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PEN Out Loud: Writing the Future

This October, PEN America and the Strand Book Store presented an unmissable panel of young adult authors who are inspiring our next generation of literary activists.

Moderated by Ibi Zoboi, with Dhonielle Clayton, author of The Belles and COO of We Need Diverse Books, Joseph Bruchac, one of the most widely published Native American authors writing for children and young adults today, Emily X. R. Pan, New York Times best-selling author of The Astonishing Color of After, and Kheryn Callender, activist and author of This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story and others.

Together these writers discussed how young adult authors are working to promote a diversity of voices, causes, and stories, inspiring teen and adult readers to become more socially engaged through the work they read and the authors they follow.


Ibi Zoboi holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College. She is the editor of the forthcoming anthology Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America, the author of Pride, the forthcoming middle grade novel My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, and American Street, a National Book Award finalist and a New York Times Notable Book. You can find her online at www.ibizoboi.net.

Emily X.R Pan lives in Brooklyn, New York, but was originally born in the Midwestern United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan. She received her MFA in fiction from the NYU Creative Writing Program and is the founding editor-in-chief of Bodega Magazine. The Astonishing Color of After is her first novel.

Born and raised in St. Thomas of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Kheryn Callender is the author of Hurricane Child and This is Kind of an Epic Love Story. They received their MFA from The New School’s Writing for Children program. Kheryn is non-binary and uses the singular they/them pronoun. They’re committed to expanding diversity in children’s books.

Dhonielle Clayton is an author, a former librarian, COO of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books, and cofounder of Cake Literary, a creative kitchen whipping up decadent—and decidedly diverse—literary confections for middle grade, young adult, and women’s fiction readers. She is the author of Tiny, Pretty ThingsThe Belles, and The Everlasting Rose

Joseph Bruchac lives in the same house where he was raised in Greenfield Center, New York, in the Adirondack Mountain region. Much of his work is inspired by his Native (Abenaki) ancestry and he is an enrolled member of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuck—Abenaki Nation. Author of over 130 books in many genres and winner of numerous awards, his experiences include running a college program in a prison, teaching in Ghana, and doing wildlife rehabilitation with his wife Nicola Marae Allain.

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