Monday, April 27, 2009

Does PEN Support Needy Writers?

We've seen how, of PEN American Center's grants to individual writers in a recent year, more than a third of the money went to hyper-successful novelist Philip Roth. To what extent was this balanced by awards to needier writers?

In the year examined, 2007, the PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship of $5,000 went to Diane LesBecquets.

A PEN Statement reads: "The fellowship provides a writer with a measure of financial sustenance in order to make possible an extended period of time to complete a book-length work-in-progress, and to assist a writer at a crucial moment in his or her career when monetary support is particularly needed."

To what extent did Diane LesBecquets meet the criteria? Was the monetary support "particularly needed"?

A first clue is provided by the award's press release, that it's for the "forthcoming novel Genesis, to be published by Bloomsbury."

Diane LesBecquets in fact has had two novels recently published by Bloomsbury USA. Did she not receive advances; payments? Once again, what business does PEN have subsidizing a multi-national corporation? Was the extra five grand THAT "particularly needed"?

Not when you consider that LesBecquets teaches at Southern New Hampshire University and in May of '07 was named Chair of the university's undergraduate Creative Writing Program; a position presumably with tenure and a substantial salary.

Particular need? Oh, I know a few writers with particular need! They don't have tenured, high-paying jobs like Diane Lesbecquets. They're not published by international conglomerates. For them, continuing as writers in these hard economic times is a trifle more difficult.
SOMEWHERE in PEN American Center's 2007 list of literary awards must be some to needy, even outcast writers.

Aha! There it is. The "PEN/Beyond Margins Awards." Beyond margins! Five of them. These must be the literary outsiders! A mere $1,000 each; not a lot, but: something.


Stay tuned.

1 comment:

King Wenclas said...

Last night was supposed to have been the big PEN gala celebration. I hope they enjoyed the high-priced dinner. Meanwhile, our economy continues to collapse.
I have to say, the hypocrisy of the people who attended the event is staggering. They celebrate dissident writers in China at the same time they work against, and shut out, dissident writers HERE. The contradictions never occur to them. The fact is that many many many American writers fear signing the Petition to PEN I started. Writers fear speaking up about it. Those who do speak up about corruption in OUR literary system, such as myself, are completely marginalized. De facto censorship in THIS society is alive and well, folks.
But I hope the wealthy New Yorkers and their writer acolytes enjoyed their gala. . . .