Novelist Francine Prose will serve as president of PEN American Center for a second one-year term, having run unopposed for the position, the Associated Press recently reported. PEN American members will meet later this week to make the selection official.
Prose's primary goal for the organization, the American wing of the international writers' institution, is to strengthen its Readers & Writers program, which sends authors into schools and community centers in low-income areas to help foster in children and adults a relationship with literature. Sixty authors participate annually in the initiative, and Prose said that PEN American has a "huge labor pool of writers" that could potentially become involved, particularly as writers in schools whose arts funding has been cut.
Prose recently received the Edith Wharton Achievement Award from Bard College, where she is the distinguished writer in residence. Her most recent book is Reading Like a Writer (HarperCollins, 2006), and her eleventh novel will be published in the fall. At PEN, she previously served as trustee and vice president and, in 2003, she cofounded the Campaign for Core Freedoms, which addresses human rights and freedom of expression concerns that affect writers in the United States and abroad.
PEN American Center was established in 1922, following the founding of International PEN in London in 1921, and has become the largest center with a membership of 3,300 writers, editors, and translators. The organization was formed to "advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship," according to the PEN American Web site.
The center sponsors the annual PEN World Voices Festival, which will take place from April 28 to May 4 in New York City. This year's event, themed "Public Lives/Private Lives," will feature lectures, panels, and readings, with participating writers such as Umberto Eco, Ian McEwan, and Salman Rushdie.