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

Monday, June 26, 2006


PWAC President Suzanne Boles and VP Carolyn Gibson recently appeared on the local London Ontario television show To the Point with Jim Chapman, talking about, among other things the Professional Writers Survey Report, and the challenges of a career in freelance writing.

You can check out the full interview at the show's website below:

To the Point with Jim Chapman

(Please note: Some Mac users have reported not being able to see the stream. We are attempting to get a Mac-friendly version.)

UPDATE Mac users can download a free Windows Media Player at this link for their computer. Then under the File menu,click Open URL and paste the following URL:

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Age of Reason

News Flash: Reasonable Requests to Respect Digital Copyright Are Met with Reasonable Responses

If you've observed any of the copyright reform debate in the last couple years, you may have noticed that the rhetoric can sometimes get a bit testy. Use of terms such as piracy, zealotry, greed, spying, bullying, stealing are standard and all sides are certainly guilty of the occasional rush to judgement. In the ongoing quest for common ground, may I direct everyone's attention to a recent development on the incredibly popular blog Boing Boing, a loud and, at times, extremely aggressive voice for the free digital culture folks.

Boing Boing recently reported on a digital controversy involving the great NPR program This American Life (hosted by Ira Glass -- brilliant radio), in which TAL requested that certain other websites stop their practice of providing TAL content for free. Now, TAL provides most if not all of its content for free itself on its own site, and it apparently would like to continue to control access to that content itself.

The initial reporting on Boing Boing seemed to indicate this takedown request from TAL was interpreted as some sort of nasty, legal attack on free culture -- a nastygram, they call it. Today, Boing Boing has published a rebuttal of that interpretation from a former This American Life intern. In the intern's description of how TAL produces its product, I hear the voices of all cultural creators who are trying to figure out how to make their product fit into the digital reality:

"You have to understand that This American Life is produced differently than just about any other show on the radio. They get big names on there. They pay well. They score the whole show with great music. All of these things make it difficult to give away programs for free...

...In any case, Ira's not trying to cheat you. He is, in fact, a very nice guy. Like, for instance, if he were going out to get lunch, he'd ask you if you wanted anything, and then he'd bring it back, and he wouldn't make you pay for it."

Since the initial reporting on Boing Boing, the websites in question have complied with TAL's request for control of its own content. Brave new world.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Of Mice and Copyright

Following up on the recent James Joyce copyright posting, here's more news from the world of famous writers' estates, as reported by The Guardian:

An American judge intervening in a long-simmering feud has ruled that the rights to John Steinbeck's most famous novels - including The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men - should be seized from his publisher and handed to his descendants.

In a case that could have significant consequences for families of artists who fought for creative control, New York judge Richard Owen ruled that Penguin Books must forfeit the copyright of 10 of Steinbeck's works, even though the novelist had signed the rights away in 1938.

The ruling has a connection to the highly contentious Sonny Bono copyright extension legislation in the US, but the implication most interesting to Canada's professional writers is the ruling's grant of preferred status to the creator as copyright owner, despite a written contract transferring copyright. Specifically, the ruling as reported allows that "young authors could not know in advance "the high stature they would attain" and that it was therefore fair to allow them or their descendants to renegotiate copyright agreements."

Steinbeck died in 1968, which means under the Sonny Bono extension the inheritor of his copyright (whether it be the family or the publisher) may continue to derive exclusive remuneration from his works until 2038. This would mean a pile of cash in any case, considering Steinbeck's stature and his place in curricula around the English speaking world, but add to that the Oprah effect and the money in this case grows immense. Oprah Winfrey chose Steinbeck's East of Eden for her book club in 2003 and spiked his sales worldwide.

So, Steinbeck signed away all rights to his work in 1938? And we thought all-rights contracts were a relatively new phenomenon.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Callwood Celebrated

PWAC founding member, June Callwood has received the Canadian Library Association's Advancement of Intellectual Freedom in Canada Award.

Here is the CLA's press release:

(Ottawa) – June Callwood, journalist and columnist, magazine writer, television host and interviewer, author, social justice activist, and free speech advocate, is the 2006 recipient of the Award for the Advancement of Intellectual Freedom in Canada, presented by the Canadian Library Association (CLA).

Callwood is a founding member of many organizations and associations that have come to play a vital national role in defending Canadian civil liberties and freedoms: the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, PEN Canada, Feminists Against Censorship, The Writers' Union of Canada, the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC), and the Electronic Rights Licensing Agency.

“Long before they were safe or fashionable, June Callwood was a courageous and principled pioneer in many social justice causes, especially those involving children and women,” says CLA President Barbara Clubb. “Her efforts have paved the way for others to follow.”

She has helped found more than 50 human rights and social action organizations, including Digger House, a youth hostel and safe haven for homeless youngsters; Nellie's Hostel for Women, a non-profit organization for women and children in crisis; Jessie’s Centre for Teenagers, a drop-in centre for teenage mothers; and Casey House, the first hospice in Canada to provide support and palliative care for people with HIV/AIDS.

Callwood continued to give volunteer service in an executive capacity to many organizations and agencies, as well as to many others associated with Canada's culture industries in publishing and communications; including the Book and Periodical Council, the Toronto Arts Council, the Canada Council Literary Advisory Committee, and the Advisory Committee of CanCopy (now Access Copyright).

In addition to her volunteer service, Callwood has been a prolific author, with more than 30 books to her credit (including at least 10 as a ghostwriter), a magazine writer with hundreds of articles published, and a host of several acclaimed television series capturing diverse aspects of Canada's cultural heritage. She served as a Writer-in-Residence at the North York Public Library.

Several years ago, to honour the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Persons Case in 1999, Library and Archives Canada highlighted the “Famous Five” together with the achievements of 11 other Canadian women who have made significant contributions to the improvement of the lives of Canadian women and children, including Callwood.

For decades Callwood has championed causes for the disenfranchised, the unheard, and the minority communities in Canadian society. She has been called “Canada’s Conscience” and “St. June.”

The Canadian Library Association is Canada’s largest national and broad-based library association, representing the interests of public, academic, school and special libraries, professional librarians and library workers, and all those concerned about enhancing the quality of life of Canadians through information and literacy.

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For more information on the CLA Award for the Advancement of Intellectual Freedom, contact Dr. Antonia Samek, Chair of the CLA Advisory Committee on Intellectual Freedom, (780) 492-0179 or

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Yes, the complexity, yes

PWACer Chris Moore has a great and timely posting on the Creator's Copyright Coalition blog regarding the James Joyce estate and the issue of permissions in the use of copyright protected material, especially as concerns academic uses. As though copyright weren't complex enough, now I have to choose sides between Molly Bloom ("yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes." -- Ulysses, Episode 18 Penelope) and those who might help me better understand Molly Bloom?

This is a fantastically difficult issue, detailed in a New Yorker story available for free at this link:

The Injustice Collector

As Chris Moore writes:

The power of the global academy versus the power of the Joyce fortune… who’s the little guy here?

Under copyright law, being the grandson of a great and popular writer entitles one to a number of rights and privileges concerning the work of that author, BUT does it entitle Stephen James Joyce to everything he demands?

Friday, June 09, 2006

PWAC @ Mags University

The Professional Writers Association of Canada participated in this week's Magazines University, the annual conference and professional development gathering for the magazine industry in Canada. Executive Director, John Degen participated in a panel discussion on the writer/editor relationship, presenting the results of our recent writers survey report, and spreading the word about the need to increase writers rates within the industry. He also joined PWAC lawyer Marian Hebb for an intensive session on legal issues facing magazine publishers, and took the opportunity of this discussion to push PWAC's standard freelance writing agreement to a crowd of small magazine publishers.

Finally, PWAC President Suzanne Boles and John Degen attended the Magazines Canada volunteer appreciation reception and, again, spoke with the assembled publishers, large and small, about PWAC's recent conference, the survey report and our ongoing issues. President Boles remained in Toronto for meetings with Access Copyright directors (and PWAC members) Michael OReilly, Doreen Pendgracs and Guenther Krueger.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Member Update

Here's a quick follow-up on last week's member achievement posting from Executive Director John Degen:

Reading the Globe & Mail Books section on the weekend, I was delighted to see Guelph PWAC member Laurie Gough's latest book Kiss the Sunset Pig. An American Road Trip with Exotic Detours favourably reviewed. Laurie Gough is an accomplished travel writer with publication credits in many of Canada's best newspapers and magazines. She recently read from Kiss the Sunset Pig at Toronto's Harbourfront Reading Series.

Read an Excerpt from Kiss the Sunset Pig. Listen for her Tuesday, June 13, 11:00 am on CBC Radio (Sounds Like Canada) discussing travel with two other travel writers.

-- jd

Friday, June 02, 2006

Member Achievements

Another busy month for PWAC members (and staff).

Some highlights:

Doreen Pendgracs recently completed her Competent Leader (CL) designation in the Toastmasters International program. As a member of the Prairie Voices club, Doreen is currently working towards her Advanced Toastmaster (ATM-Silver) designation. She is a professional speaker who has presented assorted special interest seminars such as The Art of Feng Shui and customized writing classes for a wide variety of clients.

After so-called retirement, Judy Scott has sold a major feature story for the June issue of Acreage Life magazine published out of Saskatoon. It is about heritage split-rail fences. She hasn't been published in a national magazine since 1998 and is glad to be back! The tip for placement of this story came from fellow PWACer Carolyn Black.

Nora Rock's book Wrongfully Accused: Innocents on Death Row (Altitude Publishing) tells the stories of some of the 122 people released from US death row since 1976 on evidence of their actual (not just "technical") innocence... Nora was born in Iowa; researching this book made her proud to be Canadian.

Vancouver literary press Nightwood Editions has published PWAC Executive Director John Degen’s first novel, The Uninvited Guest. John has previously published two books of poetry with Toronto’s Pedlar Press. John will be signing copies of his book at the University of Toronto Alumni Book Fair (June 3), and BookExpo Canada (June 12th). The launch party for The Uninvited Guest takes place in Toronto, Thursday June 15th (6:30 p.m.) at Mitzi’s Sister (1554 Queen Street West), a great bar in Parkdale. Details about John’s writing can be found at

Check out the full listing of recent PWAC member achievements here:

PWAC Member Achievements