Thursday, November 25, 2010

Writer's Union Woes & Copyright Law

Oh, you don't get me, I'm part of the Union,
You don't get me, I'm part of the Union,
You don't get me, I'm part of the Union,
Until the day I die.
Until the day I die. (John Ford & Richard Hudson - The Strawbs)

I am a member of the Writer's Union of Canada. This isn't the kind of union that has angry and violent placard-waving protests or gets into bloody confrontations in the street. Sorry.
But the Writer's Union is a strong voice for professional writers in Canada. I get many benefits from being a member. Lately the Writer's Union has been appealing to the federal government about a new bill, Bill C-32, The Copyright Modernization Act.

Suppose you wrote a book and a local high school bought one copy (and you got paid 10% of the cover cost, say $3.00 for a $30.00 text book) and photocopied 60 copies of your book to give to two classes of students. You should have earned $90. but you got only $3.00.
Or suppose you take many hours to write a story for a local newspaper. You may get paid a bit of money for your work. Fair enough. But suppose a national magazine editor reads your story and prints it in a national magazine. It is enjoyed from St. John's to Victoria. After the warm glow of success fades, you would be disturbed that this magazine did not pay you anything for your work. Copyright law prevents people from using your work without compensation. Photocopying, scanning, or digitizing is an easy way for people to do just that: use your work without paying. Musicians lose in the same way when people download songs or copy CD's instead of buying the original CD.

The Copyright Modernization Act, if passed, will change rules around photocopying and digitizing work by Canadian authors and artists. It will take away from us some of the small amount of income we now earn. Writers and artists are contacting our Members of Parliament to ask them to reconsider this bill.

So How Do Writers Get Paid From Photocopying? The way things are now, organizations like Access Copyright have been formed to charge school boards, universities and such a yearly fee for allowing them to copyright a limited amount of published material. This money collected is divided between creators and publishers based on how many books are written how many copies were published. I certainly appreciate getting a cheque from time to time. Selling books in Canada is a very poor way to make any extra income. The writers who have summer homes and wine cellars and fancy cars usually have another job.
Help the creative artists thrive in Canada by paying for what you use, be it music CD's, photographs, artwork, poetry or prose.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Some New Reads & Old Stories

It's been a busy week. I began writing on Monday at 8:00 AM and decided to keep going until I 'got stuck". Didn't happen. So I went on until 9:00 PM and only quit because I was starting to make too many mistakes. Tuesday was another good day and I spent about 2/3 of the waking hours in front of the computer. Wednesday and yesterday were also busy in a writerly sort of way.

The project is the mining murder story re-write. It is almost done and there have been some subtle changes here and there, but mostly it was raking the facts into place. I'm liking it more - but that is a dangerous feeling! - sometimes that hides goof-ups. My dear wife is busy proof-reading the manuscript for errors. Shirley is a very meticulous reader and while she's busy it puts a strain on our friendliness! (What do you mean you don't like that line?) Today I had to draw her a diagram. Meticulous...

Two Good Reads...

I read two fun Young Adult books lately; "More Bloody Horowitz" by Anthony Horowitz and "The Cardturner" by Louis Sachar.

Horowitz wrote an excellent series for boys called the Alex Ryder series. It's like James Bond for 14 year-olds. The More Bloody Horowitz book is a series of scary stories which are well-written and fast-paced, and not so terribly scary. Usually the victim is a fellow British writer, a rival of Horowitz, or a bratty kid. It's a fun read and the stories are of varied length and subject. Don't be put off by the cover.

The Sachar book proves that Louis Sachar (he wrote Holes) can write about almost anything and make it interesting. There is mystery and romance and past history revealed, as Sachar does so well. The subject is parallel bridge - please...a card game? - and a young man who holds and 'turns' the cards for a blind but brilliant card sharpie. The blind man is so smart that after being told his 13 cards just once, has them memorized for the rest of the game. I'm not smart enough for these types of card games, and don't care to read about them (I'd compare it to watching bowling on TV) but I liked the book and read it through in a few hours.

Monday, November 8, 2010

CANSCAIP seminar & SKYPE visit

An old dog learns new tricks...

On Saturday I spent a full day at writing seminars hosted by CANSCAIP*, an organisation of Canadian children's authors, illustrators and performers. Each of the three seminars were hosted by experts and I was eager to hear what they had to say about writing and sending manuscripts in to be published. Although I have had four books published, I still feel I need to know more about the process.

Nora McClintock and Paul Kropp were presenters I heard and I learned quite a bit from them about writing mysteries and high interest / low vocabulary books respectively. From them I learned why two of my most recent manuscripts were rejected - the oops! factor...

Nora McClintock simplified some of the planning behind writing a mystery novel (and I saw a step I had missed with the escape the mine story), and Paul Kropp, whose books I used very often when I first started teaching in Scarborough, pointed out some do's and don'ts about hi/lo books which I should have known, but didn't. An editor with 25 years' experience spoke about do's and don't of sending manuscripts out.
Now I can go back to the keyboard and write with more confidence than yesterday...

Today (Monday) I had a good SKYPE visit with one of Heather Yearwood's grade 6 classes in Stirling. They had some good observations which I can use to improve my writing of Dan, Time Boy.
Now all I need is to get to work writing... about a coffee...? or maybe a sandwich would go down really well right now...
the tiny computer camera doesn't make you look very intelligent, does it?
* About CANSCAIP. You have to have a book published professionally (and have $85 in your pocket) to join, sorry, but you can join as a 'Friend of CANSCAIP' FOR $45. You get to attend conferences like the one I was at on Saturday and learn from some excellent people in the field. Are you interested in writing? Do other people say you write well? Consider joining.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Going down, down, down

More rewriting...
These days I'm switching writing jobs like a rodeo rider switches horses. I go from one story to another story and then on to some business letters, this blog, and some stuff I am doing for our church. On the fiction menu, for this week, is a reworking of the 'Escape the Mine' story. It helps to look over some of the photos I took in Manitoba last June. The shots help create a mood and remind me of the smells, the cool the heat, the dampness...
The photo at right shows the type of 'sets', above a 'drift' (tunnel) where Kayla and Adrian are hiding when the miners walk by beneath them.

The photo on the left shows the type of manway the teens use to sneak into the mine.
But photos can't help me with plot!
So... do I add more to the supernatural ability of the main character, Adrian?
Do I leave in the undercover cop? Do I eliminate that character?

Shirley and I saw a great movie last night; Hereafter with Matt Damon. Go see it.
I especially like that the twin boy characters in one of the three stories closely resemble twin boys I taught a few years ago.

HEREAFTER deals with the supernatural in a realistic way (if that isn't an oxymoron for you) by showing someone who is gifted with supernatural insights who does not see it as an ability to be exploited, but rather as a curse he is reluctant to use. It doesn't matter at all whether you believe in the hocus-pocus or not, the treatment of the subject makes it believeable.
Do I believe in the stuff in the movie?
As a matter of fact I don't.
But I do believe in supernatural abilities of some people, and I still liked the movie quite a bit. Will I steal from it? No. Will I borrow from it? Maybe... we'll see.

Your truly while visiting a mine in Manitoba last June.