Open Letter to Los Angeles City Council Members from Los Angeles Literary Arts Organizations and Allies
To: Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles City Council Members Gil Cedillo, Paul Krekorian, Bob Blumenfield, David Ryu, Paul Koretz, City Council President Nury Martinez, Monica Rodriguez, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Curren Price, Herb Wesson, Mike Bonin, John Lee, Mitch O’Farrell, Jose Huizar, and Joe Buscaino
We write as a coalition of Los Angeles-based literary arts organizations and allies committed to supporting this city’s writers and literary professionals struggling amid the COVID-19 epidemic. We support the prioritization of health and safety measures until the crisis subsides, but request that you include writers and the literary community in forthcoming funding decisions related to recovery from the pandemic, recognizing the essential cultural and economic role they play in our city.
According to the 2018 Otis Report on the Creative Economy, publishing and printing alone provided over 160,000 jobs to our city in the period studied. When combined with fashion and entertainment, which also employs literary writers, editors, copywriters, as well as screen and teleplay writers, the sector has contributed 59.4 percent of direct creative industry employment in the State of California, and up to 71 percent of the creative workforce in Los Angeles, the study reports.
Today, however, there are many, many writers in Los Angeles who are facing an unprecedented interruption in their livelihoods following the cancellation of book tours and promotional events; ongoing holds on film, television, and new media productions; and the shuttering of local newspapers, magazines, and other media outlets. At the same time, with dark restaurants, closed bookstores, and more, many of the other jobs that make a writing life possible are no longer available. According to the ongoing Americans for the Arts COVID-19 Impact Survey, 95 percent of responding artists have reported lost income due to the crisis. In the same survey, literary and media arts organizations and presenters have reported a median financial impact of –$218,000 per organization, losses particularly felt by organizations that have long worked to serve marginalized literary artists.
We thank the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs for being a valued cultural agency with programs and grants that have worked to ensure that Los Angeles remains a diverse and vital arts center. In the midst of our current crisis, the recent Arts Emergency Relief Fund has been important and appreciated, particularly in its inclusion of individual writers. Additionally, we commend LA City Council Member David Ryu for his motion to amend city law to ease the repurposing of emergency funds for the benefit of the artists and arts nonprofits that need it.
However, we must note that writers as a specific creative community have frequently been left out of most relief efforts. It is clear that this is a group of artists central to LA’s previously booming creative economy—journalists, novelists, nonfiction authors, screen and television writers, poets, essayists, playwrights, translators, editors, and copywriters. These artists and the literary organizations that support them are central to the publishing, entertainment, and new media sectors that are a core component of our economy. Our city cannot afford to leave writers behind.
We, the undersigned Los Angeles literary organizations and allies, seek:
- Designation of the literary community as recipients for relief in Los Angeles’s forthcoming emergency aid funding, including through funding provided to the city via federal economic stimulus packages.
- Additional city funding to support the many literary organizations that are critical to sustaining the vitality and diversity of the city’s literary landscape in light of the substantial losses they have sustained in the midst of the public health crisis.
- Relief for commercial rents for 501c3 literary arts organizations that are unable to use their premises during the shutdown.
- Funding and development of a Los Angeles COVID-19 narrative project that would commission and remunerate writers to document the effects of the pandemic on the lives of Los Angelenos.
The literary arts are not optional; they are essential to our city and our communities. Writers are our conscience, our watchdogs, leading in the important work of bearing witness to history and helping us make sense of our lives and our world. We must ensure that their work continues.
We hope and trust that the council will also continue to address the urgent needs of those who provide the city with its essential services, including healthcare professionals, and that they continue to fund programs that provide the sick, homeless, disabled, undocumented, and other marginalized communities with the resources they need. But as the council turns to shore up the creative economy of our city, we ask that you recognize the vital contribution of writers and literary artists to our city’s past, present, and future.
Executive Director, PEN America Los Angeles
Executive Director, 826LA
Managing Editor, Kaya Press
Director and Cofounder, Women Who Submit
Educator and Author of BLACK INDIAN
Executive Director, Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore
Director of Sales and Marketing, Rare Bird
Jessica Ceballos y Campbell
Director, Alternative Field
CEO, Vroman’s and Book Soup
Founder, WordCraft LA
Creator, Dirty Laundry Lit and The Table Lit
Author of GRACE
Producing Artistic Director, East West Players
Founder and Producer, Live Talks Los Angeles
Chair of MFA Writing, Otis College of Art and Design
Creator and Producer, Library Girl
Publisher, Unnamed Press
Artistic Director, WordTheatre®
Executive Director, POPS The Club
Founder, Avenue 50 Studio
President/Founder, Writers Bloc Presents
Radius of Arab American Writers
Program Director, Writers’ Program, UCLA Extension Writers’ Program
Founder, Jack Jones Literary Arts
Owner, Libros Schmibros
Writer: Antioch University, Santa Monica College
Executive Director, Lambda Literary
Managing Editor, LA Parent
M. G. Lord
Associate Professor of English (Practice), University of Southern California
Diane Luby Lane
Founder and Executive Director, Get Lit – Words Ignite
Director, Los Angeles Poetry Festival
COLA Fellow 2018/19
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Los Angeles Review of Books
Distinguished Professor & Chair, Creative Writing, University of California, Riverside
Paddy Calistro and Scott McAuley
Publishers, Angel City Press
Executive Director, Clockshop
Founding Editor, Dryland Literary Journal
Poets & Writers, Inc.
Cofounder, Angels Flight • literary west
Executive Director, Beyond Baroque Literary / Arts Center
Professor and Artistic Director, Department of Theatre, Film & Digital Production
MFA for Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts
Chair, Region VIII KCACTF National Playwriting Program
University of California, Riverside
Executive Director, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions
Abel M. Salas
Editor/Publisher, Brooklyn & Boyle: Art, Culture & Community
Editor, Phoneme Media
Editor-in-Chief, Counterpoint Press
Writer and Literary Curator
Marketing Director and Rogue Lab New Play Incubator Co-Director, Rogue Artist Ensemble
Executive Director, Young Storytellers
David L. Ulin
Associate Professor of English (Practice), University of Southern California
Board Member, Venice Arts Council
President, Film Independent
Executive Director and Cofounder, GlobalGirl Media
General Manager, Skylight Books
Jessica M. Wilson
Founder and Executive Director, Los Angeles Poet Society
Publisher and Editorial Director, TSEHAI Publishers
Writers Guild of America West
Adrian Todd Zuniga
CCO/Creator/Host, Literary Death Match