Thursday, October 18, 2018

Pen America Files Lawsuit Against President Donald J. Trump For First Amendment Violations

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Note: When Donald Trump took the oath of office, he swore to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

His actions have proven otherwise. To attack the free press, journalists, and writers from a position of presidential authority is not only a violation of the oath of office, it is unlawful. The Constitution is not a suggestion, it is the law of the land.

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NEW YORK, October 16, 2018—PEN America, the leading national organization representing writers and literary professionals and defending free expression, filed a lawsuit today against President Donald J. Trump for using the powers of the federal government to retaliate against journalists and media outlets he finds objectionable, in violation of the First Amendment. PEN America is represented in the case by the nonpartisan nonprofit Protect Democracy and the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic.

The filing asserts that, while President Trump is free to express his own views critical of journalists and media outlets, his use of the regulatory and enforcement powers of government to punish the press for criticism of him is unconstitutional. The complaint, filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, asks the court to enter a declaratory judgment that the President’s retaliatory actions violate the First Amendment and enjoin the President from directing any employee or agency of the federal government to take any action against the press in retaliation for coverage the President views as hostile.

The complaint makes reference to incidents that it argues were intended to make clear to writers, reporters, and commentators that if they criticize the President, they or the media entities they represent could face reprisals by the government. These incidents include:

  • The Department of Justice’s antitrust enforcement action against the merger of CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, with AT&T, coming in the wake of credible threats by the President to retaliate against CNN’s coverage of him and his Administration;
  • The President’s Executive Order to the U.S. Postal Service to examine raising postal rates on Amazon, founded and run by Jeff Bezos, following the President’s threats to retaliate against coverage that the President disapproved of by the Washington Post, which Jeff Bezos owns. A retaliatory action that led, on October 11, 2018, to the U.S. Postal Service announcing proposed rate increases, including a proposed 12-percent increase for the Parcel Select service used by Amazon;
  • The President’s threats to revoke White House press credentials, which were followed by directing the removal of a White House correspondent from a press event covering the President, in retaliation for editorial decisions that reporter had made; and
  • The President’s threats to revoke broadcast licenses of television stations whose coverage he disapproves of.

The complaint argues that these and other similar actions intentionally place a sword of Damocles over the heads of all journalists and writers covering the President, including PEN America members.

“While PEN America members, and many media outlets and journalists, have been unflinching in their coverage of the Administration, the First Amendment protects the press from having to brave government retaliation and threats in order to do their work,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. “We have grown sadly accustomed to near daily attacks by President Trump on the media, but when his speech crosses the line into retaliatory actions or credible threats of reprisal against critics, the President’s actions are not only egregious, but also unconstitutional. At a time when hostility toward the press has fostered a climate of threats and even violence, it is essential for courts to step in and affirm the role of the First Amendment and free press in our democracy. There is a natural tension between leaders and the press corps charged with holding him accountable, but here in the U.S. we have constitutional safeguards that prevent the use of the power of government to punish and intimidate the media.”

“As an organization of working writers united in defense of free expression, we are alarmed at the climate of hostility and threat in which those who offer political reportage and commentary must now operate,” said PEN America President, journalist, and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jennifer Egan. “PEN America has long risen to the defense of writers around the world who face peril for expressing themselves. With journalism under unprecedented attack from the White House, we feel compelled to fight back.”

The complaint reaffirms that the First Amendment prohibits government actors from using their power in ways that punish the content of reporting or that are intended to stoke intimidation through threats of government action. It notes that individual writers, including freelancers and especially those who may be vulnerable for other reasons—by virtue of their immigration status, for example—may understandably think twice before publishing pieces or commentary that could put them in the White House’s crosshairs.

“The governing law is clear: President Trump has the right to express views about the press, loudly and often. He does not have the right to use the powers of his office to punish those who disagree with him and criticize him,” said David Schulz of the Yale Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic.

President Trump has already faced a number of First Amendment challenges. In one case, a federal district judge, presiding in the same district in which this case has been filed, declared that President Trump’s practice of blocking critics on his Twitter account violated the First Amendment. The remedy sought in PEN America’s complaint is similar. In another case, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an allegation from protesters who were roughed up during a campaign rally that then-candidate Trump’s calls from the podium incited a violent riot.

This suit comes at a worldwide moment of reckoning for the relationship between governments and the journalists who criticize them. As respect for the role of the press erodes, illustrated most egregiously in recent days with the crisis over the fate of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, it is vital to underscore and enforce the First Amendment protections that have always set the U.S. apart as a standard bearer for press freedom. That’s what this suit aims to do.

“President Trump’s anti-press actions are taking place at a time when autocrats around the world, including in Hungary, Poland, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have been ramping up their attacks on a free press,” said Kristy Parker, Counsel to Protect Democracy. “The difference between the United States and those countries is that the United States has a long-standing constitutional tradition that prevents such behavior and an independent court system designed to step in when violations occur.”

Protect Democracy has highlighted the myriad ways in which President Trump appears to be following a playbook used by other autocratic rulers around the world. While democracy was ascendant around the globe in the latter half of the twentieth century, that trend has come to an alarming halt. According to data from Freedom House, an independent watchdog that tracks free expression globally, the spread of democratic regimes peaked around 2005 and has been in retreat ever since. The new breed of autocratic-style leaders does not vanquish democracy overnight. Rather, modern autocrats pull at the threads of democracy incrementally, finding vulnerabilities in democratic systems that can be exploited. Using the power of the government to deliberately intimidate dissenting voices, including those of writers and journalists, is one such strategy. In some of the aforementioned countries, their leadership has succeeded in eroding democracy as the direct result of a lack of a truly independent judicial check. It is against this backdrop that today’s lawsuit has been filed.

Since the 2016 presidential campaign, PEN America has decried efforts to foment hostility and distrust toward the media. Through research reports, petitions, and campaigns, PEN America has mobilized to defend the role of the press as a cornerstone of our democracy. In 2018, PEN America initiated a national outreach effort to activate its members through public forums on media freedom, advocacy for local news outlets, and media literacy workshops. A cornerstone of this effort is the Press Freedom Incentive Fund, which supports initiatives that build new local constituencies ready to defend press freedom. PEN America has fought against encroachments on free speech by United States presidential administrations for decades, including through advocacy for whistleblowers and journalists targeted for their reporting. The organization also has a long history of litigation challenging government encroachments on freedom of expression, including the blocking of prominent writers and scholars from visiting the United States due to their critical speech pursuant to the USA PATRIOT Act, and the mass warrantless wiretapping of international electronic communications.

Read quotes on today’s filing from experts here.

The full complaint can be read here.

More information about this case can be found at pen.org/pen-america-v-trump

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Protect Democracy is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing American democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government.

The Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic is a legal services clinic dedicated to increasing government transparency, defending the essential work of news gatherers, and protecting freedom of expression through impact litigation, direct legal services, and policy work. The clinic is an initiative of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School and is funded by the Floyd Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression.

Friday, October 5, 2018

3 New Literary Agents Seeking Literary Fiction, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Memoir, Women's Fiction & more

Here are three new agents expanding their client lists. Kristin van Ogtrop represents memoir, commercial women’s fiction, biography, lifestyle and big idea books driven by counterintuitive thinking. Lisa Leshne is most interested in narrative and prescriptive non-fiction, especially on social justice, sports, health, wellness, business, political and parenting topics. She loves memoirs that transport the reader into another person’s head and give a voyeuristic view of someone else’s extraordinary experiences. Lisa also enjoys literary and commercial fiction and some young adult and middle-grade books that take the reader on a journey and are just plain fun to read. Ryan Eichenwald is looking for Fantasy, Science Fiction, Paranormal, and Adventure, set in any time period and for any age group.

Always check the agency website before submitting. Agents may switch agencies or close their lists, and submission requirements can change.

If these agents don't suit your needs, you can find a comprehensive list of new and established agents seeking clients here: Agents Seeking Clients.

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Kristin van Ogtrop of Inkwell Management

Kristin van Ogtrop, the former editor-in-chief of Real Simple, has joined InkWell Management as a literary agent. Under her stewardship, Real Simple became the #1 American women’s lifestyle magazine brand with a print and digital reach of 25 million and was nominated for 15 National Magazine Awards. Kristin’s blog, “Adventures in Chaos,” was nominated for a Media Industry Newsletter “Best of the Web” award, and in 2014, she was named by Fortune magazine as one of the “55 Most Influential Women on Twitter.” She is a contributor to the New York Times bestseller, The Bitch in the House and the author of Just Let Me Lie Down, published by Little, Brown.

What she is seeking: Kristin represents memoir, commercial women’s fiction, biography, lifestyle and big idea books driven by counterintuitive thinking.

How to submit: Queries should be emailed to: submissions@inkwellmanagement.com
In the body of your email, please include a query letter and a short writing sample (1-2 chapters). Emails with large attachments will be discarded.

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Lisa Leshne of The Lisa Leshne Agency

Originally from the cornfields of Champaign, Illinois, Lisa has a BA in Sociology from the University of California at Santa Barbara and an MBA from Harvard. She has been profiled for entrepreneurial activities on 60 Minutes, Prime Time Live, the BBC, and featured in Fortune, Money, The New York Times, Washington Post, London Times, Advertising Age, Smithsonian and other publications. Lisa is the subject of a Harvard Business School case study on The Prague Post, and has been an invited speaker and panelist at Harvard and Columbia Business Schools.

What she is seeking: Lisa is most interested in narrative and prescriptive non-fiction, especially on social justice, sports, health, wellness, business, political and parenting topics. She loves memoirs that transport the reader into another person’s head and give a voyeuristic view of someone else’s extraordinary experiences. Lisa also enjoys literary and commercial fiction and some young adult and middle-grade books that take the reader on a journey and are just plain fun to read.

How to submit: This agency uses author.me for submissions. Click HERE.

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Ryan Eichenwald of Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency

Ryan Eichenwald started with the agency in August of 2018. Ryan attended college at Duke University, where he taught himself guitar, founded an a capella group (that quickly collapsed), and worked as an editor for The Archive, the Duke literary magazine. He graduated with high distinction in English and philosophy, and wrote a gaslamp fantasy novella for his thesis project. Ryan is a graduate of the Columbia Publishing Course, and can frequently be found singing, writing, or attempting not to set his kitchen on fire. He tends to read instead of sleep.

What he is seeking: Ryan is looking for Fantasy, Science Fiction, Paranormal, and Adventure, set in any time period and for any age group. (He longs to see fantasy fiction set in space. SPACE WIZARDS.) He is interested in fiction of any kind except erotic, and will be willing to review narrative nonfiction pieces as well. His preference is for Adult or Young Adult, but is interested in Middle Grade as well. Ryan is particularly partial to richly developed characters and settings, especially realistic or unusual magic systems. If you can make a fantasy world work in a rational manner, then he would DEFINITELY love to talk to you.

​How to submit: Please submit send a query, a 1-2 page synopsis, and the first 25 pages of your project to Ryan's Query Manager at http://QueryMe.Online/ryaneichenwald. You will receive an automatic response from Query Manager which lets you know your submission is in his inbox, and you can track your query’s progress. He’ll respond within 6 weeks, but only to projects that interest him.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

3 Agents Seeking YA, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Literary Fiction, Commercial fiction, Women’s Fiction, Romance, Crime, Mystery & Thrillers, Memoir & More

Here are three agents actively expanding their client lists. Jennifer Grimaldi is building a list of historicals, romance, horror, and YA & adult sci-fi and fantasy. Weronika Janczuk is looking for: Young adult, fantasy & sci-fi, literary fiction, commercial fiction, women’s fiction. romance, crime, mystery & thrillers, memoir, non-fiction (innovative ideas & research; projects with a potential for social & cultural impact, etc.).  Rhea Lyons is looking for literary/commercial crossover (especially those with a speculative bend), plot-driven commercial fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and romance. She is also interested in narrative nonfiction, health & wellness, pop culture, and true crime-- particularly books that blend history, science, and pop culture. For children's books and young adult, Rhea is especially interested in novels about girls who play sports for the sake of sports, and in nonfiction books that hint at being educational / empowering but are primarily entertaining.

Always check the agency website before submitting. Agents may switch agencies or close their lists, and submission requirements can change.

If these agents don't suit your needs, you can find a comprehensive list of new and established agents seeking clients here: Agents Seeking Clients.

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Jennifer Grimaldi of Chalberg & Sussman

Now an agent with Chalberg & Sussman, where she first started her publishing career in 2012, Jennifer is building a list of historicals, romance, horror, and YA & adult sci-fi and fantasy. 

What she is seeking: Across all genres, Jennifer loves strong, voice-driven novels, dark and romantic themes, and books that make her think—and learn. She is particularly excited by books that explore gender and sexuality, especially those with diverse, LGBTA+ leads, and own-voice writers. 

Aspects sure to delight her include: cities and urban-planning, anecdotal histories, that trope where there were supposed to be two rooms at the hotel but they’re all booked up so the leads have to share, spies, thieves, mythological retellings, witches just trying to get by, weird obsessions, and puns. 

How to submit: To query Jennifer, please email jennifer@chalbergsussman.com and include the first five pages of your manuscript in the body of an email. Jennifer accepts queries by email only.

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Weronika Janczuk of D4EO

Weronika broke into publishing in 2009, through a high school workshop that placed her with former young adult editor Brian Farrey at Flux (now North Star), a small imprint in Minnesota, where she pulled, from the slush pile, the lovely Out of the Blue by Holly Schindler, which received a starred review in Booklist. She then moved on to intern with Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency.  From 2010-2011, she worked with Bob Diforio and sold an array of projects.

What she is looking for: Young adult, fantasy & sci-fi, literary fiction, commercial fiction, women’s fiction. romance, crime, mystery & thrillers, memoir, non-fiction (innovative ideas & research; projects with a potential for social & cultural impact, etc.).

How to submit: You can submit a query directly via the QueryTracker form linked here. No account is necessary. If you prefer to query over email, paste your query letter and the first ten pages of your manuscript to weronika(at)d4eo(dot)com, and include the word QUERY in your subject line. She will respond personally only if she requests your manuscript.

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Rhea Lyons of Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency

Rhea began her publishing career while studying at the University of Rochester and interning at Open Letter, a press which exclusively publishes literature in translation. She then joined the Random House Publishing Group, which includes the imprints of Random House, Spiegel & Grau, Ballantine, Bantam Dell, and Del Rey, working in Subrights. In 2011, she became a scout at Franklin and Siegal Associates, and spent the next few years working to help international publishers discover and acquire new and upcoming works of fiction and nonfiction. Most recently, Rhea was the Subsidiary Rights Director at Rodale, where she also acquired books for their adult list as well as for their newly launched children's imprint, Rodale Kids.

What she is looking for: For fiction, Rhea is looking for literary/commercial crossover (especially those with a speculative bend), plot-driven commercial fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and romance. She is also interested in narrative nonfiction, health & wellness, pop culture, and true crime-- particularly books that blend history, science, and pop culture. For children's books and young adult, Rhea is especially interested in novels about girls who play sports for the sake of sports, and in nonfiction books that hint at being educational / empowering but are primarily entertaining.

How to submit: Please send a query letter and the first five pages of your manuscript (within the email–no attachments please!) to rlyons@hsgagency.com

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