The Professional Writers Association of Canada (formerly the Periodical Writers Association of Canada) represents professional freelance writers working in Canada's magazine, newspaper, corporate writing, government writing and book publishing industries. For more information about PWAC, including how to join, please visit To find a Canadian writer, please visit

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

upcoming seminars (Toronto)

Start planning your New Year's professsional development. If you are in Toronto over the next couple of months, be sure to spend an evening at the Northern District Library with PWAC-Toronto, who always have a fabulous event on offer:

Wed. January 17, 2007, 7 pm to 8:30 pm:
Specialist or Generalist: Jack-of-All-Trades or Master of One.

Should freelancers specialize in one particular area or try to
cover a wide, general body of knowledge? Find out what our
informed panelists, some of Canada's most successful freelance
writers, think and do.

Thurs. February 22, 2007, 7 pm to 8:30 pm:
Professional Interviewing Techniques

Tips on how to get information from subjects, featuring
experienced journalists and others who interview for a living,
such as police officers, psychologists, and so on

Location: Northern District Library (Room #200), 40 Orchardview
Blvd. (west off Yonge, just north of Eglinton)

Cost: PWAC members - Free; General public - pay what you can ($10
suggested pay at the door)

Afterwards: Join the panelists, PWAC members. and other writers
for Cheers with Peers in the Manchester Arms pub--conveniently
located downstairs from the library.


... and remember to keep an eye on your local PWAC chapter website for information on upcoming events in your area.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Promising New Year

Happy New Year to all PWAC blog readers. We start 2007 off with a bang:

The Canadian Magazines blog has proposed a New Year's resolution for the entire Canadian magazine industry -- raise the rates for freelance writing.

Read all about it here.

Thanks once again to D.B. Scott over at Canadian Magazines for championing the rates issue. Our two blogs referred to each other and linked up often in 2006, setting up an unprecedented dialogue between the writing and publishing corners of the industry. Here's hoping for much more of that in 2007!

And please note -- PWAC's blog will very soon be switching to a new format. At the launch of PWAC's brand new website, this blog will be incorporated fully into the PWAC homepage, and will look significantly different. Keep an eye out for the switch and follow us to our new look and location. We'll give you plenty of warning and we'll leave a trail of breadcrumbs.

Monday, December 18, 2006

holiday fun

PWAC-Quebec Chapter President Craig Silverman has published a listing of 2006's greatest media errors and corrections (called The Crunks) on his very entertaining website Regret The Error.

Here's a holiday baking tip from The Crunks:

From the Daily Press of Newport News, Virginia:

A correction in this column Thursday about a June 14 Taste section recipe for French coconut pie incorrectly suggested that the recipe called for a pint of vodka. The accompanying recipe for homemade vanilla extract uses the vodka. The pie recipe then calls for one tablespoon of extract. Here’s the corrected recipe for vanilla extract, adapted from Lacy Smith’s "Sugar Daddy’s Treats”: Drop one vanilla bean in a one-pint bottle of vodka, and six months later, you have vanilla extract.

and not unrelated...

From The Oregonian:

A headline on Page One on Saturday should have made clear that Oregon Health & Science University will be studying the effects of meth, not cooking it.

The Crunks has been mentioned and/or linked to by many media outlets across North America, and Mr. Silverman appeared this morning on CBC Radio's The Current, reading a selection of his favorite 2006 media errors.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

billable hours

The Canadian Magazines blog has posted a funny, sad, poignant (choose your own adjective) analysis of the freelance writer's billable hours based, in part, on PWAC's Professional Writers survey.

The conclusion:

Freelancers in Canada make an average of $14.26 an hour, or just about double the national minimum wage. Again, choose your own adjective to describe these findings.

See the full posting here.

CFU release

The Canadian Freelance Union has sent out the following release, in support of PWAC's call for freelance writers to NOT sign Sun Media's (a Quebecor company) latest contract:

Freelance writers say 'no' to Quebecor's rights-grabbing contract

OTTAWA, Dec. 13

Canadian Freelance Union (CFU) is deeply concerned about recent actions of Quebecor Media over its treatment of independent freelance writers.

Small independent writers are being forced to sign away virtually all rights to their work without reasonable compensation or even recognition of the value they bring to the newspaper. This is unfair and unacceptable, says CFU President Michael OReilly.

"Quebecor is one of Canada's largest media giants. It has revenue of over $6.3 billion worldwide, yet it wants to squeeze even more from some of Canada's lowest paid workers," says OReilly. "This is the most one-sided contract I have seen. It takes everything and leaves the writers with nothing but the legal liability should someone decide to sue. We are advising freelancers not to sign."

The CFU is a Local of the 150,000-member Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, which represents about 25,000 media workers across Canada.

CEP Vice-President, Media, Peter Murdoch says "this attack on freelancers is a direct result of staff cuts to newsrooms. In the rush to the bottom line, media corporations are eroding the wages of freelancers and jeopardizing the standards of the craft at the same time"

"CFU has the full weight of CEP and fellow media unions in calling on Quebecor to come to the negotiating table to discuss a fair deal," he says.

Last week Quebecor, through its Sun Media subsidiary, issued a 'take it or leave it' contract to its freelance writers. It demands that writers give the newspaper complete control over their works for no additional payment. It also demands exclusive use of the articles, "and any substantially similar content," for up to 60 days after publication.

"We are more than happy to work with our publisher colleagues to license whatever rights they would like. All we ask is to be treated fairly," adds OReilly.

For further information:

Michael OReilly, President, Canadian Freelance Union,
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, Local 2040,
(807) 251-6536,

Link to release:

CFU Release

Friday, December 08, 2006

don't sign

December 8, 2006


The Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) and the Canadian Freelance Union (CEP Local 2040) are very concerned about the terms of a new freelance contribution contract for writers at The London Free Press, a Sun Media paper in London, Ontario.

London freelancers report being presented with unexpectedly negative contract terms, despite a positive, long-term business relationship with the paper. The contract comes with a signing deadline of December 11th, and continued work with the paper appears to be contingent on signing.

“We feel this contract, and the manner in which it was presented, compromises the basic rights of Canadian writers under the Copyright Act, and is just bad-faith business negotiation,” says PWAC President, and London freelancer Suzanne Boles. “The contract we’ve seen demands irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide rights to a freelancer’s work, with no extra remuneration for these extra uses.”

PWAC recommends that local writers do not sign this new contract. “It makes terrible business sense for writers to work under these conditions,” says Executive Director, John Degen. “The agreement makes a show of granting writers continued ownership of the copyright for their work, and then systematically strips away every one of those rights, including moral rights, while offering nothing more in compensation. It is against the very spirit of copyright and cultural production in this country.“

PWAC and the CFU strongly suggest Sun Media and The London Free Press withdraw the new contract, and begin negotiations for a better deal with freelancers. Most of the freelance writers and columnists in question have a long-time, positive working relationship with The London Free Press and want to continue their professional association with the newspaper. Their work is respected in the community, and their departure would be a loss for London and area readers.

PWAC and the CFU have been contacted by a number of London freelancers, and there is consensus against signing the contract. We call upon Sun Media to act in good faith and negotiate a new agreement.

PWAC, established in 1976, is the national organization representing 600 professional freelance writers and journalists in Canada.

More information:

Suzanne Boles, PWAC President
(519) 680-1658

John Degen, Executive Director
(416) 504-1645


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Thursday, December 07, 2006

access AND respect

Interesting contribution to the copyright reform discussion from DOC, the Canadian documentary filmmakers association, who are understandably struggling with the issue of rights clearance for incidental copyright usage in documentary films. DOC has published a white paper on the subject at their website. The white paper launch has generated some notice in the press and, somewhat predicatably, praise from user rights advocates, notably on Michael Geist's blog.

As creators who also depend on the use of copyright-protected material in our research and in our published work, writers sympathize with the dilemma facing doc-makers, and we support their struggle. There are many stories out there of writers warned off of specific passages in an article or book by lawyers and/or insurers nervous about the line of infringement under fair dealing. Access and affordable usage licensing are crucial issues for all creators and professional "users" of copyright-protected material, and we agree with the general conclusion of Howard Knopf's white paper, which states (emphasis ours):

There are relatively modest and achievable steps that can be taken in terms of legislation that would greatly improve the climate for documentarians in Canada. Even more immediately achievable would be a campaign to educate lawyers and insurers involved in the clearance system in order that excess caution not result in effective censorship and the end of innovation.

That said, we tend to agree with the Creators' Copyright Coalition's Chris Moore, who questions whether the issues detailed by DOC are appropriately dealt with as "copyright" concerns. Chris Moore's analysis appears on the CCC website, and in it he states:

Too often, the problem is not copyright at all. It’s what Knopf politely calls “risk aversion” by lawyers and insurers that obliges filmmakers into messy and costly searches for clearances in many of these situations.

...what we all need, is a culture of “access and rights.” When the operation of copyright in itself prevents access, clearly we have market failure, for rightsholders have an interest in encouraging, not preventing, access to their work. What is required is a market that can develop reasonable prices and convenient access.

In any copyright reform solution to this very real and very damaging problem for documentarians, Canada must make sure we do not concentrate only on the access issues at the expense of legitimate rightsholders. After all, documentary makers are themselves rightsholders interested in advancing their art and careers within a marketplace.

Sidenote: DOC and PWAC are both housed in the same cooperative office environment at Toronto's Centre for Social Innovation. Solidarity!


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

November Achievements

Time for the monthly acknowledgement of PWAC member excellence.

The full Member Achievement Bulletin can be found at the following link:

November Achievements

and here are some highlights:

The New Brunswick Southwest (NBSW) chapter of PWAC took part in the first annual Kings County Word Day on Nov. 4 in Sussex, New Brunswick. The goal of the event was to make the local published authors more visible to the people in Kings County and to give them an opportunity to present their work through book displays and readings.

PWAC was well represented by several members from the NBSW chapter including (pictured left to right) chapter president Trudy Kelly Forsythe with chapter members Donna Spalding, Carmel Vivier, Dorothy Dearborn and Ross Mavis (image loaded through Flickr).

Toronto Member Noelle Boughton is excited to share her new spiritual biography of one of Canada's most beloved authors. Margaret Laurence: A Gift of Grace - A Spiritual Biography has been published by the Women's Press imprint of Canadian Scholars' Press Inc. Laurence died 20 years ago, but still offers writers and spiritual seekers critical lessons. Watch for Noelle's workshops and presentations to share those insights. She's been invited to speak at the Lakefield Literary Festival in July 2007.

Ottawa member Emily-Jane Hills Orford has published My Grandmother's Cane, a short story, in the new Ottawa literary magazine, The Voice. She has also published an article entitled The Sad Demise of Iqaluit's Igloo Cathedral in November's issue of Crosstalk. The article is a result of the author's recent visit to Iqaluit.

Prairies member Doreen Kerby has published an article on John Hus (1369-1415) in The Canadian Lutheran magazine. Hus was burned at the stake 65 years before Martin Luther was born. Says Doreen, "When I was in the Old Square in Prague, I was intrigued with the huge monument commemorating the 500th anniversary of his death. I was determined to write about this man."

Victoria member, Paula Wild has recently released The Comox Valley: Courtenay, Comox, Cumberland & Area (Harbour Publishing). The Comox Valley is a coffee table book chock full of photographs and information about the region. Color photographs combined with lively text capture the grandeur of the landscape, the flavor of the area’s distinctive communities and the larger than life characters who call this area home.