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

Friday, March 31, 2006

Geist Copyright Lecture

The very fast-talking Prof. Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet & e-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, gave the 2006 Hart House Lecture last night in Toronto. His topic, of course, "Cultural Monopoly & The Trouble With Copyright." PWAC staff attended.

Geist did an impressive job of boiling down the history of copyright law in Canada, using incredibly rapid powerpoint slides. His take home point: the copyright landscape has changed, and continues to change at an almost unfathomable pace. While traditional stakeholders (his term) in copyright (the creators, producers and secondary copyright holders) continue to have their voices heard within the ongoing process of copyright reform, a new class of stakeholder has emerged -- the user -- and this new class is demanding a new vision for copyright. The moment has arrived, according to Geist, to choose the kind of copyright law we want for Canada's future. He advises us to choose wisely.

Comments from PWAC's Executive Director, John Degen, who was in attendance:

I enjoyed the lecture immensely. That said, I wish Geist had resisted the urge to take yet another public swipe at former Heritage Committee Chair, Sam Bulte, who was defeated in the last federal election. I felt this irrelevent and very personal criticism -- Geist showed a video clip of Ms. Bulte being ridiculed and embarrassed at an all candidates meeting -- marred an otherwise fair-minded and balanced analysis of current copyright challenges and opportunities. The nasty public attacks on Ms. Bulte during the last election, which Mr. Geist unintentionally inspired with a blog posting questioning the ethics of some of her campaign funding, crossed a line in my opinion.

Ms. Bulte is widely criticized for labelling her critics "pro-user zealots," and fair enough (a very, very poor choice of words from a politician), but what is so often ignored in the analysis of Bulte's defeat is that she was targeted by a very organized interest group, and relentlessly bullied on this issue during her campaign. If we are discussing campaign financing in Canadian federal elections, then Bulte is probably a fair target, but we're talking about copyright, and on copyright Bulte put in more good work than anyone else during the last session of Parliament. Disagree with her opinion on copyright? -- fine. Paint her as crooked on copyright? Well, I'm not sure that stuff has a place in a Hart House lecture.

At no time did Geist ever appear, in my opinion, soft on copyright. In fact, he stressed several times that he stands for strong copyright laws. He is simply proposing some intriguing changes to the current law, based on his analysis of the current landscape for the creation and use of copyrighted material. For example, I asked the following question:

As a writer, I have been challenged on the current life + 50 years term of copyright for my work. I have been asked, "Why should you retain copyright for your work fifty years, or even one year, after you're dead? After all, you're dead. That work should immediately transfer to the public domain as your contribution to the world's knowledge base." Can you give me the answer to this question, from the creator's point of view.

Geist's reply was that he would propose not a single, across the board, static term for copyright (life + 50 years), but rather a series of terms, some of which would be easily renewable, based on the type of material being copyrighted and on the owner of the copyright. If I understood him correctly, he stands for protecting a writer's moral and material interest in their work for a set term, and for possibly making that term renewable, should there be ongoing material interest in the work from which the writer, or writer's immediate family, could benefit.

What writer could argue with that?

And so, the long, long copyright reform process in Canada continues with new energy. If we could just drop the negative politics, we might actually get somewhere everyone wants to go.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Canadian writers on the podium

Interesting writing-related press release from the government today:

Australian Students receive Canadian Books as Part of Commonwealth Games Legacy

March 28, 2006:

The Government of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts have provided a collection of Canadian books to each of the 57 schools in the shires of Nillumbik and Campaspe to celebrate the ‘Adopt a Second Team’ initiative. On March 23rd at a reception at the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, Canadian Government representatives presented the books to student representatives from selected schools as a lasting gift to commemorate the valuable ties fostered between Canada and the communities during the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

“Canada is internationally known for excellence in literature, and we are delighted that we will be able to give Australian students an opportunity to learn more about our country and its outstanding writers and illustrators,” says Canadian Consul General Richard Kohler.

The collection of books has been selected to specifically suit the needs and age level of the students. In addition, each school will receive French-language books to introduce the students to Canada's other official language. The 57 schools are composed of 42 elementary schools, eight high schools, two special schools and five combined elementary/high schools.

“In addition to marking and enriching the return to school for the students in both shires,” says Consul General Kohler, “we hope the important cultural friendship that was formed between Canada and the communities during the Games will live and expand through the donation of these books. It also expresses Canada's strong commitment to the promotion of cultural diversity.”

A similar ‘book legacy’ project was organised by the Government of Canada and its portfolio agencies during the 2000 Sydney Olympic/Paralympic Games. Approximately 30 schools from the City of Ryde, Canada’s ‘twinned’ city for the Games, received a Canadian book collection.

This ‘book legacy’ project was organised by the Department of Canadian Heritage, in conjunction with the Canada Council for the Arts, Library and Archives Canada, Foreign Affairs Canada and the Canadian Missions in Australia.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Toronto Seminar

Check out this fantastic panel of speakers at PWAC Toronto's Evening Seminar -- Wednesday March 22

Fine features: Crafting that great magazine story

Great magazine articles are fascinating, informative—and even touching. They’re also challenging to write, and perhaps even more challenging to sell. In this seminar, experienced and award-winning writers and editors will talk about how to create that great magazine story. From idea generation through pitching through the mechanics of narrative and emotional elements, this seminar will provide you with valuable tips to help you in writing those great magazine pitches you’ve been dying to get started on. Panelists include:

Cynthia Brouse
Cynthia Brouse has worked as a copy editor, researcher and writer since 1980 for such publications as Saturday Night, Toronto Life, Maclean's, Report on Business Magazine, Canadian Business, Reader's Digest and The Globe and Mail. She was managing editor of Saturday Night for two years and also spent five years on the communications faculty at George Brown College. Cynthia now freelances as a writer, copy editor and teacher/trainer. She has taught part-time at Ryerson University since 1987 and is a former coordinator of the Magazine Publishing Certificate Program in the Continuing Education
Division. Cynthia has been recognized several times by the National Magazine Awards, including the gold award for Personal Journalism in 2000, and four honourable mentions.

David Hayes
David Hayes is an award winning feature writer whose work has appeared in publications such as Toronto Life, Saturday Night, Report on Business, Toro, The New York Times Magazine, The Globe and Mail and enRoute. He is also the author of three books, plus two more as a co/ghost-writer. A former faculty member in the magazine stream at Ryerson University's School of Journalism, today, he teaches Advanced Magazine Writing in Ryerson's G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education.

Paul Wilson
Paul Wilson is a freelance writer, editor and translator. He was Associate Editor of The Idler magazine from 1988 to 1992, Senior Editor of Saturday Night magazine from 1998 to 2001, and most recently an Editor of The Walrus magazine. Paul has contributed essays, articles and reviews to many North American and European publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, the Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, the National Post and other literary and general interest magazines. His translations are also familiar to readers of the New Yorker, Granta, Foreign Affairs, The New York Times and The New York Review of Books. His translation of The Engineer of Human Souls by Josef Skoverecky was awarded the Governor General's Award for Fiction in 1984, and his translation of Ivan Klima's My Golden Trades was short-listed for the Independent newspaper's International Translation Award in 1993.

Plan ahead! Future seminars include:

April 18 - Crime pays: A look at reporters who cover crime and corruption

May 16 - Well-connected: Using the Internet to write better articles

Location/Time: Northern District Library, 40 Orchardview Blvd. (west off Yonge, just north of Eglinton); 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Fee: PWAC members - Free; General public - pay what you can ($10 suggested)

Afterwards: Join the panellists, PWAC members. and other writers for Beers with Peers in the Manchester Arms pub —conveniently located downstairs from the library.

More info: visit

Writer Retreat

PWAC received this notification today. Members who attended our 2004 National Conference and AGM in New Brunswick will be very familiar with the setting for this retreat:

I want to apprise you of the retreat for writers at work, and for Book Groups, which I have founded in St. Andrews by the Sea, NB.

I am a former Fellow at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, and a James A. Michener Fellow. I offer instruction in screenwriting, the novel, and the memoir. I have taught fiction writing, nonfiction prose and screenwriting at Colgate University, Colby College, Western Connecticut University and Columbia College. I am the author of five novels published by Random House, Doubleday, Simon & Schuster and Alfred A. Knopf. Two memoirs published by Little Brown and Alfred A. Knopf. And the screenplay, “Fallen Angel” a Hallmark Hall of Fame Christmas movie starring Gary Sinise, which won the highest rating for a television movie in 2003.

The Retreat is a 150 year old house in the center of the village amidst shops, restaurants, and internet café, and the inimitable Algonquin Hotel, open year round offering a spa, fitness center and fine dining. Summer activities include sea kayaking, whale watching, sailing, golf on a world class course, swimming, tennis and biking. In the winter months there is cross country skiing across a stunning landscape.

The Retreat offers a comfortable, private room with a queen size bed and a shared bath down the hall. Breakfast is provided each morning. Residents may use the kitchen, garden deck, and two living rooms on the first floor.

Tutorials are held in the evenings. Applicants of all abilities are invited rear round. Admission is based upon a manuscript or portfolio.

I've had some wonderful writers working there, John, and if you can help me get the word out about the retreat, I will be very grateful.

Thank you so much.
Don J. Snyder

Mr. Snyder can be reached at the following e-mail address:

Interesting work/subject

A longtime PWAC member passes this information on to her fellow members. For those with an interest in travel, other cultures, and international relations.

Haiti Election Observation Mission

CANADEM is recruiting short-term observers to monitor the upcoming elections in Haiti. There will be two observation mission deploying to monitor both election rounds.

Selection Process:
The CANADEM Elections Roster contains many hundreds of qualified elections experts who possess both the preferred and essential criteria for any given observation mission. Selections for an observation mission is a highly competitive process and it is likely that those who do not possess both essential and preferred criteria will not be selected for participation.

To be considered for this mission, you must be registered with CANADEM. The following criteria are also considered essential:

Have a valid Canadian passport;

Be in excellent health and fully mobile;

Be willing to sign and adhere to a code of conduct for short-term international observers, including a statement of political neutrality in Haiti;

Be willing to follow instructions, including safety procedures;

Be willing to work long hours in conditions which are sometimes difficult; and

Be able to work in a team and deal with difficult situations in a positive manner.

Have prior election observation and/or electoral assistance experience, preferably in a post conflict or volatile environment;

In addition, the following criteria are preferred:

Be proficient in French or Creole; and

Have knowledge of the country or region.

CANADEM is no longer accepting applications for the observation mission to Round 1. Applications for the mission to Round 2 may still be considered.

For full information on the CANADEM Electoral Assistance Program and the necessary qualifications for an observation mission, please read the Election Observation Missions and FAQ page on their website.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

February Achievements

As we enter March, let's look back and see what PWAC members have been up to. Your February 2006 Membership Achievement Bulletin is now available at the link below:

February Achievements

PWAC members -- Remember to get your achievement announcements in to National Office before March 31st in order to have your good work noted in the next bulletin. Achievements can be sent to