldest in the family, Violet is an intelligent and charming character with an endless streak of bad luck. She is the inventor in the family, and throughout the series her inventions have helped save her and her siblings. As the leader of the Baudelaire clan, her school uniform is perfect for a last minute costume. You’ll need a mid-length grey skirt, grey V-neck sweater, black tights and flats, white button up, maroon dress jacket, and a red tie with white stripes. To complete the full look, add the school emblem to the maroon dress jacket and tie your hair back with a bow. -Laura Sincage, Writers in Schools Intern.

10. Count Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

After a mysterious fire kills Mr. and Mrs. Baudelaire, Count Olaf becomes the cunning adoptive father of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire in order to obtain their fortune. Although Count Olaf has plenty of aliases, his most identifiable look consists of black pinstriped pants, a matching blazer with long tails, and a silver necktie. Wear a wig or tease your own hair to match his frizzy, nearly vertical hairstyle. Bonus points for a fuzzy gray unibrow. -Emily Herman, Literary Events Intern

11. Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Being accused of adultery back in the 1800s was no laughing matter; Hester Prynne was forced to sew a giant scarlet “A” onto all of her clothes as punishment for having a child out of wedlock. Even after enduring endless harassment and humiliation, she was never permitted to remove the “A.” and when she died even her grave bore this marking. As if it isn’t obvious, this costume is all about the “A.” All you need is a long black dress, a white apron on top, and a blood-red “A” sewn right down the middle. –Caroline Evashavik, Writers in Schools Intern

12. Amelia Bedelia from Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish

Amelia is a housekeeper who takes directions from her employers too literally in this silly series. She means well but somehow she can never seem to get anything right. Peggy Parish’s Amelia Bedelia has been a favorite for young children since 1963. Bring her to life by creating your own Amelia Bedelia with the use of a black dress, white apron, black hat with flowers on it, black stockings, and black shoes. – Yevette Smith, Writers in Schools Intern

13. Characters from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

For those looking for a group costume, look no further than Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel. Alice finds herself encountering characters of the unique variety. There’s the Queen of Hearts, whose costume requires a red and black dress, a crown, and a heart emblem. She also meets the Mad Hatter, who wears purple pants, a colorful blazer, a big bow tie, and a giant hat. And who could forget the Cheshire Cat, with his big, toothy grin. He’s shown in the 1951 Disney adaptation as pink and purple, and all you’d need to add is a pair of cat ears. -Elizabeth Phan, Literary Events Intern

14. Amma Crellin from Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (SPOILER ALERT)

Filled with dysfunctional families, secrets from the past, repressed memories, and a rising death toll of little girls, the HBO adaptation of this novel inspires eerie, yet subtle Halloween costumes. Amma Crellin is the ringleader of the “cool girls” (who are unphased by their classmates’ killings). A “good girl” in the daytime, Amma changes into someone else as night falls. Become daytime Amma by adorning your perfectly brushed hair with ribbons and slip into a floral-print knee-length dress with lace-lined socks and flats. Put on a devilish grin and carry a doll. For nighttime Amma, switch into a pair of roller skates, pink crop top, jean shorts, and be sure to carry pliers and a reckless attitude. Can’t decide? Be two-faced Amma: Roller skate on one foot, ballet flat on the other. Ribbons on one side, none on the other. Brush up on your sewing skills and sew up half of a dress atop a shirt and jean shorts. – Tessa Houstoun, Writers in Schools Senior Associate


15. Pippi Longstocking from Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Pippi is more than the strongest girl in the world: she is adventurous, fun, and extremely caring. With no parents to tell her what to do, this red haired, freckled face, nine-year-old girl with upside down braids goes on many adventures. This costume is all about having fun with the clothing: a denim jumper, knee high socks, and either a turtleneck or a red-and-white striped top. Finish it off with side braids. Add in an adventurous spirit, and you’ve transformed into Pippi Longstocking. – Yevette Smith, Writers in Schools intern

16. Eloise from Eloise by Kay Thompson, Illustrated by Hilary Knight

Living on the “tippy-top floor” of the Plaza Hotel in New York City, Eloise is a force to be reckoned with for everyone she meets. An energetic character with crazy antics, you can’t help but fall in love with her. This costume is an easy ensemble with a simple short black flowy skirt, black flats, suspenders, a short sleeve white button up, and high socks, with a pink bow tied in unruly hair. –Laura Sincage, Writer in Schools Intern

17. Coraline from Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman’s young protagonist Coraline works relentlessly to rid herself of boredom and the mundaneness of her daily life. In doing so, she encounters strange characters far beyond her imagination which lead her into some tricky situations. In 2009, the book was adapted into a widely beloved animated movie that shows Coraline in all her colorful glory. For this costume, you’ll need a yellow rain jacket, yellow rain boots, blue jeans, and a blue wig. You’ll be easily recognizable and ready for adventure on Halloween night! -Elizabeth Phan, Literary Events Intern

18. Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

As the brattiest winner of the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, Veruca Salt demanda her father give her anything she wants inside the secret candy fantasy world. Veruca’s entitlement gets her deep into trouble when she tries to steal a squirrel from the nut room and ends up being ambushed by all hundred squirrels. This Halloween, borrow Veruca’s sassy attitude and throw a red dress over a white collared shirt to get her iconic look. To accessorize, add on white stockings, a black belt, and shiny black flats. -Emily Herman, Literary Events Intern

19. Matilda Wormwood from Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda, a five-year-old girl and avid reader who enjoys playing pranks on family and friends, is often mistreated by her parents, older brother, and the evil Miss Trunchbull, but she finds a friend in her teacher Ms. Honey. In an attempt to get revenge, Matilda uses her powers of telekinesis to drive Miss Trunchbull away and give Ms. Honey what she deserves. Matilda’s parents decide to pack up and leave and Matilda ends up living with Ms. Honey. Wear a white t-shirt with a blue dress (bonus if the dress has flowers!), tall socks, red shoes, and a blue headband.  – Nina Arroyo Santiago, Nuestra Voz Program Associate


20. Count Dracula from Dracula by Bram Stoker

Thanks to Irishman Bram Stoker, the lasting stereotype of the vampire was born: pale with pointy ears and canine teeth, blood-red lips, bushy eyebrows, and the classic widow’s peaks on a head of black hair. For this costume all you need is white face paint, red lipstick, and a black eyebrow pencil. Stoker’s undead character wore all black, so find your inner-goth for a perfect and easy costume. But why wear it just once? Head to Dublin for the annual Bram Stoker festival. – Lacey N. Dunham, Writers in Schools Director

Happy Halloween from the PEN/Faulkner Staff!

Last Chance for Literary Horror Night Tickets! 10/29 at 7pm

Join us on Monday, October 29 at Penn Social for our first Literary Conversation of the season. A night filled with horror and incredible literature to prepare you for Halloween! Get tickets now before they sell out!

Dan Chaon, (Ill Will), Mark Z. Danielewski (House of Leaves), and Brian Evenson (A Collapse of Horses) will read from their work and engage in conversation about what horror fiction as a genre says about the very real horrors we face on a daily basis. This evening will be moderated by bestselling and award-winning author, Elizabeth HandYou won’t want to miss these critically-acclaimed authors at our pre-Halloween celebration!

Tickets include a free drink upon entry (THIS EVENT IS 21+), and the onstage discussion will be followed by a book signing. Books will be onsale before and after the readings!

Winter and Spring 2019 Internship Postings

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 four positions for Winter and Spring 2019.

  • Writers in Schools Spring Internship
  • Literary Events Spring Internship

Writers in Schools Internship (Multiple positions available)

The Writers in Schools Internship will focus on our Writers in Schools literary arts K-12 school outreach program, which brings contemporary literature into DC public and public charter schools. We provide free books for students and coordinate class visits with the authors, fostering conversation about their works and their careers as writers.

Tasks include:

  • Helping coordinate author visits and attending visits, where needed, as an author ambassador.
  • Support with information management of book lists, author database, website organization, volunteer database, and DC public and charter school demographics and needs.
  • Assist and support evaluation of WinS programming.
  • Assist with and develop reading packets and materials as well as support material development.
  • Update WinS materials in print and on the web, including writing and editing copy, selecting images, and marketing the program.
  • Work closely with the Writers in Schools Program Director to analyze program data and draw meaningful conclusions on the strength and vitality of the program.

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” author 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:

  • Research on contemporary authors for upcoming literary events
  • Assisting with the logistics of upcoming author visits, such as scheduling, travel bookings, and accommodations
  • Crafting book synopses and author bios for upcoming programs
  • Attending our literary events and assisting with audience management
  • Generating content  for multiple social media platforms
  • Organization and categorization of PEN/Faulkner archival materials
  • General copywriting and 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: January 18. Interviews and hirings are done on a rolling basis, and positions may fill prior to this date.
  • Start date: Mandatory orientation on Saturday, January 26
  • End date: Week of April 29


Send an email (noting the position 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.

If your school has a Winter Term or January Term, please apply accordingly to applications@penfaulkner.org 

No phone calls, please.

Announcing PEN/Faulkner’s Fall Season of Literary Conversations and Events!

Literary Conversations are PEN/Faulkner’s regular public programming events, which are designed to capture the most significant literary and societal conversations of the moment. Unlike other reading events, Literary Conversations are moderated discussions embedded with opportunities for writers to read from their work. At their very core, they are organic discussions featuring the most highly acclaimed contemporary authors, discussing their work in the context of all that is happening in the world today. This brings literature to life, and allows readers to build meaningful connections to the words on the page.

We are excited to announce this year’s Fall Season of events! We hope to see you there!

Monday, October 29
Literary Horror Night
7pm at Penn Social (801 E Street NW, Washington, DC 20004)

Join the PEN/Faulkner Foundation as we delve into the Halloween spirit during our Literary Horror Night, hosted at an exciting new space, Penn Social! Dan Chaon, (Ill Will), Mark Z. Danielewski (House of Leaves), and Brian Evenson (A Collapse of Horses) will read from their work and engage in conversation about what horror fiction as a genre says about the very real horrors we face on a daily basis. This evening will be moderated by bestselling and award-winning author, Elizabeth Hand. You won’t want to miss these critically-acclaimed authors at our pre-Halloween celebration!

Tuesday, November 27
Finding Home
7pm at GWU’s Jack Morton Auditorium (805 21st Street NW, Washington, DC 20052)
The PEN/Faulkner Foundation & GWU’s Institute of Middle Eastern Studies invite you to delve into the intricacies of Arab American identity through the individual experiences of some of today’s most celebrated literary voices. Join notable Buzzfeed reporter Hannah Allam as she sits down with Osama Alomar (The Teeth of the Comb & Other Stories), Susan Darraj (A Curious Land: Stories from Home; The Inheritance of Exile) and Laila Halaby (Once in a Promised Land) to discuss what “Finding Home” looks like for an Arab American, especially in today’s political climate. These award-winning authors will also read from their work in what will be a fascinating and engaging evening.
                                                                                                                                          Saturday, December 8
2018 PEN/Malamud Award Ceremony
7:30pm at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue
(600 I Street NW, Washington, DC 20001)


The PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story was established in 1988 by Bernard Malamud’s family to honor the best published collections of short fiction. This year’s winners, Joan Silber and Amina Gautier, will be honored in a ceremony at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue where they will read from their work and be presented with the $5,000 prize.
*This event is not sponsored by Sixth & I.

Meet the Authors: 2018 Gala Edition

Though James Hannaham is an award winning author, he is also a performer and visual artist. His novel Delicious Foods was the winner of the 2016 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction as well as the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Hannaham’s novel follows three unforgettable characters: a mother, her son, and the drug that threatens to destroy their lives. While attending Yale University in 1992, Hannaham worked in the art department of The Village Voice. Creativity and talent in the arts run in his family, as artist Kara Walker is Hannaham’s cousin. Hannaham is now an associate professor in the writing departement at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.

Joan Silber was this year’s winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and The National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction for her novel Improvement. The novel revolves around a young single mother living in New York, her eccentric aunt, and the decisions they make that have unexpected implications for the world around them. In addition, Silber’s short fiction, which has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Epoch, and many more, has won her the 2018 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. Silber lives in New York, with her dog Lucille, and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and in the Warren Wilson MFA Program.

Come join us on Monday, September 24 to hear James Hannaham, Joan Silber and eight other highly acclaimed authors read original pieces at the 30th Annual PEN/Faulkner Gala. Buy tickets at pfgala.org. It will be a night of literary magic!