Since the winter of 1979 the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild has provided a place to relieve the feelings Hemingway expressed and he remarked, “Writing is a lonely occupation.” In doing so the Guild has probably played an important role as part of the San Diego writing scene. People from all over the region come in search of support and to share their talents.
As a practical matter the Guild is a support group that serves professionals as well as novices. We run the gamut of every type and genre: poets and playwrights; novelists and storytellers; journalists; biographers; and writers of fables. We have carried on the ideals of our founders by offering support and encouragement, and have grown as a collaborative partner in the larger San Diego writing community.
But, it wasn’t always that way.
The story of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild is one of struggle and fortitude by a group of gutsy women who got started, and many who have continued the effort. In the fall of 1978, our founder, Rhoda Riddell, returned to San Diego from the East Coast. She yearned to find a group of compatible souls who, like her friends in the Word Guild in New York, would share the joys and travails of a freelance writer’s life. She advertised for writers in The Reader and was inundated by people seeking work. A dozen or so accepted her invitation to meet as an informal support group.
Prudy Wood hosted some of the early meetings in her La Jolla home. The group began with occasional potlucks and Saturday lunches with speakers, but many meetings were simply “happy hours” held on the first Monday evening each month. Local editors and agents attended those meetings, and many contacts leading to writing assignments were made. The vision was to allow anyone to join, published or not, and forming a network to support writers.
Like most startups, the first few years required entrepreneurial fortitude. Early leaders like Betty Dodds, Betty Smith, Peggy Lipscomb, and Betty Juris stepped up to bat to ensure survival. They formally organized as the San Diego Writers Guild with Betty Dodds as director, leading a council of six other members. Soon after, the group appointed Betty Smith as treasurer, a post she faithfully held for many years.
On September 20, 1980, the Guild held its first conference on the subject of “Successfully Cracking the Writing Market.” Speakers included editors from San Diego Magazine and The Reader as well as Don Freeman of the San Diego Unionand Guild members Igor Lobanov and Bruce Gibney.
In early 1981 the name was changed to “San Diego Writers/Editors Guild.”
In 1982 the Guild began having writers’ retreats in such places as Rancho La Puerta, the Rosarita Beach Hotel, and Murrieta Hot Springs.
Through the years the leadership has changed. Presidents Rhoda Riddell, Betty Dodds, Lois Horowitz, Marsh Cassady, Betty Jurus, Barbara Sack, Lynn Ford, Olin Thompson, Gene Wentz, Kim Tucker, John Davis, Judy Edelblute, Carl Nelson, Paul Darby, Bob Doublebower, Carl Nelson, Gered Beeby, Ruth Ritchie, Peggy Lipscomb-Kazwara, and Sam Warren have all provided able administration. Members have come and gone, but our goals remain constant: we offer networking and understanding of the writer’s special life, encouragement to keep going, and help in developing needed skills.
At its January 1998 meeting the Guild honored Rhoda Riddell with its “Founders” Award, while Betty Dodds, Betty Smith (posthumous), Peggy Lipscomb-Kazwara, and Betty Jurus received the “Builders” Award.
Our 25th year anniversary party, held in 2004, was a grand success. With a turnout of more than 100 people, we celebrated a dinner fit for royalty at the Admiral Kidd club.
In the beginning, Rhoda and others had the vision and determination to kick-start San Diego’s writing community. It was a tremendous start, because more than 20 years later our town is well known as fertile soil for the development of accomplished and successful writers, many of whom found their way to success through the Guild. We expect to continue our leadership role and make contributions for the writing arts among the greater San Diego cultural arts community.