You are here:Liza N. Burby ~ Author, Journalist, Editor, Consultant/Archive for November 2007


    The National Book Foundation announced that among its 2007 winners, Sherman Alexie won the Young People's Literature Prize for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown & Company). The story is based on the author’s own experiences. The description is "a heartbreaking, yet funny story that chronicles the adolescence of one contemporary Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he seems destined to live."  I haven't yet read it, but I plan to. As a YA writer, it's always a good idea to learn what quality literature is being published for teens. Besides, I have found that some of the best books out there are written for middle grade and young adult readers.

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        For anyone who thinks the Writer's Guild of America is in the wrong to ask that writers be paid additional money for their works that are turned into DVDs I ask them to remember about 12 years ago when journalists were facing a similar problem. At the time, the Internet was new and exciting territory (hard to believe there was such a time). Those of us who wrote for such publications as the New York Times signed work-for-hire contracts indicating that once we wrote the article and were paid for it, the company owned the article. That's not particularly fair, but there wasn't much at the time they could do with our published articles anyway, so most of us signed away. Then someone discovered that they could resell our articles on the Internet. Suddenly articles we wrote for one-time publication were appearing on line, and we weren't being compensated. To counteract complaints, new contracts were generated indicating that we were giving the NYT and other companies all rights to reprint our articles on the Internet and in any other new media yet to be discovered, or similar words that always galled me. The Author's Guild sued, and eventually won. Contracts for magazines and newspapers were amended so that depending on the company, writers to this day get a portion of any resold articles, regardless of the medium. For a while I made a nice amount of money from resales without having to lift a finger to the keyboard. Now that I think about it, all that seems to have dried up. But then now you can write directly for the Internet and make money that way, as well. 
       So it's not surprising to me that those who write for TV want their piece of the pie. After all, though it may look easy to those not in the know, writing is challenging. And it comes from your own knowledge and skill. Why shouldn't you be compensated any time someone else makes more money from something you created? 
        I wish the writers who are striking good luck in their fight. A win for them helps us all. 
        What do you think? Have you been impacted by unfair contracts as a writer?
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November 2007
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