(NEW YORK) — Today, PEN America announced the launch of its ninth national chapter, bringing together writers and allies in Arizona to advance the organization’s mission to defend free expression and celebrate literature.

The new Arizona chapter is an extension of the PEN Across America initiative, which includes chapters in Austin, Birmingham, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Piedmont Region, Tulsa, Utah, and Miami/South Florida.

PEN America Arizona will be led by two volunteer members:

  • Michelle Beaver is an author, journalist, and communications director. Beaver has edited fiction and nonfiction books and served as the judge of Fiction 500, a national short-story competition. Beaver has reported full-time for the Associated Press and Bay Area News Group and has won national journalism awards. For 20 years she’s freelanced for publications such as PHOENIX Magazine, The Oakland Tribune, The Mercury News, Los Angeles Review of Books, and the USA Today Network. She’s also served as editor-in-chief of five national healthcare magazines. Her forthcoming novel, Cypher Crew, is about five misfits who unite through hip-hop street dance to save Arizona’s oldest high school from getting shut down by greed.
  • Amber McCrary is a Diné poet and zinester. She is Red House Clan born for Mexican people. She received her MFA in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry at Mills College. McCrary is also the owner and founder of Abalone Mountain Press, a press dedicated to publishing Indigenous voices. She currently resides on Akimel O’odham and Piipaash lands.

“There’s a tremendous amount of literary talent in the Grand Canyon State, and PEN’s presence here is going to help unify those voices,” says PEN Arizona Chapter Leader Michelle Beaver. “Through PEN-supported campaigns and events, our camaraderie will grow. “The writers in this state may have different opinions, but all can agree on the importance of free expression and a free press. PEN’s history of supporting writers and fighting for free expression is as bright as our summer sun.”

“What I hope to accomplish for Arizona’s unique literary and free speech climate is to create opportunities for Indigenous voices to be heard regardless of color, class, sexual orientation, disability, or age,” added PEN Arizona Chapter Leader Amber McCrary.

The announcement comes in conjunction with a Pride month event, “Joys of Queerness and the Word: An Indigiqueer Reading,” co-sponsored by the PEN Arizona Chapter, along with community partners Palabras Bilingual Bookstore and Abalone Mountain Press. The event will showcase a cadre of talented, queer Native poets, including Jalen Charley, Kinsale Drake, Boderra Joe, Manny Loley, and Taté Walker. This free event will take place on June 25th, 2022 at 6:00pm MST at the Palabras Bilingual Bookstore in Phoenix, Arizona.

Headquartered in New York City and with offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., PEN America launched six initial regional chapters in October 2019, and has launched three chapters since. The growing network of chapter cities allows PEN America to engage locally across the nation by presenting writers in conversations, advocacy campaigns, public debates, and more, drawing on PEN America’s national resources and the creative energy and priorities of the local literary community. PEN America is celebrating its 100th year of free expression advocacy in 2022.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open 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. Learn more at pen.org.

Contacts: Suzanne Trimel, STrimel@PEN.org, 201-247-5057, and William Johnson, WJohnson@PEN.org, 212-334-1660