Director - World Voices Festival of International Literature, PEN America, New York, NY

Director - World Voices Festival of International Literature, PEN America, New York, NY Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan/PEN America

Applications for this position are now closed.  

PEN America works at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. The organization’s mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Founded in 1922 and headquartered in New York City, PEN America has a nationwide membership of more than 4,000 novelists, non-fiction writers, journalists, editors, poets, essayists, playwrights, publishers, translators, agents, and other literature professionals and enthusiasts.

PEN America is the largest of the more than 100 centers globally that form PEN International, which operates from a London secretariat to emphasize the role of literature in the development of mutual understanding and world culture and act as a voice on behalf of writers harassed, imprisoned, and sometimes killed for their views. 

The PEN America World Voices Festival of International Literature was inaugurated in 2005 under the leadership of Salman Rushdie, then President of PEN America. The week-long event is the United States’ largest international literary festival and the only one with a human rights focus.  The Festival embodies PEN America’s mission by demonstrating the power of literature to bridge cultural divisions, bringing important new voices to a global audience and advancing a more nuanced understanding of pressing global issues. Each year, the Festival brings together more than 100 writers from dozens of countries for more than 50 events, performances, lectures, tributes, readings, and conversations in leading New York City venues. Over its course, the Festival has featured such literary luminaries as Nadine Gordimer, Toni Morrison, Orhan Pamuk, Umberto Eco, Ian McEwan, and Mario Vargas Llosa. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was the co-curator of the 2015 Festival, and Roxane Gay delivered the culminating Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture at the 2016 Festival. 

Other important areas of PEN America’s work include:>

• Free Expression Research, Advocacy and Assistance initiatives to advance free expression rights in the United States and around the world and to defend writers and others at risk for exercising those rights.

• The country’s most comprehensive Literary Awards program conferring more than $300,000 in prizes to writers in the fields of fiction, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, translation, drama, and poetry.

• An ambitious Public Programs schedule bringing forward important voices from literature, journalism, politics, and the arts.

• A Prison Writing Program providing one-on-one mentoring to incarcerated writers and an annual writing contest.

• Membership activities engaging segments of PEN America’s constituency, including a Translation Committee that fosters wider understanding of the literary translators’ art and offers professional resources and support, and the Children’s/Young Adult Book Authors Committee.

More information on PEN America’s history, its charter, and current activities can be found on its website at


PEN America is led by Executive Director Suzanne Nossel. Nossel came to the organization in 2013 with a strong background in human rights leadership and has helped guide PEN America forward in its continuing growth and reach. The organization is keenly interested in programming work that succeeds in having the greatest possible impact on the largest number of people. Internally within the organization, the World Voices Festival is regarded as a primary vehicle that can bring greater exposure to PEN America’s mission. The organization is governed by a Board of Trustees, including writers, publishers, journalists, academics, and leaders from the arts, business, and philanthropic communities. 


The World Voices Festival of International Literature is a signature program of PEN America. The Festival embodies PEN America’s mission by demonstrating the power of literature to forge cultural ties, introducing new voices to a global audience, and advancing a more nuanced understanding of pressing world issues. PEN World Voices Festival has become one of the premier international writers’ festivals and each year brings together more than 100 writers from dozens of countries for 50-plus events, performances, lectures, tributes, readings, and conversations in leading New York City venues across the five boroughs. The Festival typically attracts more than 10,000 attendees to live events and engages thousands more online and through social media. The Festival is supported by an extensive array of public, private, institutional, and individual sponsors, including major New York cultural organizations, foundations, corporations, publishers, literary periodicals, universities, and federal and state arts agencies.

The Festival runs on an annual program budget of approximately $800,000 of the organization’s overall annual operating budget of more than $5 million. The current staffing structure for administration of the World Voices Festival includes the Festival’s Director and a full-time General Manager. The Festival also draws on the support of PEN America’s communications, development, and finance teams and other members of its staff of about 30. The Festival team is also augmented by independent consultants and seasonal support staff. Until the new Director is placed, a curatorial committee of experts in world literature is programming the 2017 Festival.


The Director of the World Voices Festival of International Literature will provide the artistic vision, curatorial expertise, and program execution for the Festival. Reporting to PEN America’s Executive Director, the Director of the World Voices Festival will work in collaboration with the Festival General Manager and with input and engagement by PEN America staff, Trustees, members, and partners to develop and execute a strategy to enable the Festival to build on its strong foundation while becoming an even more visible and consequential fixture in the cultural landscape both within and beyond New York City. The next Director of the World Voices Festival of International Literature will have the chance to continue to advance the Festival as the largest international literature event in the United States while integrating all its activities with PEN America’s overall programming.


The Director of the World Voices Festival will be responsible for proposing and executing a full slate of programs and events incorporating PEN America’s commitment to celebrating literature and the defense of freedom of expression. Envisioning and crafting the Festival’s annual theme and identifying and engaging a dynamic range of participants and presentation formats that will draw significant audiences are key components of the Director’s overall curatorial leadership. The Director will work in close partnership with and lend support to the General Manager, whose role focuses on project management, financial tracking, operations, fund-raising, marketing and sales/audience development. The Director of the World Voices Festival will embrace a spirit of collaboration inside and outside of PEN America to ensure that the Festival meets PEN America’s whole institutional strategic and programmatic goals.



• Formulate the shape of the Festival, weaving in themes from PEN America’s programming, including free expression and year-round public programs.

• Develop Festival programs that command significant and expanding interest among audience-goers, cultural influencers, and the media.

• Delve deeply into international literary circles to identify and amplify compelling and original new voices from around the world.

• Research, identify, and secure writers for the Festival in consultation with publishers, cultural agencies, agents, and the writers themselves.

• Conceive the intellectual content and format for Festival programs, either by curating individual events, by curating in collaboration with staff and partners, or by securing appropriate curators and pro-actively preparing Festival authors to effectively address event topics and themes in relationship to their own work and experience.

• Work with General Manager to identify and secure suitable venues for the Festival and negotiate terms; adhere to project management timelines and budgets; and ensure all operations are successfully managed and institutional goals are successfully met.

• Collaborate with the General Manager, Festival consultants, and PEN America communications and development teams on compelling messaging and positioning for the Festival and individual events to be used in marketing collateral, social media presence, and donor cultivation.

Network Building, Fundraising, and Budgeting 

• Work with the General Manager to adhere to budget parameters and support the creation of accurate and up-to-date forecasts and reports.

• Support fundraising cultivation by providing information and ideas that can ensure timely development of compelling programming proposals and plans that can secure funding; creating compelling written descriptions and justifications for Festival programs.

• Serve as a PEN America ambassador directly engaging institutional and individual funders, and identifying and securing new sponsorships.

• Forge effective, collaborative, transparent working relationships across the PEN America staff, committees, and global network.

• Maintain solid, mutually supportive relationships with a wide breadth of literary, cultural, and presenting organizations across New York City.

• Collaborate to provide accurate, in-depth, and compelling marketing and donor reporting.

Strategy and Growth

• Devise plans that build PEN America’s visibility, reach, and impact through the Festival. 

• Serve as a liaison and public ambassador for PEN America and the Festival to strengthen the local, national, and international brand.

• Oversee PEN America’s year-round public programming activities, collaborating with the Deputy Director for Public Programing to develop innovative ways to connect the Festival to these programs.

• Collaborate with General Manager to identify and secure new partnerships that bring the Festival to larger and more diverse audiences as well as identify and implement new marketing, donor, audience development and public relations strategies.

• Collaborate to secure expanded and more in-depth media coverage.

• Take on new and expanded responsibilities as assigned.

• Participate in Festival assessment and evaluation to inform planning for future Festivals.


PEN America is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices and, in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool. The ideal candidate will have the following:

• Strong understanding of and passion for contemporary international literature and authors, including literature in translation.

• Deep personal contacts among authors and publishers, in the wider literary world, and other artistic disciplines.

• Substantial artistic and managerial experience in conceiving and producing public literary, artistic, or comparable public programs and events, with premium qualification attached to cultural or arts festival experience on a similar scale and to experience presenting in New York City.

• Readiness to build on the strengths of past Festivals and programs, and the demonstrated imagination and ingenuity to create new ways to advance the Festival.

• Willingness to support PEN America’s organizational goals through the Festival.

• Demonstrated ability to animate the imagination and interests of multiple audiences for cultural programs.

• Experience within the New York City cultural landscape strongly preferred.

• Track record in effectively mobilizing funds and sponsorship.

• Collaborative, transparent, team-oriented approach and proven ability to work within an organization.

• Ability to multi-task and respond swiftly and under pressure in a fast-paced environment.

• Ability to write well and to speak articulately and persuasively.

• Ability to lead and motivate a team of staff and volunteers.

• Excellent skills in working with others, diplomatically and effectively.

The ideal candidate will also possess the following characteristics: 

• A positive attitude.

• A strong attention to detail.

• A compelling sense of collaborative leadership.

• A keen sense of humor.

• A strong work ethic.

• Ability to derive deep satisfaction from facilitating the best work of others.

• A desire to live and work in New York City.


The salary for this position will be competitive with other non-profit organizations of comparable stature and size. A generous benefits package includes the following:

• Health, Rx, dental and vision insurance;

• Life, AD&D, short-term and long-term disability insurance;

• IRC 125 Cafeteria Plan Flexible Spending Account;

• 403b (with PEN matching contribution after one year);

• Paid vacation, sick time and holidays.

PEN America hopes to make its decision by early 2017 with the successful candidate onsite as soon as possible thereafter. Recommendations of qualified individuals are welcome. Interested candidates are invited to send a résumé or CV, cover letter, salary history and at least three professional references to the consulting firm retained to facilitate this important search:

Management Consultants for the Arts, Inc.
Attn: David Mallette or Jonathan West

Email only:     This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Subject Line:     PEN America/Director, World Voices

Last modified on Friday, 17 March 2017 09:22