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How Would You Change PEN World Voices?

By Edward Nawotka

As the premier “international” literary festival in the United States, PEN World Voices has an obligation to be, well, international. But, as Chad W. Post points out in today’s feature editorial, the festival is going about it’s mission half-heartedly, trying to hedge its bets with the inclusion of big name US authors speaking in glitzy venues — just the sort of thing New Yorkers have the good fortune to be exposed to each day of the year.

I myself have never felt compelled to make a special trip to New York for the festival. Why? I can’t pinpoint one reason — but Chad lays out several that sound right to me: it’s pricey to make the trip, many of the events take place midweek (when I’m working), cost $15 or more per event (pricey) that are spread all over town (inconvenient, adding to the expense) and, for the most part, feature writers that are readily available (especially the Americans).

He also offers several recommendations to improve the event, including making it genuinely international, finding a central hub, shortening it to three days, and more. All fine proposals.

Unfortunately, he also points out that few people, other than those at PEN seem committed to seeing the festival change and improve — since so few people seem to feel a stake in its outcome. Assuming you’re a regular reader of this publication, you probably have a stake in all this. So tell us, how would you change PEN World Voices to improve it?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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One Comment

  1. Posted May 14, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    I always enjoy the events at the PEN World Voices festival. There always seems to be a spotlight on a country or region of the world, and I’d like to see a greater variety of international authors.

    With the news so focused on the economic crisis in Greece and the European Union, I would’ve loved to see a panel on how Greek writers are responding. Unemployment in Greek media has been at 25%, and Greek journalists went on strike:


    What does this say for how Greeks themselves are documenting the crisis? How are the Greek novelists and poets responding? What about the writers in Italy and Ireland, where the crisis also looms?

    Meanwhile, many children of immigrants are moving to their ancestral countries of China and India:


    I’d like to hear about this journey from memoirists. Even if they are moving to their ancestral countries, I would imagine that as Americans they experience some level of culture shock.

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