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

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

words for sale (?)

"The business of selling words to readers and selling readers to advertisers, which has sustained [newspapers'] role in society, is falling apart."

So says The Economist in its recent story Who killed the newspaper?.

Not the best of news for anyone planning on making their living in the sale of words:

Newspapers have not yet started to shut down in large numbers, but it is only a matter of time. Over the next few decades half the rich world's general papers may fold. Jobs are already disappearing. According to the Newspaper Association of America, the number of people employed in the industry fell by 18% between 1990 and 2004.

...Having ignored reality for years, newspapers are at last doing something. In order to cut costs, they are already spending less on journalism.

Or is it merely a case of a broad format change? The Economist looks into the future and finds:

An elite group of serious newspapers available everywhere online, independent journalism backed by charities, thousands of fired-up bloggers and well-informed citizen journalists: there is every sign that Arthur Miller's national conversation will be louder than ever.

Loud is good. And these citizen journalists? They'll be paid how?

Thanks to D.B. Scott at the Canadian Magazines blog for the tip.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

the art of self promo

Canadian writer Kenneth J. Harvey is featured in the Globe & Mail's Arts section today. Harvey has written over a dozen books, and if you recognize the name but have never read the books it might be because he shows up in your e-mail in-box from time to time.

Harvey is a tireless self-promoter. According to the article (by Michael Posner):

"... half his working day, he says, is now devoted to the business of writing -- not the prose, but the selling of Ken Harvey. He also runs a polished website ( that trumpets his reviews, news of foreign-language sales, upcoming books and previous interviews."

PWAC's own Paul Lima, is the freelance writing version of Harvey. is just one of the many methods of self-promotion Lima uses to keep his name and services in front of potential clients.

Monday, August 21, 2006

online words

Google has bought, and will launch, the online word processor Writely.

According to its creators, Writely is a way to create, edit, share and store written documents online. You can access your documents from anywhere, write directly online, enjoy instant collaboration with editors, and have access to a sophisticated word processing program anywhere you happen to be (computerwise). Writely documents can be saved as PDFs or with RSS, allowing you to blog instantly from a working document.

Attempts to log on to Writely today have failed, probably due to huge traffic to the site, but you can check out the program's information blog here: Writely Blog.

Many online references to Writely have mentioned storage security and privacy concerns related to storing all your writing online. As with all online tools and activities, use of Writely will no doubt depend on individual comfort levels.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Faces on Places

PWAC Toronto member Terry Murray is featured on the prominent Torontoist blog today. She is interviewed about her new book from House of Anansi, Faces on Places about the many and various gargoyles and other sculptures featured on Toronto architecture.

Congratulations Terry on a great book and some wonderful PR!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

ethics question

A number of American journalism blogs are buzzing this week about a profile that appeared in the LA Times (West) Magazine this past weekend. In her piece, staffer Claire Hoffman writes about Joe Francis, the founder and CEO of the Girls Gone Wild video empire, a soft-core offshoot of reality television in which young, often inebriated women lift their shirts and perform all sorts of other 'wild' acts for a camera crew who have spontaneously invaded their night out on the town.

There are some nasty, jaw-dropping bits of information in the article -- not a flattering profile by any defintiion, and in fact an article that could spur criminal charges -- but the journalistic point in question is how the piece opens.

"Joe Francis, the founder of the "Girls Gone Wild" empire, is humiliating me. He has my face pressed against the hood of a car, my arms twisted hard behind my back."

Radical new journalism, or a compromised objectivity intentionally overlooked? As journalism blog The Morning News asks " How can someone who has been abused by her subject continue to write objectively, particularly when so much of the material also deals with abuse?"

former member mourned

Tim Whitehead

A weekly economics columnist for The Brantford Expositor for more than a decade, PWAC member Tim Whitehead has died in Paris, Ontario.

From the obituary published yesterday in The Expositor:

The decision to give up a high-paying job in Toronto and establish a home-based business allowed him to spend more time with his wife of 18 years, Shauna DeSouza-Whitehead, and children, Jessica, 16, and Trevvor, 15.

"It gave him an opportunity to really get to know his kids," said Shauna. "He was a very gentle man. A real softie."

PWAC sends condolences to Mr. Whitehead's family and friends.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

we feel your pain

Rogers Communications put in uncomfortable financial position because of a tricky contract:

Canadian media giant Rogers is contemplating the importance of clear writing and proper punctuation after CRTC regulators rule against them in a contract dispute.

Read the full Globe and Mail story at the link below. Here are some highlights:

A grammatical blunder may force Rogers Communications Inc. to pay an extra $2.13-million to use utility poles in the Maritimes after the placement of a comma in a contract permitted the deal's cancellation.

Rogers was dumbfounded. The company said it never would have signed a contract to use roughly 91,000 utility poles that could be cancelled on such short notice. Its lawyers tried in vain to argue the intent of the deal trumped the significance of a comma. "This is clearly not what the parties intended," Rogers said in a letter to the CRTC.

But the CRTC disagreed. And the consequences are significant.

The $2-million comma

Canada's freelance writers, who have been struggling with contract issues for years now, sympathize. There is nothing worse than a contract used to undermine the spirit of a traditional business arrangement.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Copyright and libel chill

Freedom of Expression alert:

Michael Geist, Canada's resident Internet law and copyright theorist (and a speaker at PWAC's 2006 National Conference), has written a very interesting column illustrating a link between copyright and freedom of expression concerns on the Internet, specifically a potential libel chill on opinion expressed via blogs, comment functions and chatrooms. The full column can be read at the link at the bottom of this posting. Here are some highlights:

The case places the spotlight on the liability of Internet intermediaries. The importance of the issue extends well beyond just Internet service providers - corporate websites that allow for user feedback, education websites featuring chatrooms, or even individual bloggers who permit comments face the prospect of demands to remove content that is alleged to violate the law.

The difficult question is not whether these sites and services have the right to voluntarily remove offending content if they so choose - no one doubts that they do - but rather whether sites can be compelled to remove allegedly unlawful or infringing content under threat of potential legal liability.

The answer is not as straightforward as one might expect since Canadian law varies depending on the type of content or the nature of the allegations. In the case of child pornography, the Criminal Code does not require a site to remove content based merely on an unproven allegation. Instead, sites can only be compelled to remove such content under a court order. The same is true for other unlawful content such as hate speech.

Allegations of copyright infringement similarly do not require a site to remove contested content. Liability would depend on whether the site can be said to have authorized visitors to infringe copyright. The Supreme Court of Canada has set a high threshold to determine when a party "authorizes" infringement. Merely hosting content, even after being made aware of an unproven infringement allegation, is unlikely to meet that standard.

Read the full column in the Toronto Star, the BBC International or here:

Canadian Libel Law Raises Net Free Speech Chill

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

July Achievements

Hot weather does not deter PWACers from completing their amazing achievements. The full Member Achievement Bulletin is available at the link below. Here are some highlights:

Martin Dansky from Quebec wrote a script and directed/produced his first short film called Birthday Boy Eats Cake, to appear at festivals across Canada and in Italy.

Robert Fripp from Ontario decided to become his own publisher, and totally revamped his URL to market two titles. Power of a Woman / Memoirs of a turbulent life: Eleanor of Aquitaine will soon be issued as an eBook and, shortly thereafter, a POD. He is also reissuing Let there be life (Paulist Press, HiddenSpring imprint, 2001) as an eBook. Meanwhile his play in Shakespeare's English, Dark Sovereign, has caught the attention of director Nate Merchant. Here's hoping.

Roxanne Willems Snopek of Vancouver has written a fiction book called Targets of Affection (Cormorant Books, July 2006). Targets of Affection is the debut novel in a veterinary mystery series dealing with the human-animal bond.

Take a look at the full member achievement bulletin:

July Achievements