Festival Programs Manager

This fellowship position is available only through the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program, an initiative administered by the American Council of Learned Societies. You may not contact PEN America to inquire about this position. All applications must be submitted through the ACLS online application system (ofa.acls.org). The application deadline is March 13, 2019, 9 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

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.

The Literary Programs team at PEN America presents public event programming throughout the year that celebrates artistic excellence, defends free expression, and promotes discourse. The flagship program is the World Voices Festival of International Literature, a week of more than 60 events held every Spring in New York City. Launched by Salman Rushdie in the aftermath of September 11, the Festival celebrates its fifteenth anniversary in 2019 as a powerful testament to its mission to celebrate the best of world literature and combat cultural isolationism. There are expansion plans for the coming years that would tour parts of the Festival to other locations across the United States. The department also runs the PEN America Literary Awards, conveying more than $350,000 in prizes annually to prominent and emerging writers, poets, and translators, as well as events throughout the year, including series such as PEN Out Loud, Conversations of Consequence, and Summer Salons. Learn more at PEN.org.


The Festival programs manager will curate programming and develop audience engagement for the annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature and other events on the PEN America schedule. The manager will be involved in all aspects of designing programming that attracts an increasingly diverse public in New York City and for satellite events in communities across the country. The position reports to the senior director of literary programs/director, PEN World Voices Festival.

The manager will identify a vibrant range of ideas and presentation formats as well as participants who will draw significant audiences for events that seed the wider public conversation about literature, and pressing social, political, and moral issues. The manager also will develop partnerships with affiliated organizations to grow and diversify PEN America audiences. This will involve working with prominent literary figures and public intellectuals, as well as recognizing new voices that bring dynamic creativity and thinking to conversations of immediacy. Working closely with colleagues in Literary Programs, the manager will also participate in fundraising efforts, primarily through grant applications, in ensuring initiatives are grounded in good production practices, and in meeting budgetary requirements.

Key duties and responsibilities:

Festival and Public Program Curation

  • Develop events that reflect the PEN America mission and command significant and expanding interest among audience-goers, cultural influencers, and the media;
  • Conceive the intellectual content and format for festival programs, expanding the variety of events and the diversity of participants;
  • Delve deeply into international literary circles to identify and amplify compelling and original new voices from around the world;
  • Research, identify, and secure writers for the festival in consultation with publishers, cultural agencies, agents, partner organizations, and the writers themselves;
  • Assist in ensuring Festival events are fully prepared and produced with sophistication;
  • Work with the festival director and general manager to ensure logistical and production aspects of the Festival are completed according to agreed timelines and budget parameters; and
  • Collaborate with the festival director, general manager, the communications and development teams, and media consultants on compelling messaging and positioning for the Festival and individual events to be used in marketing, press outreach, social media, and donor cultivation.

Fundraising and Growth

  • Identify and assist in securing institutional and individual funders, sponsors, partners, and other sources of revenue or in-kind support to grow the programming budgets; and
  • Assist in developing cogent and compelling funding proposals related to the Festival, including in response to calls for proposals by institutional and government funders.



  • PhD in the humanities or humanistic social sciences;
  • Deep desire to broaden American intellectual and cultural horizons through increasing exposure to literary work and ideas produced outside the United States, alongside a deep commitment to defending free expression in the United States and internationally;
  • Strong passion for public debate and engagement around the issues of concern to PEN America and a knack for conceiving creative ways to present them;
  • Readiness to build on the strengths of past festivals and the imagination and ingenuity to create new ways to advance the Festival;
  • Absolute commitment to diversity in Festival and event participants, themes, and audiences;
  • Collaborative, transparent, team-oriented approach;
  • Ability to multitask and respond swiftly and under pressure in a fast-paced environment; and
  • Extraordinary writing skills and ability to speak articulately and persuasively.


  • Ability to read literature produced in at least one language other than English; and
  • International contacts that will assist PEN America in surfacing emerging literary talent.


  • Information on the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Program: www.acls.org/programs/publicfellows
  • All applications must be submitted through the ACLS online application system (ofa.acls.org)
  • Application deadline: March 13, 2019, 9 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time

This fellowship position is available only through the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program, an initiative administered by the American Council of Learned Societies. You may not contact the host institution to inquire about this position.