The Pen Parentis Literary Salon is a unique Downtown series that shatters parental stereotypes as it celebrates the diverse creative work of writers that are also parents. On the second Tuesday of each month September through May, join us at 75 Wall Street (Andaz Wall Street). Each night begins with networking over wine, compliments of Andaz Wall Street. Readings are followed by Q&A moderated by Pen Parentis founder M. M. De Voe and Salons curator Christina Chiu. Each event ends with mingling and book signings. Come join the fun!  Pen Parentis Literary Salons are a great place to meet book-loving neighbors as well as industry notables. You don’t have to be a parent or even a writer to enjoy these events – join us!

See below for details of who is reading next and to RSVP!

October 2017 – May 2018

Modern Family at the Pen Parentis Literary Salon
Oct 10 @ 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm

Tuesday, October 10th at 7pm, Pen Parentis Literary Salons brings together three authors representing variously “modern” families—Lori Jakiela, Sheila Sweeny Higginson, and Ami Sands Brodoff—who will present readings from their new works followed by a panel discussion about writing and the contemporary family unit moderated by Columbia University MFA alumnae Christina Chiu and M. M. De Voe in the prestigious downtown hotel Andaz Wall Street.



Sheila Sweeny Higginson is an award-winning author who has worked in children’s and educational media for over twenty years. She has written more than 100 books for children, magazine and Web articles for parents and teens, teacher’s guides, plays, and scripts. She will speak to her interracial marriage and what she has learned as the white mother of black children. Sheila lives with her husband Felipe and their two children in Brooklyn, New York, on the same street where she grew up playing manhunt and stickball.
Ami Sands-Brodoff is the author of three novels and a volume of stories. Her second novel, “The White Space Between” won The Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction. Her latest, “In Many Waters,” grapples with the current refugee crisis and the making and remaking of families. She is the proud mom of a gay son and a transgender son and her life as a mom has been “a joyous roller-coaster ride.” Visit her website:

Lori Jakiela is the author of the memoir Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe, which received the 2016 Saroyan Prize for International Literature from Stanford University, was a finalist for the CLMP Firecracker Award and the Housatonic Literary Award, and named one of 2015’s Not-to-Miss Books of Nonfiction by The Huffington Post. Jakiela is the author of an essay collection, Portrait of the Artist as a Bingo Worker, as well as two other memoirs — Miss New York Has Everything and The Bridge to Take When Things Get Serious. She is also the author of the poetry collection (Spot the Terrorist) and several limited-edition poetry chapbooks. Her latest poetry chapbook, Big Fish, was published in 2016. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Rumpus, Brevity and more. Her essays have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize many times, and she received the 2015 City of Asylum Pittsburgh Prize, which sent her to Brussels, Belgium on a month-long writing residency. She has also received a Golden Quill Award from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania, was a working-scholar at The Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and was the winner of the first-ever Pittsburgh Literary Death Match. A former flight attendant and journalist, she now directs the undergraduate writing program at The University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg, where she is Professor of English and Creative/Professional Writing. She is a co-director of Chautauqua Institution’s Summer Writers Festival, teaches community writing workshops at a yoga studio in her hometown of Trafford, Pa., and curates the Saturday Poem feature at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, the writer Dave Newman, and their children. She will speak to the experiences of adoption.

November’s Salon: Health Matters
Nov 14 @ 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm

Featured authors:

Michael Greenberg, Joanne Jacobson, and Diana Geffner-Ventura

Michael Greenberg’s memoir, Hurry Down Sunshine, has been translated into eighteen languages and was named a best book of the year by Time Magazine, Library Journal and  A collection of his “intrepid, darkly comic” essays, Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer’s Life, was published in 2009. From 2003-2009, Greenberg wrote the “Freelance” column in the Times Literary Supplement. In 2010-2012 he was the author and creator of “The Accidentalist” column in Bookforum.  He teaches in the MFA program at Columbia University and is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, where he writes about literature, politics and New York.

His eldest son lives in Myanmar in Southeast Asia, his daughter lives in rural Vermont, and his “baby” son is about to depart for college in Minnesota – which will leaves Michael both bereft and at peace in his eerily silent Brooklyn home. This is his first appearance at our Salons.

Diana Geffner-Ventura has been writing since she held her first #2 pencil, and has been published in on-line magazines including Brick Underground, Purple Clover, Prime Number, and Culture Catch, and most recently, on her kitchen Dry-Erase board. After receiving her degree in Journalism at New York University, she worked in advertising, dabbled in stand-up comedy, traveled around the world and worked for many years in theatrical production and performing arts management. Diana also sells real estate, and she is currently writing a memoir about life, love, family, oh, and cancer. She lives in Manhattan with her dog and her two beautiful sons, both who are still in school and on her payroll. First time on our stage.

Joanne Jacobson is a Chicago native, transplanted New Yorker, academic turned writer of creative nonfiction.  She holds a doctorate in American Studies, and her scholarly writing—a 1992 monograph on the politics of letter writing in the turn-of-the-century U.S., Authority and Alliance in the Letters of Henry Adams, and a series of critical essays in such publications as The Nation and Massachusetts Review—has focused on American autobiographical forms.  Her 2007 memoir, Hunger Artist: A Suburban Childhood, evokes the unraveling of one middle-class family’s hopes of starting fresh on post-World War II suburban ground; essays from it have been published in New England Review, BOMB, and Alimentum, among other journals.  Her current book project, Extraordinary Time, is an exploration of chronic illness and its disruptions of time and identity; work from it has appeared most recently in Southwest Review, Tampa Review, Florida Review, New England Review, and Gulf Coast.  Jacobson has taught at the University of Iowa; the University of Angers, France (as a Fulbright lecturer); Middlebury College; and Yeshiva College, where she is Professor of English and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

Click HERE to RSVP.

Holiday Author Mingle – Miracle in Lower Manhattan
Dec 12 @ 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm

Bringing their successful 16th Season to a close on Tuesday, December 12th at 7pm, Pen Parentis hosts its annual Holiday Author Mingle. Three distinguished alumni of the Salons—noted novelists René Steinke, Ellen Umansky, and John Reed—will present readings from their newest works followed by the characteristic highly-entertaining discussion about literature, life-work-balance, and other contemporary topics. Celebrated Jazz/Latin guitarist Wilson Montuori will entertain with live music, and as a special treat for the holidays, Pen Parentis Founder M. M. De Voe will be joined by celebrity guest-host Leigh Newman to moderate the conversation. 

FREE TICKETS ARE LIMITED, please RSVP through this link.


Ellen Umansky has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including the New York TimesSalonPlayboy, and the short-story anthologies Lost Tribe: Jewish Fiction from the Edge and Sleepaway: Writings on Summer Camp. She has worked in the editorial departments of several publications, including the ForwardTablet, and The New Yorker. She grew up in Los Angeles, and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters. (author photo: Sam Zalutsky)

René Steinke is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow. Her most recent novel, Friendswood (Riverhead), was named one of National Public Radio’s “Great Reads” of 2014. Friendswood was shortlisted for the St. Francis Literary Prize, and it was an Amazon Book of the Month. Her previous novel, Holy Skirts, an imaginative retelling of the life of the artist and provocateur, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, was a Finalist for the National Book Award. Her first novel is The Fires. Her essays and articles have appeared in The New York Times, Vogue, O Magazine, Redbook, Houstonia, Salon, Bookforum, and in anthologies. She is the former Editor of The Literary Review, where she remains Editor-at-Large. She has taught at the New School and at Columbia University, and she is currently the Director of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She lives in Brooklyn with her family. (author photo: Michelle Ocampo)

John Reed is author of the novels, A Still Small VoiceThe Whole, and the SPD bestseller, Snowball’s Chance; additional books: All The World’s A Grave: A New Play By William ShakespeareTales of Woe; and Free Boat: Collected Lies and Love Poems; fellowship Columbia University; MFA in Creative Writing, Columbia University; Artnetthe Brooklyn Rail, Tin HousePaper MagazineArtforum, HyperallergicBomb MagazineArt in America, the PEN Poetry Series, the Los Angeles Times, the Believer, the Rumpusthe Daily Beast, GawkerSlate, the Paris Review, the Times Literary Supplement, the Wall Street JournalElectricLit, ViceThe New York TimesHarpers; anthologized in Best American Essays, Devouring the Green, StoryScape Anthology V2, American Wasteland, The Brooklyn Rail Fiction Anthology, Vitamin PH, 100 Greatest Albums (VH1); Vice Magazine “Employee of the Month,” Longform’s #1 Most Entertaining Essay; works translated into German, French, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Korean, Latvian and others; performances, workshops and readings of plays in New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Texas, including at the Public Theater in NYC and the Brooklyn Books Festival; two-term member of the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle; current faculty at The New School University and The New York Arts Program. He’s a decently cool dad. (author photo: David Shankbone)


Leigh Newman is the books editor of and editor-at-large at Catapult Publishing. Her memoir about Alaska Still Points North (Dial Press) was a finalist for the National Book Critic’s Circle John Leonard Prize. Her fiction, essays and book reviews have appeared in One StoryTin House, The New York TimesFiction, New York TyrantVogue, O The Oprah Magazine, Bookforum,and others. She has received fellowships from Breadloaf and the Corporation of Yaddo. She has also read for Pen Parentis – where she premiered the manuscript for her award-winning memoir. We love her: she’s a literary powerhouse and she’s a Pen Parentis mom. (photo by: Sioux Nesi)


Wilson Montuori is a versatile guitarist who performs styles ranging from pop/rock, world, and jazz to classical music. He has recorded for many labels, including Universal Records, Sony Music, Def. Japan, and many more and has performed throughout the world with various musical ensembles. Recipient of the prestigious “Sidney Zolot Award” from City College, and a Masters in Music from Boston University. His compositions are also displayed in the soundtrack for the 2015 feature film “Shelter”.

2018 Winter Poetry Salon
Jan 9 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Pen Parentis Literary Salon opens its eighteenth season with its annual Winter Poetry night. Four gifted poets ring in the new year— Gabriel Fried, Sarah Gambito, Marcia LeBeau and Ginny Wiehardt. They will read from new works and discuss how they balance a career in poetry with an active young family at home. The networking begins at 7pm with wine and light refreshments compliments of Andaz Wall Street. Pen Parentis Literary Salons were founded to celebrate the diversity of creative work by writers that are also parents, and is a great place to meet industry notables.


January 9th’s Salon features:

Gabriel Fried is the author of two poetry collections—the first of which, Making the New Lamb Take, includes a poem about his older son’s circumcision, the second of which, The Children Are Reading, does not (though it does include poems about Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, A Wrinkle in Time, and the Tales of Beatrix Potter). He is the longtime poetry editor at Persea Books.

Sarah Gambito is the author of the poetry collections Delivered (Persea Books) and Matadora (Alice James Books). She is Associate Professor of English / Director of Creative Writing at Fordham University and co-founder of Kundiman, a non-profit organization serving Asian American writers.

Marcia LeBeau‘s poems have been published in The Hiram Review, Moon City Review, SLANT, and elsewhere. Her work has also appeared in O: The Oprah Magazine and has been read on the radio. She has been anthologized in Challenges for the Delusional (Jane Street Press, 2012) and The Crack the Spine Anthology XIV (Crack the Spine Press, 2016).

Ginny Wiehardt’s chapbook Migration won the 2016 Gold Line Press Poetry Chapbook Contest. Her poems have appeared in literary journals including Bellingham Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Southern Humanities Review, Subtropics, and Willow Springs.

SECRETS – with blockbuster authors Min Jin Lee, Jamie Brenner, Patty Dann
Feb 13 @ 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm


RSVP through this link! 


Patty Dann has written three novels, Mermaids, Starfish and Sweet & Crazy. Along with The Butterfly Hours, she has published two memoirs, The Baby Boat and The Goldfish Went on Vacation. Her work has been translated into French, Japanese, Dutch, Italian, Chinese, Korean, German and Portuguese. Mermaids was made into a movie with Cher, Winona Ryder, Bob Hoskins and Christina Ricci. The Butterfly Hours was chosen one of the Best Books for Writers by Poets & Writers.She has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and a B.A. from the University of Oregon. She has taught at Sarah Lawrence College and the West Side YMCA, and is a member of PEN, The Authors Guild and New York Writers Workshop. She is married to journalist, Michael Hill and has one son and two stepsons.

Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko (2017) was a finalist for the National Book Award. A New York Times Bestseller, Pachinko is a Top 10 Books of the Year for The New York Times, BBC, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the New York Public Library and the Chicago Public Library. Pachinko was on over four dozen best books of the year lists, including NPR, PBS, CNN, History, Vox, Esquire, Financial Times, Amazon, The Boston Globe, New Statesman, BuzzFeed, Chicago Tribune, Publishers Weekly, and The Irish Times. Lee’s debut novel Free Food for Millionaires (2007) was a No. 1 Book Sense Pick, a New York Times Editor’s Choice, a Wall Street Journal Juggle Book Club selection, and a national bestseller; it was a Top 10 Books of the Year for The Times of London, NPR’s Fresh Air and USA Today. Min’s only child Sam is now a college sophomore, attending college in the West Coast. He seems fine; however, Min has not yet separated and is freaking inconsolable.

Jamie Brenner is the author of the national bestseller The Forever Summer (Little, Brown), a novel People magazine calls, “A captivating tale of family secrets and strong women.” Her new novel, The Husband Hour, publishes April 24 (Little, Brown). Her previous novels include The Wedding Sisters, a Target Emerging Author pick and one of PopSugar’s Best Books for Women 2016, and The Gin Lovers, named by Fresh Fiction as one of the Top Thirteen Books to read in 2013. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two daughters.

BELONGING: Authors writing about immigration
Mar 13 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm


Our March 13th Pen Parentis Literary Salons, presents BELONGING which will open a literary conversation about writing about immigration. What are our responsibilites as great communicators? How does one address a politically touchy subject and maintain readers? Talented authors Susan Muaddi Darraj, Marguerite Bouvard, and Katie Kitamura will join forces with poet Sarah Gambito (rescheduled from our January Poetry Salons) to read from current work and discuss writing about immigrants and immigration.


March 13th’s Salon features:

Katie Kitamura is a novelist. Her most recent novel, A Separation, was a New York Times Notable Book and will be translated into over fifteen languages. She lives in Brooklyn with her family, including two children under the age of 5. To quote her husband, who is also a novelist: ‘strong espresso drinks are all that stand between us and total creative defeat.’

Susan Muaddi Darraj won the American Book Award in 2016 for her book of short stories, A Curious Land, about a fictional Palestinian town in the West Bank. She is Associate Professor of English at Harford Community College in Baltimore, Maryland, where she lives with her husband and three children. She wakes up at 5:00am and writes (or gets sucked in Facebook – depends on her mood) until 7am because it’s the only time she’s not teaching or driving kids to karate or berating them to practice the piano.

Marguerite Guzmán Bouvard’s latest book “Social Justice: The Power of Compassion,” addresses some of the most pressing problems facing our country today: the environment, immigration, racism and criminal justice. As a writer, she has published several books of poetry and numerous non-fiction books in a variety of fields. She has received grants for her poetry from the Puffin Foundation and the Danforth Foundation and has won awards for two of her poetry books. She has been a writer in residence at the University of Maryland and has had residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Yaddo Foundation, the Djerassi Foundation, the Leighton Artists’ colony at the Banff Centre and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her poetry has been widely anthologized and published in literary magazines around the world for she considers herself a world poet.

Sarah Gambito is the author of the poetry collections Delivered (Persea Books) and Matadora (Alice James Books). She is Associate Professor of English / Director of Creative Writing at Fordham University and co-founder of Kundiman, a non-profit organization serving Asian American writers.

Pen Parentis Literary Salons break the stereotype of parent-author by presenting the vast diversity of creative writing by authors who happen to also be parents. Audiences are diverse and the evening is inclusive of all book-lovers (21+) — you don’t have to be a parent or writer to enjoy these intimate and popular upscale events.


Held at the glamorous Andaz Wall Street (who also provide refreshments including wine) these inspiring monthly events also include intimate roundtable discussions about writing as a craft and career moderated by Columbia MFA alumnae Christina Chiu (Pen Parentis curator) and M. M. De Voe (Pen Parentis founder).


HERO AND SUPERHERO: a Pen Parentis Literary Salon
Apr 10 @ 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm

Our April 10th Pen Parentis Literary Salons, presents Hero and Superhero.  What is a superhero? When does a bigger-than-life character become hard to believe? How can you take a fresh look at a trope? Join talented authors Lex Williford, Andrea Lawlor and Donna Levin to discuss.




Andrea Lawlor teaches writing at Mount Holyoke College, edits fiction for Fence, and has been awarded fellowships by Lambda Literary and Radar Labs. Their newest novel, Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl,is receiving much critical attention. They live in Western Massachusetts. The first nonbinary parent we have featured at our Salons, they are happy to tell us that they go by Baba in the home.


Lex Williford has received fellowships from the NEA, Bread Loaf, The Blue Mountain Center, MacDowell, Millay, Ragdale and many more, including Yaddo. He is the founding director of the online MFA program and current chair of the on-campus bilingual MFA program at the University of Texas at El Paso. His most recent chapbook, Superman on the Roof, was called a memoir in flash and deals with the loss of his brother. A father of two, Lex credits his children for saving his writing career.


Donna Levin is a prolific and highly acclaimed writer from the West Coast. Her latest novel, He Could Be Another Bill Gates, will be published by Chickadee Prince Books in the fall. She is the author of three acclaimed previous novels, the Amazon best-seller, There’s More Than One Way Home, Extraordinary Means and California Street, all of which are available from Chickadee Prince Books. In addition to this vibrant writing career, she has four children. You read that right. Four.


Pen Parentis Literary Salons break the stereotype of parent-author by presenting the vast diversity of creative writing by authors who happen to also be parents. Audiences are diverse and the evening is inclusive of all book-lovers (21+) — you don’t have to be a parent or writer to enjoy these intimate and popular upscale events.

Held at the glamorous Andaz Wall Street (who also provide refreshments including wine) these inspiring monthly events also include intimate roundtable discussions about writing as a craft and career moderated by Columbia MFA alumnae Christina Chiu (Pen Parentis curator) and M. M. De Voe (Pen Parentis founder).


May is for Music!
May 8 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm


On May 8, 2018, at the glamorous Andaz Wall Street (75 Wall) they will feature the literary song stylings of four moms who write music: Fran Pado, Jenny Merkowitz, Liz Queler, and Kala Pierson. Come join the fun as four noteworthy New Yorkers gather on the second floor of 75 Wall Street (at Water) for an evening of literary melodies.


May 8th’s Salon features:

Jennifer Bernard Merkowitz is a composer, pianist, and violist whose diverse inspirations have included liturgical chant, basketball games, and the growth patterns of plants. Her music has been performed in national and international venues Jenny lives in Westerville, Ohio, with her husband, David, and two sons, where she is associate professor of Music at Otterbein University.

Fran Pado is a playwright and musician who writes grim fairy tales for adults. Her dark, one-woman, musical story-plays have been performed at the renowned Dixon Place performance space. She’s the lyricist and singer of Goddess, an experimental psych-pop band whose 2015 full-length vinyl New York Music Daily called “one of the top ten albums of the year.” Her daughter, Violet, and husband, Andy, provide the love and support for her to carry on as an artist.

Three time Grammy Nominee, Liz Queler, has performed on the stages of Carnegie Hall, The Newport Folk Festival, and with the Dallas Symphony. Her most recent CD sets 21 of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poems to music. Liz tours frequently, performing not only with her husband, Broadway conductor Seth Farber, but also with their son Joey who is now a student at Berklee College of Music.

Kala Pierson is a composer and sound artist.  Based in Philadelphia, she works worldwide, with commissions and performances on every continent and in festivals ranging from the Southbank Centre Biennial to Tanglewood to the International Computer Music Conference.  Kala, her wife, and her husband have raised their 8-year-old son since his birth as three equal parents.


Pen Parentis Literary Salons break the stereotype of parent-author by presenting the vast diversity of creative writing by authors who happen to also be parents. Audiences are diverse and the evening is inclusive of all book-lovers (21+) — you don’t have to be a parent or writer to enjoy these intimate and popular upscale events.

Held at the glamorous Andaz Wall Street (who also provide refreshments including wine) these inspiring monthly events also include intimate roundtable discussions about writing as a craft and career.  Salons are curated by Christina Chiu of Pen Parentis who won a prestigious Wei Look Award for the diversity of the artists she assembles. She co-hosts with Pen Parentis Founder, M. M. De Voe. Both hosts are also writers.

The long-running reading series has recently won a Creative Engagement Grant from New York City and New York State, administered by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Events are sponsored by the prestigious downtown hotel, Andaz Wall Street, and RSVP is recommended.