Monday, February 6, 2017

Interview With PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel

1.      Suzanne, what do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments at PEN America since you become the executive director in 2013? Growing the organization's membership by more than 50 percent, issuing more than a dozen original reports on free expression issues, building our advocacy reach and impact in Washington, in the media and globally

2.      Could you have envisioned, just four years ago, how different the climate for the arts, media, and free speech would be for America today? I don't think anyone could have imagined the extent to which threats that we are accustomed to addressing around the world now confront us here at home.  

3.      How can writers, publishers, authors support the efforts of PEN America? We urge writers, publishers and editors and to join PEN America‎, take part in our advocacy actions, attend our events, build our community, offer their ideas and lend their voices to our work. For those who are already members now is the time to become more active. For those in a position to help, financial contributions are essential to enabling us to scale up our work to meet the challenges of the moment.

4.      What role does PEN America fulfill in comparison to other leading organizations that serve writers and the publishing community? We are the only organization at the intersection of literature and human rights. PEN America is the organization that serves as a conscience of writers, uniting them in service of ideals that transcend individual careers and create common purpose across genres and borders. We are at the forefront of mobilizing writer-activists to rise to this pivotal political moment, as we have done for decades and all over the world.  

5.      You’ve relentlessly supported the rights of others seeking freedom, including a stint at the U.S. State Department, work with the UN and serving as the executive director of Amnesty International.  How did those experiences prepare you for serving PEN’s mission? I draw daily on my past experiences as an advocate, an organizer, a policy analyst, a manager and an organization builder.

6.      You grew up in Westchester, NY and now reside in Manhattan.  As the Jewish granddaughter of Nazi Germany refugees, what does free speech mean to you? For me free speech is first among equals when it comes to human rights in that‎ the ability to champion women's rights, immigrant rights, LGBT rights, racial justice, environmental protection and all other causes hinges on the freedom to speak out without fear of reprisal.

7.      What are the biggest issues confronting writers in America today? For PEN America central issues include press freedom, the erosion of respect for truth, threats to support for the arts and humanities, hate speech, and the imperative of amplifying voices that some now seek to silence or marginalize.

8.      How does the massive overload of free digital content help or hurt writers today? It's a blessing and a curse. The barriers to entry for writer have been lowered but earning a steady living has become much harder. We now also see a conflation of legitimate and fake news sources and challenges reaching beyond existing self-selected audiences toward new communities of readers.

9.      What can or should the government do to fund or protect writers today? The government should back off its threats and intimidation of journalists, re‎spect the role of the press and continue to find the arts without politicization.

10.  How does PEN America fit in with the 100+ member organizations under PEN International? We operate as a loose federation, coordinating whenever possible to join our voices.

For more information, please consult 


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

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