Wednesday, October 23, 2013

PEN Literary Awards Festival

Imagine a room filled with more than 300 writers representing genres ranging from fiction, poetry, and graphic novels, to screenplays, teleplays and research nonfiction, to journalism, translation, drama, creative nonfiction and children’s/young adult literature. On October 14, 2013, I attended the 23rd Annual PEN Literary Awards Festival at the Beverly Hills Hotel in California with my friend and fellow author Gretchen Woelfle, one of the judges this year for the Children’s/Young Adult Award.
We sat with the winner, Michael Harmon, the author of the novel Under the Bridge (Knopf Books for Young Readers) and as we ate our delicious dinner listened to him and the other authors accept their awards.  The evening also included awards given for lifetime achievement (Joan Didion), the First Amendment (Chris Hedges) freedom to write (Sonia Nassery Cole) and award of honor (Kickstarter.) 
The program began with a surprise speech by Governor Jerry Brown, standing in for Joan Didion, who couldn’t come at the last moment.  I was sorry not to hear Joan Didion, a writer I have long admired, but the governor was an appropriate choice in that both of them have long associations with Sacramento and have known one another for a long time.  Later in the program we saw a short video interview with Joan Didion.
I am proud to be a member of PEN USA whose mission is to “stimulate and maintain interest in the written word, to foster a vital literary culture, and to defend the freedom of expression domestically and internationally.”  To learn about the many activities of this fine organization go to the PEN USA website.

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