I didn't blog about this then, but want to blog about it now, in the interest of getting something moving ...
Some weeks back, a group of local writers had a meeting with British novelist Hari Kunzru at La Bodega, Bangsar. The agenda? Setting up Malaysian PEN. (That's Hari with our Jo, left.)
It is for sure something that needs to happen ... the formation of a local chapter is long overdue in fact, and I know Malaysian writers who have joined Australian PEN and New Zealand PEN.
Okay, a bit of background for those who are scratching their heads at this point ...
PEN is the worldwide association of writers with 144 Centres in 101 Countries, and it exists to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers everywhere, to fight for freedom of expression and represent the conscience of world literature.
Members of the organisation are required to sign this charter. Writers use their skill with words to help other writers across the world, monitor human rights issues and disseminate the information they get. Projects that PEN has been involved with include providing moral support for writers in prison, speaking out against censorship, promoting women's writing, and protesting human rights abuses (e.g Hari Kunzru recently protested torture, imprisonment and disappearances in the Madives). Our own writers would have the support of an international organisation should their rights be compromised ...
There is also the social side of PEN, of course, and most centres organise a lively programme of talks, set up writing competitions and provide a much needed sense of community for writers. (Wouldn't it be nice to have something like that here?)
Hari is involved with English PEN and has promised that London would act as mentors if we were to set up a branch here.
That was where we left it. And there is where it hangs.
There was a brief flurry of emailing. Jac Kee set up a wiki. But so far there's been no meet up and we need to get together to thrash out issues and discuss how we get the society registered.
Now Hari has e-mailed from London to know what's happening.
So far, Hari, nothing. Sorry.
What do I want, then?
That the writers among you give this matter some thought - would you want to be part of this organisation?
Would you be prepared to put in time and effort to make it happen?
Could you pass on the message to other writing friends and bloggers who might want to play a part?
And I will let you know what happens next soon as I know myself.