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Fairly Unbalanced: Writing Political Satire in the 21st Century

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Date and time
Sunday, June 14, 2009

PEN New England and Cambridge Forum present a discussion of the power and the pitfalls of writing in the age of Jon Stewart and Al Franken. PEN also presents the 2009 Vasyl Stus Freedom to Write Award to Nurmuhemmet Yasin, whose satirical story "Wild Pigeon" Chinese authorities considered critical of their presence in the Xinjiang Uighur Region. After a closed trial in 2005 at which he was denied a lawyer, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The award is named in honor of Vasyl Stus, the leading Ukrainian poet of his generation and the last poet to die in a Soviet gulag, and is awarded to Yasin *in absentia*. PEN New England is one of five regional branches of PEN America Center, which in turn is part of International PEN, the only worldwide organization of writing professionals and the world's first human rights organization. PEN's mission is to promote literacy and a culture of literature, and to defend free expression everywhere.

Jimmy Tingle, proudly born in working class Cambridge, broke into Boston's legendary stand-up scene in the 1980's and quickly moved to paid gigs. His many TV credits include two seasons on CBS's *60 Minutes II*, and co-starring in *PBS Travels*. He is the only Boston performer who has worn the Best of Boston award as both performer and producer. Jimmy Tingle's *Uncommon Sense: The Education of an American Comic* became the longest running one-person show at the Hasty Pudding Club. His most recent CD is *Humor for Humanity: Jimmy Tingle for President: The Funniest Campaign in History*.
Elizabeth Searle is the author of three books of fiction: *Celebrities in Disgrace*, a novella that *The New York Times Book Review* called "a miniature masterpiece"; *A Four-Sided Bed*, a novel nominated for an American Library Association Book Award and *My Body To You*, a story collection that won the Iowa Short Fiction Prize. Her most recent work is *Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera*.
Percival Everett is a distinguished professor of English at USC and author of 16 books, including the 2009 publication of *I Am Not Sidney Poitier*, three collections of short fiction, and two volumes of poetry. His many awards include the PEN Center USA Award for Fiction and the Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Baron Wormser, while working as a librarian and writing poetry for 25 years, lived with his family in Mercer Maine, in an off-the-grid house on 48 acres. His memoir, *The Road Washes Out in the Spring: A Poet's Memoir of Living Off the Grid* concerns that experience. He was Poet Laureate of Maine. He now lives in Vermont. Since 2002 he has taught at the University of Southern Maine MFA program. He is author of eight poetry books and three books of prose.
Lise Haines is author of three books, including her most recent, *Small Acts of Sex and Electricity*. She has been a writer in residence at Emerson College and has served as the prestigious Briggs-Copeland Lecturer at Harvard. She has been a finalist in the PEN Nelson Algren Awards and the Paterson Fiction Prize.
Teddy Sherrill is an analyst at OpenView Venture Partners responsible for the identification and qualification of investment opportunities. Prior to joining OpenView, Edward worked as a researcher for the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School. He had previously worked as a software engineer for *The Princeton Review*, where he helped develop next-generational educational software in their TechDev R&D group. Edward has also served as director of advertising at the Harvard Lampoon.
Richard Hoffman is author of Half the House: a Memoir, and the poetry collections, Without Paradise and Gold Star Road, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize. His work, both verse and prose, has appeared in Agni, Ascent, Harvard Review, Hudson Review,Poetry, Witness and other magazines. He has been awarded several fellowships and prizes, most recently a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship in fiction, and The Literary Review's Charles Angoff Prize for the essay. He is currently Writer-in-Resident at Emerson College.