Earlier this week, I arrived home to find a large white envelope exploding out of my mailbox. In this email age, I always get a little excited when something other than a book of coupons arrives in the mail. According to the return address, it was from the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW). I didn’t even wait until I was inside to tear it open.
Inside, I found a certificate, saying that I had registered my play, Worm Food, with the WGAW. The guild offers this service to non-members for a small fee. All you have to do is upload a manuscript and they’ll store it for five years. The idea is that it can serve as evidence that you wrote it, should someone try to plagiarize your work. For many writers, it’s the last step of the process before you unveil it to the wider world.
I don’t think anyone is going to steal my play, but I still feel good about having it registered. The certificate with my name on it (my full legal name, which probably cost them a small fortune’s worth of ink to print) is like a stamp of legitimacy. I have a work registered with the guild. That means I started it, finished it, edited and did all the work necessary to prepare it for the marketplace. I feel like I’ve got my stripes as a playwright — now I have to prove that I’ve earned it.
A play in the WGAW registry is not the dream. The end goal is to get it produced by a theatre company. A play without actors and an audience is just a bunch of words on a page. The WGAW says I’m a playwright, but that’s just the first step. Don’t worry, I’ll get there.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer and aspiring playwright in Tacoma, WA. His full-length comedy, Worm Food, is a satirical look at friends, family and death. He also writes short stories, screenplays, novellas and most importantly of all, tweets. Seriously, you don’t want to miss his Twitter stream. Thanks for reading!