Monday, December 29, 2008

Another literary lie

Berkley Books, a unit of Penguin Group, canceled the release of Herman Rosenblat’s memoir, "Angel at the Fence", after Rosenblat admitted he did NOT meet his wife at the Buchenwald camp during the Holocaust as he had claimed. She never came to give him apples and bread through the fence like he's been telling since the 1990s after he submitted an entry to a newspaper competition soliciting the "best love stories."

Now that he's been caught, he says he only wanted to "bring happiness to people, to remind them not to hate, but to love and tolerate all people." In that statement he also wrote, "I brought good feelings to a lot of people and I brought hope to many. My motivation was to make good in this world. In my dreams, Roma will always throw me an apple, but I now know it is only a dream."

No, Mr. Rosenblat, it was not a dream. It was a lie. And let's get this straight since you're so prone to justification and rationalization: You did NOT do this to "make good in this world."

No, sir, you embellished your story so you could win a newspaper competition.

You probably didn't imagine the story would go any further than the one newspaper--but someone read your story and the media began calling. You and your wife--how did she agree to go along with the lie?--appeared on Oprah, twice. Twice! Your story was included in Chicken Soup for the Soul, which looks for true stories--but yours is NOT true. This is an offense to all of us who have experienced truly miraculous events and shared them in print; your deceit undermines those real miracles. You also jeopardize other Holocaust survivors' stories. How dare you.

Yours was not a miracle because it never happened. You made it up to win a contest. Then when the story spread, you couldn't admit that it was embellished (to make it better so it could win). You decided to perpetuate the "other" story, the one that wasn't true, because it brought you attention, admiration, and later, a sense of nobility for bringing people "hope."

Mr. Rosenblat, you are a liar. And a selfish coward.

The publisher wants their advance back. Perhaps Oprah's people should demand reimbursement for your two guest appearances on her show. You should also return the award for the newspaper contest. I wonder who would have won instead? You stole that honor from a true love story by lying about yours.

And you make it much more difficult for people to believe the true miracles. Miraculous circumstances really happen (I've experienced them), but when someone like you lies, you not only reveal your weak character and immoral ethics ("the end justifies the means"--offering hope through a lie), you do terrible, irreversible damage to the believability of real miracles.

How dare you.

Join the ranks of liars: Margaret Seltzer, author/liar of "Love and Consequences," who fabricated her gang memoir as a white girl taken into an African-American foster home in South Central Los Angeles when she had in fact been raised by her biological family in a well-to-do section of the San Fernando Valley--and James Frey, author/liar of "A Million Little Pieces," who exaggerated most of his memoir about his drug and prison experiences in order to get published.

I hate liars.

You betray the public. And you're selfish. The "good" you think you do is false, self-serving, and short-sighted. I want authenticity, not fakery.

And the point is so important I will make it once again: your lies make it harder for us to tell and to believe true stories of miracles. Instead of hope, as you claim, you awakened cynicism and doubt, and made it much more difficult for those of us who have truly experienced real miracles to be believed.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Take note, fellow freelancers!

...Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review photographer Jerry Greenberg's appeal (okay, the legalese is "denied the appeal") in his 11-year-long case against National Geographic for including 60 photos of his work in "The Complete National Geographic," a 30-disc CD-ROM compilation.
The Supreme Court denied Greenberg's petition for a writ of certiorari on Monday, which lets stand the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision from July holding that the National Geographic Society – and by extension, other publishers – have the right to reproduce their magazines' archive in digital format without paying any additional royalties to freelance photographers.
Mickey H. Osterreicher, legal counsel for The National Press Photographer's Association, assessed the situation for freelancers:
"In these terrible economic times it will now allow publishers to create and sell electronic archives of their previously published works without infringing on the copyrights of the contributors to those works. This creates a terrible burden on the ability of photographers to earn a living.”

“It will now be imperative for photographers, authors, artists, and creators to be aware of this
decision as they negotiate for the use of their work and make sure that any contract that they agree to clearly delineate those rights and limitations."
This appears to weaken the 2001 ruling in New York Times Co., Inc. v. Tasini, a case decided in favor of the authors over electronic rights.

Read the full story on this latest blow to freelancers here, and more about the history here and here>.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Free book!

To celebrate the generous spirit of the season, I'm offering a signed FREE book to the first person who follows this blog (one per person). Hope it's you. :o)

Just scroll down and look for the link on the right. See titles here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

10 years online

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of my Web site, The Write Place, Inspiration for Writers on the Web, also known as, founded on November 28, 1998.

If you need writing inspiration, drop by for a visit!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hitler's 18k gold bookmark...

Who knew? In 1943, Eva Braun reportedly gave Adolf Hitler an 18k gold bookmark which was stolen from an auction house in Madrid in 2002, and was just recoverd in Washington state. Read the rest in the Seattle Times.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Houghton Mifflin stops buying books

Publisher's Weekly announces: "Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has asked its editors to stop buying books." This does not bode well for writers, readers, or the children they love.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

contests as inspiration

After a necessary hiatus, my contests column at The Write Place is back. I posted all NEW contests for your perusal (click the "contests" link on left).

Why consider contests?

1. Contests come with deadlines--which I've found many writers need. Yes, including me. Deadlines give us a date when we must complete a project and actually send it out by U.S. mail or submit online.

2. Contest topics can entice you to try a genre you haven't tried before. It's a good stretching exercise.

3. Topics also generate new ideas and/or subjects for you to explore as a writer.

4. If you win an award (even honorable mention), your confidence rises as does your potential credibility with editors and manuscript readers.

5. As you move from the category of honorable mention to third, second, and first place winner, use these markers of ability as a way to track your growth as writer and communicator. And revel in the boost these awards give your sense of confidence!

6. Monetary benefit. 'Nuff said.

7. Public recognition. Others begin to notice your name appearing on winners' lists, which widens your recognizability with readers and editors, creating connections with potential audiences for your future work.

Of course, beware the bad contests. This deserves a separate post, but in the meantime, read the excellent article by Victoria Strauss, "Warnings and Cautions for Writers--Contests and Vanity Anthologies."

And check out the writing contests at my site, updated bimonthly.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Two months of recovery...

Two months ago today, my city was submerged under 8 to 13 feet of flood waters that covered approximately 1,400 city blocks, or nearly 10 square miles. I took some new photos today that I will post soon. Read more at My News Muse.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The magic of numbers

It's Friday, August 8th, in the year 2008. Altough I normally deal in words, I had to take a moment to acknowledge that today, in numbers, it is 08/08/08. Cool!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cedar Rapids, Iowa - Flood 2008

I've been busy the past two weeks with flood news on my other blog, My News Muse, and volunteering to help victims this past week, but I finally set up a flood news and photo site.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

AP double standard

Trouble started last week when Rogers Cadenhead, proprietor of the Drudge Retort (not to be confused with the more well-known Drudge Report), posted on Friday that the AP had sent him not one, but seven take-down notices for article citations on AP news stories.

Yet the AP was caught Monday lifting entire sections for a story published June 16th but which first appeared on the blog Patterico's Pontifications. I checked the article and noticed the AP reporter gave credit to the blog, but the question remains: how much of a story can be used and still be considered "Fair Use"? And of course, the glaring irony also stands--the AP's heavy-handed stance against bloggers quoting from AP articles while the AP lifts larger sections from, well, bloggers.

The Los Angeles Times confirmed on Monday that the AP, in an attempt to quell the backlash from the blogosphere on this ironic twist in violation of copyright standards, said it will "sit down with representatives of a bloggers group Thursday to devise guidelines allowing Internet commentators to use excerpts from AP stories and broadcasts."

The New York Times put it this way: "The A.P.’s effort to impose . . . guidelines on the free-wheeling blogosphere, where extensive quoting and even copying of entire news articles is common, may offer a prominent definition of the important but vague doctrine of “fair use . . . .”

My mother always said to be careful when pointing the finger at someone--three fingers point back at you.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A museum for writers...

The First Amendment graces the front of the new 250,000 square-foot "Newseum" that opened April 11th, 2008 in Washington D.C. Check out the interactive floor-by-floor map created by USA Today--click here to take a peek.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Tolkien Trust sues New Line

Fans of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" series will have to wait for Peter Jackson to direct "The Hobbit." Tolkien's estate was supposed to be paid 7.5 percent of gross receipts as specified in the movie contract with New Line. However, the plaintiffs claim they have only received an upfront payment of $62,500 for the three movies before production began--but nothing more since, although New Line and Time Warner, Inc. has raked in nearly $6 billion combined worldwide in profits. Selfish studios.

Why do writers get paid so little for their original work?

Winston Groom, author of "Forrest Gump," didn't receive a dime after he signed a contract for a share of the profits for the movie but his share was based on "net profits," rather than "gross points." Due to Hollywood accounting, he received nothing while his story turned into the third-highest-grossing film of all time.

Other films which became blockbusters yet paid writers next to nothing include Rain Man, Batman, JFK, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

This is just one reason writers went on strike earlier this past year led by the Writers Guild of America. Other issues included DVD sales and online viewings, new technologies or modes of delivery that writers had not anticipated for revenue streaming. The strike started November 5, 2007, and concluded on February 12, 2008.

Read your contracts carefully. "Net" means "nothing."

Friday, February 29, 2008

JK Rowling sues publisher

News in the publishing world about authors and Web site creators always concerns me. Here's a summary of the story appearing today at
"In papers filed for a lawsuit in Manhattan, J.K. Rowling says she feels betrayed by a fan, Steven Vander Ark, for his role in trying to publish an unauthorized reference work, Harry Potter Lexicon.

"Vander Ark is editor of a Web site containing a fan-created collection of essays and encyclopedic material on the Potter universe, including lists of spells and potions found in the books, a catalog of magical creatures and a who's who in the wizarding world."
At first (and setting aside the debate over the Harry Potter series), I thought J.K. Rowling has made enough money. She's the first billionaire author in the world. She shouldn't hurt this poor guy from making some money too.

But then I decided, he's not creating something original himself. He's creating something based on Rowling's original work.

Hmm. I'm concerned about derivative rights, which are reserved and protected for the author under copyright law. Here's what the law says:
"Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work."
He argues that his Web site is the only fan-based site for which Rowling has shown support, although "unofficial," since they do not have any sort of correspondence or written agreement. Thus, her friendly toleration of his fan site may jeopardize her defense since it could be argued she indirectly authorized him to create a new version of her work--the Web site, and now, the compilation. It seems he has a plausible argument.

However, I believe that a fan Web site built for fun is different than publishing a book for profit as Vander Ark is attempting to do, and therefore infringes on Rowling's derivative rights in her work.

What do you think?