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  • 1 Aug 2022 4:23 PM | Leon Lazarus (Administrator)


    A karaoke-loving shower singer, I usually have a rolodex of songs queued up in my head that can be triggered at any time with just a word. Lately, I’ve had that old Jackie DeShannon classic playing, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love, It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”

    But I can’t help thinking that what the world really needs right now, more than anything, more than love, or thoughts and prayers, or good deeds, is leadership. Authentic leadership.

    We have a serious leadership crisis in our country, in politics, in public health, in corporate America, in faith and religion, and in all of our civic departments and local governments. We need leadership in addressing racial injustice, the homelessness crisis, and gun violence.

    How can leadership be more important than love? Love is the only thing. Love wins. Love rules. I agree. I do believe that love can be world-changing and life-altering, and it’s necessary. But we need leadership, and we need it now.

    Don’t we already have leaders? We elect new leaders. We hire CEOs and Presidents, appoint Mayors and Commissioners, and place others in positions of power. We have plenty of people with leadership titles, but leadership is so much more than a title.

    Being a leader is more than the position you hold, the title you have, the degree you’ve earned, the money you make, the size of your company, or the size of the department or team that you manage. Being a leader is so much more than appearances, elections, political positions, fancy corner offices, or impressive titles and salaries.

    Regardless of how you or I define leadership, when it comes to authentic leadership, I know it when I see it, and you probably do too. Instead of leadership quotes on a shareable meme, I am more interested in what leadership looks like on a daily basis in the trenches. Who is providing leadership when children are gunned down in the streets or at school, when citizens of our own country are murdered by those who are supposed to protect them or when others succumb to homelessness or an opioid addiction? I am more interested in leadership when the cost of gas has become unmanageable for most and mothers can’t feed their babies.

    What does leadership do for us? Why is it so important, especially in times of crisis?

    There are four primary things that leadership gives us. Leadership provides:

    • Vision.
    • Unity.
    • Inspiration.
    • Strength.

    Leadership provides Vision. Proverbs 29:18, a scripture in the Bible, says something like, where there is no vision, the people perish. Vision allows us to see what is possible and where we need to go. Leaders can tell us what the roadmap looks like and what directions we need to follow to get there.

    We need vision as a collective group, because as individuals, we are pulled in too many different directions. We all have varying priorities, needs, crises and egos. We all have different resources available to us, including privileges and abilities, whether they are physical or intellectual or otherwise. We are all caught up in the weeds of our own life. So much so that we need someone who can see above and outside all of that and give us a vision.

    We need someone who can help us imagine a different future than the one we’ve been handed, and not just imagine it, but lead us on the path to get there.

    Leadership provides Unity and brings people together around a common goal in spite of all the differences and conflict. Despite the evil and ugliness we witness on the news and in social media and sometimes even within our own friend group or family, I believe that the majority of people are good and that we all want the same things. One of my credos in life, which I included at the beginning of my book, Chasing the Merry-Go-Round, is this:

    Home is a place all of us want to be. We all want to have our corner of the world, surrounded by people who know us, accept us, love us; a place where we are safe, warm, fed; a place where we have enough, where we are enough. This is all there is. I also believe that how we care for those who need help has an everlasting impact, and that if we can help people meet the basic needs of their spirit, soul and body, it allows them the ability to keep their own corner of the world, their home, safe and prosperous for them and their family. This is all there is.

    At our core, as human beings, that is what we all want. And if we all want the same thing, I believe that we can rally around that, even though we may all have different ideas on how to get there. When I use the word unity, I'm not implying that we all have to follow the same path. There is not one path for everyone. Unity in the context of being a leader is someone who can rise up and remind us that even though we disagree on different things, we all want many of the same things. We all want a home. We all want to have enough. We all want our children safe. We all want our corner of the world. We need someone who can help us unite around that idea when we’re pulled in all these different directions.

    Leadership provides Inspiration. The sensational and brutal nature of our 24/7 news, along with the behavior of some of our so-called leaders, can be overwhelming and discouraging. Why haven’t we made more progress in the areas of social justice? Why are people dying on the streets, unsheltered, hungry or addicted? Why can’t we solve these issues that plague us? Why are school-aged children murdered en masse for no reason?

    We watch videos on YouTube that make us feel like we’re on that street or in that school, watching it happen. It’s devastating and we feel helpless. We feel like we’re standing by, silently watching these horrible things unfold before our eyes. We wonder why we can’t do anything to stop it. Perhaps we can’t worry about what is happening on a national scale because we lost our job and are consumed with trying to make our next mortgage payment so our family doesn’t end up sleeping in the car, or maybe we’re trying to figure out how to buy groceries or find health insurance because our four-year-old was just diagnosed with leukemia.

    We need inspiration from our leaders to remind us of who we are, what we’re capable of, and that we can all impact and change the world.

    Finally, authentic leadership gives us Strength. It gives us the resolve, the determination, the resilience to stay in it for the long haul, to go the distance, to get back up when we fall, to turn away from those things that hold us down and hold us back. Leadership sends a message to our enemies and those who wish us harm. A leader can be strong for us when we’re too weak to keep going.

    What the world needs now is leadership. The kind of leadership that provides vision, unity, inspiration and strength.

    Kelly's latest book, HERE TO LEAD: Mastering the Art of Leadership in Order to Execute Strategy, Advance Change, and Drive Results, is available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Kelly has held executive leadership positions in multiple organizations and regularly consults with companies regarding leadership, operational excellence and change implementation. Also host of the podcasts, All There Is and Here to LEAD, as well as the award-winning author of Chasing the Merry-Go-Round: Holding on to Hope & Home When the World Moves Too Fast, Kelly is working on her next novel in Syracuse, New York and collaborating with her husband, Craig, on other art and writing projects. 

  • 9 Jul 2022 2:51 PM | Leon Lazarus (Administrator)


    The SDWEG DOES NOT provide any legal advice and users of this web site should consult with their own lawyer for legal advice.

    The authors of this post are NOT lawyers and all thoughts expressed should be considered as opinion. Please consult with an attorney should you have a legal question.

    This blog started out to be quite simple. Define copyright, then tell you why should or shouldn’t copyright your work. Ha! That quickly turned out to be not so simple. Then, my wonderful partner Robyn started editing my first cut and threw the plagiarizing monkey wrench in it. So, please bear with us as we try to keep this as simple as we can yet help you to understand copyrighting your work.

    To start with, we are not copyright attorneys and in fact have no legal experience. We have, however, done a lot of research on the internet and strongly encourage you to follow our footsteps to better understand what follows.

    Our internet sources for what follows are: Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org) and Plagiarism.org (https://www.plagiarism.org/)

    One final note. Our research covers US law only so if you live or sell your books in other countries, the laws may be different.

    ***

    Let’s start with what is a copyright? From there we’ll cover some of the elements of copywrite law, then talk about plagiarism and finally suggest what you should do and why.

    What is a copyright?

    Our friends at Wikipedia define copyright as follows:

    Copyright is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the exclusive right to make copies of a creative work, usually for a limited time. The creative work may be in a literary, artistic, educational, or musical form. Copyright is intended to protect the original expression of an idea in the form of a creative work, but not the idea itself. A copyright is subject to limitations based on public interest considerations, such as the fair use doctrine in the United States.

    In many jurisdictions, copyright law makes exceptions to these restrictions when the work is copied for the purpose of commentary or other related uses. United States copyright law does not cover names, titles, short phrases or listings (such as ingredients, recipes, labels, or formulas). However, there are protections available for those areas copyright does not cover, such as trademarks and patents.

    What’s all that mean? First, the copyright protects the owner and gives them the exclusive right to make copies. That means only you, the copyright holder, can make copies. Anyone else who wants to copy your work needs your permission.

    But your copyright is intended to protect the original expression of an idea in the form of a creative work, but not the idea itself. Nor does it cover names, titles, short phrases or listings (such as ingredients, recipes, labels, or formulas).

    What’s all that mean? Copyright is intended to protect the original owner’s expression of an idea in the form of a creative work, but not the idea itself. So, to start you’ll probably need some way to prove you’re the owner, which is where fixation comes in. But it also means only your story is protected.

    So, if you write a story about CJ helping horses at a horse rescue ranch, like I did, your copywriting the story of someone named CJ helping horses at a specific horse rescue ranch. That does not mean that you own the rights to all stories with characters named CJ or about horse rescue ranches. We’ll talk more about this in a bit too.

    Fixation

    Fixation means that a works should exist in some tangible, permanent media form before it will attract copyright protection. That is, what you’re copyrighting should be ‘fixed’ in the form of a permanent media. For most artistic works, such as a manuscript, song or photograph, the point at which the work is created is generally considered the point of fixation.

    Some jurisdictions require "fixing" copyrighted works in a tangible form when works are shared among multiple authors, each of whom holds a set of rights to use or license the work, and who are commonly referred to as rights holders. These rights frequently include reproduction, control over derivative works, distribution, public performance, and moral rights such as attribution (Credit). (This will become clearer when we get to changes in the law)

    What’s that mean? Simple, you need to have whatever you’re copyrighting defined in a media form that can be stored unchanged. This could be a written or digital final manuscript, a published story, typed or written song lyrics or a photograph. Put another way, your original work needs to be in fixed entity that defines what your copyrighting.

    Originality

    Copyright requires originality for several reasons. For one thing, it ensures that the work protected by copyright reflects the author’s personality and expression and that the effort the author expends in creating the work is substantial enough to justify legal protection. This also means that copyright protection is limited to each author’s expression, leaving non-original expressions and works free for others to use in the creation of new works: in this way, the originality requirement protects the creative and intellectual freedom of other creators.

    Huh? Okay, let’s take an extreme example. Let’s say you write a story that ‘borrows’ big chunks from other stories, TV shows, movies, songs and anything else you can find. Or, worse yet, there is absolutely nothing original in your story. When you copyright your story, the only parts that will be covered by the copyright will be the original parts you created. In fact, for all the parts you ‘borrowed,’ you’ve certainly plagiarized the work of others and likely violated multiple copyrights. (We actually read a story that fell into this category.) (We’ll also get to plagiarism shortly.)

    Territorial Rights

    Copyrights can be granted by public law and are in that case considered "territorial rights". This means that copyrights granted by the law of a certain state, do not extend beyond the territory of that specific jurisdiction. Copyrights of this type vary by country; many countries, and sometimes a large group of countries, have made agreements with other countries on procedures applicable when works "cross" national borders or national rights are inconsistent. An example of such an agreement is the Berne Convention Implementation Act which provides a standard for those countries that comply with it.

    Some countries require certain copyright formalities to establishing copyright, others recognize copyright in any completed work, without a formal registration.

    The key here is to be aware that different countries have different copyright laws so, what may be covered by your US copyright may not be honored if your work sells in other countries.

    Changes to US copyright laws

    We’re only including this so you know how we got to where we are with US copyright law and you can understand some of our suggestions at the end.

    Before 1989, United States law required the use of a copyright notice, consisting of the copyright symbol (©, the letter C inside a circle), the abbreviation "Copr.", or the word "Copyright", followed by the year of the first publication of the work and the name of the copyright holder. Several years may be noted if the work has gone through substantial revisions. The proper copyright notice for sound recordings of musical or other audio works is a sound recording copyright symbol (℗, the letter P inside a circle), which indicates a sound recording copyright, with the letter P indicating a "phonorecord".

    In addition, the phrase All rights reserved was once required to assert copyright, but that phrase is now legally obsolete.

    In 1989 the United States enacted the Berne Convention Implementation Act, amending the 1976 Copyright Act to conform to most of the provisions of the Berne Convention. As a result, the use of copyright notices has become optional to claim copyright, because the Berne Convention makes copyright automatic. However, the lack of notice of copyright using these marks may have consequences in terms of reduced damages in an infringement lawsuit – using notices of this form may reduce the likelihood of a defense of "innocent infringement" being successful.

    But what is meant by the Berne Convention makes copyright automatic? This is where Fixation comes in. Since you need to know what’s being copyrighted, the standard interpretation is that as soon as whatever you’re copyrighting is defined in a media form that can’t be changed, it’s automatically copyrighted. To quote plagiarism.org: Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way (such as a book or a computer file).

    Which is the perfect lead into plagiarism!

    What is Plagiarism?

    According to plagiarism.org: “Plagiarism is the representation of another author's language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions as one's own original work. Plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics. It is subject to sanctions such as penalties, suspension, expulsion from school or work, substantial fines and even incarceration.”

    According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, to "plagiarize" means:

    • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
    • to use (another's production) without crediting the source
    • to commit literary theft
    • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

    In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward.

    All of the following are considered plagiarism:

    • turning in someone else's work as your own
    • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
    • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
    • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
    • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
    • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (subject to "fair use" rules).

    So, where are we going with all this? Hopefully by now you’ve realized that there is a fine line between what is copyright protected and what falls under plagiarism. Remember, copyright is intended to protect the original expression of an idea in the form of a creative work, but not the idea itself. Nor does it cover names, titles, short phrases or listings.

    So, what if someone only steals parts of your work, some unique words, phrases or ideas? While copyright clearly doesn’t cover these, plagiarism very well may. And plagiarism is suable as an act of fraud.

    Before we wrap things up, we need to cover registering your copyright.

    Copyright Registration

    Registration establishes a claim to copyright with the Copyright Office. An application for copyright registration can be filed by the author or owner of an exclusive right in a work, the owner of all exclusive rights, or an agent on behalf of an author or owner. An application contains three essential elements: a completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee, and a nonreturnable deposit— that is, a copy or copies of the work being registered and “deposited” with the Copyright Office.

    A certificate of registration creates a public record of key facts relating to the authorship and ownership of the claimed work, including the title of the work, the author of the work, the name and address of the claimant or copyright owner, the year of creation, and information about whether the work is published, has been previously registered, or includes preexisting material.

    You can submit an application online through www.copyright.gov or on a paper application. In addition to establishing a public record of a copyright claim, registration offers several other statutory advantages:

    • before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration (or refusal) is necessary for U.S. works.
    • registration establishes prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and facts stated in the certificate when registration is made before or within five years of publication.
    • when registration is made prior to infringement or within three months after publication of a work, a copyright owner is eligible for statutory damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.
    • registration permits a copyright owner to establish a record with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)4 for protection against the importation of infringing copies.

    Registration can be made at any time within the life of the copyright. If you register before publication, you do not have to re-register when the work is published, although you can register the published edition, if desired.

    Summary

    As soon as you finish your work in a fixed form, it is automatically copyrighted.

    That’s great! Maybe. But, what should you do and why?

    To start with, if someone steals your work it’s up to you, the copyright holder, to sue them. Even if you registered your copyright with the Library of Congress, they are not going to help you sue. However, if you don’t register your copyright, you can only sue for a cease and desist order and will not be eligible for statutory damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.

    So, what should you do? That depends on how worried you are about having your work stolen.

    Our recommendation is:

    Place a copyright notice in your work consisting of: Copyright © (year) by (your name).

    Why? This way, no one can claim they didn’t know your work was copyrighted. (Believe us, it happens! There is no intelligence test required for book thieves but they are good at playing dumb)

    Don’t forget to add a notice for other copyrighted items used in your book. For example, the lyrics to my wedding song in book two of my trilogy holds a separate copyright, which is also listed on my copyright page.

    If you really think you’ve got a best seller that someone might want to steal, register your copyright. Remember, you can always register your copyright at a later date; like after your second million copies sell. Seriously, registering your copyright is less than $50 so if you’re really concerned and want peace of mind, register it. (The $50 doesn’t count fixed copy and mail costs.)

    When should you register your copyright? When you’re finished making major changes, typically when it’s done being edited. Minor changes such as corrections and small story enhancements will not negate your copyright, as long as they don’t substantially change your work. Also remember, for major changes you can always update your copyright, such as after your work is published or for a new edition.

    Some Final Comments

    The chances of having your work stolen are slim. Even slimmer are the chances of you finding out about it. However, if the old adage “better safe than sorry” ever applied, this is it. So, do whatever makes you feel like your work is protected.

    We often hear concerns about editors stealing an author’s work. If your concerned, copyright and register your draft before you send it off for edit. Remember you can always update your copyright. If you’re still worried, ask your editor to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement.

    Happy writing and copyrighting everyone!

    ***

    Have we missed anything? Let us know.

    Bob Boze and Robyn Bennett

  • 1 Jul 2022 5:40 PM | Leon Lazarus (Administrator)


    The San Diego Writers Festival is sponsoring a free writing workshop titled HOW TO WRITE A WINNING MEMOIR SHOWCASE PIECE. This is presented as part of the 2022 Memoir Showcase. If you are interested in joining, follow the link below to sign up.

    SIgn Up Now
  • 23 Jun 2022 11:51 PM | Leon Lazarus (Administrator)


    While publishing in general has been flat or declined over the past few years, there has been a remarkable rise in sales of graphic novels which already accounted for $1.28 billion in 2020.

    2021 saw a 65% overall increase in sales, with adult graphic novels up 107%. That means we should all be thinking about how we can find a way into that market.

    How to write a graphic novel

    Writer’s Digest: 10 Tips for Creating Your Own Graphic Novel

    Masterclass : How to Create a Graphic Novel: Examples, Tips, and Complete Guide

    The Writing Forge: So You Want to Write a Graphic Novel?

    Why write a graphic novel?

    SoCreate Screenwriting Blog: Why Your Next Story Should Be a Graphic Novel

    Library Journal: Graphic Novels Continue to Push Boundaries

    The Beat: Report: Graphic novel sales were up 65% in 2021

  • 17 Jun 2022 4:11 PM | Leon Lazarus (Administrator)

    A TikTok trend has finally pushed writers over the edge. Readers have been posting TikTok videos about returning their eBooks within the 14 days after purchase, even after reading the entire book.

    This has sent writers in the BookTok universe into a rage. When an eBook is returned, the reader may not feel the pain, but the author, required to finance the editing, cover design, formatting and more,  is charged for the data used to deliver the book to that customer.

    Amazon, speaking to The Times, commented, “Our e-book return rates are consistently low and we have policies and mechanisms in place to prevent this from being abused. Our aim is to inspire reading and we recognise (sic) the important role of authors.”

    Writers disagree vociferously with Amazon, with one telling The Times that over 100 copies of their books came back as returns in a single month. If the commenter's numbers are to be believed, this amounts to a 900% increase over the prior month when only ten books were returned.

    An online petition demanding Amazon change their eBook returns policy has garnered over 65,000 signatures already.

    The petition's statement reads:

    “There has been a huge upswing in author’s eBooks being returned to Amazon AFTER they have been read. As a reader this is VERY upsetting. Yes, Amazon’s return policy allows it. However, that doesn’t make it right. When you have read the book, you CONSUMED the product. Returning a book after reading 10-20% is one thing. But when the book has been read in it’s entirety it should not be allowed to be returned. End of discussion. One author had triple digit returns for March! That same author had single digit returns the prior TWO months combined. Authors are not being paid accurately for their art. Please, Amazon change your policy!”

    You can view the Petition at Change.Org

  • 4 Jun 2022 1:20 PM | Leon Lazarus (Administrator)


    Opinion : Leon Lazarus

    Writers and the reading public can expect a tumultuous year ahead

    As 2022 slips into a chaotic political season, more authors are liable to be affected by book bans. These are most often the result of bad-faith politics and religious zealotry. Of course, none of this is new but the clamor appears to be growing louder.

    Perhaps this happening because there is evidence that the approach works. In 2021, Glen Youngkin (1) successfully campaigned for governor of Virginia against Toni Morrison's Beloved. Also in Virginia, congressional candidate Tommy Altman is suing to ban Maia Kobabe’s graphic memoir Gender Queer and Sarah J. Maas' A Court of Mist and Fury (2) in time for the 2022 elections. 

    The history of book banning and burning is still being written

    Reported in February, Tennessee based Baptist pastor Greg Locke held a book burning which split his community but raised his political profile. Similarly, a Catholic church in North Carolina threw published works deemed “heretical” into the flames (3).

    The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, banned and then unbanned in Alaska schools along with four other books in 2020, was previously targeted in South Carolina, Georgia, and Montana as well. A school board member in Summerville, SC called for a banning because it "is a filthy, filthy book." (4)

    The Color Purple by Alice Walker has been challenged in cities across America, from Hayward, California to Morganton, North Carolina. (4)

    The Oklahoma State Senate is seeking to outlaw books on sexual activity, sexual identity or gender identity from public school libraries. (5)

    Earlier this year, the McMinn County Board of Education in Tennessee banned Art Spiegelman's Maus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel. (6)

    Right now, Wyoming prosecutors are considering charges against librarians for keeping Sex Is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg and This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson on the shelves. (7)

    In January of this year, a Mississippi mayor moved to withhold funding from the library system until all L.G.B.T.Q. themed books were removed. (8)

    In Texas, many communities have tried to ban books across a range of subjects, from books on racial inequality to popular books on sexual identity. (9)

    Children's books are a key target

    Shockingly, many of the children's books most of us see as largely anodyne and part of a rich literary history have been challenged or banned across the country. These books include Hop On Pop by Dr. Seuss, Harriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. The hit list also includes American classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, both of which have come under fire for racially insensitive language and themes. (10)

    Why care?

    Whatever the merits of the individual books and authors being targeted, this new reality requires that the writing community stand together in defense of the written word. If we cannot speak up for our fellow writers, who will?

    It is worth remembering the words of Heinrich Heine who said, “Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.”

    What Can Be done?

    We are not helpless in this situation. Writers can visit the Freedom To Read Foundation and the National Coalition Against Censorship to join the fight against book banning. The American Library Association is also actively working to shine a light on the issue and have provided some great ideas for getting involved.

    Sources, Resources, and Additional Reading:

    1) Glenn Youngkin Assures Virginia Voters He’ll Protect Them From Toni Morrison Books - Vanity Fair

    2) Freedom to Read Advocates Sound Alarm as Obscenity Lawsuit Advances in Virginia - Publishers Weekly

    3) Pastor holds bonfire to burn to 'witchcraft' books like 'Twilight' - NBC News

    Censorship Escalates to Burning Books - American Library Association

    4) Alaska School Board Votes To Remove Five Books - ABC7

    CMLIT 130: Banned Books - PSU

    Book Ban Efforts Spread Across the U.S. - The New York Times

    Banned and Challenged Classics - American Library Association

    5) Oklahoma State Senate wants to outlaw books on sexual activity - The Oklahoman

    6) Banned by Tennessee School Board, ‘Maus’ Soars to the Top of Bestseller Charts - Smithsonian Magazine

    7) Prosecutors in Wyoming Weigh Charging Librarians Over Books - US News

    8) Mississippi mayor withholds library funds over LGBTQ books - PBS

    9) Texas librarians face harassment as they navigate book bans - The Texas Tribune

    10) 28 Banned Books That Every Kid Needs to Read - TinyBeans

    13 banned children’s books that will surprise you - Bright Kids Books

    Book bans and the threat of censorship rev up political activism in the suburbs - NPR

    Membership - Freedom To Read Foundation

    Get Involved - American Library Association

    Free Expression Network - National Coalition Against Censorship


  • 20 May 2022 2:22 PM | Leon Lazarus (Administrator)


    The Guild is proud to support the San Diego Writers Festival KidsWrite! program. This children’s writing contest celebrates diverse young writers across San Diego County. Our donation to KidsWrite!‘s allows them to run the contest and award prizes without asking for an entrance fee.

    If you would like to get involved or make a donation to the KidsWrite! program, go to  https://sandiegowritersfestival.com/kidswrite/.

  • 13 May 2022 1:01 PM | Leon Lazarus (Administrator)


    You’ve just been asked to provide feedback on another writer’s prose. Congratulations! The writer values your opinion. Caution! In sharing their prose, the writer has chosen to make him or herself vulnerable.

    Here are 9 steps to help you provide value while avoiding upset or conflict.

    1. Recognize the writer’s vulnerability. Unless your only response to the submission is to say that it is by far the greatest work of literature ever written and all other writers should now stop because this prose will never be surpassed, your feedback runs the risk of causing at a minimum disappointment and potentially anger. Understand you have another human being’s emotions in your hands.
    2. Ask questions. It’s important to understand what feedback the writer is seeking. Is the submission just a short segment of a larger story, meaning you shouldn’t focus overly much on plot and character development? Do they have a specific concern, perhaps pacing or dialogue or description? Ideally, you have some guidance before you begin reading.
    3. Open and close with positives. Surely there were elements you enjoyed. Perhaps it was a masterful passage of description. Maybe it was a humorous line of dialogue. Always begin by pointing out something you liked and be specific (not just “I liked it”).
    4. Make it about the words, not the author. Be careful with your language. Don’t say “You did this or that” or “I don’t understand why you choose to do this.” Say “I’m wondering why the character did this” or “This passage here doesn’t seem to be accomplishing that.” If you treat the prose as an independent part of the conversation, you can help cushion the blow to the writer.
    5. Focus on where your experience was disrupted. Nothing is more valuable to a writer than hearing where the reader became hung up while reading. It could be an odd word choice, the introduction of a plot point that seems contrived or contradictory, or a character acting, well, out of character. Whatever it is, we don’t want our readers to stop reading out of confusion.
    6. Don’t try to fix it. You’re a reader, not a repair person. Bestselling author Neil Gaiman says that you should listen to every reader when they say they had a problem yet ignore every piece of advice they offer on how to fix it. If you feel strongly you have a solution and are meeting in person, ask if the writer wants to hear it. When sharing it, make it clear it is just one possible approach.
    7. Note what you think is missing. Did a scene start to grab you but leave you hanging? Did you enjoy a character and wish you had spent more time with him or her? This is a way to focus on a positive (something you liked) while indicating a possible path for improvement (giving you more of what you liked).
    8. Be encouraging. All prose can be improved if the writer is willing to put in the work. This is even true of literary classics. Congratulate the writer on producing what he or she has so far and let them know that you’re sure the next draft will be even better.
    9. Have fun! This is a good lesson for any activity in life.

    If you follow these guidelines when providing another writer your feedback, you’ll give them a great gift: Reader input they can make use of in improving their work. A word of warning: As this will likely be a positive experience for them, they may come back for more!

    Patrick Ross

  • 3 May 2022 5:04 PM | Leon Lazarus (Administrator)


    If you are interested in writing for the SDGWEG.org blog, or you would like to have a your own profile piece written or book reviewed, this program is perfect for you. Not only will your blog post be featured in the Guild's weekly email, but it goes out on our social media feed to amplify your brand.

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  • 22 Apr 2022 3:31 PM | Leon Lazarus (Administrator)


    This outstanding blog post was written for us by Audrey Akin,  aged 14.

    There’s a reason I’ve gained the nickname “OC Generator” among my friends. I am notorious for constantly coming up with ideas and concepts on the spot. Sometimes, I make some brand spanking new ones which causes me to drop entire characters completely. This, coupled with the fact that I’ve been in a wide array of fandoms with some vastly differing tones in story, I think I can give some useful tips on writing your own OCs. (BTW, OC means original character.)

    Tip #1- Secure Your Tone

    First, ask yourself, what tone are you aiming for? Do you want the character to just be some dumb fun, or do you want a character with a weighty presence? Whichever you choose, it’ll help guide you while creating your OC.

    Tip #2- Tell Me More About Your Lore!

    Backstory and character motivations are extremely important. You have to create these things to have a compelling character and/or story.

    “What’s the trauma?” “What’s with this thing?” “Why does this character hate this or that?” “Why do they have these abilities?” You need to be able to give an answer to these questions. Not only does it help create attachment to the character (both for you and any reader), it also helps in coming up with ideas or character relationships later down the line.

    Tip #3- Look Through the Eyes of a Reader

    This is something I do semi-regularly with my creations. When you’re making your OC, you have to keep in mind how someone from the outside would or could read the character.

    Being self-critical is healthy in the creation process. Sometimes when you look through the eyes of a reader, you can find parallels that your OC has with other characters in the Fandom you’re in, whether intentional or not. Other times you can find a perspective of your OC that you didn’t think of before. When you find these things, you can change them if you don't want that to be the case, or you can embrace it and add it to the character.

    Tip #4- Embrace the Change

    It’s okay to drop ideas and characters. It’s okay to start phasing out things in the character or backstory. Even if you drop a character, sometimes you can still use parts of them. You can bring them back in a new way, assimilate them into another character, and you can take the ideas behind them and cobble them together into a whole new idea!

    Ask a friend to help in creation. They can help with criticisms, checking if things are too cluttered, and can challenge your perception of both your writing and your character. Overall, accept and embrace the change in your writing and the evolution of your characters. Speaking of clutter…

    Tip #5- Less is More. So Keep it Simple, Sister!

    Sometimes simplicity is better than complexity. When creating a story, it’s always preferred to create a simple layout of events that take place. Trying to add more details to the timeline, lore, and/or backstory is janky no matter what. It can become stressful, hard to manage and organize, and just overwhelming. Try to keep things simple. Trust me, it’ll help you out in the long run.

    Tip #6- Give Your Characters Flaws!

    Flaws are important, every single person on the planet has ‘em. But what constitutes a flaw? While there is no clear cut answer, I’ll do my best. For one, the limitations of a character's abilities are NOT flaws. Achille’s heel is a good example of what I mean. He’s basically indestructible, except for this one spot. That isn’t a character flaw, that’s just a place you can attack and do damage. A guy feeling immense pain after being kicked in the groin isn’t a character flaw, either.

    An example of an actual character flaw is the character being too protective of his friends. It might not seem like one but hear me out. This can be exploited. It can become a character flaw in the right circumstances. Anger issues are a character flaw, but being distrusting of people at first isn’t; lacking empathy is a flaw, but being stubborn isn’t always one. Another example of a weird character ‘flaw’ is trauma. What it can bring in certain behaviors makes some consider it a flaw. This isn’t true. The behaviors themselves can be considered flaws, but the trauma is not a flaw. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

    Tip #7- Maybe Some Melodies?

    Music gives atmosphere for a reason. Sometimes listening to music can give you ideas. It certainly has for me. Whether it be songs from your fandom, Sea Shanties, Irish folk songs, or whatever, you can use music to help you focus on what you’re writing. For example, say you’re writing this intense emotional scene where a character is venting their problems to someone but you can’t find the right words for it to seem natural; why not find some good emotional music that fits with the scene?

    And don’t limit it to just the writing itself! Hunt for character, area, boss, or fight themes, even intro themes! Treat your work like it’s a show, with animation, music, the whole nine yards! While this might not work for everyone, I do recommend to at least try it to see if it’ll help you during the creation process.

    Tip #8- Play Things Out

    Music can only get you so far, sometimes actions can bring you farther. When you’re writing a story or coming up with events, play the event out in your mind. Like I said in the previous tip, treat your work like it’s a show. You know what is meant to happen, play out the event and you can get a good idea for how it happened. Say this character is supposed to break out of a prison, play out the event and you’ll most likely come up with a cool break out scene that’ll be memorable. Treating your work like an anime can help add suspense and intensity to scenes, especially fight scenes.

    Tip #9- To Create Attachment to Your Character(s)

    This is not talking about getting your readers attached to ‘em. This is for getting yourself attached. Add pieces of yourself to the character. Add traits that you find fun and want to use. Add whatever it is that’ll be fun for you to write and help create attachment to the character(s). Just have fun, and create whatever comes to your mind, though, make sure that it won’t screw up anything with your story. But you can probably find a way to work it in, as long as it doesn’t get cluttered.

    Tip #10- General Advice

    Write what you know. It’s important to keep things in the realm of your knowledge. Doing otherwise is going to cause you trouble in the long run. Don't try to please everyone, it’s just gonna cause a headache. No matter what, someone out there is gonna get offended about it.

    Keep notes, it’ll help you keep track of things. Not to mention sometimes you’ll start writing away and come up with something new. Create designs, both character and area. It helps a lot when you create the look of a place or character, for many reasons. Watch videos on writing, it can help you more understand aspects of writing, like world building and tropes.

    Don’t keep everything set in stone. Changes in concepts and events is a natural progression in the process of creation. Add some friends to the project if possible, it can add more to the fun, and they can help in a lot of areas. That is, if they are competent. Always experiment. Sometimes you just need to write in a different way or different perspective for everything to fall in place.

    Have fun with your writing. It becomes a lot easier to write and create when you’re having fun with it. Don’t take your story seriously. Listen, you aren’t going to write the next Bible, right?

    And most importantly, take breaks. Branch out and do other things when you can’t think of anything. You can’t create anything good when you’re forcing yourself to do it. You’ll only make yourself hate writing and despise your creation.

    That’s all for my tips! Remember, these aren’t guidelines for writing, and you don’t have to follow every single one of ‘em. Just have fun, and see if these can help you make better stories and characters.

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