Writers, journalists and publishers filled the Crystal Ballroom at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Monday night for the PEN Center USA’s 22nd annual Literary Awards Festival. The event — long on understated clothes, short on excessive facial surgery — honored journalists Robert Scheer and Lara Logan, publisher Morgan Entrekin and author Joyce Carol Oates.
In accepting the group’s First Amendment honor, Scheer — the host of KCRW’s Left, Right & Center — warned readers to “keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out,” while recounting his own long, varied career as a journalist. Entrekin, recognized with the Award of Honor, and Lifetime Achievement honoree Oates were also on hand, while Emily Mortimer of HBO’s The Newsroom paid tribute to CBS reporter Logan, who was given the Freedom to Write award but was out on assignment.
The PEN Center USA, established in 1982 works to protect the rights of writers and to promote an active literary community. Faces in the crowd included actress and new novelist Molly Ringwald, writer Kenneth Turan and artist Chuck Close.
Ringwald and husband Panio Gianopoulos arrived as Entrekin’s guests. “I am so touched with how embraced I’ve felt by the literary community,” she said regarding her fiction debut, When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories, about the interconnected lives of Los Angeles family and their friends. As far as the difference between acting and writing, “I find that very challenging! Though I have been writing for years and years, it’s not the same as the reaction you get on a set. You don’t get that feedback as a writer. Here is my audience of one,” she said, pointing at her husband.
Billy Kimball, writer behind such award shows as the Film Independent Spirit Awards and Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences’s Governors Awards, hosted the evening.
And screenwriter Alex Gansa, co-creator of Showtime’s Homeland, reminisced on having Oates as an advisor during his senior year at Princeton. He recounted how, encouraged by Oates, he sought the work of novelist Saul Bellow and then, referred by his dormmates to the sole fellow Bellow-enthusiast of their acquaintance, he met longtime writing partner Howard Gordon. The two, he continued, post-graduation drove to California in Gordon’s Datsun to embark on a television career that would culminate in their creation of the award-winning show. Who knew Carol Oates could take a bit of indirect credit for it?