The Writing Institute was created in 2004 to address the fact that many young writers and artists in New York City lack access to professional writing instruction beyond the limited resources of English departments in overtaxed public high schools.

The Writing Institute provides teens with writing instruction and activities, free of charge. The Institute produces three- to five-week series of weekly writing workshops, taught by PEN Members and Associate Members. It also hosts presentations on everything from storytelling techniques to scholarship opportunities for young writers. PEN plans to coordinate trips to readings and other cultural events of interest to young writers; an anthology of Writing Institute student works is planned for the spring.

Students are accepted into the Institute based on successful application and interview. The Institute looks at applicants’ writing skills and more, seeking out students who show curiosity and the courage to try out new ideas, as well as willingness to share their ideas and encourage others.

Recent authors/lecturers

Emmeline Chang, Rita Williams-Garcia, Kirmen Uribe, Elizabeth Macklin, Angie Cruz, Monique Truong, Michael Patrick MacDonald, Regie Cabico, Colum McCann, Marina Budhos, Faith Adiele, Patricia Spears Jones, and Martha Southgate.


Open Workshops are open to the public. RSVP is required. Workshop Series enroll a maximum of 12 participants, based on application and interview.

Purpose of the Writing Institute

To provide teens with opportunities to learn about the process of writing creativity—to hear from writers how they conceive of ideas, manage ideas, work and rework their language and ideas until a solid piece of self-expression emerges—and to experiment with writers’ techniques with guidance and support from a writer/instructor.  To give young writers opportunities to work on creative skills under guidance, away from their accustomed school environment.

Participants are recommended by

New York City public high schools, family services programs, creative writing programs, literary arts enrichment programs, community service programs, after-school programs, and job readiness programs.


  • Teens, ages 14–18 years, not currently matriculated into college

Strong preference will be given to:

  • Teens living in the City of New York who enrolled in New York City public high schools

  • Teens living in the City of New York who enrolled in alternative school and job readiness programs

To be eligible for an invitation to one of these FREE workshop series, candidates must: 

  • complete and submit an application,

  • submit writing samples, and

  • be interviewed by PEN staff

Applications for 2011 are due by May 27 and reviewed on a rolling basis.

For more information, contact Stacy Leigh at (212) 334-1660 FREE  , ext. 109. 

For a Writing Institute application, please e-mail Stefanie Simons.