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, November 30, 2005

the road to clout

PWAC is currently in working agreements with two unions, the Canadian Media Guild (CMG) and the new Canadian Freelance Union (CFU) through the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP). We are not ourselves a union, though we do have official bargaining standing under the Federal Status of the Artist Act.

The PWAC National Executive views all of these arrangements as integral parts of a process we call "getting clout." It's something our members have been asking for, loudly and clearly -- early results from our online survey back that up as well.

The formation of the CFU has many in the writing and publishing industry talking, though no outcome is clear right now. If you have an opinion on this topic, feel free to use the comments section of this blog to air your views.

In the meantime, here's an interesting overview of the situation from the current issue of THIS Magazine (warning, this article may contain a slightly romanticized view of the writing life -- it should in no way be understood that all freelancers live on a diet of rice and beans, nor would most freelancers consider PR work "selling out"):

Unite the Write

November Achievements

PWACers have had a very busy autumn so far. For the full Membership Achievement Bulletin, go to November Achievements. And here are some highlights:

Martin Avery

Martin Avery, Writer In Residence at the Pickering Public Library, is planning The Great Canadian Winter Novel Marathon, to be held the third week in February at the Pickering Central Library. His new website is up and running at

Lanny Boutin

Lanny is ‘not so’ patiently waiting for her first children’s book John Diefenbaker: The Outsider Who Refused to Quit to emerge from the printer. Her second children’s book Mummies: All Wrapped Up, is due out spring 2006, and she is feverously working on her third book, Titanic: The Canadian Connection.

Lyn Hancock

Lyn Hancock survived the perils of her first power point presentations Paddling around the Top of Vancouver Island (with readings from her book There's a Seal in my Sleeping Bag) to a standing-room crowd in Nanaimo. E-mail her ( if you'd like to paddle in Belize next March. She also did her popular slide presentation - Books Begin in Backyards - featuring her soon-to-be-published book Tabasco the Saucy Raccoon to Langley, BC schools mid November. In October, she returned from a family (press) trip to Laos and Cambodia, and in December she goes to Australia.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Magazine blog & awards

Keep up on all the news and new writing markets in the Canadian magazine industry at this free blog:

Canadian Magazines

Written by D.B. Scott and Jon Spencer, two super-connected magazine insiders, the Canadian Magazines blog is a great resource for markets information and general industry scuttlebutt.


Know someone who's been doing great volunteer work for the Canadian magazine industry (besides most Canadian freelance writers, ha, ha)? Show them you care by nominating them for a Magazines Canada Volunteer Award. Many freelance writers serve on the boards or volunteer committees of Canadian magazines. If you are one of these folks, get thee to the nominations web page:

Magazines Canada Volunteer Awards

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Writers in Court

Please be reminded that longtime PWAC member Heather Robertson gets her first day in the Supreme Court of Canada on December 6th. Ms. Robertson is leading a class action suit against Thomson Corp. claiming infringement of copyright related to digital reuse without permission and/or payment. Interested visitors are welcome to attend her court date.

The Supreme Court is on Wellington Street in Ottawa, west of the Hill. According to Ms. Robertson, we will then most likely have to wait months before a decision is announced in the case.

Also heading to court is Peter C. Newman, one of Canada's most prominent professional writers. According to a story in today's Globe and Mail, Mr. Newman is facing a lawsuit from former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, concerning Mr. Newman's recent book The Secret Mulroney Tapes: Unguarded Confessions of a Prime Minister.

From the the Globe story (available free online):

The lawsuit, filed in an Ontario court, asks that Mr. Newman be ordered to hand over the tapes and other ”confidential” material to the National Archives of Canada for ”safekeeping.”

Mr. Mulroney also wants the income from the book to be donated to charity.

Mr. Newman has also been sued for another book on a famous Canadian figure recently.

He is facing a libel lawsuit from publishing mogul Conrad Black.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

a brighter future

Heritage Minister, Liza Frulla announced yesterday that the government will increase funding for the Canada Council for the Arts, effectively doubling the Council's budget by 2008.

As an important part of the cultural sector and a grateful recipient of Council funding, PWAC has been very supportive of the call for increased funding for the arts. PWAC's Executive Director, John Degen was one of over 70 arts professionals working the Hill earlier in the fall under the banner of the Canadian Arts Coalition. The Coalition was asking for just this kind of increase.

Highlights from the announcement:

“Brilliant visual artists, inspired writers and gifted performers capture the stories of our country in works of art, literary works and song. The artistic excellence of which Canadians are so richly capable must be saluted and celebrated,” said Minister Frulla. “Today I am proud to demonstrate to Canadians the Government of Canada’s commitment to artists and the arts.”

The Canada Council for the Arts is the principal channel through which the federal government provides support for professional artists and non-profit arts organizations. In 2007, the Canada Council will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Today’s announcement doubles the Council’s funding so that it will reach $300 million by 2008. The new funding will allow the best arts organizations in all regions of Canada to attain new standards of creative excellence and innovation. The increased funding provided for artists’ tours and shows, both in Canada and abroad, will enable people from Canada and elsewhere to share the richness of Canada’s cultural excellence — in all its diversity.

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of a thriving arts sector for Canada’s competitiveness and prosperity. This type of investment helps build vibrant communities that contribute to the social and economic development of every part of Canada.

Friday, November 18, 2005

30 Thank Yous

PWAC would like to say a huge thank you to our first two Gold Level sponsors for our 30th Anniversary National Conference:

Access Copyright, The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency

Altitude Publishing, creators of the Amazing Stories series of books.

Mark that calendar, our 30th Anniversary National Conference will take place in Ottawa:

Thursday, May 11 to Sunday May 14, 2006

Maclean's columnist, Paul Wells will be our featured speaker at a special 30th anniversary cocktail reception on Thursday, May 11th.

Full details for registration, accommodations and the schedule of events will be posted as they come in, both here and on our website at:

Please click here to see our sponsorship levels. If you are interested in being a sponsor, or have a great idea for a local (Ottawa) or national sponsor, please contact our Conference committee chair, Tanya Gulliver at If you are interested in booking a Trade Fair booth, please contact Kim Arnott at

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Northbound Books

A letter of thanks has arrived at PWAC national office in Toronto from the North Slave Young Offender Facility in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Longtime PWAC member, and recipient of the 2005 Quebec Regional Volunteer Achievement Award, Hélèna Katz has helped to organize the collection and distribution of books for the youth at the North Slave facility.

PWAC is very proud of the great work Hélèna has done for troubled youth.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Western Selections

PWAC members enjoy the benefit of local chapters across the country. Chapters provide networking, professional development, promotion, and social contact for professional writers working in isolation. Chapters range in size from well over 100 members (Toronto) to 6 members (Southeast New Brunswick).

Traditionally one of the strongest PWAC chapters is located in Victoria BC. PWAC-Victoria currently boasts 50 professional writers, making them the third largest PWAC chapter. To get a sense of life on the Western edge, all one needs to do is visit PWAC-Victoria's online Reading Room, which features selections from the writing of Victoria's best writers.

For instance:

"Dan Lewis tucks Happy's leg under his arm and trims the horse's ragged hoof. Then he pulls a rough and glowing U-shape from his portable forge and hammers it into a custom horseshoe. Between hammer strokes, he considers the nature of the Kispiox valley.

"There's a lot of independent, even eccentric, people up here," he muses, choosing his words carefully. "But people in the Kispiox will put up with a lot of eccentricity if you can build a good fence."

The ability to build a fence is Dan's metaphor for the kind of self-reliance--some might call it sheer cussedness--you find in many a resident of this mountain-surrounded valley northeast of Terrace, northwest of Smithers. Tell them what to do and they'll tell you where to go in language you may not care for. Leave them alone, and they'll go about their business of surviving and thriving in a region where straight economics might dictate they should pack up and leave for the nine-to-five life of the city."

-- from Building Fences in the Kispiox, by Rosemary Neering © 1998, Published in Beautiful British Columbia, Summer 1998.


It's a game they play. Brian Bell of VIH Logging Ltd. tries to plug up the dry land log-sort. He's keeping the logs coming from his two helicopter logging sites west of town. "But we're only working at half capacity," laughs Dave Carson, Contract Supervisor for Weyerhauser. There's a bit of competition here, but these partners know how to cooperate. "We're trying to develop something here for the long term," says Dave, "We have a good relationship, making sure it works for everybody."

Key to the success of the operation near Port McNeill, British Columbia, is the "Kamov K32," the Russian-made helicopter that is ideally suited to steep-slope logging. VIH Logging has two Kamovs operating out of service and refueling bases in neighbouring valleys. This morning we're heading out the logging road to Malook Creek, wary of the off-highway trucks with loaded 14-foot-wide bunks that barrel down out of the hills.

"Pick-up out on Alice Lake Main, past 30," barks Brian into the radio.

"Better find a hole!" comes back a quick response and we do, in time to avoid a loaded rig charging down the single-lane gravel road. We stay in radio contact all the way up, but nearing the base, Brian switches frequencies and we pick up the chatter of the pilots and fallers working above.

-- from Russian Chopper Handles Mountainsides, by Gil Parker © 2000, Published in Canadian Forest Industries, June 2000.

Friday, November 11, 2005

lest we forget

This image provided under a Creative Commons agreement, by greybeard on Flickr.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Writers Defy Google

No doubt you have heard tell of search engine giant Google's Print Library Project which seeks ultimately to digitize all printed content in the world's libraries, and which has been moving forward with, arguably, little regard for the rights of copyright holders. Last month the Association of American Pubishers filed suit against Google in the matter. Here is a bit from their October 19th press release:

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) today announced the filing of a lawsuit against Google over its plans to digitally copy and distribute copyrighted works without permission of the copyright owners.

“The publishing industry is united behind this lawsuit against Google and united in the fight to defend their rights,” said AAP President and former Colorado Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder. “While authors and publishers know how useful Google's search engine can be and think the Print Library could be an excellent resource, the bottom line is that under its current plan Google is seeking to make millions of dollars by freeloading on the talent and property of authors and publishers."

Announced late last year, the Google Print Library Project involves the scanning and digitization of millions of published books from the collections of three major academic libraries-- Stanford University, Harvard University and the University of Michigan—from which Google plans to create an online, searchable database. Oxford University and the New York Public Library are also participating in the Library Project, but are only making available works in the public domain.

Over the objections voiced by the publishers and in the face of a lawsuit filed earlier by the Authors Guild on behalf of its 8,000 members, Google has indicated its intention to go forward with the unauthorized copying of copyrighted works beginning on November 1.

Following this release, the American Author's Guild president, Nick Taylor, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post. Some highlights:

Only if my book sells well enough to earn back its advance will I make additional money, but the law of copyright assures me of ongoing ownership. With luck, income will flow to my publisher and me for a long time, but if my publisher loses interest, I will still own my book and be able to make money from it.

So my question is this: When did we in this country decide that this kind of work and investment isn't worth paying for?

That is what Google, the powerful and extremely wealthy search engine, with co-founders ranking among the 20 richest people in the world, is saying by declining to license in-copyright works in its library scanning program, which has the otherwise admirable aim of making the world's books available for search by anyone with Web access.

Google says writers and publishers should be happy about this: It will increase their exposure and maybe lead to more book sales.

That's a devil's bargain.

Globe readers may have seen popular Canadian author Russell Smith's column on the Google battles this past Thursday. Perhaps appropriately, Smith's full column is being protected by its publisher behind a subscription wall. And, ironically, I used Google extensively in gathering materials and links for this blog posting.

Copyright. It doesn't get less complicated, does it?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Member Achievements

The October Membership Achievement Bulletin has been sent to PWAC members. Here are some highlights and a link to the full document:

Jackie Byrn
Type of Achievement: break-through into new market
Jackie Byrn has secured assignments from CNS(Catholic News Service based in Washington, DC) CNS has 5 million readers and distributes stories internationally. Assignment subject, world record holder Sister Madonna Buder, age 75, is an international triathlon sports figure based in Spokane, WA Jackie Byrn's coverage of Sister Madonna's events have appeared in the BC Catholic and online at since 2001.

Allison Finnamore
Type of Achievement: The Henry Heald Award, awarded by the Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation
The bronze award was presented to Allison and her colleague Kevin Hursh for their contribution to the Farm Credit Canada Website, . The presentation was made during the federation’s annual meeting in Lloydminster, Alta. Allison is the immediate past president of the organization for agriculture writers, broadcasters and communicators.

Gordon Graham
Type of Achievement: New market
Gordon's started writing case studies for another big software company: Intuit in San Diego. He did two in August, and his clients liked them so much they quickly assigned him four more. Gordon has written for some of the biggest names in technology, including IBM, Oracle, Autodesk, and many others.

Here is the full bulletin.