PEN President Defends Charlie Hebdo, Baltimore CityLit Festival, and More


Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—from publishing reports to academic announcements to literary dispatches—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today's stories:

Tonight is PEN American Center’s annual literary gala, and controversy over the organization’s decision to give satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo the “Freedom of Expression Courage Award” continues to grow. Over two hundred writers have signed a letter protesting the award. In an interview with Vulture, PEN president Andrew Solomon defends PEN’s decision.

Meanwhile, writers Neil Gaiman, Alison Bechdel, and Art Spiegelman have agreed to replace the writers who withdrew as table hosts at tonight’s PEN gala. Gaiman told the New York Times, “The Charlie Hebdo PEN award is for courage. The courage to work after the 2011 firebombing of the offices, the courage to put out their magazine in the face of murder. If we cannot applaud that, then we might as well go home.”

In the wake of riots and unrest following the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray, the twelfth annual Baltimore CityLit Festival went on as scheduled on May 2. The festival took place at Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library, which remained open during the riots as a community safe haven. Gregg Wilhelm, the executive director of the CityLit Festival, said he believed that “poets could lead the way in regard to having thoughtful conversations about social and economic disparities in Baltimore and other urban places in the United States.”

Publishers Weekly has partnered with NA Publishing, Inc. to digitize the entirety of the magazine’s archives. The massive project, which will be completed by 2017, aims to “provide an historical record of the advancement of the industry, with news, features, sales figures, trends, and so much more.” 

Scholars at the University of California in Berkeley recently discovered a cache of stories Mark Twain wrote as a twenty-nine-year-old newspaper worker in San Francisco. (Guardian)

James Patterson’s donation streak continues: After offering grants to bookstores in the United States and the United Kingdom, the bestselling author announced his plans to give grants totaling $100,000 to bookstores in Australia and New Zealand. (Shelf Awareness)

Literary nonprofit organization First Book announced an initiative to make diverse books accessible to low-income children. The organization has partnered with several companies including Target and JetBlue to make 60,000 trade paperbacks available to educators and programs focused on children in need. (Publishers Weekly)