PEN America at the 2024 AWP Conference and Bookfair

This February, PEN America is proud to be a part of the 2024 Annual AWP Conference and Bookfair, which is taking place from February 7-10 at the Convention Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

The AWP Conference and Bookfair is the annual destination for writers, teachers, students, editors, and publishers of contemporary creative writing. It includes thousands of attendees, hundreds of events and bookfair exhibitors, and four days of essential literary conversation and celebration.


PEN America is thrilled to take part in this celebration of the literary community. Be sure to stop by Booth #716 to grab some swag, take a picture in front of our banned books wall, and chat with staff! See below for the full schedule of events that we are participating in this year, as well as details about our featured event, PEN Presents: Free the Books, and subsequent workshop, How to Fight Book Bans.

Stop by Booth #716 for fun activities, swag, and to chat with our staff about the work PEN America does!



Friday, February 9, 2024
10:35 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. CT
Ballroom B, Level 2, Kansas City Convention Center

In facing rising threats to the freedoms to read and imagine, PEN America convenes a dialogue with beloved writers on the recent and dramatic rise in the efforts to censor and silence Black and LGBTQIA+ perspectives.

Bestselling authors of young adult fiction and fantasy, Ryan La Sala, L.L. McKinney, Laurel Snyder, and Padma Venkatraman will be in conversation with Kasey Meehan, director of PEN America’s Freedom to Read program. Together, they will assess the impact of book banning and censorship on society and especially upon traditionally marginalized communities, as well as provide insight into how one can combat book banning at a local level.

The panel conversation will be followed by an afternoon workshop led by Kasey Meehan.


Friday, February 9, 2024
1:45 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. CT
Ballroom C, Level 2, Kansas City Convention Center

As book bans continue to mount, coordinated counterefforts to oppose book bans are essential. Writers, authors, teachers, students, publishers, editors, and institutions all have a role to play in standing up for the right to read.

This workshop with PEN America and Authors Against Book Bans will provide an overview of the book ban crisis and offer tools and talking points for engaging with your state and local elected officials and taking action to stop future censorship. You will learn how to effectively communicate in defense of the freedom to read, as well as how to identify and create strategic alliances. The workshop will be led by PEN America’s Freedom to Read program director, Kasey Meehan. Participating authors to be announced.


L.L. McKinney is an advocate for equality and inclusion in publishing. Named one of the Root’s 100 most influential African Americans and BET’s 100 entertainers and innovators of the years, she is the creator of the hashtags #PublishingPaidMe and #WhatWoCWritersHear. A lover of comics, anime, video games, sci-fi, and fantasy, she strives to push these mediums towards representation that better reflects the diverse world we live in. Her works include the Nightmare-Verse books, Nubia graphic novels through DC, Marvel’s Black Widow: Bad Blood, and more.

Kasey Meehan is the Freedom to Read Program Director at PEN America, leading initiatives to protect the right of students to freely access literature in schools. Previously, Kasey served as the Associate Director of Postsecondary Policy at a mission-driven education research organization in Philadelphia, Research for Action. Kasey’s research centers students, educators, and school leaders’ experiences in identifying strategies for reform and capturing emerging best practices and strives to connect research to policy and program change. Kasey holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a MPA from the Fels Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, along with a Certificate in Politics.

Ryan La Sala is the bestselling author of books about surreal things happening to queer people, known for his genre defying and defining YA horrors Beholder and The Honeys, which is in development to become a major motion picture with Anonymous Content. His work has been featured in The New York Times, NPR, and Entertainment Weekly. He lives in a small NYC apartment with his cat, Haunted Little Girl.

Laurel Snyder is the author of eight novels for children. She has also written many picture books, and two books of poems. She also edited an anthology of nonfiction, Half/Life: Jew-ish tales from Interfaith Homes (Soft Skull Press, 2006). A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a former Michener-Engle Fellow, Laurel has published work in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, the Utne Reader, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Revealer, Salon, The Iowa Review, American Letters and Commentary, and elsewhere. She was an occasional commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered, and she currently teaches in the MFAC program at Hamline University, and also in the creative writing department at Emory University.

Padma Venkatraman is the author of Born Behind Bars, The Bridge Home, A Time To Dance, Island’s End and Climbing the Stairs. Her work has won a Walter Dean Myers Award, Golden Kite Award, Crystal Kite Award, two Paterson Prizes, two Julia Ward Howe awards, two Nerdies, three South Asia Book Awards, ALA Notable, NYPL Best Book, and many other awards and honors. Her poetry has been published in Poetry Magazine. Before becoming an American author, Dr. Venkatraman was an oceanographer and diversity director.


Proud partner of the Awp