We enter the world without an instruction manual. Parents and teachers impart what they’re able; we intuit life lessons from Balki or Brenda or Kramer; we emulate boy bands; we grope in the dark, believing in Gawker and snark; we are failed by hipsters and the Kardashians alike. If we’re lucky, we let literature work its magic on us and take cues from the pages of our favorite books. 

Building on oral traditions, proverbs, and parables, “PEN DIY” aims to feed the genre that writers are continuing to nurture today. Imagine Herman Melville leading an event on “How to Get Your Man,” Mary Shelly leading a session on “How to Rob A Grave,” or Charles Bukowski on “How to Write a Sex Scene…for Her”? We are interested in the journey, the context and thought-process behind how you or a character undertook a task, and how you then pieced the lessons together. It will be a “Do It Yourself” life lesson without an Allen wrench. We aim to demonstrate that literature is approachable, unexpected, and ultimately, essential to understanding our lives, as well as to expand support for PEN’s mission of defending free expression. 

PEN DIY, an hour-long monthly series, will combine old-fashioned storytelling with new-fangled multi-media (maybe even PowerPoint!), culminating in audience-tested lessons on life for those keen to better navigate the world.  Some of the country’s most acclaimed writers, including Natalie Diaz, Justin Vivian Bond, and Young Jean Lee will pose as pros—channeling characters they’ve written or pulling from their own experience—to help non-experts like us learn a practical skill for living in today’s culture. The writer will guide the audience through each how-to lesson using words and pictures, music and film—all without an Allen wrench. With the guidance of host Mike Albo, the evening that will include a conversation about the intersection between literature and the rest of life, and involve the audience in a back and forth to engage those in attendance by soliciting pertinent how-to advice. 

Natalie Diaz
Monday, October 06, 2014, 8 pm, doors at 7:30 

Justin Vivian Bond
Monday, November 03, 2014, 8 pm, doors at 7:30 

Young Jean Lee
Monday, December 01, 2014, 8 pm, doors at 7:30