One Way to Stay in the Action:

To writers who signed my petition or who support my position on the Google Book Settlement or are simply interested in the issues — and wonder What can I do? —

It’s frustrating to realise that writers, the people most immediately concerned, have only recently begun to get real information about exactly what Google’s digitalization project involves — or why several great libraries went along with it without questioning it — or what is the nature of the class action suit brought by the Authors Guild, who negotiated the Settlement, and whether they had the right to speak for all American authors — or what kind of damage the Settlement if upheld will do to copyright... Complex, urgent matters that need to be talked about openly, not settled by small groups behind closed doors.

It is frustrating to sit still while corporate CEO’s, courts, and government departments decide matters that directly influence our work and income.

How can a writer get into the information stream? How can a writer become part of a group actively working for writers’ rights? Is there a support group for us — is there anybody out there who speaks our language?

The National Writers Union does. Everybody in it is a writer. Everybody in it has a voice in policy and decision-making.

Most writers are innately suspicious of joining things, and right to be so. And obviously it’s difficult to get people to act together who mostly work independently at home. But it can be done. I’ve been in the Union a long time now, watched it hit a high point for writers’ rights in the Tasini case, watched it almost come apart over policy arguments and pull itself triumphantly back together. Yes, Virginia, you can herd cats! What NWU needs most now is more weight in negotiating with publishers, a louder voice in the marketplace and the media — in other words, more members.

You can be as active or as quiet a member as you please — get into the action, or just do your work and let the union give you support.

Dues are sliding-scale, and not backbreaking. Goodies include free professional help negotiating contracts and filing grievances against publishers who cheat; online groups discussing topics like e-publishing, agents, promotion, and issues such as the GBS; a network of member homes where a member traveling on book promition can stay; and information and an open forum in the NWUsletter. As a member of UAW and AFL-CIO, the NWU offers access to scholarships, mortgage and legal services. Also I have to admit that as a short, 80-year-old book-scribbler, I enjoy telling people that I belong to the United Auto Workers.

Sign up. No pain, much gain. Let ’em hear at: nwu@nwu.org.

Your friend,

Ursula (aka Joe Hill)

Spiral

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Updated Thursday February 11 2010