Literary Activism and Engagement Program Manager

PEN America, a nonprofit organization at the intersection of literature and human rights, seeks a dynamic, innovative literary activism and engagement program manager to mobilize writers and their allies from cultural and civic groups to become a more potent force in shaping debates on issues of free expression and social justice, with particular focus on New York City.

This new full-time position will utilize organizing and activism strategies to deploy the cultural clout, creativity, and energy of writers to confront contemporary challenges, mount consequential campaigns, shape public discourse, and promote constructive debate. The concentration will be initially on the literary and cultural community in the New York City area, establishing and managing a coalition of literary organizations equipped with skills, tools, structure, and opportunities to engage in civic activism. The role will also work closely with the PEN Across America initiative, and draw on PEN America’s Members, partnerships among literary and human rights groups, and expertise in public programs, free expression research, and advocacy both in the United States and globally.

PEN America’s Members—more than 7,300 writers, journalists, editors, other literary professionals, and readers—share an understanding of how freedom of expression undergirds the democratic values that lead to a more just and humane world. They are also more cognizant than ever of the threats to this fundamental right, and express repeatedly the urgency of engaging as a community to respond quickly and effectively to threats and to support individuals, institutions, and policies in jeopardy. PEN America’s literary activism and engagement program manager will design and deliver a program that fulfills the appetite of the organization’s core community for activist engagement and civil mobilization by building alliances of organizations and volunteers, coordinating training in social justice issues and mobilization techniques, crafting and executing issue-oriented campaigns, planning events, developing volunteer leadership, and providing opportunities for sustained Member engagement in activism. The role will also involve developing the infrastructure, including communications tools, action plans, media contacts, and equipment, that will allow PEN America to mobilize this new coalition quickly as needed.

Applicants should demonstrate effective experience in organizing for social justice using a range of approaches and techniques, an affinity for free expression advocacy and the literary community, a strong belief in free speech principles and significant measures of energy, organization, imagination, and determination. Commitment and contacts to ensure inclusiveness and outreach to the full breadth of New York City’s diversity are essential. The successful candidate will be expected to make a quick start, conducting extensive outreach to enlist participating organizations and their leaders and constituencies, launching a program of cultural activism training, developing campaigns, and seizing opportunities for participatory activism during the first year. The position offers strong potential for professional growth within PEN America, which is significantly expanding the dimensions and reach of its programming.


  • Develop and lead new initiative mobilizing New York City writers and artists to participate as a creative community in activism on issues that connect social justice and free expression
  • Engage and equip a diverse range of cultural groups and established and emerging writers and literary professionals to participate in an activist network
  • Develop and plan focused and timely campaigns that marshal the energies of the writing community on behalf of signature free expression and social justice issues, working with PEN America’s advocacy staff
  • Design and deliver workshops on organizing and activism and the free expression context tailored to the literary and cultural community
  • Lead public mobilizations of the literary community including rallies, public events, and/or participation as partners in large scale events
  • Utilize digital organizing techniques for communications, mobilization, and activism
  • Develop written and visual content for use on PEN America communications channels
  • Creatively collaborate with other PEN America staff and programs to coordinate mobilizations with research, advocacy, public programming, Membership activities, and other organizational initiatives
  • Steward relationships with donors underwriting literary activism and contribute to developing new support

The successful candidate will demonstrate:

  • Experience in sustained coalition building for activism yielding successful results
  • Expertise in a range of organizing techniques and creative approaches to activism
  • Informed and passionate commitment to social justice and an affinity for creative expression
  • Linkages to the New York City literary or wider cultural community highly valued, but transferable experience in other arenas or geographic locations considered
  • A zeal for outreach and activism, with the ability to draw in others for common enterprise
  • Commitment to diversity and inclusiveness through proactive approaches
  • Stamina and the ability to thrive in a fast-moving work environment
  • Capacity for strategic vision as well as willingness to work at granular levels of implementation to ensure success
  • Skill sets in event management, digital media, and communications utilizing multiple platforms
  • An energized and highly organized work style, and willingness to maintain a flexible work style
  • A reputation for innovation and ability to problem solve to success
  • Excellent writing and presentation skills

Salary and Benefits: PEN America offers competitive compensation and benefits, commensurate with experience.   

To Apply: Please submit a cover letter, resume, unedited writing sample, and the contact information for three references. Please submit the entire application to [email protected]. Please use Literary Activism and Engagement Program Manager” and your name as the subject of your email (for example, “Literary Activism and Engagement Program Manager – Jane Doe”). Only complete applications will be reviewed and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

PEN America is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices and, in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

No phone calls, please.