NEW YORK—PEN America is embarking on an ambitious expansion of its programming centered on bolstering defense of press freedom across the country. Writers, journalists, readers and other members of PEN America and their allies interested in defending press freedom, sparking informed debate, and elevating less-heard voices can apply for grants and support as part of the new PEN Across America initiative and its cornerstone Press Freedom Incentive Fund.  

PEN Across America responds to mounting threats to a free press and other free expression rights that are the foundation of our democracy. As an organization working at the intersection of literature and free expression, PEN America and its over 7,000 members across the country have a vital role to play in deepening their communities’ understanding of the role of a robust media in empowered civic life and mobilizing to defend news outlets, journalism, and the very concept of an independent press.

The Press Freedom Incentive Fund, first opened in 2017 and already active with PEN America communities in more than 20 cities, is open again to provide resources, research, and expertise for a vibrant array of press freedom actions, including incisive public forums on how responsible journalism is done to research on “news deserts” and campaigns for news literacy. These efforts are set in the enlarged PEN Across America initiative to bring the full range of PEN America’s literary events with prominent and emerging writers, provocative Conversations of Consequence, campaigns for writers under threat, an upcoming series celebrating censored and challenged works as part of Banned Books Week starting September 23, and other programming to more communities across the country.

“At a time when our shared values are being questioned and threatened, our Members and allies are rising to the challenge and engaging their local communities to defend the pillars of our democracy,” said Katie Zanecchia, PEN America National Outreach Program Director. “In a difficult, even directly hostile, landscape for press freedom, PEN America’s constituents are shaping the conversation in regions across the country and we’re proud to be able to offer support for their visions.”

In its pilot year starting in 2017, the Press Freedom Incentive Fund supported initiatives by members, writers, and activists in more than 20 cities and regions and across divisions of ideology and experience to galvanize communities  ready to defend press freedom, helping to strengthen the national constituency behind this critical cause. Using grants from the fund coupled with research, expert speakers, and support from PEN America’s New York City headquarters and offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., long-standing and newly joined members are mobilizing to demand and defend an independent and robust press as a foundation of democracy.

“During the first year of the program, PEN America Members hosted discussions, organized public actions, forged partnerships with local media, and so much more,” said Rebecca Stump, PEN America Director of Membership. “Our Members are front and center of activism to defend free expression, and we can’t wait to see what next year’s roster of engaging, enthusiastic, and impactful activities will bring.”

This initiative is undertaken with the generous support of the Democracy Fund, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Compton Foundation. PEN America is currently accepting proposals for projects and activities scheduled between now and March 31, 2019. More information and the application are available here.


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.

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: