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PEN America champions the freedom to write and works to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free 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.

Founded in 1922, PEN America is the largest of the more than 100 centers worldwide that make up the PEN International network. PEN America works to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others.

Our strength is our Membership—a nationwide community of more than 7,500 novelists, journalists, nonfiction writers, editors, poets, essayists, playwrights, publishers, translators, agents, and other writing professionals, as well as devoted readers and supporters who join with them to carry out PEN America’s mission.

PEN America, a registered 501(c)(3) organization, is headquartered in New York City, with offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. and chapters in seven regions.

PEN America was formed on April 19, 1922, in New York City and included among its founding Members writers such as Willa Cather, Eugene O’Neill, Robert Frost, Ellen Glasgow, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Robert Benchley, and, as the first president, Booth Tarkington. PEN America’s launch followed by a year the founding of PEN International in London by Catherine Amy Dawson-Scott, a British poet, playwright, and peace activist who enlisted the novelist and playwright John Galsworthy as PEN International’s first president. The intent, in the wake of World War I, was to foster international literary fellowship among writers that would transcend national and ethnic divides. PEN America subscribes to the PEN International Charter.

Our name was conceived as an acronym: Poets, Essayists, Novelists (later broadened to Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists). Over time, as Membership expanded to include a more diverse range of people involved with words and freedom of expression, those categories no longer defined who could join. Today, the “PEN” in PEN America does not represent an acronym.


As a PEN America Member, you have a unique part to play in the defense of free expression, celebration of literary excellence, amplification of marginalized voices, and the fostering of dialogue across political and ideological boundaries. We need your voices and support now more than ever. Working together, we will defend our most precious freedoms.

PEN America Members:

  • Celebrate Literary Excellence
  • Defend Free Expression
  • Protect Persecuted Writers


Professional Membership
For published or produced writers, editors, translators, dramatists, screenwriters, and other writing professionals.

Reader Membership
For anyone who advocates for the freedom to write.


  • Be part of an active and vocal community of advocates working to protect free expression worldwide.
  • Build PEN America in your community with support from PEN Across America and the Press Freedom Incentive Fund.
  • Engage with a national network of writers and receive select invitations to Members-only events in your community.
  • Get involved with our Membership committeesPrison Writing ProgramLiterary Awards Program, and more.
  • Access Members-only discounts to Times Literary Supplement, Feminist Press, n+1, and other publications and resources for writers.
  • Receive free or discounted tickets to PEN America public programs and the PEN World Voices Festival.
  • Join a closed Facebook group for PEN America Members, where you can post and share news with other Members.
  • Learn more about the Writers’ Emergency Fund, which provides financial assistance to professionally published writers and editors facing acute financial crisis.
  • Receive first access to PEN America resources that explore the impact of government policy and public sentiment on free expression and provide guidance on how to effect real change.


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Photos and videos by, or about, PEN America.