PEN America Responds to Open Letter Criticising Lack of Support for Gaza, Plus Your Latest Festival News

PEN America Responds to Open Letter Criticising Lack of Support for Gaza, Plus Your Latest Festival News

Festival News

The 30th annual Virginia Festival of the Book is taking place as an in-person event from March 20 to 24 2024 with a full schedule of engaging presentations and discussions for all ages and interests.


Tennessee Williams and New Orleans Literary Festival has returned to the historic French Quarter for its 38th annual celebration of contemporary literature, theatre, New Orleans culture, and, of course, Tennessee Williams. Literary, theatre, music, and cultural events take place from March 20 to  24.


Melbourne Writers Festival’s programme is now live. Outgoing artistic director Michaela Maguire has landed on the theme ‘Ghosts’ for the May 8 to 12 event. International guests include Michael Cunningham, Andrew O’Hagan, Ann Patchett, Bryan Washington, Toshikazu Kawaguchi, and Viet Thanh Nguyen. Home-grown Australian writers include Alexis Wright, Bri Lee, Tony Birch, and Christos Tsiolkas. 


Brisbane Writers Festival has launched its 2024 programme, which will be held from May 30 to June 2. Guest writers include Shelley Parker-Chan, Trent Dalton, Sara M Saleh, Remi Lai, and Melissa Lucashenko. International guests include Paul Murray and Michael Connelly.


NCG Bocas Lit Fest has released its upcoming programme, which will be held from April 25 to 28. Guests include Michael Mooleedhar, Kevin Jared Hosein, Karen Lord, and June Aming.  


Naomi Klein, Michelle Alexander, Hisham Matar, Isabella Hammad, Maaza Mengiste, Zaina Arafat, and Susan Muaddi Darraj are among the writers who have signed a damning open letter to PEN America in which they announce their decision not to participate in this year’s PEN World Voices Festival due to the organisation’s inadequate response to the unfolding genocide in Gaza. “In the context of Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza,” the letter reads, “we believe that PEN America has betrayed the organisation’s professed commitment to peace and equality for all, and to freedom and security for writers everywhere.” The letter goes on to detail the various ways in which PEN America has failed Palestinian writers and journalists—as well as their allies in the United States—since the beginning of Israel’s war on Gaza, and takes the organisation to task for declining “to join other leading human rights organisations and United Nations officials in the demands for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.” Read the letter in full.


On Wednesday this week PEN America offered an olive branch inviting writers who exited festival over Gaza to discuss ‘divergent views’ and announced “a substantial financial contribution”, believed to be about $100,000, to the Netherlands-based PEN emergency fund for distribution to Palestinian writers in what it asserts is an “expansion of existing support”. More here



Publishing News

The Guardian reports on publishing trends that emerged from the recent London Book Fair.

The National Book Foundation announces its 2024 5 Under 35 honorees.


Aspen Words announced the five finalists for the 2024 Aspen Words Literary Prize, which awards $35,000 each year to “a work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.” The shortlist was chosen by a jury consisting of Lan Samantha Chang, Christina Baker Kline, Anthony Marra, Chinelo Okparanta and Simran Jeet Singh.


The Griffin Poetry Prize – one of the world’s largest and most celebrated poetry prizes – has announced its 2024 longlist, which includes Joyce Mansour, Jorie Graham, Ben Lerner, and Ishion Hutchinson. Organisers announced that the three judges – Albert F. Moritz (Canada), Jan Wagner (Germany), and Anne Waldman (USA) – had each read 592 books of poetry, including 49 translations from 22 languages. The five-book shortlist will be announced on April 17 and the winner on June 5. The winner receives $130,000, while the other shortlisted finalists each receive $10,000.


Tommy Orange visited Millennium Art Academy, a highschool in the Bronx, after English teacher Rick Ouimet wrote a passionate letter to his publisher. Of all the classroom visits he’s made since “There There” came out in 2018, the one at Millennium Art Academy earlier this month was, Orange said later, “the most intense connection I’ve ever experienced.”


Botanical fairytale wins the Waterstones children’s book prize.

Greenwild: The World Behind the Door, by Pari Thomson is about a girl who finds a door to a magical realm while searching for her mother.


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You can explore more content via the association’s website here and discuss topics in the forum with other member festivals here.