Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Why PEN America Needs You – And You Need Them

As soon as Donald Trump was elected president I donated to Planned Parenthood and joined the ACLU.  

When he was inaugurated, I joined PEN America!  

I never gave an organization $125 in one shot before – unless there was something attached to it like a dinner.  In this case, what I received back, was the good feeling of supporting an amazing organization that has been on the front lines of protecting writers and advocating for the First Amendment.  Whether you chose to join them or donate funds or to support their case, it’s important you know that such an organization exists and learn about the role they play in keeping a part of America alive that needs a lot of help now.

PEN America, the largest of over 100 centers of PEN International, has been working for over 90 years to “ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to make it possible for everyone to access the views, ideas, and literature of others."

PEN America says it “stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide.  We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.”

PEN offers not only moral inspiration and advocacy, it offers these programs and services.

·         Access to an international community of writers, editors, translators and readers.
·         Literary awards that bestow recognition and prize money.
·         Holds a festival each spring to showcase the works of writers across the globe in a multi-cultural celebration of the written word.
·         Provides a forum for authors of children’s and YA books to discuss censorship and diversity.
·         Publishers PEN America:  A Journal for Writers and Readers
·         Runs a prison writing program.
·         Provides financial assistance to professionally published writers and editors facing acute financial crisis.

To really understand the essence of PEN, look no further than an excerpt from its chapter:

“PEN stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and among all nations, and members pledge themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in their country or their community.

“PEN declares for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship in time of peace. It believes that the necessary advance of the world toward a more highly organized political and economic order renders free criticism of governments, administrations, and institutions imperative.  And since freedom implies voluntary restraint, members pledge themselves to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood and distortion of facts for political and personal ends.”

PEN America launched a toolkit for writers and readers for defending free expression.  It notes the warning signs of an emerging autocracy and of what we should be vigilantly on the watch for.  Examples of tell-tale indications that a free writer is in danger include:

·         Having a leader or government condemn the press and limit its access.
·         Limiting the freedom to gather peacefully.
·         Curtailing the freedom to criticize government.
·         Allowing or promoting the use of government surveillance of citizens, including journalists and writers.
·         Limiting transparency of government deliberations, decisions, and spending, thus making it more difficult for citizen journalists to assess government actions and participation in life.

PEN America urges all Americans to speak out and protect free expression.  It outlines a 10-step process, including these steps:

·         Lobby your representatives in Congress to protect your First Amendment rights.
·         Launch a petition.
·         Read, share, and support the writings of others that expose government abuses.
·         Educate yourself about First Amendment protections.
·         Mount or join a resistance event.
·         Protect yourself against, government surveillance or hacking.
·         Learn how to ID false news and disinformation; help others to do so.
·         Exercise your right to free speech by using the power of words to counter disinformation, hate speech, and moves against free speech.

For more information on how you can contribute to one of the most important American institutions, consult:

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.  That is all.”
--Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)

“To read without reflecting, is like eating without digesting.”
--Edmund Burke


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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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