Our partnership with PEN International: a perfect match

Monday, 19 March 2018

As many of our supporters already know, the profits from A Definition of Snow will not be going to our writers or team when the book is finished. When our fifteen writers decided to record their stories, they didn't want to make money from them, but instead to make their voices heard, and similarly, our team work on a voluntary basis. From writing to project coordination, translation to web design, we work on the project in order to help bring the writers' stories to life. In fact, this has been so important to us that one of our seven core principles is non-profitability - any money we receive simply goes to fund the continuation of our project. This will be true of our book too: all those who contribute to the crowd-funding simply cover the costs to allow us to publish. However, there was also the question of what to do if more readers chose to buy copies after the book was finished, and how to make sure the profits we received from book sales were used in the best possible way.

For all of us, the main aim of VOICE is simple: to project unheard voices. As part of that aim, we have found ourselves sometimes developing our project in surprising ways that have gone beyond our original expectations. A large part of our work, for example, is now our Connect project, which links our writers and their organisations with supporters and each other, and carries out activities with the wider community. This has resulted, to give just one example, in a series of First Aid courses for refugees run in partnership with the Red Cross. Although we are a small organisation, we wish to create these kinds of meaningful connections in whatever way possible. So as part of our aim of projecting unheard voices in more than just one way, we've decided to do something quite special with any profits we make from A Definition of Snow. We've decided to donate them to an organisation which works to project voices in over a hundred countries around the world, and which has agreed to partner with us to help bring our book to readers: PEN International, which has been championing writing, stories and freedom of speech around the world for almost a hundred years.

Founded in London in 1921, PEN was one of the world's first human rights organisations and began as a committee of like-minded writers who wanted to develop friendships with their colleagues around the world, regardless of politics, background or nationality. It quickly grew, and soon became not just a space for writers to meet and support each other, but one of the most important organisations advocating and campaigning in situations where the ability to write or share stories freely was threatened, or where individuals were in danger because of the words they had written or the ideas they had expressed. Nowadays, PEN works to support literature, education, and the freedom to write and read in over a hundred countries around the world, most of them non-European - including all the countries our writers come from.

So why did we choose to support PEN? First, because its tireless work projecting unheard voices and standing up for those who have been persecuted aligns perfectly with the aim of our own project. Secondly, because PEN works worldwide, in all of our writers' countries. Thirdly, because PEN's commitment to values like fairness, tolerance, respect and political independence matches our own seven founding principles and the values which led our writers to record their stories in the first place. By partnering with PEN we hope that our book, as well as projecting our own writers' voices, can also continue to help project other unheard voices long after it's published in a powerful way, by raising funds for PEN to continue its work.

Like the members of PEN who have worked over the past hundred years to free imprisoned writers, speak out about political injustices, and widen the borders of literature, we at VOICE believe that the freedom to share a story can change lives. We're sure that you, our first supporters, committed readers who have already done so much to help our writers project their voices to the world, feel the same way!

With very best wishes,

Catherine, VOICE writing advisor

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