• The Silencing of Writers: Saudi Arabia

    News and Commentary
    Wife and children of Raif Badawi in Place D'Youville, Old City Quebec. Photo by Joanne Leedom-Ackerman

    Wife and children of Raif Badawi in Place D’Youville, Old City Quebec. Photo by Joanne Leedom-Ackerman

    By Nick Patricca

    On the Rue Saint-Jean in the Place d’ Youville just inside the Gate to the Old City of Quebec, a young woman stands in silence with three young children at her side. A large photo of a man stands next to them. BADAWI is printed on the left side at the bottom of the portrait; on the right side is printed the logo of PEN International. The young woman — her name is Ensaf Haidar — is the mother of the three children: two girls and one boy, ranging in age from eleven to eight years old. Ensaf is the wife of Raif Badawi, the man in the large photo. These are his children. Though their French is limited – they are in exile in Quebec — the family stands patiently in the early morning mist of a balmy October day in the hope of making the world aware of Raif Badawi — the husband, the father, the writer – imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for planning a conference on human rights.

    Badawi was arrested in 2012, convicted in 2013 with a sentence of 7 years in prison and 600 lashes. In 2014 Badawi’s sentence was increased to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes. In January 2015, the first 50 lashes were inflicted upon him with disastrous effects on his health. The lashings are currently on hold. Continue Reading »

  • PEN Pregunta, Mexico City, February 22, 2015

    News and Commentary

    PEN Pregunta was a public protest held on 22 February 2015 in Mexico City and organised by PEN Mexico, with the participation of more than 30 authors. The writers – from Mexico and other countries – were seated alphabetically, and each given one minute to ask a question or series of questions to the Mexican authorities.

    PEN pregunta fue una protesta pública llevada a cabo el 22 de Febrero en la ciudad de Méjico, fue organizada por PEN Méjico, con la participación de más de 30 autores. Los escritores- de Méjico y otros países- se sentaron en orden alfabético, y se les dio un minuto para hacer preguntas a las autoridades mejicanas.

  • PEN protests the rise of anti-LGBTQ legislation

    News and Commentary
    Nick Patricca

    Nick Patricca

    by Nick Patricca

    At the 81st PEN World Congress this October in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, the delegates of the General Assembly of PEN International, the largest world-wide organization of professional writers, passed Resolution #20 protesting the anti-LGBTQI legislation enacted recently in 75 nation-states.

    The 250 delegates from 80 PEN Centers from 70 countries and regions of the world participated in this Congress. Resolution #20 received the support of all voting Centers. There were only three abstentions.

    The astonishingly rapid acceptance of ‘gay marriage’ and other LGBTQI rights in the U.S., Ireland, and other countries masks a most serious global backlash against LGBTQI people and their supporters.

    In her book Words Will Break Cement: the Passion of Pussy Riot ( Riverhead Books 2014 ), PEN member Masha Gessen documents how The Russian Federation restricts and punishes artistic freedom of expression for women and all other individuals and groups considered ‘anti-state.’ Continue Reading »

  • Sandra Cisneros looks back as a writer in search of home

    Sandra Cisneros looks back as a writer in search of home

    News and Commentary

    Sandra Cisneros, legendary author and San Miguel PEN member was interviewed by Jeffrey Brown on the PBS Newshour on October 29. She mentions her latest nesting place in San Miguel, since her new book, A House of My Own: Stories From My Life, is about her search for home.

    Asked about her best selling first novel, The House on Mango Street, she describes that book as her eldest child who goes out, gets a job and makes money to support the rest of the children.


    A House of My Own can be ordered on Amazon. It has been described as “poignant, honest, deeply moving, … an exuberant celebration of a life in writing lived to the fullest.”

    Sandra will have copies for sale and signing at her appearance on the stage of Bellas Artes, San Miguel on February 2nd in the 2016 San Miguel PEN series.

  • Rochelle Cashdan, an active member of PEN

    News and Commentary

    Rochelle Cashdan, an active member of PEN, died after heart surgery in Cleveland on the 22nd May.

    This is a passage from her son’s blog which you can read in its entirety here.

    ‘She moved to Guanajuato and used it as her home base the rest of her life. It’s a magical town set in a narrow valley, with the city climbing up the sides. Guanajuato is a global cultural center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with frequent concerts, visual arts exhibitions, dramas, and the largest annual performing arts festival in Latin America. Mom used her press credential as a writer for a local periodical and her blog, Mexiguana, to go to concerts, plays, and exhibits weekly. She got to see and sometimes even hang out with icons who passed through from John Cleese, to David Grossman, to Philip Glass.  Continue Reading »

  • Report on the 2015 PEN Americas Summit and PEN Pregunta

    Report on the 2015 PEN Americas Summit and PEN Pregunta

    News and Commentary

    The 2015 PEN Americas Summit took place in Mexico City from 21-26 February 2015 and included the public event PEN Pregunta.

    The Summit was attended by delegates from the three Mexican Centers (Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende and Guadalajara), PEN Guatemala, PEN Honduras, PEN Nicaragua, PEN Brazil, PEN Argentina, German PEN, Japanese PEN,  American PEN, Canadian PEN, and Mexican NGOs.

    The media covered the event and two articles appeared in Sin Embargo (the first one is here with its English translation in the Daily Kos, and you can read the second here) and another article was featured in La Jornada. Continue Reading »

  • Volunteering for San Miguel PEN

    Volunteering for San Miguel PEN

    News and Commentary

    A guest blog by Laura di Giuseppe, who volunteered for San Miguel PEN in January-February 2015.

    “I’ve always been fascinated by international literature and thought that if we only read literary works created in our own country we wouldn’t be able to understand foreign cultures.

    The importance of literature in translation and protecting minority languages brought me to PEN International, a global organisation which promotes freedom of expression worldwide.

    I’m Italian and I’ve been living in London for the past 10 years. In London I had the opportunity to graduate from a Master’s Degree in International Journalism. Surrounded by a group of international journalists coming from China, Iran, Egypt, South Africa, the US and more, I started to look into the issues of censorship, self-censorship and freedom of expression. The work I currently do for a publishing house fits with my idea of spreading the importance of literature and bringing books (in whichever format, from ebooks to audio and print) to the widest possible audience. Continue Reading »

  • Elizabeth Rosner talks in San Miguel

    News and Commentary

    Elizabeth Rosner gave a fascinating talk yesterday, February 3 in Bellas Artes auditorium as part of the PEN’s 2015 series.

    She spoke about her heritage and legacy as the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She mentioned how difficult it was for her parents – and in particular for her father – to accept that she wanted to become a writer and make a living out of telling stories. Here’s the video:

    Continue Reading »

  • San Miguel PEN presents Christine Wade

    San Miguel PEN presents Christine Wade

    News and Commentary

    Christine Wade spoke at the third PEN conference of 2015 on Jan 27th.

    Revolutions are fought, constitutions are crafted, countries are founded, and Christine’s fascinating talk tries to answer important questions: who wins? whose history do we remember and study today?

    Not ordinary folks, not women, not the indigenous, not the enslaved, not the poor. So how can we know the stories of those who don’t win?

    Drawing examples from American history and beyond, Christine Wade explains why these stories are important and how she managed to discover and research untold stories to write her book Seven Locks. Continue Reading »

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