PEN America to Honor Thrill Master Stephen King for Lifelong Contributions to Literature and Commitment to Free Expression

NEW YORK, January 12 — PEN America will honor legendary suspense writer Stephen King with the 2018 PEN America Literary Service Award at its annual Literary Gala on May 22 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. PEN America confers the Literary Service Award each year to a critically-acclaimed writer whose body of work helps us understand and interpret the human condition, engendering empathy and imagination in even the darkest hours.

Stephen King is the author of more than 50 books, all of them worldwide best sellers and many—including such classics as It, The Stand, The Dark Tower, Misery, Lisey’s Story, 11/22/63, On Writing, Under the Dome, and many more—providing the basis for major motion pictures and serving as cultural hallmarks for generations. Among his many accolades are the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and the 2014 National Medal of Arts presented by Barack Obama. His depictions of horror and violence have also earned him a title as one of the most banned or challenged authors in recent decades. King is an impassioned advocate of freedom of expression, literacy, and access to information, which he and his wife Tabitha support through their philanthropy. King’s Haven Foundation also provides unique and generous support to writers and other freelancers in the arts who have suffered personal hardship. His outspoken defense against encroachments on free speech and pointed public criticism of policies that infringe on this and other rights have resulted in his being blocked by President Trump on Twitter.

Scribner will release King’s newest novel, The Outsider, on May 22, the day of the PEN America award presentation.

“No stranger to the dark side, Stephen King has inspired us to stand up to sinister forces through his rich prose, his generous philanthropy, and his outspoken defense of free expression,” said author Andrew Solomon, president of PEN America. “Stephen has fearlessly used his bully pulpit as one of our country’s best-loved writers to speak out about the mounting threats to free expression and democracy that are endemic to our times. His vivid storytelling reaches across boundaries to captivate multitudes of readers, young and old, in this country and worldwide, across the political spectrum. He helps us all to confront our demons—whether a dancing clown or a tweeting president.”

Previous Literary Service Award winners include Stephen Sondheim, J.K. Rowling, Tom Stoppard, Salman Rushdie, Toni Morrison, and Margaret Atwood.

Carolyn Reidy, President and Chief Executive Officer of Simon & Schuster, Inc., will be recognized as the annual ceremony’s Publisher Honoree. Reidy marked 10 years as CEO of Simon & Schuster, Inc., this month. Under her leadership, Simon & Schuster has published many acclaimed and award-winning works of lasting cultural significance, has greatly expanded its publishing activities in international territories, and has been an industry leader in finding new audiences through digital capabilities. Reidy has led Simon & Schuster to make substantial progress in creating a more diverse workforce and in publishing a wider range of voices that is more truly reflective of our culture today. Reidy also serves on the Boards of Directors of the Association of American Publishers and the National Book Foundation, and, as a former long-serving board member of Literacy Partners, has provided vital support to literacy programs to engender a new generation of readers and writers.

“The only woman among the top ranks of publishing CEOs, Carolyn Reidy is an icon for a generation of women in the publishing industry, known for her passion, professionalism, forcefulness, and business acumen,” said PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel. “Her singular focus on keeping books at the forefront of our national conversation has fortified the power of literature to shape democratic and humane values.”

Closer to the time of the event, PEN America will announce the recipients of two additional awards to be presented at the May 22 Literary Gala, which welcomes nearly 1000 guests in celebration and defense of free expression. The PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award shines the global spotlight on an imprisoned writer or creative artist persecuted for exercising his or her right to free expression. Previous winners include the late Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo; Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji; and Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. The PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award will recognize an individual or organization that embodies courage in self-expression. Previous winners include the Women’s March, the surviving staff of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, and Flint, Michigan, water activists Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and Lee-Anne Walters.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Sarah Edkins, Communications Director:, +1 646-779-4830