What Does “Your Pen. Our Sword.” Mean To You? by Deborah Yarchun
“Your pen” means I own my play. “Our sword” means, “No really, I really own my play. Seriously, other pens, back away.” Fortunately, I haven’t had an issue with anybody trying to rewrite my work, but these words translate to more. They empower me to remember when anybody gives me notes, that at the end of the day—it’s my pen. Or my fingers on the keyboard typing. Whichever. It all counts.
“Our sword” means a lot to me personally.
Years ago, when the co-director of the drama department at my high school refused to let me in the rehearsal room for my play that my school was producing, a professional playwright I’d reached out to informed me it was my right to be in the rehearsal room. And not only was it my right, there’s an organization that exists, in part, to protect this right. “Our Sword” means that recently (a lot of years later) when another director tried to scratch my right to be present at tech rehearsals from our licensing agreement, I was able to say, “As a member of the Dramatists Guild, I need to uphold the standards of the organization and keep that in.”
It means that I can point to the Dramatists Guild Bill of Rights when confusions surface to win a battle. And I can focus on writing instead of fighting. Which is always preferable (although sometimes its own fight, but that’s another story).
And, interestingly, if you look at the original expression it’s drawing on—“The pen is mightier than the sword”—it also says that I can choose to follow whatever path I feel is right. That there’s not an army telling me I’m required to abide by specific terms. It means that I can strike a clause from a licensing agreement if it doesn’t fit the circumstance. A student recently reached out to license my play and asked if I could remove the clause stating I had the right to be present for casting because it was for an educational opportunity and students in her class had selected the show with specific performers in mind. In that particular circumstance—sure.
“Your Pen. Our Sword.” doesn’t mean we’re not collaborative or willing to listen to feedback. It simply means we’re the one penning our plays. And we have rights.
Learn more about what Your Pen. Our Sword. means HERE.
DEBORAH YARCHUN is a 2017-2018 Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow. Her honors include two Jerome Fellowships at The Playwrights’ Center, an EST/Sloan Commission, the Kernodle New Play Award, The Kennedy Center’s Jean Kennedy Smith Playwriting Award, the Richard Maibaum Playwriting Award, and the Iowa Arts Fellowship. M.F.A., University of Iowa.