In a long-overdue move, the two separate PEN chapters in the US — PEN America, based in New York, with over 5,700 members, and PEN Center USA, based in Los Angeles, comprising about 900 members — will merge into a single entity going forward under the PEN America name. Suzanne Nossel, director of the New York office, will lead the newly-combined PEN America, while Michelle Franke will continue to direct the Los Angeles office. The current board of trustees, overseen by Andrew Solomon, will incorporate PEN USA’s board of directors, including chair Marvin Putnam, vp Jamie Wolf, and director Franklin Leonard. The merger has been approved by PEN’s board of directors but is still subject to a final vote by membership.
“The combination of our New York and Los Angeles offices and membership strongholds will provide tent poles on each coast, enabling us to accelerate efforts to build a truly national organization,” PEN said in a statement issued Monday morning. “The logic to join forces is compelling: we share a common mission, complementary programs, and an overlapping membership base. Together, we will be able to consolidate and strengthen administrative functions, communications capabilities, digital platforms, and membership services. In so doing, we will free up resources and energies for the continued expansion of our programs, centered on both the celebration and the defense of freedom of expression.”
According to PEN’s FAQ on the merger, PEN USA’s own separate annual literary awards will continue unchanged in 2018, however the organization “will consider how best to bring the two awards programs together, with special attention to continuing recognition of the achievements of scriptwriters and writers in the west” over the course of the year.