Friday, October 29, 2010

Jules Older sounds off in his occasional newsletter

Anne and Me, We Disagree

Last Writers Lifeguard was about how author Anne Lamott loves writing but disdains publishing, while I feel I owe the amazing life I lead to getting published.

In response to Anne & Me, We Disagree, Justin Brown wrote this from New Zealand: “Well said Jules. I agree with both of you!”

In Vermont, Mary Kerr concurs. “Right on Jules- I take great joy in thinking that what I write is of value- and does allow a more spiritual, nature related everyday existence. In some ways, however, I agree with Lamott, whose writing I so admire. The drive, the quest to write, and to know you can is equally as important.”

From western Canada, Steve Threndyle realized, “The day that I started writing professionally was the day that I STOPPED keeping a diary. (I only noticed that once I'd been writing for about two or three months). For the first couple of years, I really piled on the work and literally had no time for 'personal' writing. Frankly, I didn't care. I was writing and getting paid for it. I was livin' the dream!”

From New Hampshire, Barbara Rogers replied, Nice, Jules, but there’s another point to publication, I think. Getting published is how we share those ideas. Without it, we are talking to ourselves. Writing is communication, and publication is the means of getting it out there.

And from Vermont, Karen Hesse wrote: “The upper right side of the page???!!! Oh, dear.”
To which I replied, “And that, dear Karen, is why you never got published.”
(If you think my response was mean-spirited, let me suggest you Google “Karen Hesse.”)

Nature Writing

In that last Lifeguard, as part of my defense of publishing, I wrote, “The pay comes from publication. Not from keeping a journal, not from nature poems...”

Right. Not from nature poems. The next day a book arrived filled with nature prose and, yes, nature poems. And the book is terrific. I have one short chapter (though not a poem) near the end, but the writing that really sings comes from Steve Bodio’s ode to meat, Jim Sullivan’s fishing and aging tale, Jefrey Lockwood’s romantic riff on grasshoppers, Charotte Pyle’s remembrance of Tennessee.

The contributors (no money changed hands) are environmental writers. The publisher is the University of Utah Press. The book is Wildbranch. It would make a fine gift for word lovers and nature lovers, alike.

From nature, let’s move on to money and power — and

That Old Devil Clause
When I'm with other writers, I always harp on the importance of negotiating potentially deadly indemnity clauses.

But in late 2010, writers have lost much of our power, and I began to fear that such negotiations might no longer be possible.

Last month I had a chance to find out. One of my favorite editors reluctantly sent me the new contract ordered by her employer. From grabbing up more rights to inserting an indemnity clause that might well bankrupt writers, it was a horror.

Hating to lose the assignment but unwilling to sign the contract, here's what I wrote:
I notice the new agreements read more like Defense Department documents than a simple contract for a ski article. I notice that they want all rights, not one-time. (When I'm selling more, I kinda’ expect to be paid more.)

There's also a problem clause. It reads:

The undersigned agrees to pay to Publisher on demand all costs and expenses (including, but not limited to, reasonable attorneys’ fees and disbursements) incurred by Publisher in protecting or enforcing any of its rights under this Agreement or in seeking to recover damages for any breach of this Agreement.

This hardly seems fair. The company makes the arrangements; the author pays. And takes all the risks.

Let me suggest instead, a clause other publishers use. It’s this:

"The Author shall cooperate with the publication in the event of any legal action that arises from this article. The publication shall cover the Author under its own liability insurance."

Then I waited. And waited. Fifteen days later, I got the new contract. They didn't take my suggested revision, but instead, simply deleted the indemnity clause.
And raised my pay.


AND NOW for something completely different. A Lifeguard who prefers to remain nameless writes…

Have you ever noticed that I disdain punctuation and upper case in my emails? It's been kind of a trademark for me.

But, I'm changing my ways. A friend sent me a message recently on the IMPORTANCE OF CAPITALIZATION. Consider the difference in the following two sentences:

I helped my Uncle Jack off a horse.

i helped my uncle jack off a horse


— jules

Any writer who would like to receive Jule's occasional Writer's Lifeguard should drop a note to Jules and he will add you to his subscriber list while anyone who wishes to comment on the issues he raises above should do so by e-mailing him.

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