International Correspondence Month — InCoWriMo

International Correspondence Month (InCoWriMo) takes place in February. Basically, the idea is to hand-write and mail or deliver in person one letter, card, note or postcard every day during the month of February. Hand-written doesn’t have to mean cursive, by the way; those of us who print are welcome to participate just as much as those who write a fine Spencerian hand.

The goal of InCoWriMo is to have written and sent one piece of correspondence for every day of the month during February (so you can skip a day and write two the next). You can write to friends and relations. You can write to strangers  and leave a note on their door telling them that you love their roses. You can write old friends. You can write to former teachers to thank them. You can send a love letter to your SO.

You can use pen-pal services. You can send postcards, or formal letters, or greeting cards with a note. It’s up to you. But you have to write your cards or letters by hand, and they have to be delivered, whether by you or a postal service. The official InCoWriMo site has some excellent FAQs. There’s even a video to help inspire you and get you started.

I’m going to attempt to write a card or letter for every day of February. Who’s with me?

Jealousy Among Writers: Slaying the Green-Eyed Monster

Guest Post by Anne Emerick

It’s a secret many writers try to hide, the negative emotions they feel upon hearing of another writer’s success. When you believe you should be applauding other writers’ accomplishments, it can be horrifying to realize that instead you feel jealous, envious of their success, resentful that they achieved a goal that is still out of your reach. The good news is that if you feel jealous, you can learn to channel that emotion into positive powerful actions.

Writing Jealousy cover

If you realize you feel bad, rather than good about another writer’s success, examine what exactly is it that bothers you. Common jealous-writer feelings include:

A feeling of being left behind

One writer commented that one-by-one critique group members were getting work published and it made him feel as though they weren’t all peers any more. You need to recognize that success or failings need not change any important relationships in your life.

People value consistency and like to know that you don’t view them any differently whether they have just had a grand success or a grand failure. Michael J. Fox loves to tell the story about how his first Emmy sits in the trophy case alongside other family members’ bowling and soccer team trophies. It’s important to recognize that a publishing contract or sales record isn’t going to cost you a friendship, because otherwise, how could you ever strive for those achievements?

A feeling that other writers doesn’t deserve their success

Do you feel a suddenly successful writer was lucky? Had connections? The problem with questioning whether another writer deserves the success he or she received is that part of your brain will then wonder whether you deserve to be successful. If something in you makes you feel that a writer didn’t deserve to be successful, ask yourself, why not? Why shouldn’t this writer be successful?

Just as there is no set of steps to follow that are guaranteed to lead to a successful writing career, so too there are no mandatory requirements. While it’s unlikely that you can sit down, write your first story, get it published and make the bestseller list, that is different than you not deserving to have people love that first story.

If you are surprised by how well a writer has done, have a good hard look at factors contributing to their success. You may see something useful that will help you achieve your own goals. Be careful that you don’t attribute their success to luck or celebrity alone as you may miss something that they did which you would be wise to emulate.

Just plain envious. They have what you want.

Writers may feel unable to celebrate another writer’s success because it’s a reminder of something they don’t have. How strongly you covet an achievement is an indication of how important that goal is to you. Be sure to honor that importance in prioritizing how you spend your time. But you also must realize that whatever another writer has received: a publishing contract, a number of sales, a starred review – there is more than one of them to go around. If this other writer did it, so can you. Consider their success a model for yours, proof that what you want is achievable.

Jealousy should not be ignored. If you feel it lurking nearby, bring it out into the light and examine that feeling. Jealousy is a monster and best dealt with firmly. There is nothing wrong with a writer who feels jealous. It’s what you do with that feeling that matters. You want to conquer jealousy for your own good.

People want to be liked and if you dislike or resent another writer because they are successful, then your subconcious will not want you to succeed as a writer for fear that others will dislike and resent you. Examine your own feelings, find a more useful way of thinking about other writers’ successes and then pursue your own success with passion and conviction. Let your own unique gifts shine without worry of comparison.

Anne Emerick is the author of The Day I Met Dr. Seuss and creator of No-Work Spanish audiobooks, an unusual way to learn Spanish. Anne blogs at Self-Publishing, Children’s Books and Me.

Adrienne Rich (1929–2012)

Adrienne Rich’s obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

Adrienne Rich was one of the first poets whose words made my heart falter.

While some of Adrienne Rich’s politics are very different from my take, many years later, her essay from 1980 “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” had a very profound effect on me, since I read it as a student, just figuring out what it meant to be a woman and an adult in a culture that wanted to restrict my choices.

Rich became more moderate with time, but there are some powerful ideas in that piece, and even those I didn’t agree with, made me think very hard about how I wanted to be.

Her poetry is incredible. “Diving into the Wreck” was the first thing of hers I read.

The world is a poorer place for her loss, but richer for her words.

Requiescat in pace Adrienne.

The Awakening

By Laura Shumaker

I met Tracy when I moved to the neighborhood five years ago. At the time, I had a lot going on. I was raising three boys, the oldest autistic, and was balancing their care with that of my mother, who was very ill. I was tired and emotionally drained. After Tracy and I traded introductions, she asked me the dreaded question.

“What do you do?”

I could tell by her manner that she didn’t really care what I did; she just wanted to tell me what she did.

I gestured feebly to my three boys jumping around on my front lawn, the eldest stuffing a worm down a drain with a devilish look on his face. Tracy cocked her head and crinkled her brow with a “you poor thing” expression.

Before I could reply with—home with kids, oldest autistic, mother sick, Tracy blurted out, “I’m a writer!”

She was beaming.

After a brief conversation—how many kids, how old, great neighborhood, love to go for a walk sometime—she skipped away, and I wondered, what does she write about? I might like to write, too. God knows I have great material, having been through years of daily adventures trudging through the maze of autism. Then my oldest son, Matthew, bolted impulsively towards the street, and I thought, ruefully, when would I write?

I had always enjoyed writing in a journal as a young girl, but by college had digressed to knocking out English papers between the hours of midnight and seven a.m. for my eight o’clock class. Writing had become a game, rather than a passion, and the IBM Selectric was stowed away in the hall closet after graduation. I was distracted by the excitement of life in San Francisco with friends, work, and romance, blissfully unaware of what struggles lay ahead.

Years later, when I relayed stories about Matthew, people would say, “You could write a book!” My father urged me to start a journal, and my husband agreed. But every day was a frantic mix of unexpected phone calls from school, neighbors and eventually law enforcement—all upset by Matthews’s disruptive, impulsive behavior. Damage control was my way of life, delivering flowers to his teacher after a tough day, a bottle of wine to the neighbor who had found Matthew in her yard, gleefully throwing basketballs and soccer balls into her swimming pool, and circulating brochures to police officers about autism to educate them that his strange behavior was not drug-related. In the midst of it all, I managed to make frequent visits to my beloved mother, and nurture, with the help of my supportive husband, my two other sons.

After my mother died, my father started writing—beautifully. He wrote about his happy childhood on the Monterey Peninsula in the thirties, the oldest of five, oblivious to the fact that the country was in the midst of the Great Depression. He wrote about his family, a colorful bunch, and his friends—about Valentines Day in the third grade. He wrote about things he remembered and didn’t want to forget. In one story, he is six years old, and his daddy the fireman and forest ranger drives by in a shiny red fire truck, smiling and waving, siren blaring. My father’s pride jumped off the page and moved me to tears. Whenever I visited him in Carmel, he couldn’t wait for me to sit down in the white chair by the window and read his pieces. He studied my face as I read his stories, waiting for my reaction to the sentence he knew would make me laugh, and teared up when I lifted my eyes from the page to meet his. I noticed the twinkle in his eye, the amused smile on his face. I told him—you ought to have this published! “Just a hobby” was his reply.

It wasn’t till the following summer when I felt an urgent need to write. My mother had been gone about a year, and my husband and I had placed Matthew in a special school in Pennsylvania. Friends and family thought I would be relieved when Matthew left, that I would finally get a break. But instead, I felt an emptiness and sorrow too acute to share with anyone, and I needed to write about it.

I started to write stories of my life with Matthew, starting with the wonderful days of his infancy and toddlerhood when we thought he was perfect, through the heartbreak of diagnosis up to the more recent years of survival and acceptance. I wrote of being the mother of an autistic child, and of the discoveries regarding human character, good and bad, that I made along the way. I joined a women’s writers group, enrolled in writing workshops at a local independent bookstore and took extension courses at a nearby college.

Now I take my yellow pad with me everywhere, and turn to it in idle moments. I thinkmdash;what do people need to know about Matthew? How can I paint a picture of him and of his place in the world? As the ideas wash over me, I jot them down frantically till the one that illustrates him best stares back at me, and I silently rejoice.

I look forward to my writers group each Wednesday as if it were the first day of school, and when I come home afterward, I am so full of energy that I have to keep moving, usually folding the laundry and cleaning the house that I have neglected in favor of my new friend, the gray laptop. There have been days when my husband and children have had to remind me to feed them dinner, but they smile when they feel my excitement. They are proud of me.

At times, writing unearths dark feelings, long buried, as I remember the moment the psychologist first uttered the word autism, or the haunting questions from insensitive friends: “Will he ever live on his own or hold a job?” On days when I plunge into a well of unbearable sadness, the only way to climb out is by turning to humor. I write funny stories that make me laugh out loud as I work. Some of these stories I share with others, but usually they are just for me. Once I am lifted out of my funk, I dare to share my writing. The thrill of moving family and friends to tears or laughter, the crafting of the perfect sentence, or of seeing my name in print allow me to store the dark days away until I have the courage to revisit them

While writing about my journey with Matthew has been difficult at times, it has been illuminating. When I recount where we started and all the challenges along the way, I have a newfound appreciation of what a struggle it is to be Matthew. It is my job as his mother to help him navigate his way through life within the confines of his disability while steering those in his path towards understanding and acceptance.

Writing has been an awakening, an energizing preoccupation, and now I understand Tracy’s eager proclamation and the twinkle in my father’s eyes. There is a new dimension in my life, and I see and feel everything with inspired clarity. I am a writer.

Laura Shumaker lives in Lafayette, California with her husband Peter and her three teenage boys. She has recently completed a memoir about life with an autistic son and is as regular contributor to NPR Perspectives. She has been featured on KFOG’s Fogfiles and is a columnist for The Autism Perspective Magazine. Her writing has also been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Contra Times and Guideposts Magazine. Please visit Laura Shumaker’s website.

Why Wikileaks Should Matter to Writers

Guest post by A.L. Berridge

I lost my political virginity in Ireland, when I heard for the first time the reality behind the Troubles. English schools hadn’t been too hot on explaining why these nasty IRA terrorists wanted to blow us up, and I’d been content to accept a simple world of good guys and bad guys—as long as my country was the former and the foreigners were the latter. Overnight I had to bin all that, grow up, and start comprehending shades of grey.

I had no choice. I was there to work on scripts, but how can a writer understand her characters if she doesn’t know why they think or feel as they do? And if she doesn’t understand, then what right has she to write? Those months in Dublin were when I began to open my mind and take the first steps on the road that made me a novelist.

The loss of illusion was still shattering, which is why my heart goes out to Americans right now. The US isn’t the only country whose moral ugliness has been exposed by Wikileaks, but it’s the one where the biggest shock has been to its own citizens. I’d imagined the horrors of the ‘Collateral Murder’ video wouldn’t surprise anyone who knew about Abu Ghraib, but what I hadn’t realized was how much the American press had suffocated the earlier story. Pictures were edited and withheld, and when Salon posted the first exposé the Pentagon claimed they ‘were damaging national security by publishing such inflammatory images’.

Sound familiar?

Similar charges have been laid against Wikileaks, although journalists from The Guardian, Le Monde and Der Spiegel have all worked on the cables to redact the names of anyone conceivably at risk. Where’s the physical danger in people learning a government kidnapped and tortured an innocent German national, that it threatened Spain if it took action against torture of its people, or that it ordered diplomats to get DNA and credit-card details of its allies in the UN? Where’s the risk to security in knowing Pfizer used the African meningitis epidemic to test drugs on 200 children, 11 of whom died? What those governments queuing up to condemn Wikileaks really fear is that people will think less of them. This is now a war over what we are allowed to think.

But we’re writers. Thinking is in our job description. We have to question the world around us, see it in a new and different light—and communicate what we see. If we live in a government-controlled vacuum, what can we say that’s of value?

And if we found something, would we be allowed to say it? It’s not just Wikileaks being threatened now, but the whole concept of free speech. For years now concerned US citizens have had to look outside the mainstream media to learn what everyone else already knows—as in this recent attempt to suppress news of fresh atrocities in Afghanistan. The NYT has published Wikileaks material, but with government censorship – and there are still calls for it to be muzzled further, with Senator Joe Lieberman demanding an investigation for possible espionage.

Perhaps it shouldn’t matter in these internet days when it’s simple to find out what other countries are saying—but even that’s under threat. Members of the US Air Force are already finding their access blocked not just to Wikileaks, but to the foreign newspapers that report on it. There are still international messageboards, we can still communicate with the outside world—but is that safe? Professor McNeal, specialist in national security law, warns students against reading about leaked cables on forums: “I don’t think looking at them alone could hurt anyone. The problem is when you’re looking and then supporting and endorsing, then you start running into trouble.”

It’s the casualness of that I find chilling. He says you can look—as long as you don’t think.

And will it end there? When the publisher is imprisoned on extraordinary rape charges while US politicians try to change the law to get him on something else? When the alleged whistleblower is kept in solitary confinement under conditions tantamount to torture? When companies like Amazon and PayPal appear to bow to government pressure to drive Wikileaks from the net? And we shouldn’t underestimate US power in this respect: the Department of Homeland Security has already made two web raids this year, taking over domain names of sites it doesn’t approve—even when they belong to businesses in other countries. The internet has given us unparalleled freedom to communicate with each other all over the world, but now that too is threatened.

It’s no wonder our fellow writers (and thinkers) are uniting to demand an end to this suppression of these most basic freedoms—to learn, to think, and to write. Daniel Ellsberg, hero of the Pentagon Papers, is a staunch defender of Wikileaks, and so is the respected journalist John Pilger, whose reports led to $45 million being raised for the relief of Cambodia. He is the first signatory in an open letter supporting Wikileaks, which is also endorsed by UK writers Iain Banks, Yvonne Ridley, Caryl Churchill, A.L. Kennedy, Alexei Sayle, and Andy de la Tour.

Banks, Kennedy and Sayle are novelists, not journalists, but fiction needs freedom too. ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ is a novel, so are ‘Brave New World’ and ‘Fahrenheit 451’—all banned at some time, including in some areas of the US. So is Solzhenitsyn’s ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’, which (incredibly) was supported by Soviet premier Khrushchev on the grounds that a society ought to be able to look itself in the mirror. Do we really lack the courage to do the same?

Suppression of this kind affects all writers, even if we don’t have an overt political message. Writers are receivers as well as transmitters – we need constant contact with the minds of those who lead different lives from our own. If there’s one essential quality a fiction writer must have it’s altruism—the ability to think ourselves into the minds of others. How else can we write a serial killer, a man on Death Row, a woman of a different age or culture or sexuality or religion? We have to learn, and to do it we must venture outside not only our own comfort zones, but those of our governments.

And once we’ve learned, we must be free to communicate. Words can be a weapon in the hands of an Orwell, but they can also be a lifeline, a channel for the vision that can bring enlightenment and comfort to others. When I saw the impact of Alice Walker’s ‘The Color Purple’ on women who had believed themselves lonely freaks in the universe, I felt for the first time the power of words to reach out across borders of culture and geography, to break down walls and smash through silence, to link us all together in a community that recognizes truth.

A writer who turns her back on truth is unworthy of the name. I write mainstream commercial action-adventure, but even for me it would be a disgrace. My first two novels are about honour and humanity in a ruthless world, and if I’m to keep any writing integrity I need to own my words and act on them. This is the G.K. Chesterton extract that prefaces my first book, and it might have been written for what’s happening right now – human rights abuses, waging of unjust war, and the secrecy and lies of governments who don’t care:

From all that terror teaches, from lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men;
From sale and profanation of honour and the sword;
From sleep and from damnation, deliver us, good Lord!

Most of all ‘from sleep’. Apathy will be the end of us if we don’t remember that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. The film of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ ends with the memorable scene of the living ‘books’: men, women and children walking up and down reciting sentences of Dickens, of Austen, of Tolstoy, preserving the forbidden words for the generations to come.

We are those people. We are the storytellers, and it is time to remember we are strong. The war on Wikileaks is one of words, and who knows how to use them better than we? We can sign that petition, we can write books and articles and blogs like this one, we can post on message-boards, on Twitter and Facebook, we can write on the bloody walls if we have to.

If we’re writers, then this is our war.

Let’s fight.

U.K. writer A.L. Berridge is a novelist and award-winning television producer, whose bestselling debut novel Honour and the Sword was published in April 2010 under the Michael Joseph imprint of Penguin Books.

In the Eye of the Beholder

By Alaina Alexander

I remember reciting stories into a tape recorder and playing them back for the neighborhood kids. Sometimes my stories wouldn’t go over well or the tape would run out, and in either case, I found myself high-tailing it home with a gang of kids close on my tail. They debated whether or not to throttle me, but many times they just wanted to hear the end of the story. Usually, I was forced to improvise an ending on the spot.

Fast forward to high school and I was writing for the school newspaper with dreams of becoming a 20/20 correspondent. My journalism teacher raved about my writing and encouraged me. Unfortunately, My honors English teacher was unimpressed with my writing style and she seemed to always be on the verge of flunking me.

“You just don’t have any literary style,” she told me in a clipped tone during our one-on-one conference.

I didn’t take her criticism personally; besides, I had more in common with Diane Sawyer than Kate Millet.

The following semester I was sitting in a regular English class with the rest of the slackers and misfits. I didn’t consider it a real class; it was more of a study hall environment. It was also the perfect place for me to brainstorm and write short stories.

During college, I became a frequent contributor to the school newspaper. I wrote opinion columns and a recurring mystery series. Some of my classmates were unfamiliar with the genre of the serial story. Some of them inquired as to why I couldn’t seem to fit the whole story into one edition of the newspaper.

My mystery series engaged one of the Christian Brothers whose monastery was attached to the school. I will never forget being summoned to meet him. He was a small-boned man, but he had this incredible presence and a tall walking stick. He informed me that he enjoyed having my stories read to him before he took his daily nap. For months after that meeting, I felt invincible against criticism of any kind.

After college graduation, I was published a couple of times in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and in a metro weekly. My illusions about the life of a writer were violently shattered with each rejection slip that I got, even though I was used to receiving criticism about my writing. It was soul-shaking when it came from magazine and newspaper editors. It was an extremely stressful time for me and I was no longer able to seek refuge in my writing.

I figured that if magazine and newspaper editors didn’t want my writing then I would find away to bring it to the public at large. Six months later, I created with a former college classmate. is designed to help folks get started in the creative arts industry.

During this time, I was also in my first year of law school, where I witnessed first hand just how clunky legal writing could be. Instead of being detailed and concise, many of the legal briefs I read were rambling and downright repetitive. Each time I wrote an assignment, I envisioned myself as an overworked law clerk plowing through a pile of briefs. I reasoned that in order for my brief to stand out, I only needed to state my case and back it up with law and precedents. I was naïve to say the least.

Amazingly, my concise technique worked for the first seven months of Legal Writing, but towards the end of the spring semester everything fell apart. My D+ in Legal Writing proved to be the death knell for my brief law school career. In hindsight, I realize that legal writing in a law school atmosphere differs greatly from the real world. Armed with my new knowledge about legal writing in law school, I think that the second time will be a charm.

It took ten months to recover from the Legal Writing debacle. Even after I enrolled into a paralegal studies program, the professor’s words haunted me each time I wrote a legal brief or memo. I would spend days laboring over a single sentence, fearful that my paralegal instructors would discover just what a horrible writer I was

During this time, I was also working on the book version of my Website and I was terrified to write the agent query letters. I kept thinking that no literary agent in his or her right mind would ever want to represent a legal writing loser such as myself. I wrote the query letters anyway and within a few weeks the rejections started pouring in. Surprisingly, though, four literary agents requested a copy of the book proposal. Five months later, I was taking meetings with literary agents in New York City. On the plane trip back to Minneapolis, I reflected on all of my writing detractors.

I wondered what my former honors English teacher, former Legal Writing faculty, college classmates, and the detractors would say if they knew that I had a literary agent. Then I realized that I didn’t care, because writing is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Alaina Alexander is a freelance writer living in the Twin Cities. She is also the creator of

Baggy, the Anorexic Elephant

By Lorraine Archer

Titles like these make my fingers do the writer’s polka across the keyboard. I try to make them stop, but my ten dancing digits refuse to listen. I watch in quiet disbelief, as my keyboard-tapping fingertips fill my computer screen with ridiculous sounding words and phrases. I can’t escape it. Even a simple walk down the street develops into a humor essay in my head. I absorb everything around me like a dry sponge in water.

When I hear an interesting name, I panic for a pen to scribble it down on the back of my hand. That name will develop into a new character when I get home. If I see something on television that sparks my imagination, I’ll carve a reminder into a wad of chewing gum with a toothpick. I’ll use that idea to write a short story on the weekend. When I read a line in a book that I find deliciously descriptive, I copy it out in my inspirational journal of writing phrases. In times of a writing code red, I will force myself to repeat a phrase or two out loud, to comfort myself should I become overwhelmed with writer’s distress.

My fingers type! They pound and hammer away at my unsuspecting keyboard until I am left with no choice but to save their results on a floppy disk. Frustrated at my lack of control, I resent having to make a backup of the work on my hard drive. I decide that I desperately need inspiration and decide to break for a frappa-cappa-mocha-latte. My mouth begins to water at the memory of the chocolate gooey sweetness. I grab a sweatshirt and race out the door, still baffled by my last word count.

While waiting in line at the cafe, I start to feel the eyes of several people examining me like a bad science project. I try to ignore them. I silently scream at them to leave me alone! Can’t they see that I’m a writer with a piece of work in progress?

I order my decadent coffee creation and reach into my jeans for some money. As I dive into my pocket, I notice the names”Sequoia” and “Dakota” scribbled on the back of my hand. Embarrassed, I quickly plunge my tattooed hand deeper into my jeans, frantically feeling around for loose change. I pull out three quarters, a lint ball and a wad of stale chewing gum molded into the shape of an anchor. I must have sculpted it last night while watching the evening news. So much for the reminder to write about news anchors having earned their names, since everything they say is heavy and drags people down.

I can still feel the eyes of several customers burning a hole into the back of my beloved “Co-ed Naked Writing” sweatshirt. With a sheepish smile, I grab my steaming drink and almost run out of the cafe. I feel my heart beginning to pound like a jackhammer. My face feels flushed. I squeeze my coffee cup with both hands to stop it from slipping from my shaky grasp, my hands slick with nervousness. My breath starts to sputter like a car running out of gas. code red! my brain silently screams at my quaking body.

Left with no other choice, I close my eyes and visualize a line from my journal. I chant out “the moonlight licked the waves around them like a flame” three times to comfort myself. I am instantly soothed by the words, their beauty having dripped from my tongue like liquid honey. Laughing at my foolishness, the whole cafe-experience develops into a humor essay in my head. I continue my walk home, satisfied with my new inspiration and ready to tackle my keyboard once again.

This is the life of a writer. Like the title of “Baggy, the Anorexic Elephant,” we can be unpredictable, taking readers on journeys of the imagination, our trunks and bags overflowing with strings of words and pages of adventures. And sometimes we can become easily wrinkled, although it usually comes upon us when we least expect it!

Lorraine Archer writes from Peterborough, Canada. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including SkyWritings, Sasee Magazine, The Globe & Mail, Fifty Something Magazine, Open Spaces Quarterly, Chronogram, Fellowscript and The Front Porch.

SFWA Panel on Google Book Settlement

Google and the Google Book Settlement might be one of the biggest  concerns of the entire decade for published writers. Ursula K. LeGuin resigned from the Authors Guild, because of their capitulation.

So very much has been written about this wrangle and Google’s rather blatant attempt to completely revise copyright law, and I won’t try to recap it all, here. SFWA is hosting an online panel discussing the Google Book Settlement, and you’re invited.

The text-based panel will be held at 11 a.m. (EST) Jan. 21 and will run for 90 minutes on the SFWA discussion forums. The text will create an instant transcript for writers who cannot make the opening discussion. After the first 30 minutes of discussion, the floor will open for questions from the audience. The online discussion is open to the public, although anyone wishing to ask questions must register at the website. Visit the SFWA discussion forums at to watch the panel and to register.

figs want to be free

Here are some links to read, if you’re still feeling in the dark about all this, and how it might concern you and your book:

Wired article about the original proposed settlement

Some criticism of the revised version of the proposed settlement

One take on where things are now, and what objections remain

A petition to be presented to the Court, expressing the opinion of the undersigned authors

I’m generally a fan of Google. But I’m vehemently opposed to their proposed end run around all existing copyright law. They’ve apparently decided that, not only do “figs want to be free” but that they’re big enough to simply set up their own fruit stand with other people’s figs.

Notes From October 21, 2009

When I was very young, perhaps seven or eight years old, and had only recently discovered science fiction via a box of used paperbacks books in the office/waiting area of my Dad’s auto-shop, my much-adored older sister gave me a boxed set of Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Earthsea Trilogy

cover of Wizard of Earthsea by LeGuin

My young mind made one of those leaps, upon reading those books, that you try to describe forever after, but the words just don’t seem adequate. I’d read quite a bit of fiction, and fully understood that stories were just that: stories, and not reality.

LeGuin demonstrated elegantly and compassionately that fiction at its best is about what’s true. That realization changed my life.

Happy birthday, Ursula LeGuin. And thank you for how very, very much you’ve given to all of us, over the years.

Leslie Charteris

By George Alex Windish

Leslie Charteris is not a forgotten writer. Though he wrote other things, he will go down in literary history with his character, Simon Templar, the urbane, sophisticated, gentleman-adventurer better known as the Saint.

Charteris was born in 1907, the son of Dr. S.C. Yin, whose roots could be traced to the old emperors of China. Charteris was christened Leslie Charles Bowyer Yin, and learned several language before he learned English. He was not a distinguished scholar, but did manage to write a novel while he was attending Cambridge. He continued to write, but seldom made money at it. To keep himself fed, he worked as a policeman, drove a bus, prospected for gold, worked in tin mines, fished for pearl, tended bar, and became a professional bridge player.

In 1926, he legally changed his name.

In 1929, he wrote Meet The Tiger, the first Saint book.

Meet The Tiger sold very well, and soon the followup adventures of Simon Templar were making Charteris famous and rich.

In 1932, he moved to the United States.

His style of telling a story was very breezy, fast-paced and exciting, and the Saint has always held the fascination of readers. The character has appeared in movies in the 30s & 40s, on radio, in comic strips and on television. A new generation was introduced to an updated version of the Saint n the movie starring Val Kilmer. There is also a meticulously researched website for Leslie Charteris.

Forty years ago, when I was 10, I picked up and read a copy of The Saint At Large, a collection of short stories. I have been writing ever since.

Leslie Charteris died in 1993.

George Alex Windish has been writing for many years, and has become a better typist, if nothing else. He has placed nearly a dozen short stories of horror and science fiction, has had a weekly column in a local Baltimore newspaper, and has written for and edited Country Line, a small Pennsylvania magazine. He has also done ad copy and correspondence for businesses. He has long been a fan of genre literature and truly tacky movies, as well as being a collector of vintage records.

I footnotes