March 29, 2007: How they do things down south
PWAC provides its members with a formal intervention procedure to help in instances of non-payment, late-payment or any other misunderstanding between writers and their clients. It is polite and professional, and for the most part PWAC is able to facilitate some sort of resolution.
PWAC hopes to formalize this process even further for the entire industry through our Industry Task Force project (currently in the "awaiting funding" phase).
In the meantime, it's interesting to take note of how other writing markets handle the same issues. The American website Writers Weekly ran a piece last summer entitled Do You Owe Writers Money? Advice For Deadbeats!.
Here are some highlights:
First, know there are three types of deadbeats. There is Deadbeat #1, who is actually not really a deadbeat. This is someone who started a business, got in over his or her head, and is desperately trying to earn the money to pay off the mounting bills. Then there is Deadbeat #2, someone who had good intentions initially, but who now thinks he doesn't have to pay his bills because he's not making any money. And then there is Deadbeat #3 - a true criminal who may have started out like deadbeats number 1 or 2, but who now intentionally hires freelancers with no intention of paying them at all.
What should you do if writers start posting complaints about you online? What should your response be if the press contacts you? First, research the United States Constitution, particularly Freedom of Speech. Some people think it's illegal for someone to post their experiences about a company online. It's very legal, provided the poster tells the truth.
Basically, it all boils down to this. If you owe someone money and then get hostile, make up excuses, and lie, your reputation is toast.
But, if you apologize, immediately try to right your wrong, and take quick action to correct your mistakes, things will turn out just fine in the end.
March 20, 2007: Very Little for Independent Cultural Workers in Federal Budget
After high-level consultation with the federal government, the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) was looking for more focused support for cultural professionals than appears in yesterday's federal budget.
At its National Conference in Ottawa last May, PWAC shared the disquieting results of a comprehensive Canadian Professional Writers Survey with the current government through meetings with the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Ministry of Labour. The report's recommendations included specific tax incentives for the creation of Canadian written content.
As a representative of small business owners, PWAC acknowledges potential benefits to our members from new provincial transfers, the capital cost allowance and increased funding for skills training, but remains disappointed that the importance of cultural workers to the overall economy is not addressed.
"What's really missing from this budget," former PWAC President Tracey Arial notes, "is a recognition that self-employed creators are important knowledge economy workers. Cultural sector investment pays this country back at an incredible rate of return, yet professional creators remain economically threatened."
PWAC has also advocated strongly for increased and sustained funding for all Canadian cultural workers through the Canada Council for the Arts. PWAC remains committed to working with this government to strengthen Canada's vital cultural economic sector.
PWAC, established in 1976, is the national organization representing 600 freelance writers and journalists in Canada.
John Degen, Executive Director
March 20, 2007: Conrad Black -- patron to all writers?
It would be difficult to find a professional writer in Canada who has not received some sort of a pay cheque from Conrad Black at one time or another.
As Lord Black defends himself in a Chicago courtroom, thousands of former employees watch and wait with him. Here is one scribe's note of support, from The Observer:
My debt to Mr Black
March 19, 2007: Writers headline artist gathering in Ottawa
The Canada Council is being thrown a big party in Ottawa next week, and writers are front and centre. Here's the release:
Fifty of Canada's most outstanding artists - including writers Michael Ondaatje, Yann Martel and Nicole Brossard, visual artists Mary Pratt and Joe Fafard, actors/directors Martha Henry and Albert
Millaire, and dancers/choreographers Marie Chouinard and John Alleyne - will be in Ottawa on March 27-28 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Canada Council for the Arts.
The Canada Council, Canada's national arts funding agency, was created by Parliament on March 28, 1957, and the Council has designated Wednesday,
March 28, 2007 as "A Day of the Arts".
Each of the 50 artists will represent a different year in the Canada Council's history, from actor Jean-Louis Roux (1957) to violinist Marc Djokic (2006). The artists will come from across the country, and from all areas of the arts.
Highlights of the Day for the Arts will include:
A reception hosted by the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Commons on March 27 for Parliamentarians and representatives of the arts community (by invitation only).
A mentoring conference with aspiring artists from high schools, universities and colleges in the National Capital region. The students will have an opportunity to interact with the artists in plenary sessions and workshops and learn what it is like to make a career in the arts. The conference will take place on March 28 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 in the Panorama and Fountain rooms of the National Arts Centre, and will include an informal lunch. This event is open to the media and will include a photo opportunity with the participating artists.
Recognition of the artists in the House of Commons on March 28.
A dinner at Rideau Hall on March 28, hosted by Her Excellency the Right Honourable MichaŽlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, and Mr. Jean-Daniel Lafond (by invitation only).
Karen Kain, Chair of the Canada Council and Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Canada, will participate in the activities and speak at the mentoring conference.
March 15, 2007: Online Censorship, Threats to Free Expression, and the Implications for Copyright
At PWAC's annual general meeting in Ottawa last May, members held a spirited, passionate discussion over concerns that certain Internet companies were playing fast and loose on free expression and human rights in their dealings with the government of China.
Here's a quick round-up of recent related items:
Dissident's Wife Says She Will Sue Yahoo
Yu Ling, the wife of imprisoned Chinese dissident Wang Xianoning has announced that she will sue US-based Yahoo because information they provided to the Chinese government from their Hong Kong office helped in the arrest and imprisonment of Xianoning. See the full story at Voice of America.
Techno-journalist, Xeni Jardin reports in the New York Times on how many American Internet technologies are being used by other governments to control and censor their citizens' Internet experience. She writes:
"One of our most laudable national goals is the export of free speech and free information, yet American companies are selling censorship. While some advocates of technology rights have proposed consumer boycotts and Congressional action to pressure these firms into responsible conduct, a good first step would be adding filtering technologies to the United States Munitions List, an index of products for which exporters have to file papers with the State Department. While this won't end such sales, it will bring them to light and give the public and lawmakers a better basis on which to consider stronger steps."
"If American companies are already obligated to disclose the sale of bombs and guns to repressive regimes, why not censorware?"
Google's Book Search
The Toronto Star recently reprinted a Financial Times editorial, taking search engine giant Google to task for "playing fast and loose with the intellectual property of others in order to attract users to its services."
The editorial states:
"Blather about it being in the public interest for the world's information to be made searchable is beside the point. Companies, especially powerful ones, cannot get away with riding roughshod over the wishes of smaller enterprises just because it suits them. Microsoft has discovered that painfully over the years. Now it is Google's turn."
Some free opinion:
The public interest is often cited in a lot of the digital media issues with which PWAC engages, such as copyright reform and publishing contracts. Writers are forever being told it is in both their own and the public interest to have their writing distributed as widely and freely as possible... as if this is something working writers might not understand.
As all of these stories illustrate, the public interest does not have a particularly stable definition, nor does it refer to a public separate and distinct from the industrial sectors it contains.
PWAC feels it is in the public interest for society to maintain a financially viable population of independent writers, even as it encourages greater and easier access to information. And one of the ways society can balance these important concerns is with strong copyright protection for its writers.
We see in the New York Times piece how censorship and selective filtering of Internet searches is one way the public interest can be subverted in its own name. Denial of individual copyright protection over one's own writing is certainly another.
March 09, 2007: PWAC Fills 2007 Conference Schedule With Professional Development, High-Profile Speakers and Awards
PWAC has completed the essential scheduling for its National Conference 2007 in Vancouver BC (May 24-27).
Keynote speaker David Beers, editor-in-chief of British Columbia's ground-breaking online journal The Tyee kicks off a very full weekend of professional development opportunities, pub crawls, parties and award presentations as PWAC begins its fourth decade in style in sunny (?) Vancouver.
PWAC member Heather Robertson will give a lunch talk, detailing her recent Supreme Court of Canada experience, and where her class-action lawsuit about digital rights is going from here.
Other events include a writer/editor panel discussion on media independence, and a full slate of professional development seminars on freelance writing for beginners and veterans alike. Many of the PD events are open to the public.
Keep checking our public page about the Conference for details as we add them.
PWAC would like to thank its PWAC National Conference Sponsors:
Sutton Place Hotels,
Tinhorn Creek Wines,
Simon Fraser University Harbour Centre,
Rocky Mountaineer Tours,
Canada Research Chairs.
March 09, 2007: Self-marketing tips for freelance writers
Longtime PWAC member, Paul Lima is a freelance writer, writing coach and author of The Six-Figure Freelancer: How to Find, Price, and Manage Corporate Writing Assignments. He finds it ironic that while most freelancers could write marketing material for a client without any problem, they often hesitate to use those same skills to market themselves and their own business as writers.
He has put together a five-part plan for improved self-marketing, called Place Five Arrows in Your Marketing Quiver.
PWAC members will find it here (on the Professional Development Materials page in the members-only section of the site -- password required).
Non-members might want to check out this page.
Visit Paul online at www.paullima.com.
March 08, 2007: PWAC founder June Callwood honoured with Writers' Trust award
June Callwood received the Writers' Trust Award for Distinguished Contribution last night in a ceremony celebrating the best in Canadian writing. Her acceptance speech referenced her long career as both a writer and a social activist.
"If any of you happens to see an injustice," she said, "you are no longer a spectator, you are a participant, and you have an obligation to do something."
Callwood was among 11 Canadian freelancers who came together in 1976 to create what was then known as the Periodical Writers Association of Canada.
Full details of last night's awards can be found in this Toronto Star article.
Information about The Writers' Trust and the great work they do on behalf of all Canadian writers can be found at their website.
March 05, 2007: PWAC Board of Directors brave Toronto storm
(PWAC photo from Flickr)
PWAC's entire Board of Directors made their way to Toronto for two full days of meetings this past weekend. Especially dedicated directors Kate Merlin (Atlantic RD) and Sandy Crawley (Treasurer) also attended the Access Copyright annual general meeting on Friday morning, where Sandy was elected to the AC Board of Directors as PWAC's nominee.
Meetings all day Saturday and Sunday at PWAC's National Office covered all of PWAC's current business including ongoing planning for the Vancouver National Conference and the many efforts PWAC is making to improve the freelance writing business in Canada.
Full meeting minutes will be available soon in the member-only section of our website.
PWAC staff wants to thank our dedicated volunteer board for their leadership and direction. The board members are (standing left to right) Bruce Wilson, Quebec RD, Tanya Gulliver, Ontario RD, Suzanne Boles, President, Kate Merlin, Atlantic RD, Gordon Graham, Past President, Tracy-Lyn Moland, Prairies & the North RD, Bev Cramp, BC RD; (and front row) Carolyn Gibson, Vice-President, Sandy Crawley, Treasurer.
March 05, 2007: Doris Anderson, giant of Canadian periodical writing and editing, dies at 85
Doris Anderson passed away last Friday in a Toronto hospital. She was 85.
A detailed obituary appeared in Friday's Globe and Mail.
As editor of Chatelaine magazine for approximately twenty years, Ms. Anderson was a giant in the world of Canadian periodical writing. From her editor's desk, Ms. Anderson called for more women in Parliament, and even ran for office herself. She was a key figure in the fight to include women's rights in the Canadian constitution.
As D. B. Scott writes on the Canadian Magazines blog:
"... she will always be remembered as the woman who gave the term "women's magazine" a new meaning for a whole generation of Canadian women and who provided a platform for some of the best women magazine writers in this country."
March 01, 2007: Interesting public dialogue between freelancers and editors
In the spirit of the Magazine Industry Task Force PWAC will be leading in the coming year, we bring you this snippet of dialogue posted on the excellent Canadian Magazines blog.
It is a recent exchange on an e-mail list frequented by both Toronto freelance writers and magazine editors. It shows, as does the task force project, that the industry is ready to talk about how we work with each other:
I know every editor is overworked, but why isn't it a high priority to deal in a timely fashion with queries - from the people who fill your publication with its valuable content? If an editor receives an obviously unpromising query, why can't a boilerplate "Thank you for thinking of us but your idea doesn't meet our editorial needs at this time" be a keystroke away? (a freelance writer)
There's also the issue of how to politely turn down the terrible writer who queries every week with a completely useless idea. Sometimes you get query fatigue and hope the person will take the hint and just go away (not the most common scenario, but it does happen). (an editor)
Please go to the CanMags link above to see more of the exchange.