April 27th – Free Minds Book Club

We Can Be the Change: Voices of Incarcerated Youth
Free Minds Poetry Reading & Community Dialogue
Wednesday, April 27th at 7 p.m. 
Hill Center
921 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Washington, DC 20003 [Map]
Reserve Your Free Tickets Here

Read about Writers in Schools and Free Minds Book Club in The Washington Post.

Please join us for an evening of poetry and community dialogue brought to you by Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop and PEN/Faulkner’s Writers in Schools program.

Be a part of the solution by listening to poetry and first-hand experiences from the formerly incarcerated poets featured in The Untold Story of the Real Me: Young Voices from Prison, a literary journal collecting poetry by Free Minds members and personal essays by young men who are now home from prison and overcoming the odds. Following the poetry reading, there will be a moderated discussion about causes and potential solutions to violence in our city. Panelists will include formerly incarcerated Free Minds members as well as other returning citizens who have overcome the odds. By getting everyone on the same page, we create a stronger, healthier community.

Free Minds uses books, creative writing, and peer support to awaken DC youth incarcerated as adults to their own potential. Through creative expression, job readiness training, and violence prevention outreach, these young poets achieve their education and career goals, and become powerful voices for change in the community. This mirrors the mission of PEN/Faulkner’s Writers in Schools, which works to foster an active and thoughtful next generation of readers by bringing professional writers and their recent works directly into DC classrooms for discussions about literature and life.

In the past four years, Free Minds and PEN/Faulkner have teamed up to blend these two programs, bringing Free Minds writers who are home from prison into high school classrooms to read and discuss their own poetry and experiences with local students. This evening gives Free Minds and the PEN/Faulkner Foundation the opportunity to extend this work out into the broader community.

We Can Be the Change: Voices of Incarcerated Youth is made possible by a grant from the Capitol Hill Community Foundation.

January 21st: Kseniya Melnik at Hill Center

kseniya collage


Hill Center & PEN/Faulkner Present:
Kseniya Melnik in Conversation with Lisa Page
Thursday, January 21st, 2016 at 7 p.m.
Free (reserve tickets here)

Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital
921 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20003

The next event of the 2015-16 Hill Center & PEN/Faulkner Literary Reading Series features the short story writer Kseniya Melnik.

Kseniya Melnik‘s debut book is the linked story collection Snow in May, which was short-listed for the International Dylan Thomas Prize and long-listed for the Frank O’Connor
International Short Story Award. Born in Magadan, Russia, she moved to Alaska in 1998, at the age of 15. She received her MFA from New York University. Her work has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Epoch, Esquire (Russia), Virginia Quarterly Review, Prospect (UK), and was selected for Granta’s New Voices series. She is the 2015-2016 Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Washington at The George Washington University and is at work on a novel.
 Lisa Page is the Director of Creative Writing at George Washington University. She is a longtime PEN/Faulkner board member, and past President.

“Kseniya Melnik’s beautiful Snow in May is an education in how history is routed, refracted, and reconciled inside the human heart. In sonorous, evocative prose, the triumphs and tragedies of Magadan are vividly brought to life. In 1890, Chekhov traveled to the Russian Far East—had he made the journey a century later, and gone a little farther north, these stories may well have been the result.” – Anthony Marra

November 17th: Jeff Richards at Hill Center


Hill Center & PEN/Faulkner Present:
Jeff Richards in conversation with Scott Berg
Tuesday, November 17th at 7 p.m.

Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital
921 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20003

Reserve Your Seat

The second 2015-2016 event of the Hill Center & PEN/Faulkner Literary Reading Series features local short story writer, novelist, and poet Jeff Richards in conversation with historian and nonfiction writer Scott Berg.


Open Country is a tightly woven novel-in-stories that begins and ends at the Ohio River, which divided Union from Confederacy in the Civil War. Richards takes on the war and all its bloodshed from the perspective of the average soldier, and that soldier’s family waiting at home. The novel is completely character-driven, with its characters’ fates closely intertwined. Richards’ eighteen stories range from Morgan’s Raids in Kentucky to the Fall of Richmond, but the soldiers he writes about see the war not as grand strategy but as death and destruction in painful, immediate detail.


Jeff-Richards-Photo-700x632Jeff Richards’ fiction, essays, and cowboy poetry have appeared in over 30 publications including Prick of the Spindle, The Broadkill Review, Pinch, New South, Gargoyle, and Southern Humanities Review and four anthologies such as Tales Out of School (Beacon Press). He was the fiction editor and board member of the washington review, a college teacher for many years principally at George Washington University and has also taught at the high school and elementary level. He is a native of Washington, D.C. and presently lives in Takoma Park, Maryland with his wife and two dogs.  He is collecting his published stories under the title Heart of Stone and finishing Lady Killer, a thriller about a murder in a babysitting co-op in Takoma Park.


ScottPhotoScott W. Berg is the acclaimed author of 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Frontier’s End (2012) and Grand Avenues: The Story of Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the French Visionary Who Designed Washington, D.C. (2007). Born and raised in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Scott received a BA in Architecture from the University of Minnesota, an MA in English from Miami University of Ohio, and an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University, where he now teaches nonfiction writing and literature. Scott lives in Reston, Virginia with his wife and two sons.

Jan. 29, 2014: Molly McCloskey & Lisa Page at Hill Center

Molly McCloskey (left) and Lisa Page (right)

Hill Center & PEN/Faulkner Present:
Molly McCloskey in conversation with Lisa Page
Wenesday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m.
Free (Please register for your free tickets here)

The next installment of the Hill Center & PEN/Faulkner Literary Reading Series features award-winning author Molly McCloskey in conversation with Lisa Page, Acting Director of Creative Writing, The George Washington University. 

Molly McCloskey is an American writer who has lived in Ireland since 1989. Her fiction has won the RTE Francis MacManus Award (1995) and the inaugural Fish Short Story Prize (1996). Her stories have been included in Faber & Faber’s Best New Irish Short Story anthologies. In 2009, another of her short stories, “This Isn’t Heaven” was selected by Richard Ford as one of the prize-winning stories in the 2009 Davy Byrne’s Irish Writing Award and was anthologized in Davy Byrne’s Stories. Her first work of non-fiction, a memoir concerning her brother Mike, who suffers from schizophrenia, is entitled Circles Around the Sun: In Search of a Lost Brother. It was named by The Sunday Times (UK) as its Memoir of the Year for 2011.

She is a regular contributor to the Irish Times and the Dublin Review, and has taught writing at universities in Ireland and the US, serving as Writer Fellow at Trinity College Dublin and at University College Dublin. She is currently the Jenny McKean Moore Fellow at George Washington University in Washington, DC. She has also worked in the field of international aid in the UN’s Kenya-based Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for Somalia.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Solomon’s Seal; a novella, The Beautiful Changes; and a novel, Protection. Her memoir, Circles Around the Sun, was published in 2011 to much acclaim. Man Booker Prize-winning novelist, Anne Enright, wrote of it in The Guardian:

“Every once in a while, a writer’s voice hits such a clear note, the resulting book has the kind of sweetness that makes you hold it in your hands a moment before finding a place for it on your shelves. Circles Around the Sun is this kind of book: it’s a keeper … written with great care and simplicity, it is one of those stories that waited until its writer was ready to tell it.”

Lisa Page is Acting Director of Creative Writing at George Washington University and a freelance writer based in Washington, DC. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post Book World, Playboy, Washingtonian,Savoy and the Chicago Tribune among other publications. Her essays and short stories have appeared in the anthologies, Skin Deep: Black Women and White Women Write About Race, Gravity Dancers, and Dream Me Home Safely. She is a regular guest on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show Reader’s Review. She is a member of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation’s board of directors, and its former president.

Mar. 14, 2014: Phil Klay in Conversation with Jennifer Vanderbes at Hill Center

Phil Klay and Jennifer Vanderbes


Hill Center & PEN/Faulkner Present:
A Reading by Phil Klay, author of Redeployment
in conversation with author Jennifer Vanderbes
Friday, Mar. 14 at 7 p.m.
Free (Please register for your free tickets here)

This installment of the Hill Center+PEN/Faulkner Literary Reading Series features debut author Phil Klay, who will read from and discuss his acclaimed debut story collection, Redeployment, in conversation with author Jennifer Vanderbes.

Phil Klay’s Redeployment takes readers to the front lines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there and what happened to the soldiers who returned. Interwoven with themes of brutality and faith, guilt and fear, helplessness and survival, the characters in these stories struggle to make meaning out of chaos. Klay is a graduate of Dartmouth College and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from January 2007 to February 2008 as a Public Affairs Officer. After being discharged he went to Hunter College and received an MFA. His story “Redeployment” was originally published in Granta and is included in Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, the Daily Beast, the New York Daily News, Tin House, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012.

Advance praise for Redeployment: 

Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead writes: “Phil Klay’s stories are tightly wound psychological thrillers…It’s a thrill to read a young writer so brilliantly parsing the complexities and vagaries of war.”

Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia and a recipient of the 2013 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship notes: “Klay’s writing is searing and powerful, unsparing of its characters and its readers… These stories demand and deserve our attention.”

You can follow Phil Klay on Twitter @philklay, and you can pre-order the book from Politics and Prose here

Jennifer Vanderbes is the author of the much-praised novels Easter Island, described by Washington Post book critic Ron Charles as a “gorgeous debut novel,” and Strangers at the Feast. Her just-published third novel, The Secret of Raven Point is set during World War II and incisively explores the moral ambiguities of war. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Vanderbes is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic. Read more about Vanderbes online at her website, and you can order her latest novel from Politics and Prose here


Phil Klay author photo credit: Hannah Dunphy

Episode 20: MK Asante & Lisa Page at Hill Center

MK Asante (left), BUCK book jacket (center), Lisa Page (right)

Episode 20 of the PEN/Faulkner Podcast features a Hill Center/ PEN/Faulkner Literary Reading Series event held on Sept. 17, 2013 with author MK Asante who read from and discuss his new book, BUCK: A Memoir. Asante was joined in conversation by writer Lisa Page, board member and former president of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation.

MK Asante is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, hip-hop artist, and professor of creative writing and film at Morgan State University. He received the Langston Hughes Award in 2009, and won the Jean Corrie Prize from the Academy of American Poets for his poetry collection Like Water Running Off My Back. Asante directed The Black Candle, a film he co-wrote with Maya Angelou, and he directed and produced the film 500 Years Later. ThePhiladelphia Inquirer calls Asante “a rare, remarkable talent that brings to mind the great artists of the Harlem Renaissance.”

 Lisa Page is Acting Director of Creative Writing at George Washington University and a freelance writer based in Washington, DC. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post Book WorldPlayboyWashingtonian,Savoy and the Chicago Tribune among other publications. He essays and short stories have appeared in the anthologies, Skin Deep: Black Women and White Women Write About RaceGravity Dancers, and Dream Me Home Safely. She is a regular guest on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show Reader’s Review. She is a member of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation’s board of directors, and its former president.

You can also watch a video of the reading at Hill Center’s Youtube page here.

Subscribe to the PEN/Faulkner Podcast in iTunes.

June 7th at Hill Center: Join us for a film screening & conversation with Margaret Talbot & Nell Minow

 Margaret Talbot (left), "3 on a Match" movie poster (center), and Nell Minow (right).

On June 7th at 7 p.m. at Hill Center, join New Yorker staff writer Margaret Talbot and movie critic Nell Minow for a screening of Three on a Match (1932), a quintessentially racy, hard-boiled movie from pre-Code Hollywood, the era when movie censorship was not yet in full force. Three on a Match follows three New York gal pals (Joan Blondell, Bette Davis and Ann Dvorak) from the Jazz Age to the Depression, as they find jobs, boyfriends, and for one of them, drugs and debauchery. Co-sponsored by PEN/Faulkner Foundation. This event is free and open to the public, and tickets are available by registering here

Margaret Talbot has been a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine, where she covers culture and politics, since 2003 and was formerly a Contributing Writer for The New York Times magazine. She has also written for The New Republic, The Atlantic, and other publications, and been a regular on the Slate Double X and New Yorker podcasts. Her first book, The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and my Father’s Twentieth Century, recounts the story of her father’s (stage and screen actor Lyle Talbot) exceptionally long and incredibly varied career from 1931-1960. Lyle Talbot is featured in Three on a Match.

Nell Minow has been reviewing movies as The Movie Mom since 1995. She writes about movies, television, the Internet, and parenting and reviews movies each week for Beliefnet and reviews current releases and DVDs for 20 radio stations across the US and Canada. Her articles about movies and popular culture have appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, USA Today, Family Fun, Daughters, Parents, and the Chicago Tribune, and she was Yahoo’s movie critic for six years. The second edition of her book, The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies, was published in 2004 and her most recent book is 2013’s 101 Must-See Movie Moments. She has been profiled in the New York Times, Economist, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Working Woman, CFO Magazine, Ladies Home Journal, Washingtonian Magazine, and Chicago Sun Times, and has appeared as The Movie Mom on CBS This Morning, Fox Morning News, NPR, CNN, and dozens of radio stations and received Roger Ebert’s “Thumbs Up” award for her criticism.

Photo Credits (from left): Margaret Talbot (Photo by Nina Subin, courtesy of Riverhead Books) Nell Minow (Courtesy of The Corporate Library) 

May 23rd at Hill Center: Emma Brockes in Conversation with Michel Martin

She Left Me the Gun: My Mother’s Life Before Me
Author Conversation and Book Signing with
Emma Brockes & Michel Martin

 Emma Brockes author photo


On Thursday, May 23rd, at 7 p.m., join Hill Center for a conversation with The Guardian writer Emma Brockes about her new book She Left Me the Gun: My Mother’s Life Before Me. Books will be for sale and a book signing will follow the conversation. Brockes will be joined in conversation with the host of NPR’s “Tell Me More” Michel Martin. This event is co-sponsored by the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and is free and open to the public. Register for your tickets here

Emma Brockes knew her mother Paula’s life story in broad strokes: she emigrated alone from South Africa after a tough, rural upbringing, changed her name from Pauline to Paula, lived the life of a bohemian in 1960’s London, and gave birth to her daughter Emma before her 43rd birthday. But Brockes always felt, and knew from occasional intimations from Paula, that there was more—and that in that mysterious past resided something so dark that her mother couldn’t share it with her own husband, let alone her daughter. She Left Me the Gun: My Mother’s Life Before Me is the remarkable story of Brockes’ efforts to unearth her mother’s story.

After Paula’s death, Brockes decided to travel to South Africa to meet her mother’s family and solve the mystery of her early life—sensing all along that it might be a betrayal of her mother’s wishes. What she found is the stuff of fiction: Paula’s father was a charming and handsome, but also racist, poor, drunk, violent pedophile who molested his own daughters. The young Paula even tried to kill him by shooting at him five times. In her twenties, she mustered the courage to bring sexual abuse charges against her father only to see a higher court reverse the original conviction. After Paula’s stepmother allowed her abusive husband to return home, Brockes’ mother decided to leave South Africa, blaming her exile on apartheid politics.

As Brockes dug into her mother’s past and met with her aunts, uncles and cousins, bits of her life at home began to make sense: why her mother hid jewelry and other valuables throughout the house as if always ready to flee, why she dressed Emma in clothes at least two sizes too large, why she kept a gun in her favorite hiding spot in the house. Most importantly, Brockes came to fully understand how remarkably resilient and strong her mother was: someone capable of breaking with her terrifying past, building a new life for herself in the UK, and living a happy life instead of sinking into depression and self-destruction.

She Left Me the Gun is both a wonderfully absorbing mystery and an incredibly moving memoir. Emma Brockes renders her mother’s story with grace and humor, perfectly balancing a quest for understanding Paula’s unspeakable traumas and embracing the happiness she chose for herself and her daughter.

Emma writes for the Guardian‘s Weekend magazine and has contributed to the New York Times, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle. She is the winner of two British Press Awards, Young Journalist of the Year and Feature Writer of the Year and while at Oxford won the Philip Geddes Memorial Prize for Journalism. Her book, What Would Barbra Do? How Musicals Saved My Life was serialized on the BBC and is published by Black Swan (UK) and Harper Collins (US). Her new book, She Left Me The Gun: My Mother’s Life Before Me, will be published in Spring 2013 by Faber (UK) and Penguin (US).

Michel joined NPR from ABC News, where she worked since 1992. She served as correspondent for Nightline from 1996 to 2006, reporting on such subjects as the Congressional budget battles, the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, racial profiling and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. At ABC, she also contributed to numerous programs and specials, including the network’s award-winning coverage of September 11, a documentary on the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas controversy, a critically acclaimed AIDS special and reports for the ongoing series “America in Black and White.” Michel reported for the ABC newsmagazine Day One, winning an Emmy for her coverage of the international campaign to ban the use of landmines, and was a regular panelist on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. She also hosted the 13-episode series Life 360, an innovative program partnership between Oregon Public Broadcasting and Nightline incorporating documentary film, performance and personal narrative; it aired on public television stations across the country.

PEN/Faulkner is a nonprofit literary organization that believes in deepening readers’ connection to writing and the arts through public events, in-school education, and public promotion of exceptional literary, artistic, and cultural achievement.

Emma Brockes Photo Credit: Lynn Weingarten

On the Same Page: Voices of Incarcerated Youth – April 2, 2013 at Hill Center


ON THE SAME PAGE: Voices of Incarcerated Youth

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 
7—9 p.m.
Hill Center
921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20003

Join PEN/Faulkner and Hill Center for an evening of poetry and community dialogue brought to you by Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop. Come hear formerly incarcerated youth share their experiences at the DC Jail and in federal prison and express their personal stories of change through poetry. A moderated discussion on the root causes of youth incarceration and community solutions will follow. 

Free Minds empowers DC youth incarcerated in the adult criminal justice system to write new chapters in their lives. Through weekly book club sessions at the DC Jail, teenage boys discover the power of reading and writing as tools for self-awareness, healing, and change. This mirrors the mission of PEN/Faulkner’s Writers in Schools program, which works to foster and active and thoughtful generation of readers by bringing professional writers and their recent works directly into DC classrooms for discussions about literature and life. In the past year, Free Minds and PEN/Faulkner have teamed up to merge these two programs, bringing Free Minds writers who’ve been released from prison into classrooms to read and discuss their own writing and experiences with local students. This event gives Free Minds and PEN/Faulkner the opportunity to extend this work into the broader community.

While this event is free and open to the public, guests should register for the event with Hill Center here

Hill Center / PEN/Faulkner Literary Reading Series: Susan Richards Shreve & Nicole Idar

Hill Center / PEN/Faulkner Literary Reading Series:
Susan Richards Shreve & Nicole Idar

Sunday, March 3, 2013
4 p.m. — 6 p.m.
Hill Center 

Susan Richards Shreve author photo

About the Series:

For years, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation has hosted an acclaimed reading series featuring nationally known authors at the Folger Shakespeare Library. With the launch of Hill Center/PEN/Faulkner Literary Reading Series last December, PEN/Faulkner expands and diversifies its literary programming by featuring established and emerging local authors at Hill Center.

Hill Center serves as a vibrant home for culture, education, and city life on Capitol Hill. Located at the rehabilitated Old Naval Hospital, the historic Civil War-era facility features an array of beautiful, light-filled rooms that retain historic detail with modern amenities, including high-tech audiovisual capabilities, accessibility, and environmentally-friendly construction. 

About the Authors:

Susan Richards Shreve is the author of fourteen novels, most recently You Are the Love of My Life and A Student of Living Things. She has written twenty-eight books for children. Shreve is the founder of the Master of Fine Arts Degree at George Mason University where she is a Professor of English, and a former President and present Co-Chairman of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. Among other honors and awards, she has been a Guggenheim Fellow, an NEA fellow, and a Jenny McKean Moore Fellow.

Emerging writer Nicole Idar grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Her stories have appeared in World Literature Today, Rattapallax, and The New Ohio Review, where she was a finalist for the 2009 Fiction Prize. Her first published essay won a 2012 Bethesda Magazine award. She holds an MFA in Fiction from George Mason University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Harvard University. In the spring she was an Associate Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida, and this fall, with the support of the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, she will be in residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Full Details:

Sunday, March 3rd
4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Benjamin Drummond Hall
Hill Center 
921 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20003

This event is free and open to the public, though attendees are encouraged to register here. Light refreshments will be served, and books will be available for purchase.