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Advice to authors: Find
story that just has to be told
By Thomas Frisbie
To be successful, authors of children's books should not think
of their works as commercial products, but should instead try
to connect with a story they need to tell.
That was the message from three authors at the Society of
Midland Authors' regular monthly program March 10 at the Cliff
Dwellers Club in Chicago.
"Find that story that speaks to you and find a way to bring
it to life," said Laurie Lawlor, who was joined on the
panel by Patricia Kummer and Esther Hershenhorn.
Kummer, who writes nonfiction children's books, said she tends
to go overboard on research, "but the research has taken me
on a lot of interesting adventures, and it is a lot of fun."
Nonfiction is easier to get published, she said. "To send
out a query letter to an editor is a lot easier than having
to write a whole [young adult] novel or write the text for your
picture book," she said.
However, the economy is affecting children's authors as it
is so many other fields, she said. Publishers are bringing out
fewer titles, and of those that appear, a great number are tightly
"The bad news is there is less room for creativity on the
part of writers because of school and state standards," Kummer
said. "They are looking at limited vocabulary levels. As writers,
we are expected to use publishers' templates."
Also, children's writers now are expected to be technologically
adept, with fast Internet connections that allow PDF pages to
be sent back and forth and printers capable of putting out 11-inch-by-17-inch
proofs that publishers don't provide anymore, she said.
If you write nonfiction for children, be prepared to have
your work carefully checked, Kummer added.
"You can never take literary license with nonfiction, especially
with kids," she said. "This doesn't happen with children's nonfiction
because our books are so vetted. They are read by consultants
who are experts in the field. Major errors don't happen in children's
Hershenhorn, who writes picture books and middle-grade fiction,
said there still are many opportunities for children's authors.
"In every publishing house, it is the children's department
that makes the money for the publishing house," she said. "It
is not recession-resistant, but it is pretty strong.
"A children's book must do everything that an adult books
does," she added. "It must inform, entertain, inspire and encourage.
And it must also inspire hope."
However, there is no denying the publishing world is suffering,
"It's true that staffs are being cut. There was a terrible
week in September when I don't know how many editors lost their
jobs. Every week there is another editor who becomes an agent."
So what are publishers and agents looking for?
"They are looking for something that jumps out of the pile,"
Hershenhorn said, "something that is different than everybody
In these tough economic times, they also are looking for "stories
that show bouncing back and a resilient character and a family
that hunkers down and bonds together," Hershenhorn said.
Lawlor, who writes in a variety of areas, including picture
books, short chapter books and young adult novels, said writers
need to follow their own muses.
"There will be a reader for that story if you feel passionate
enough about it," she said.
But children are critical readers, she added.
"If children don't like your book, they will tell you. They
will shut the book and throw it against the wall. Children are
a challenging audience, a wonderful audience. They can tell
if you are lying, they can tell if you are condescending."
One other piece of advice the authors offered:
"If you want to write for children and you have a job that
gives you health care and dental, keep the job that gives you
that," Hershenhorn said. "The cash flow is never great, but
that is not why we are doing it. We are compelled to do it.
It is a labor of love."
If Biblio File readers were in Bratislava, Slovokia, lately,
they might have seen the headline: "Americky politológ
Craig Sautter pre HN." That was the headline in the newspaper
Hosodarske Noviny, for which a reporter had interviewed former
SMA president Craig Sautter about the recent struggles
President Obama had in making Cabinet appointments. (Sautter
Communications made Barack Obama's first political ads back
in 2000). Sautter told the journalist, Vazeny Navstevnik, that
these were not "scandals" but problems and said that U.S. voters
liked Obama and would continue to like him unless his economic
policies failed to bring a recovery. Biblio File's foreign correspondents
never deny their readers full international coverage, so here
is some more of what the newspaper reported: Mô e Obamov
net'astny vyber ministrov ovplyvnit' jeho popularitu?
Nie, udia vedia, e má dobré úmysly
a e vybral dobrych l'udí. Títo l'udia mali problémy,
a preto má teraz problém Obama. Ked' ho napríklad
porovnáme s Georgeom W. Bushom.
SMA board member Arnie Bernstein took part in a panel
discussion fighting over what's "The Greatest Rock Movie Ever"
at the Chicago International Movie & Music Festival on March
8. The correct answer, Arnie says, to what's the greatest rock
movie ever is, of course, "Rock 'n' Roll High School." Also,
he's having a launch party at 2 p.m. April 19 at Centuries &
Sleuths for his new book.
Linda Nemec Foster gave two poetry readings in conjunction
with the AWP annual conference in Chicago. On Feb. 12 she gave
a presentation (along with four other poets and writers) at
the Polish Museum of America and on Feb. 13 the panel repeated
the program at the conference's headquarters at the Chicago
Hilton. Foster also did a book signing at the AWP Bookfair for
her chapbook, Ten Songs from Bulgaria, that was sponsored
by the publisher, Cervena Barva Press. On Feb. 24 she was interviewed
on WYCE-FM, Grand Rapids' community radio station, about her
poetry and her writing process. Her new book, Talking Diamonds,
will be published in the fall by New Issues Press.
The March 23 New Yorker quoted from Victims of Justice Revisited
by Thomas Frisbie and Randy Garrett.
SMA board member and former president Rich Lindberg has
inked a contract with Northern Illinois University Press for
a new true-crime volume about Belle Gunness, the LaPorte, Ind.,
husband-killer and her contemporary from Chicago, Johann Hoch,
a serial bigamist responsible for the murders of at least 10
wives in the 1890s and early 1900s. The new volume's working
title is Mr. & Mrs. Bluebeard: American Serial Killers in
the Heartland, and comes at a time of renewed interest in
the crimes of the infamous Belle Gunness her story is
under consideration by a Hollywood studio. It will be Rich's
15th book. Two other volumes are set to be released in the next
few months: The Gambler King of Clark Street: Michael C.
McDonald and the Rise of Chicago Democratic Machine, and
(co-authored with SMA board member and former president Carol
Carlson) Chicago: Yesterday & Today. Also, Rich has
been providing running commentary on the Blagojevich impeachment
and some background on historic Illinois corruption scandals
from the time of McDonald down to the present day to KCBS, an
all-news radio station in San Francisco.
Margaret McMullan (see New Books) will speak and give
writing workshops at the Chicago Public Library, the Chicago
Arts Club, the Sears Book Festival, the Ann Arbor Book Festival,
the Printer's Row Books Festival, and StoryStudio among others.
In addition, she will join the summer faculty of the Creative
Writing Graduate Program at Stony Brook University in Southampton,
N.Y., in July.
Longtime Chicago theater critic and Oak Park native Richard
Christiansen on Feb. 20 received the Oak Park Festival Theatre's
first-ever Arden Award. Presenting the award, theater board
member Belinda Bremner remarked, "Because of him, Chicago really
is the theater center of America."
Gary D. Schmidt gave the keynote address Feb. 27 at
the 41st annual McConnell Youth Literature Conference at the
Griffin Gate Marriott on Newtown Pike in Lexington sponsored
by the University of Kentucky's School of Library and Information
Science. Schmidt, a professor of English at Calvin College in
Grand Rapids, Mich., was the 2008 winner of the SMA's Children's
Fiction Award for The Wednesday Wars.
On Feb. 18 on National Public Radio, Dick Simpson discussed
calls for U.S. Sen. Roland Burris to resign.
In the fifth annual Emerging Writers Competition, Illinois
Poet Laureate Kevin Stein (See Q&A) will select winners
of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, named for the late award-winning
Illinois poet laureate and longtime Society of Midland Authors
SMA President James Merriner was interviewed on Chicago's
NBC Channel 5 news at 6 p.m. Feb. 26 about the sentencing of
former Chicago Ald. Edward Vrdolyak.
Kerry Trask moderated
a Manitowoc, Wis., mayor candidates' forum Jan. 28 at the University
Glennette Tilley Turner,
author of six books on the Illinois Underground Railroad, presented
a history of the Underground Railroad in Illinois on Feb. 22
at the Second Baptist Church in Elgin, Ill.
was the keynote speaker March 1 at the South Carolina Book
Festival in Columbia. Also the Aspen Writers' Foundation last
month hosted Turow, who is working on the second draft of a
sequel to Presumed Innocent.
The Oregon State Library's "150 Oregon Books for Oregon's Sesquicentennial"
includes a 1993 book co-edited by Ingrid Wendt: From Here We
Speak: An Anthology of Oregon Poetry.
This month's "Monday Night Bookies" selection at the Rogers
Park (Ark.) library is Blue Balliett's Chasing Vermeer.
A day after losing the primary for Illinois' 5th District congressional
seat, Charles Wheelan delivered Lakeland (Wis.) College's
eighth annual Charlotte and Walter Kohler Distinguished Business
Lecture on March 4. ... Lori Andrews was quoted in a
Feb. 12 San Diego Union-Tribune story about the woman who had
Michael Argetsinger, author of Mark Donohue: Technical
Excellence at Speed (See New Books), will be on hand for
autographs and conversation for the April 25-26 season opener
of Watkins Glen International in upstate New York.
The January-February Chicago Daily News Alumni Newsletter reports
Deborah Abbott is continuing to write about children's
books for the Chicago Sun-Times while her husband, Henry Kisor,
hopes to announce news soon about a new book.
2007 SMA Biography Award finalist Joan Cashin, author
of Varina Howell Davis: First Lady of the Confederacy,
will speak March 21 in Stratford, Va., about the wife of the
Confederate president, Jefferson Davis. She also will give The
Banner Lecture on March 26 at the Virginia Historical Society
Michelle Boisseau's new poetry collection from the University
of Arkansas Press, A Sunday in God-Years (Feb. 1), gets
its title from this concept: Compared with the long stretch
of geologic time, human history amounts to just a blink of God's
eye during a Sunday nap.
Poet Kevin Coval was scheduled to perform March 15
at the Park West theater in Chicago. Coval also is hosting a
monthly open mic series for college students.
Snow canceled a Feb. 21 Park Forest Public Library event at
which Michael Allen Dymmoch and Libby Fischer Hellmann
were among the authors scheduled to speak. It will be rescheduled.
The April 14 Society of Midland Authors poetry event will
feature Illinois Poet Laureate Kevin Stein vs. Slam poetry
founder Marc Smith. The poets will switch off reading
and performing their work thematically through the night. The
program, "Poetry: Stage vs. Page." will bring together two poets
from different worlds, one of whom writes primarily for the
page and another who writes primarily for the stage. The poets
will read together for almost an hour, back and forth, poem
for poem. It will not be a slam or competition in any way, just
a good, spirited, entertaining poetry evening.
To prepare for the event, Literary License turned to Stein
for insight into today's poetry:
Literary License: The April 14 program is titled: "Poetry:
Stage vs. Page." How is poetry written for the page different
from poetry written for the stage?
Kevin Stein: All poems are verbal and musical artifacts, whether
composed for page or stage. Otherwise, one might as well hunt
and peck a memo. Poetry is at root performative. Its origins
lie in the singing voice and the measure of the dance, as Edward
Sapir remarks. Many argue that the history of oral poetries
across time and cultures dwarfs that of written verse. For instance,
in ancient Rome, one published a poem by reading it aloud to
the public. Our 500-year-old love affair with print has accustomed
us to the conventions of the page as poetry's primary performative
site, but that performative space also exists in space
in the interchange of the poet's body and the world's body figured
in the audience. In sum, the "vs." of this event's title innocently
wanders off target, as the notion for me is closer to "page
and stage" two modes by which the experience of poetry
reaches an audience through space and time.
Literary License: You have been described as a poet primarily
concerned with the nature of significance and appreciation.
Is that accurate?
Kevin Stein: In fundamental and redemptive ways, a poet tends
to fret less about such matters than does the reader. One can
learn much from readers of good will, surprised or shamed by
their thoughtful commentary. But the best audience for those
remarks is not the poet herself but rather a blend of readers,
critics, and other poets. That is the indispensable role of
literary criticism to advance understanding of the art.
While a poet is writing, the poet's awareness of mode remains
necessarily unspoken, a secret one hardly dares to share with
oneself. I don't know and wouldn't care to know
any poet who sits down to the writer's desk and proclaims "I
am a poet of epiphanic truth" or "I am a poet of social justice"
and then proceeds to write that poem.
Writing, one controls what one can, but one also trusts to
the generative chaos Robert Graves calls poetry's "uncontrollable"
Literary License: As a professor at Bradley University, do
you notice any change in students' attitudes toward poetry?
Kevin Stein: My students regard poetry as inextricably tied
to the social fabric. Although self-reflective, most have little
affection for the narcissistic poet's navel-gazing.They rightfully
see the world as their text, drawing equally from high and low
culture, from the momentarily faddish and from the time-worn.
The best regard the political as personal, the personal as political
their world via the Internet made smaller and thus more
That a poet may labor in obscurity doesn't scare them, but
they own little sympathy for the poet who does not regard poetic
practice as social practice.
Literary License: How much of a challenge is it these days
to have poetry published?
Kevin Stein: The blossoming of the Internet and its proliferation
of e-zines has opened up access heretofore unavailable to poets.
At the same time, however, the number of print venues continues
to dwindle, many doomed to the day-lily's bloom and sudden wilt.
Weekly, venerable print outlets such as the nearly 40-year-old
University of Illinois Poetry Series succumb to the bean-counter's
Literary License: What's your next project?
Kevin Stein: Writing poems sustains me, so I'm always doing
that. But my current project is a book of essays, Poetry's Afterlife,
due out from University of Michigan Press in 2010. The book
looks upon the current poetry scene, traces how we got here,
and suggests where we're going.
In short, the book rebukes the 20-year-old assumption that
poetry has been "killed" and instead argues for signs of poetry's
Mark Donohue: Technical Excellence at Speed
David Bull Publishing
Michael Argetsinger's new book, Mark Donohue:
Technical Excellence at Speed will be launched at Watkins
Glen on the weekend of April 25-26 as part of a celebration
of Mark's life.
The event is a joint promotion of the track Watkins
Glen International and the International Motor Racing
Where We Find Ourselves, Jewish Women around the World
Write about Home
March 5, 2009
Deborah Nodler Rosen is co-editor with Miriam Ben-Yoseph
of Where We Find Ourselves, Jewish Women around the World
Write about Home.
For the 40 writers showcased in this anthology,
the struggle to find and redefine home has been intensified
by history, the Holocaust, and the diverse cultural, political,
and religious contexts in which they live and write.
Publishers Weekly said: "This thoughtful, humbling and undeniably
spirited collection makes a comforting touchstone."
March 18, 2009
Death's Door is Gail Lukasik's second novel
and the second book in her mystery series set in Door County,
Wis. In Death's Door, a killer is targeting young blond
women, leaving their strangled bodies along the desolate Mink
River in Door County. The killer ritualistically arranges
the bodies to mimic sleep, except for the long blond hair,
brushed over their faces, and his deadly calling card
a purple band wound around the victim's finger a macabre
symbol of love.
Reporter Leigh Girard's investigation into the murders lures
her into a bizarre correspondence with the killer. His letters
taunt Leigh with cryptic literary clues that hint at his identity.
Leigh races against time to crack the killer's code, before
he kills again.
Kirkus Reviews said of Death's Door: "Fast-paced
and literate, with a strong protagonist and a puzzle that
keeps you guessing."
Kansas Train Tales: A Collection of Railroad History
Jan 5, 2009
The Sagas of Surgard the Traveler
Jan 29, 2009
Kansas author Robert Collins has two new books out.
The first, Kansas Train Tales is a collection of
articles, most of them published from 1992 to 2008. They tell
of a train robbery in Andover, the construction of a mighty
bridge near Liberal, Kansas' first railroad convention, and
the story behind a site near Victoria where six workers are
buried. There are histories of the Scott City Northern; the
St. Joseph & Topeka; and the Marion Belt & Chingawassa Springs,
among others. There's even a biography of a central Kansas
railroad builder who was also an amateur historian.
In The Sagas of Surgard the Traveler, the heroic
and witty Surgard faces down foolish giants, singing dwarves,
duplicitous wizards, suspicious savages, and worst of all,
a monster with an attorney.
The collection assembles 13 stories published between 1995
and 2008 and includes two stories never before in print. Each
is a humorous fantasy, and most poke fun at some famous myth
or fictional tale.
April 6, 2009
Margaret McMullan's fifth novel, Cashay, is
a Spring 2009 Teen Book Pick for the Chicago Public Library.
Cashay is about an African-American girl who copes with the
death of her sister in a drive-by shooting.
In her 14 years living in a Chicago housing project, Cashay
has never ridden in a taxi cab, seen the city lit up at night,
or set foot in a museum. She's not pretty, or graceful, or
bubbly like her little sister, Sashay. She gets her family
by on a couple of dollars and food stamps every week.
No, Cashay has never felt much like a treasure. "Your name
doesn't signify who you are," Cashay tells her sister.
But that was before Sashay was killed. Before her mother
started using again. Before her mentor, Allison, showed Cashay
a bigger piece of the world, and encouraged her to finally,
finally step into it.
'Oscar Night' is coming for all SMA members
By Stella Pevsner
There there now, calm down. We didn't mean to equate our gala
awards night with the empty-headed, self love of the Hollywood
glitzerama. We are more high class in so many ways.
For one thing, SMA winners seldom gush thanks to their spouses,
and why should they? ("Honey, you promised to clean the garage
and there you are, writing again!") Or children. ("The cat just
spit up on Chapter Five," "My boyfriend was kicked out by his
parents so could he, like, live here for a while?" "I totally
wrecked the car.") And if asked the name of your designer, the
answer would be, "My closet."
Still, Awards Dinner Night does remain a highlight for most
members. It's a time to reconnect with old friends, to escape
what is essentially a solitary pursuit to mingle with fellow
writers and to celebrate authors deemed tops in their category
the previous year by a panel of experts.
Through snow and zero weather (really) this past year, board
members have been tramping the streets, checking out possible venues for the
The standards were strict: No deviation from the May 12 date,
easy-access location, sensible and convenient parking, clearly
designated event room, reasonable cost. (Tickets will be $65.)
Stiff standards, sure. But we think you'll like what we've
come up with. (Never end a sentence with a preposition.)
The Congress Hotel, 520 S. Michigan Avenue, parking directly
behind the hotel on Harrison Street. You walk east, enter a
side door of the hotel and voila! You're there.
Just to your left is registration. Then you enter the main
room, named The Buckingham, veer to your right and enter a large
It's Chat Time, a relaxed preamble to the dinner and program
This year, in addition to a choice of winning books at every
table, there'll be a surprise for the first folks to sign up
for the dinner, plus a few others, chosen at random from later
So sign up early, medium or later for the red carpet ... which
fittingly, considering the Buckingham name is actually royal
purple with a red and gold border.
Also, feel free to invite friends who may want to mingle with ... ahem ... writer
celebrities. The event might be recorded, so you may want to
wear your dark glasses.
Watch for more details, which will be included in the April
edition of Literary License, and for your invitation.
Writers on Writing: To reach summit of success, it's all
uphill for authors
By Thomas Frisbie
With Greek Independence Day approaching on March 25, Literary
License sat down this month at the Parthenon Restaurant in Chicago
with longtime SMA member Harry Mark Petrakis, whose latest
book, The Shepherds of Shadows (Southern Illinois University
Press), is his second set during the Greek War of Independence.
(The first book, in what Petrakis originally envisioned as a
trilogy, was The Hour of the Bell, published 33 years
In the January, 2009 Literary License, Petrakis referring
to the late John Updike said: "To write a single book
is like climbing a steep mountain. A writer needs courage, discipline
and devotion to one's craft. John Updike mustered these qualities
Well, Petrakis has climbed that steep mountain pretty frequently,
too 22 times, including novels and collections of short
stories and essays. For those authors who have made the trip
to the heights on a more occasional basis, the Chicago-bred
master of storytelling offered this advice:
"You begin with that which is yours Bellow with the
intellectual Jews, Frank O'Connor with the Irish but
at a certain point you cross a threshold," Petrakis said. "And
then you enter a universal area, where you deal with love and
hate and vengeance and remorse and grief. There is no such thing
as a Greek remorse or a German sorrow or an Irish joy. They
are universal. Greek is my background, it is why I use it, but
I think I have moved into universal areas."
But moving into those universal areas isn't easy, Petrakis
"Any good writer knows that the craft of writing means re-writing,"
he said. "So with any piece of writing I do, I probably average
between eight and 10 drafts.
"The stories that I am working now, I find myself doing over
and over and over again," he added. "I do the draft, I print
it out, I red-pencil it, I insert the changes, I print it out
again. People work differently. Some write quickly, some write
"Hour of the Bell took me three years, and it was 107,000
Petrakis wrote for 10 years before he sold his first story,
"Pericles on 31st Street," which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly
when he was 32. His first book, Lion at My Heart, was published
in 1959. His third book, A Dream of Kings, published
in 1967, was made into a movie that starred Anthony Quinn and
"I've often thought what a wonderful basketball team could
be formed from Petrakis characters," the late SMA award-winner
Kurt Vonnegut wrote. "Everyone of them is at least 14 feet tall."
From 2002 to 2008, "It was like a stopper had been pulled
out of a bottle," Petrakis said. "I wrote four novels in six
years. I did Twilight of the Ice, I did Legends of
Glory, I did a novel called the Orchards of Ithaca and
then I did Shepherds.
Vassilis Lambropoulos, author of The Tragic Idea, wrote:
"The Shepherds of Shadows thrills with its storytelling,
weaving larger-than-life people with greater-than-imagination
This historical novel presents a sprawling panorama of a legendary
At one point, Petrakis, now 85, thought Shepherds would
be his last book, but today he finds himself climbing that mountain
again, working on a book of short stories tentatively titled
Cavafy's Stone, but more slowly now.
"My ambition is blunted, my discipline is depleted, but I
am still able to muster enough will and force of habit to go
up to my study," he said.
"Any good writer has empathy for human beings understands
what we all suffer, the frailties that exist in all of us,"
he added. "If you bring that to whatever write, to any character
you write, that empathy becomes a light that allows you to understand."
A brief summary for authors of the Google settlement
By William T. McGrath
Davis McGrath LLC
Google's mission to organize the world's information: In 2004,
Google launched an ambitious project to digitize the entire
collections of books from several major university libraries,
without seeking permission of authors or publishers. It copied
not only public domain works, but also works protected by copyright.
Google also made a copy of each file for the participating libraries.
It made the entire contents of the digitized books searchable
through its Google Book search engine. If a user's search terms
appeared in a public domain book, the user could view the entire
contents of the book. For books still in copyright, Google displayed
only "snippets" of text showing the search terms. Google asserted
that this practice of scanning copyrighted books and displaying
snippets of the text to users was a "fair use" under the U.S.
Class action law suit filed on behalf of publishers and authors:
In 2005, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers
brought a class action lawsuit for copyright infringement. After
several years of litigation and negotiations, the parties announced
a proposed settlement of the lawsuit in October 2008. Because
the litigation is a class action, the proposed settlement affects
the rights of publishers and authors even though they are not
parties to the lawsuit. The proposed settlement must be approved
by the court before it becomes final and binding on all class
Proposed settlement affects all owners of a U.S. copyright
interest in books: The Google Book settlement affects virtually
every U.S. book publishing company, as well as many publishers
outside the U.S. It also affects authors and their heirs. The
class is broadly defined to include all persons who, as of Jan.
5, 2009, own a U.S. copyright interest in a book (or certain
insert material) that is implicated by a use authorized by the
settlement (i.e., scanning a book or displaying excerpts).
The proposed settlement agreement is extremely complex
the agreement, appendices and attachments total over 300 pages.
The documents can be found at www.googlebooksettlement.com.
The proposed settlement authorizes Google to continue operating
Google Book Search without fear of a lawsuit from any member
of the class of authors or publishers. It requires Google to
pay authors and publishers who choose to participate in the
settlement a minimum of $60 for each book Google has digitized.
It also sets up a mechanism for Google to share future revenues
with authors and publishers. Google will distribute to rightsholder
63 percent of all revenues it earns from the sale of institutional
subscriptions, online access to books, and advertising; it will
retain 37 percent. All payments and revenue sharing will be
administered by an independent not-for-profit entity known as
the Book Rights Registry to be set up for the benefit of the
rightsholders under the terms of the settlement agreement. In
return, authors and publishers release Google from any liability
for its conduct of scanning books and displaying excerpts.
Display of excerpts of in-print and out-of-print books: Rightsholders
will be able to control whether and how much a book is displayed
by the search engine. They will have the option to request that
one or more books be removed from the Google Library Project
altogether. They will also have the ability to manage the display
uses that Google makes of their books.
The majority of the 7 million books scanned by Google are
in copyright, but out-of-print. The proposed settlement treats
out-of-print books and in-print books very differently with
respect to the material displayed to a user. Unless the rightsholder
specifically permits it, excerpts of in-print books will not
be available for preview. In this way, the settlement departs
from Google's previous practice of showing snippets for books
in copyright unless the copyright owner instructed otherwise.
Previews of out-of-print books, however, will be available unless
the rightsholder specifically prohibits it. There are detailed
rules relating to what constitutes a preview, but in general
a preview will allow a searcher to view up to 20 percent of
a book, though it will not allow the user to print or cut and
paste the material.
Publishers and authors might both be rightsholders for a single
book, and the proposed agreement has detailed measures for dealing
with the allocation of payments between authors and publishers
and the possibility of conflicting instructions from rightsholders.
This aspect of the settlement raises potentially difficult issues
relating to reversion rights.
The settlement is not limited to U.S. authors and publishers.
Authors and publishers outside the U.S. can receive compensation
for books that have been digitized by Google so long as their
country has copyright relations with the U.S. (only a very few
countries do not, including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ethiopia,
and a few others).
Deadline for an important decision is fast approaching: All
authors and publishers need to make the threshold determination
of whether to participate in the settlement very soon. Any rightsholder
who believes the infringement of its rights is not adequately
addressed by the settlement must "opt out" in order to preserve
the right to take action against Google individually. Rightsholders
have only until May 5, 2009 to opt-out. Any author or publisher
who does not follow the procedures to opt-out will be bound
by the terms of the settlement. In other words, if a rightsholder
does nothing, it is governed by the settlement and cannot bring
a separate claim against Google for infringement. Rightsholders
also have the right to stay in the class and submit objections
to or comments on the settlement. Objections or comments must
be submitted on or before May 5, 2009. A rightsholder claiming
a cash payment for books digitized by Google must do so by Jan.
Publishers and authors have many choices to make under the
agreement, and some of those choices must be made before specific
deadlines. These choices will determine whether a rightsholder
participates in the settlement, whether and how its books will
appear in Google Book Search, and whether it will receive any
payments under the terms of the settlement.
William McGrath is a member of the law firm Davis McGrath
LLC, in Chicago. He can be contacted at email@example.com
or 312-332-3033. The firm's web site is
Rick Perlstein is the author of Nixonland: The Rise
of a President and the Fracturing of America, (Scribner,
2008). His first book, Before The Storm: Barry Goldwater
and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, won the 2001
Los Angeles Times Book Award for history. It appeared on that
year's best books lists of the New York Times, Washington Post
and Chicago Tribune.
From the summer of 2003 through 2005 Perlstein covered the
presidential campaigns for the Village Voice. In 2006 and 2007
he wrote a biweekly column for the New Republic Online.
Perlstein is now senior fellow at the Campaign for America's
Future, for whom he writes the blog the Big Con.
He received a B.A. in history from the University of Chicago
in 1992 and spent two years in the Ph.D. program in American
culture at the University of Michigan.
Moving to New York, he worked for two years as an editor at
Lingua Franca: The Review of Academic Life; while at Lingua
Franca, Perlstein's freelance book reviews and essays appeared
in such publications as Slate, the Village Voice, Newsday and
the Nation. His work later appeared in the New York Times, the
New York Observer, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San
Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Arizona Republic, the
London Review of Books, Newsday, Columbia Journalism Review
and the New Yorker.
Robin Marvel of Hersey, Mich., is author of Amazing Consciousness:
A Girl's Guide (Loving Healing Press, 2008), a workbook
designed to encourage spiritual growth on a path of self-awareness.
Awakening Consciousness: A Boy's Guide! will be available
in June, also published by Loving Healing Press. Marvel also
gives workshops around the United States titled "ChakraCize
Your Spirit." She is working on a new book, Metaphysical
Mind in a Small Town.
The Society of Midland Authors is continuing its effort to
build up its Endowment Fund to enable the Society to increase
the size of the book awards we give each May.
Thanks to the following members who have donated this year
to the Fund since the last newsletter: Rebecca Retzlaff,
John Raffensperger, M.D., and Marianne Forrest.
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