Literary Engagement & Activism Fund
Promote literary engagement in your community
apply to PEN America’s Literary Engagement & ACTIVISM Fund
At a juncture when communities are polarized and disengaged from one another, PEN America sees literature as a catalyst for empathy, a window into lives and contexts not our own, and a springboard for conversations that break down ideological barriers dividing our nation. The PEN America Literary Engagement & Activism Fund, part of PEN Across America, is now supporting PEN America Members and allies in communities across the country to bring writers and writing to this effort. The fund is helping local initiatives that facilitate community discourse on complex, often divisive social issues, amplify and empower the voices of marginalized communities, and share the power of literary expression. In addition to offering small grants, PEN America has experts on free expression, literary activism, and event planning ready to help.
We are currently accepting proposals for projects from individuals, organizations, and community groups to support activities that involve writing, journalism, and the literary community in promoting dialogue across difference. PEN America’s Literary Engagement & Activism Fund will provide grants of $500-$3,000 to support these activities between now and June 30, 2021.
Proposals may center on events, panel discussions and forums, campaigns, outreach efforts, educational initiatives, guest speakers, or other formats that can be effective in reaching local audiences. Priority will be given to proposals that have the potential to reach a significant and diverse audience, engage and sustain that audience over time, and facilitate partnerships with local groups and organizations. Past projects have included, for example, a town hall on the state of media truth and information access; a panel discussion on the representation of the Muslim-American experience; a reading series that spotlights work written by incarcerated individuals, laborers, and undocumented immigrant youth; and celebrations of both prominent and emerging voices in literature. We are looking to support programs that bring a range of new perspectives to urgent public cultural conversations. Apply today!
We welcome applications from anyone outside the major coastal cities (New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles). Individuals need not be affiliated with an institution to apply.
No. We encourage applications from PEN America Members, but we are also pleased to offer one year of complimentary membership to the project lead for each accepted proposal.
Potential formats include—but are not limited to—civic dialogues, town halls, film screenings, rallies, readings, trainings, awards for local activism, speaker and panel events, and petition drives. We are eager to consider creative ideas. Proposals may be for individual events, as well as sequenced programming.
Consequential Conversations – Staging panel discussion, workshops, talkbacks in conjunction with literary events or artistic performances, and community dialogues and town halls on critical public conversations.
Raising New Voices – Amplifying the richness, complexity, and diversity of experience within communities fighting stereotyped representation, especially but not only through the written word. Developing dialogue around how marginalized and targeted populations’ stories be brought forward to address issues of representation particular to specific communities.
Issue-Specific Programs – Convening advocacy leaders, local residents, and other community members to foster dialogue across multiple dimensions of differences in regions across the country. Programs could focus on a particular local issue of importance (e.g. LGBTQIA+ individuals in rural Appalachia, the specific challenges faced by undocumented immigrants, or representation in the local news landscape).
Workshop and Skills-Building Models for Underserved Populations – Creative writing and skills-building workshops for underserved populations, including incarcerated individuals, immigrants , and hourly wage workers.
Hometown Voices – Bringing well-known national writers and journalists to return to their hometowns to reflect on their work in the context of current ideological, cultural, and geographic divides.
Advocacy Training – Delivering skills-building sessions around local organizing, campaign building, and mounting public actions in support of marginalized communities and other issues.
No. We are ready to work with you to develop a project based on your initial ideas or the challenge you want to address. Please make contact via the application form. Don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected] if you are interested and need help developing your ideas.
Examples of budget line-items that could be supported through the fund include travel, honoraria, venue fees, printing and material expenses, and promotion. Specific questions about other budget line-items can be directed to [email protected].
Applicants can expect to receive a decision on their proposals within 2–4 weeks. Proposals for rapid response actions will also be considered; please indicate in your program/event description if you are requesting immediate support.
Favorably reviewed applications will include a strong argument for how the project will promote dialogue across difference within the community, well-defined metrics for success, a clearly reasoned budget, support from other local partners, ability to reach diverse constituencies, and the possibility for ongoing community engagement.
Our staff includes experts on free expression, literary activism and advocacy, publicity, and public programming who will be available to coach you as needed. We can also facilitate connections to our network and membership of more than 7,300 writers, reporters, and other individuals in the media and literary communities nationwide. In certain cases, we are also able to provide guidance on potential partnerships and promotional opportunities.