This blog has moved

It’s been incorporated into the main San Miguel PEN site:


Lulu Torbet


Lulu’s given name was Laura. Her family called her Lolly. But we here in San Miguel all knew her as Lulu.

She was extraordinary in almost every way. She was an unusually gifted and brilliant writer and had a long career writing both her own books and ghostwriting books for others. She wrote the books for the widely read psychologist and couples therapist, Harville Hendrix and for the well-known author of The Intimate Enemy: Dr George Bach. Those books were on the best seller lists for months and months, and Lulu wrote those books! Over her long career, she wrote thirty-six books. Continue reading

A poem for Bill Pearlman

bill_pearlmanPEN International activist Bill Pearlman died near the end  of March 2016. Here is a poem written in his memory.












“Playing Catch”
by Christopher Cook
for Bill Pearlman

I threw a baseball today and it rolled away, stopped in the grass, forlorn,
Because Bill-Wild Bill, my baseball buddy-was not there to catch it.
And now who’ll sit across the table at Martin’s Café
And volley back my comment on this, or that?
And who will send me a poem, over the transom, just because?
And who will tell me that old story about Kesey’s clownwork?
Or invite me to the theater for Saturday’s matinee?
Who will now break this sudden silence?
Who will mend this sudden break?
I stride downfield to the ball, pick
it up, nest it in my palm,
Then take one step and heave it skyward, far over the treetops,
The clouds, past the sun.
I close my eyes against the glaring light.
I wait for him catch it.

(April 6, 2016)

The Child Soldier: From the Congo to Chicago

by Nick Patricca with Katherine Kaufka Walts

The forced use of a child in armed conflicts profoundly injures the person coerced and gravely insults the idea of the dignity of a human being—an essential value of our civilization and of our self-understanding.

UNICEF estimates that more than 300,000 boys and girls under the age of 18 have been forced in over 30 conflicts worldwide to use violence against others. In these armed conflicts, children are used as soldiers, messengers, smugglers of drugs and arms, and sex slaves. Some children are forcibly recruited; others are driven to join by poverty or debt. Some are ‘recruited’ with drugs, made compliant by addiction.

In the complex interaction of violence and social systems, some children join armed groups to seek revenge for violence enacted against them or their families. ISIS has been recruiting boys as young as 10 to be suicide bombers. Nigeria’s Boko Haram has been abducting scores of young women and selling them as sex slaves as well as using boys as combatants. Continue reading

The Silencing of Writers: Saudi Arabia

Wife and children of Raif Badawi in Place D'Youville, Old City Quebec. Photo by Joanne Leedom-Ackerman

Wife and children of Raif Badawi in Place D’Youville, Old City Quebec. Photo by Joanne Leedom-Ackerman

By Nick Patricca

On the Rue Saint-Jean in the Place d’ Youville just inside the Gate to the Old City of Quebec, a young woman stands in silence with three young children at her side. A large photo of a man stands next to them. BADAWI is printed on the left side at the bottom of the portrait; on the right side is printed the logo of PEN International. The young woman — her name is Ensaf Haidar — is the mother of the three children: two girls and one boy, ranging in age from eleven to eight years old. Ensaf is the wife of Raif Badawi, the man in the large photo. These are his children. Though their French is limited – they are in exile in Quebec — the family stands patiently in the early morning mist of a balmy October day in the hope of making the world aware of Raif Badawi — the husband, the father, the writer – imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for planning a conference on human rights.

Badawi was arrested in 2012, convicted in 2013 with a sentence of 7 years in prison and 600 lashes. In 2014 Badawi’s sentence was increased to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes. In January 2015, the first 50 lashes were inflicted upon him with disastrous effects on his health. The lashings are currently on hold. Continue reading

It’s PEN time again

 Jennifer Clement, president of PEN International

Jennifer Clement, president of PEN International

By Pat Hirschl

PEN 2016 Winter Series
Tuesdays, 6 PM
Bellas Artes Auditorium
sanmiguelpen AT gmail DOT com
100 pesos

The 2016 Winter Series marks 30 years of San Miguel PEN events supporting freedom of expression around the world. Distinguished writers donate their time and talent; all proceeds go to PEN’s work, internationally and in San Miguel.

Jennifer Clement was president of Mexico City PEN when she read from her work-in-progress in 2013. The book that resulted, Prayers for the Stolen, has won numerous prizes and been translated into 23 languages. At an October meeting in Quebec, Jennifer was elected president of PEN International, with six San Miguel PEN members there to applaud. She joins a list that includes Arthur Miller and Mario Vargas Llosa.

PEN now fights not only government censorship, but also a catalog of other barriers. The 2016 PEN series reflects this reality, in its list of upcoming speakers.

Deborah Kent Stein, a writer who is blind, reports on obvious and subtle bars to full human development. Jan. 19

César Arias de la Canal reminds us that without access to pure water we cannot stay alive, much less reach the point of expressing ourselves—freely or otherwise. Feb. 23

SMA PEN delegation

PEN Protesta, Mexico City, San Miguel PEN, including Sandra Cisneros, far right

Mamie Spiegel recalls the gift from the grave of Sor Juana de la Cruz, the iconic 17th-century nun and early champion of human rights whose face is on the 200-peso note. Jan. 26

Sandra Cisneros, fabled for her chronicles of Hispanic-Americans, reads from her newly published book, A House of My Own: Stories from My Life. Her longing for home resonates with thousands of refugees around the globe. Feb. 2

Indigenous weavers from Oaxaca, whose livelihood depends on the dye from a snail in danger of extinction, tell their story of loss of home when outside forces threaten. Their mentor, a human rights activist, relates their plight to that of indigenous people everywhere. Feb. 16

César Arias de la Canal, Water, Our Indispensable Resource. Feb. 23

Lucina Kathmann, International Vice President of PEN International, and Victor Sahuatoba, San Miguel PEN

Lucina Kathmann, International Vice President of PEN International, and Victor Sahuatoba, San Miguel PEN

In a break from PEN’s often sober discussions, Mark Saunders, the self-described “wordy cartoonist with a short attention span,” opens the series. His witty talk illustrates an old truth: Humor is a sure if subtle weapon—think Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, James Thurber. This “freedom fighter with his humor sword” speaks on “Humor, the Cutting Edge” on Tuesday, January 12 at 6 PM in the Bellas Artes auditorium. The nominal 100-peso admission fee entitles the holder to a free glass of wine with dinner at Vivali’s across the street at Hernández Macias 66. More importantly, your 100 pesos helps to make freedom of expression a worldwide reality.