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PEN America Los Angeles

Who We Are

In 1922, a group of American writers, including (but not limited to) Arthur Bullard, Willa Cather, Robert Frost, John Galsworthy, and Mary Heaton Vorse established the PEN American Center in New York City. In 1981, PEN Center USA West was founded in Los Angeles, with a parallel commitment to the defense of free expression and commitment to nurturing the vital literary community on the West Coast, with special programs designed to serve students and early career writers underrepresented in publishing. In 2018, as the literary community faced new challenges to free speech, press freedom, and the right to dissent, the two organizations joined forces in order to consolidate resources and respond to the moment with greater strength, together. 

Since the unification, PEN America has continued to grow into a prominent and frequently cited literary organization in the United States, with a strong history of literary programming and support for writers of all backgrounds. Today, the PEN America Los Angeles office is dedicated to implementing the full array of PEN America programs, including those that celebrate literary excellence, engage the creative community, highlight the power of the written word to transform culture, and advocate for the policies and conditions that enable artistic expression.

What We Do

PEN America’s Los Angeles office brings the full portfolio of PEN’s work and programs to Los Angeles, including:


Literary Events

PEN America Los Angeles celebrates the power of the written word by bringing together writers and readers for conversations, readings, workshops, and celebrations. 

  • PEN Out Loud: Convening vital public conversations with authors, poets, journalists, artists, and activists.
  • Emerging Voices Workshops: Offering intensive writing workshops and professional development sessions for early-career writers from communities underrepresented in publishing.
  • You Are A Writer: Presenting editors, agents, and authors for candid conversations about the writer’s life and the business of books.
  • SoCal Literary Coalition: Bringing together non-profit literary arts organizations in SoCal for mutual support, resource sharing, and mutual advocacy.
  • World Voices Festival: Uniting writers and readers to celebrate the freedom to write for all and to facilitate dialogue among international writers, artists, and activists.

Literary Community

A vital part of our Los Angeles community, we curate activities and events which specifically engages our members and their work.

  • New Year, New Books: An event to ring in the new year and celebrate the new works by our PEN America members.
  • Member Happy Hours: Quarterly mixers where members can gather with fellow writers to meet, reconnect, cheer each other on, and discuss current projects and challenges. 
  • Learning Engagements: Opportunities to engage with our local community in bilateral educational and professional development events.

Free Expression Advocacy

Our office acts as a beacon and a vessel for free expression advocacy in the Greater Los Angeles area, engaging in student advocacy, research projects, and educational events. 

  • Next Gen PEN: Student advocacy workshops and summits around the greater SoCal region 
  • Banned Books: Continuing the fight against educational censorship and book bans in California, as well as supporting the work nationwide.
  • Community Engagement: Grant programs from PEN to alleviate acute financial stress of writers across a variety of context-specific or general need issues. 
  • Regional Advocacy: Partnering with other advocacy organizations in California and nationwide, our office works to further the mission of free expression for our communities.
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Our office works on development and fundraising efforts through a variety of foundational and governmental avenues. 

  • Author’s Evenings
  • Fundraising Events
  • Institutional Fundraising


Our team works to connect the unique needs of the community of Los Angeles and greater California to PEN’s mission, serving with a freedom of expression focus that reflects and refracts the contexts and cultures of our home. We believe in the expansion of the literary world to include different geographies, backgrounds, and stories as this livens our democracy, championing free expression for all.


PEN America Author’s Evening with Gabrielle Zevin

SunDecember 102023
Authors' Evenings Los Angeles
Join us for an intimate evening with Gabrielle Zevin discussing Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow.

Earth, Water, Fire, Music: A Celebration of New Work

TueSeptember 262023
Los Angeles
Join PEN America, Second Home, and the Emerging Voices community for a reading and celebration.

News & Commentary

“Shocking Overreaction” as School District in California Closes Libraries to Hunt for Sexual Content After Complaint

“Shocking Overreaction” as School District in California Closes Libraries to Hunt for Sexual Content After Complaint

“The decision by Superintendent Rankins-Ibarra to halt all school library services in the Escondido Union School District following “the discovery” of one book alleged to be “sexually explicit” is a shocking overreaction. This censorious action undermines the freedom to read for all families in the district, a cruel irony during Banned Books Week. We call for transparency regarding this decision and the audit process, and for the reopening of all school libraries in the Escondido Union School District without delay.”
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PEN America Celebrates Agreement Between Writers and Film-TV Industry

PEN America Celebrates Agreement Between Writers and Film-TV Industry

As champions of a thriving culture and open expression, we view the work of screen and television writers as a public good that nurtures, inspires, deepens understandings, and unleashes empathy. We are grateful for a resolution that will compensate writers fairly and addresses the impact of A.I. on culture and creativity.”
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PEN America Rejects Move by Huntington Beach, CA Government to Consider a Legal Study to Restrict Books from Minors

PEN America Rejects Move by Huntington Beach, CA Government to Consider a Legal Study to Restrict Books from Minors

Elana K Arnold, one of the most frequently banned authors in the country in the first half of this school year, spoke, urging a rejection of the proposal. “When we ban books, we are declaring certain people to be unacceptable. When we ban books, we shut down conversations. When we ban books, the bullies win. This is an attack not only on authors and our books, but also on teachers, librarians, and readers. This is an assault on liberty.”
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