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Authors Guild to Maintain Vigilance in these “Not Normal” Times

“The chief glory of every people arises from its authors.”

—Samuel Johnson


NEW YORK, NY, February 3, 2017—There are times in a democracy when writers have a particularly important role to play, and this is one. Given the contested and confusing public discourse that surrounds us, we need more than ever the thoughtful, long-form writing that fiction and non-fiction authors alike provide. Writers help us better understand our world, both present and past, by shining a light on seen and unseen truths. The recent appearance on bestseller lists of dystopian literature such as 1984, Brave New World, It Can’t Happen Here, and The Handmaid’s Tale reminds us that the novelists, poets, and critics who give imaginative shape to our experience are indispensable in our current political climate. A free society treasures its writers for this important role.

The Authors Guild exists to ensure that writers continue to play their role in our culture and our democracy. Founded by writers for writers, we’ve been the collective voice of American authors since 1912 and have worked to protect working writers through the turbulence of the last century. We supported authors through two world wars, helped writers obtain federal employment during the Great Depression, and helped protect members who were blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

We are and always have been a nonpartisan organization. Our members represent the broad sweep of American authorship and include writers of every political persuasion. We do not endorse candidates for election and we have worked with every administration and every Congress since our founding. But these are not normal times.

The Authors Guild will not countenance impediment to the free flow of information; we will not remain silent in the face of attacks on free expression and freedom of movement. We are committed to ensuring that the diverse voices of today’s writers can be heard. When an issue affects authors’ livelihoods or the ability to write freely, we bring to bear our 100-year history of advocating for writers’ interests on Capitol Hill, in the literary community, to the public at large, and in the courtroom. The Authors Guild does not just speak out on important issues of the day, we act: when writers are silenced or their rights curtailed, the Guild takes action, including legal action, to make meaningful change. We are presently working on retaining funding for the NEA and NEH and providing visa assistance to foreign writers.

Federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities is currently under serious threat—despite the fact that the two agencies account for only .002 percent of federal spending and are the only ones that represent our thriving arts culture. These organizations support countless authors, literary organizations, and artistic endeavors. We are working with LitNet (a coalition of nonprofit literary organizations that supports freedom of expression and promotes funding for the literary arts) to make sure this spending cut will not take place. We did this once before in 1995, when together we prevented the defunding of NEA’s grants to individual writers (a success not shared in other arts fields).

Regarding the recent executive order banning travel from seven Muslim countries—which impedes the voices of refugees, writers, and translators from these nations from becoming part of our national dialogue—we’re fighting back here, too, as we will against the proposed cuts to working visas. The Authors Guild is authorized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to provide consultation letters for writers seeking 0-1 Visas to continue their work in the United States, and our legal department regularly provides them. Our doors are open to all foreign authors who are in need of assistance.

We haven’t stopped fighting for writers, and we won’t stop now.

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