Something to Celebrate: PEN New Members Party

Nothing takes the discontent out of winter like a good Brooklyn literary party, and Wednesday night’s New Members/New Books party hosted by PEN America was no exception. powerHouse Arena was packed to the fire code limit with writers, editors, publishers, agents, and overburdened coat racks. PEN throws this party every year in honor of (you guessed it) its newest members — all 376 of them! — and books recently born into the world.

The program was short and sweet. Paul Morris, looking sharp as usual, welcomed the crowd, and each of the event’s co-hosts followed with some kind words about PEN. A few were heartfelt, like Brooklyn poet laureate Tina Chang and writer Mitchell Jackson — the latter made a direct connection between his autobiographical novel The Residue Years and the PEN Prison Writing Program. Others were equal parts earnest and hilarious, like, of course, Gary Shteyngart. “I grew up in a totalitarian society where I was not allowed to express myself,” he said. “I’m talking about Hebrew school in Queens!” And hey! B.J. Novak was there, in support of his new short story collection One More Thing. “It’s an honor to be here accepting the PEN/Faulkner award,” he deadpanned, to much giggling. Maybe one day, B.J.

Just like that, we were left to the open bar and photobooth. Inexplicably, but to great glee, there were magicians doing card tricks on the upper level. Stephen Elliott was taking audio clips for a current Kickstarter through his iPhone. The night’s playlist — curated by Lena Dunham, no less — featured Miss Miley Cyrus and the B-52s in the same ten minutes. It was business as usual, but with a little sparkle. A good omen of things to come this year in lit.

PEN in the [power]House

PEN in the [power]House

Tin House editor Emma Komlos-Hrobsky and writer of quality fiction Christopher Swetala

Tin House editor Emma Komlos-Hrobsky and writer of quality fiction Christopher Swetala

Mitchell Jackson

Mitchell Jackson

Dani Shapiro

Dani Shapiro

Aragi agent/assistant Duvall Osteen and Henry Holt editor Sarah Bowlin

Aragi agent/assistant Duvall Osteen and Henry Holt editor Sarah Bowlin

We just love a good powerHouse Arena room shot

We just love a good powerHouse Arena room shot

Paul Morris of PEN

Paul Morris of PEN

The always hilarious Gary Shteyngart

The always hilarious Gary Shteyngart

The Common’s Jennifer Acker and Katherine Hill, author of The Violet Hour

The Common’s Jennifer Acker and Katherine Hill, author of The Violet Hour

Tobias Carroll and Julia Fierro

Tobias Carroll and Julia Fierro

Thanks, Brooklyn Brewery, for being, as Paul Morris said, “the juice that makes the literary world so much more fun.”

Thanks, Brooklyn Brewery, for being, as Paul Morris said, “the juice that makes the literary world so much more fun.”

Party on the stairs

Party on the stairs

Tina Chang

Tina Chang

B.J. Novak was so great, we forgave him for not bringing Mindy Kaling as his date.

B.J. Novak was so great, we forgave him for not bringing Mindy Kaling as his date.

PEN Executive Director Suzanne Nossel (right)

PEN Executive Director Suzanne Nossel (right)

One for the mantel: PEN family photo

One for the mantel: PEN family photo

PEN New Members Party 2014_10
Assistant managing editor of Cosmopolitan M. Ryan Purdy and author of Light without Fire Scott Korb

Assistant managing editor of Cosmopolitan M. Ryan Purdy and author of Light without Fire Scott Korb

Steph Opitz and Amy Brill

Steph Opitz and Amy Brill

Sorry I put my shadow on you, Gary Shteyngart and Lorea Canales

Sorry I put my shadow on you, Gary Shteyngart and Lorea Canales

Evan Simko-Bednarski and Jimmy So

Evan Simko-Bednarski and Jimmy So

Teddy Wayne

Teddy Wayne

Jimmy So, Benjamin Samuel, Nadxi Nieto, two nice patterned scarf wearers, Stephen Elliot, Lincoln Michel, and D. Foy

Jimmy So, Benjamin Samuel, Nadxi Nieto, two nice patterned scarf wearers, Stephen Elliot, Lincoln Michel, and D. Foy

PEN New Members Party 2014_30
Caroline Shepard and Mark Binelli

Caroline Shepard and Mark Binelli

B.J. Novak and Sara Ortiz

B.J. Novak and Sara Ortiz

PEN New Members Party 2014_02

Editor’s note: Kai Twanmoh is heading west but you can always find her here. We’re grateful for her numerous contributions to The Outlet and the NYC literary scene. Thank you, Kai!

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