NEW YORK — The two main U.S. chapters of PEN, the international literary and human rights organization, are merging.

The New York-based PEN America and California-based PEN Center USA told The Associated Press on Monday that they will be called PEN America. Suzanne Nossel, currently executive director of the New York chapter, will oversee the new entity along with an expanded board of trustees that will include members from both chapters. Nossel said in a statement that the decision came out of a “shared sense of urgency” about free expression in the U.S. and overseas.

“As a unified organization with strong tent poles on both coasts and a diverse, growing community of writers and readers all across the country, we can speak out more forcefully, mobilize a wider creative community and mount a more forceful effort to defend free expression, amplify silenced voices and foster dialogue that transcends differences,” Nossel said.

Michelle Franke, executive director of PEN Center USA, said in a statement, “We are excited by the opportunities that national reach will afford to our local writers and to the scriptwriting and screenwriting communities we serve.”

The two PENs were started at different times and have operated independently of each other. PEN America was founded in 1922 and consists of some 5,700 members. PEN Center USA began in Los Angeles in 1943 and has around 900 members. The merger is set to become official March 1, pending approval from PEN Center USA members, as required by California law.

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HILLEL ITALIE
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