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  • 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

  • 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 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.

    The Guild is dedicated to promoting our members and their writing in every way possible, and our blog is a wonderful resource to achieve that end.

    To request a member profile or book review from Andrea Glass, or to submit a piece, please contact  us using the email button below.

  • 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.

  • 11 Apr 2022 11:47 AM | Andrea Glass (Administrator) | |

    Wanjirũ Warama uses her unique experiences of growing up on a British colonial farm in Kenya, her world travels, and as an immigrant in the United States to write biographical, nonfiction books that enlighten, entertain, and inspire readers to do their best and thrive. Her fifth book, THE COLONIZED And the Scramble for Africa is the first of the COLONIZED series. Her sixth book, and the second in the series, will be published in the fall of 2022. Besides writing, which takes most of her time, Wanjirũ is a philanthropist who is passionate about education. She is a lifetime member of the Friends of San Diego Public library and of The Rotary Club, among others. She lives in San Diego, California and visits family and Gȋtũra Secondary & Primary schools in Kenya whenever she can.

    What I write: I write creative nonfiction

    What attracted me to writing: I gave a 10-minute talk at a library fundraiser, and the following morning woke up with stories jostling in my mind like unruly children. I thought I had gone mad. It baffled me when the voices disappeared in one week. I joined a writers’ group to try to figure how I could write such stories. One page led to another and here I am.

    How long I’ve been writing: I’ve been writing for nine years.

    What kind of books do I write? I write nonfiction books: personal/family memoirs sprinkled with a lot of history. I have published three full-length books, one novella, and one novelette of short stories. I’m currently writing a personal essay to submit to the SDWEG 2022 anthology. I’m finalizing the second book of THE COLONIZED series.

    SDWEG membership: I became a member of SDWEG five years ago when Mardie Schroeder approached me at my table at a book fair. I joined because I wanted to belong to a writers’ group to exchange ideas and support and network with members of the writing community.

    SDWEG benefits I’ve gained: Unquantifiable knowledge from presentations, networking, and support from members.

    Something unique or special about me: In my golden years, I can still stand on my head.

    My current Wishlist with other members : Joint promotions, launch team, referrals, reviews, beta readers, and advance readers.

  • 4 Apr 2022 1:19 PM | Rick Lakin, Webmaster (Administrator)

    This year’s Guilded Pen – 2022 Anthology theme is:  “New Beginnings”

    What is a “theme” – it is, simply put, the meaning of the story. This year’s anthology theme is “New Beginnings.” Each submission must address this theme in some way: drama, comedy, enlightenment/transcendence. Here are links to helpful tips on writing to a theme both in short stories and essays. 

    While writing a short story or essay or poem with a theme in mind seems intimidating, here are some ways that might inspire you as you weave a thematic message through your work. 

    The Simple Way to Weave a Thematic Message:

    and › writing › themes-short-stories

    “The best works of literary fiction are driven by an overriding theme.” Some famous contemporary authors explain how they write to a theme:

    Here are tips on how to write a theme-based short story:

    Are you writing an essay? Here are links with some tips on crafting an essay with a theme:;


  • 1 Apr 2022 2:10 PM | Leon Lazarus (Administrator)

    For the past two years, I have had the pleasure of serving as the final copyeditor of the 9th and 10th editions of The Guilded Pen. If you are planning to submit a piece to the 11th annual Guilded Pen anthology, be sure to carefully read the requirements, stated below for your easy reference:

    1. The submission must address this year’s theme of New Beginnings. Remember, a theme is the meaning of the story. (Please read the blog post regarding writing to themes for some helpful tips.) There will be no exceptions.
    2. Up to 3 submissions may be entered; however, the aggregate word count may not exceed 3500 in total;
    3. Submissions must be:
      • Double-spaced,
      • Times New Roman, 12-point font,
      • 1-inch margins on all sides, and
      • A word document with .doc or .docx
    4. No headers or footers, no page numeration, author’s name cannot be shown on any of the pages submitted.
    5. The entry must be edited for spelling, punctuation, verb tense and other grammar issues prior to submission. The author understands that further copyediting may take place after submission is accepted.

    As copyeditor, I have little to say about the first two requirements. You, as author, are in control of what you write and how your submissions connect to this year’s theme.

    This blog post addresses items 3 and 4 above. These are items that may seem arbitrary. In this blog post, I hope to make it both easier to accomplish them and give a compelling reason for them.

    And I’ll end with a few notes on the format changes that may be applied to submissions even after you have carefully edited for spelling, punctuation, verb tense, and other grammar issues prior to submission.

    Why must submissions be double-spaced?

    This may be a holdover from when manuscripts were submitted as hundreds of typed or printed pages where the editors needed the extra line to make comments, but it remains the standard of submission requirements even when submitted electronically. We included it in order to familiarize our submitters with what is required when submitting manuscripts to agents, publishers, and contests. It is much easier to read a document with plenty of white space around the words. Double-spacing is an efficient way to introduce enough white space to invite the editors, reviewers, and final copyeditors to read the submission.

    What’s the big deal about Times New Roman and 12-point font?

    According to Lara Willard, editor and story consultant when commenting on formatting your novel manuscript, “The choice of font for your manuscript is one that’s been made for you. You need to use 12 pt. Times New Roman, double-spaced.

    “The size 12 font and double spacing is non-negotiable. The typeface is. Still, after asking dozens of literary agents about their preferences, I urge you to choose Times New Roman.”

    Why 1-inch margins?

    Once again, white space is part of the answer. But in the case of collecting pieces from several authors, the answer is that we need all submissions to have consistent margins all around so the pieces when put together will look unified in format.

    Why does the document need to be in Word?

    The primary reason is for all submissions to be consistent. The tools we use to edit the final versions require documents to be Word documents. In fact, one tool requires the documents to have the docx, not the doc extension. Upgrading the extension is simple, so we will accept documents with either extension.

    But it’s problematic to accept documents in other formats, such as Pages or rtf files. Microsoft Word has become the standard for nearly all computers. Pages is a native file format for Apple Mac products. And a Pages document can be converted to a Word document by using the Export feature. See the screenshot below:

    In the past, we have occasionally received pieces submited as rtf (rich text format) documents. I have not found a way to convert these documents into Word. Instead, I have had to copy the text and then paste it into a blank Word document. We hope submitters will do that work before submitting pieces.

    As for the final item, getting your piece edited before submitting it, don’t be dismayed if the final version isn’t letter-perfect when compared to your carefully edited submission. Changes made to submissions in order to accept them into the anthology are not intended to reflect poorly on the authors. They are for consistency throughout.

    For example, each of you may have a preferred style to emphasize a word, phrase, or even sentences or paragraphs. But the anthology is a new entity, larger than any of the entries in it. Where one author uses underlining for emphasis and another uses ALL CAPS, the individual styles conflict with one another. For uniformity, all changes made to individual submissions are done according to The Chicago Manual of Style.

    Additionally, the final version may change the spelling of a word. For example, two years back, two submissions used the word copilot, but one used a hyphen as in co-pilot. Again, for consistency in the presentation of a professional quality volume, we choose the spelling in Merriam-Webster’s current edition. Words with hyphens in the past are often being combined into a single word, but there is no rule for when this happens. I look up every hyphenated word to see if it is still the preferred version.

    I’m looking forward to receiving the submissions for the 11th anthology. It’s bound to be even better than the earlier ten.

  • 18 Mar 2022 3:38 PM | Leon Lazarus (Administrator)

    You may have received unsolicited emails from a vanity publisher apparently disguised as a literary agent.

    After the initial excitement of seeing an agent in the inbox, it quickly becomes clear that the offer sounds too good to be true. The latest email pitch begins, "One of our book agents scoured the published writers database for prospective authors and recommended you. As a Literary Agency, we're actually looking for book titles to represent."

    Before you pay any money to a shady company and sign away your rights with a seven-year deal, remember, the sales pitch may be misleading or completely false.

    The Better Business Bureau is racking up complaints surrounding this particular "agent" and other similar bait and switch companies, none of which we can name.

    Suffice to say, please be careful out there, do your due diligence, and follow these rules:

    • If they claim to be an agent, check their credentials before you sign anything. You can find most current, working literary agents here:
    • If they ask for any money up front, run!
    • If they suggest a book deal before reading the book, run!
    • If they promise you incredible results that sound too good to be true, run!

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