respect for writers
I’ve written about the importance of networking for writers previously on this blog, but having just attended my first annual conference of The Writers Union of Canada (TWUC), it is once again fresh on my mind.
Approximately 200 of the more than 1,800 authors belonging to TWUC gathered in downtown Toronto for three days of events, from a vibrant Welcome Reception for new members and first-time attendees (I fit the bill in both categories) on the Thursday evening, to the election of officers on the Sunday morning, when a rather small group of enthusiasts gathered to wrap up the business session of the meeting and vote in the new executive.
Kudos to Alan Cumyn, outgoing national chair, for setting a stalwart example throughout the meetings, and providing calm and focused leadership over the past year. Having been to numerous AGM’s of various orgs over the past couple of decades, I truly appreciated his ability to conduct business, move the conversation forward and still ensure that everyone has been heard and feels respected.
Congrats to Greg Hollingshead for taking on the role of chair for the 2011-2012 term, a year that is sure to be filled with its own distinct set of challenges.
I was also truly impressed by the staff of TWUC who ensured the conference was set to run smoothly, but who truly understood that staff is paid to serve the organization … not run the show. That difference of understanding that the board of directors is — and should be — the driving force behind any organization, made this one of the most effective and efficient national conferences I have attended. Looking forward to TWUC’s conference next year in Vancouver.
Attending conferences has always been an important part of my career as a professional writer. We learn from one another through the informal talks we have with others (someone might recommend a market, a publisher or agent or answer one of the questions that’s been mulling about in your mind.)
We learn from the presentations and workshops on the official program, and we are inspired by the keynote speakers throughout the event.
The TWUC conference had many terrific speakers and educational sessions. The first evening of the conference was highlighted by a 25th anniversary celebration of the Public Lending Rights (PLR) Commission. Many authors have received welcome PLR cheques distributing funds representative of our books being borrowed through the public library system.
I was disappointed that my latest book, “Before You Say Yes … A Guide to the Pleasures & Pitfalls of Volunteer Boards” (BYSY) was excluded from PLR payments as it is considered a guidebook and all guidebooks are excluded from eligibility in the program. How unfortunate that a choice in subtitles made by the publisher of a book might deny an author from entitlement. I was assured that many other TWUC members have had non-fiction titles deemed ineligible in the PLR program, but that doesn’t make me feel much better.
My book was a completely unique idea, my creation — not a templated guidebook for which an author could not be credited with originality of an idea. I am told that the PLRC frowns upon non-literary works. The New Oxford American Dictionary on my Mac defines literary as “having a marked style intended to create a particular emotional effect.”
My book has its own particular style and was written with the intent to evoke emotion in the reader. Judging by the positive 5-star reviews it has received, my book has accomplished that goal. Yet, the PLRC does not see value in it. Having personally put a copy of BYSY into the hands of the chair of the PLRC at the conference, I am hopeful that prejudice may change — if not for me, for other talented authors who, in the future will write useful, worthwhile, and valuable books whether they be deemed “Literary” or not by Canadian literati.
As a board member and leader of many organizations over the past couple of decades, it has always been my approach to be inclusionary, not to alienate worthy allies. I believe we achieve much more through a consensus building philosophy and the building of strong alliances rather than bullying and an attitude of aristocracy.
Nonetheless, hats off to the trailblazers who worked tirelessly to form the PLRC. Former chair of TWUC, Andreas Schroeder, spent in the area of a decade fighting to establish a body that would reward authors whose books were being “rented out” via the public library system. In 2010, the PLRC paid out $10 million to authors across the country. For that, we all celebrate, whether we are among the blessed or the shunned.