As an online educator, one of the most frequent questions I get are how to write a paper in a specific style – usually MLA or APA. Along with that, students frequently ask me why it's important to write differently than we speak. For academic papers, readers expect to "hear" the written voice – the written "accent," really.
While blogging does have more freedom than academic writing, it's not entirely free of reader expectation, either. And if you want to be professional about your blog, there's a few you should know.
If you're like my usual students, you might be wondering why this is important – especially in a blog. It's not like you're getting graded or anything.
Just because you aren't turning this into an authoritarian figure for an arbitrary letter evaluation doesn't mean that you aren't being evaluated by some authority. You are. Your readers are evaluating you with every post and deciding if your blog is one they'll follow regularly.
You want followers, right?
What kind of followers do you want?
Me, I want followers in the writing and education fields. I want followers who may become fans of my writing. I want followers for whom I'm a fan of their writing. I want to build a writing and reading community.
So, my writing better be up to par in their eyes.
That's why I study the blogs I would like to be; the writers who I'd be honored if they followed me as I follow them.
What are these blogs? Besides what you see on my blogroll (if you're on Blogger), I subscribe to Copyblogger (whom I've quoted several times here and elsewhere), Neil Gaiman's journal (Hey, if you don't aim for the best, where are you going to land?), Writer Beware, QueryTracker, Karen Caplan (owner of Frieda's Produce – remember, I'm also a foodie!), Nathan Bransford, and Guide to Literary Agents.
Based on these blogs, here are some style pointers I've adopted.
1. Still cite your sources.
No, it's not APA or MLA, but you hyperlink. It's much easier, actually, and more direct (you go write to the article – or a link to the book on Amazon (or another bookseller). Like in any professional writing, you should always give credit to your sources.
2. Research and Organization
Obviously, if I suggested you should cite your resources, you should have resources. Yes, pick a topic you feel you have some authority on, but how did you obtain that authority? Where did you learn from? No, not all blogs will have outside resources, but if you're tackling a difficult topic – one where there's a lot to learn and especially one where there is a lot of controversy – you should have support from outside your own brain.
3. Redefine "Business Casual"
Just like Fridays at the office (or at least the offices where I've worked), the blog is a balance between professional and comfortable. It's you, but still a little spiffied up. The human personality has many facets, and if you want to be perceived as professional, you should explore yourself and find your own professional facet. It's not disingenuous; it's just another part of you.
4. Discover new Grammar
Believe it or not, people have grammatical expectations for blogs. Sentences and paragraphs are expected to be shorter, making the read quicker. Eschewing excess verbage (per Strunk & White and Twain) is … excessive (as is purposeful redundancy, but I'll get to that later). You may have noticed, particularly with the Facebook and Twitter cultures, that personal pronouns (particularly those that can be easily inferred from verb forms) are almost dropped all together. (Wrote my blog on Friday, waiting for car repairs.) Fragments are also embraced. Especially for emphasis. But a repetition goes a long way if you want to make a point. (Expensive car repairs are… expensive.)
The kind of audience you want to cultivate, however, will affect all of these things. How often will you present a researched blog post? How formal or how casual will you be? Think about the people you want to follow you, and see who they are following. What kind of writing does your preferred audience read?
How do you write?
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
As an online educator, one of the most frequent questions I get are how to write a paper in a specific style – usually MLA or APA. Along with that, students frequently ask me why it's important to write differently than we speak. For academic papers, readers expect to "hear" the written voice – the written "accent," really.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Since this is the last Sunday/Monday of March, I would love to share with you the full version of the report I put together for the Broad Universe celebration of speculative fiction's maternal bloodlines.
This report was on Madeline L'Engle, one of the most memorable speculative fiction writers from my childhood. I've read her books more times over than any other book I own - possibly even the Bible, and I was raised Catholic! - and when I started looking for selections to read for this presentation, I ended up reading A Swiftly Tilting Planet, the first book I ready by her, all over again in one sitting.
If you haven't already discovered L'Engle, I hope this gets you to check out her books. If you're already a fan, why not give them all a reread and enjoy her magic all over again.
Madeleine L'Engle Camp, born November 29, 1918, had a mind and soul made for tessering long before she wrote about it in her award-winning books. She was crossing genre boundaries long before the terms slipstream and interstitial fiction entered our vocabulary, going a step further than C.S. Lewis and blending her faith with not only fantasy and myth, but hard scientific theory. She transcended time in her observations about science, culture, and government. What she spoke of and wrote about in the 60s and 70s is just as pertinent today.
L'Engle began writing stories and poetry at five years old and immediately became lost in those worlds - much to the aggravation of most of her teachers. She found school boring, but was always learning. Her teachers accused her of being lazy, a troublemaker, and even for plagiarizing because her writing level was far to high for a child her age. Fortunately, L'Engle's parents supported their daughter, to the extent Madeleine's mother took reams of the girl's written work to fight and win against the accusation of plagiarism.
Throughout her life, however, L'Engle rejected conformity. She had problems with schools that stripped students of individuality and referred to them with numbers, for example. She was highly intelligent and not afraid to stand up for herself. In her 1998 acceptance speech upon receiving the Margaret Edwards American Library Association's Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing in the Field of Young Adult Literature, she says:
"So WRINKLE, when it was finally published in 1962, after two years of rejections, broke several current taboos. The protagonist was female, and one of the unwritten rules of science fiction was that the protagonist should be male. I'm a female. Why would I give all the best ideas to a male?
Another assumption was that science and fantasy don't mix. Why not? We live in a fantastic universe, and subatomic particles and quantum mechanics are even more fantastic than the macrocosm. Often the only way to look clearly at this extraordinary universe is through fantasy, fairy tale, myth."
To match her unconventional personality, L'Engle had a deep love of both science and language - and she saw no problem accepting the paradox of science and faith. Despite a lot of the Christian research and faith that comes through in her writing, her books - especially Newbery Award Winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels - are some of the most banned books in American history.
She wasn't especially surprised at that; it was parents and authoritarian figures who did the banning, and she didn't trust them much anyway. These people didn't understand and were unable to comprehend the complexity of paradox and transcending boundaries - but children were. In fact, she is frequently quoted in her observation, "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."
While L'Engle, herself, adored science and trusted children to follow the story - even through quantum physics, language was her first love. Language and the story. She says, in her acceptance speech for A Wrinkle in Time's Newbery Award in 1963, " What a child doesn’t realize until he is grown is that in responding to fantasy, fairy tale, and myth he is responding to what Erich Fromm calls the one universal language, the one and only language in the world that cuts across all barriers of time, place, race, and culture. Many Newbery books are from this realm, beginning with Dr. Dolittle; books on Hindu myth, Chinese folklore, the life of Buddha, tales of American Indians, books that lead our children beyond all boundaries and into the one language of all mankind." She echoes this again in '98 for her Margaret Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech, "During the fifties Erich Fromm published a book called THE FORGOTTEN LANGUAGE, in which he said that the only universal language which breaks across barriers of race, culture, time, is the language of fairy tale, fantasy, myth, parable, and that is why the same stories have been around in one form or another for hundreds of years."
L'Engle added dimension to these myths, and called attention to the fact they are myths and repeat themselves. She brought in science and tied it, inexorably, to the power of story, to an overall Unity of faith - Truth with a capital T.
"Truth transcends facts," L'Engle stated in an 1991 interview for Frugalfun.com. "If I don't believe it, it isn't true. I'm going to stay on the side of truth no matter how much it hurts. Facts end; stories are infinite. Stories have a richness that goes way beyond fact. My writing knows more than I know. What a writer must do is listen to her book. It might take you where you don't expect to go. That's what happens when you write stories. You listen and you say 'a ha,' and you write it down. A lot of it is not planned, not conscious; it happens while you're doing it. You know more about it after you're done."
L'Engle died only recently in 2007, and in her lifetime she published over 60 books, won over 50 awards and honors, including several honorary Doctor of Letters, Humane Letters, and Literature from prestigious colleges across the US, the Newbery Medal, several Newbery Honor awards, the American Book award, the Margaret A. Edwards lifetime achievement award, and the World Fantasy lifetime achievement awards. Her magic, faith, and logic continue to transcend time and space as her books are still re-released and in constant circulation.
Before I started this project with Broad Universe, I only knew Ms. L'Engle through her words - and through the fact that just in the spring before she died, a friend of mine wrote her a letter asking for some words of advice for her daughter who was turning 14. Ms. L'Engle responded with a four page letter of inspiration for the 14-year-old.
The books resonate with every molecule of my being every time I reread them, and simply in picking the passage I'm about to read, I ended up rereading A Swiftly Tilting Planet, my first introduction to L'Engle, in its entirety once more - learning even more lessons 20 years after I purchased it for a quarter or fifty cents at a yard sale.
Even as an adult, I didn't realize all the reasons why this book - and all of her books that I read - meant so much to me. I knew a good part of it was how she could balance real Faith, Magic, and Science and make it WORK. Believably. Everything was true, even amidst apparent contradiction and paradox. It still was Truth with a capital T.
But some of her quotes I found did a good job of spelling out to my "grown-up" mind the things my inner child just KNEW and was okay with knowing.
Taken from About.com under women's history and Madeleine L'Engle quotes:
"The world of science lives fairly comfortably with paradox. We know that light is a wave, and also that light is a particle. The discoveries made in the infinitely small world of particle physics indicate randomness and chance, and I do not find it any more difficult to live with the paradox of a universe of randomness and chance and a universe of pattern and purpose than I do with light as a wave and light as a particle. Living with contradiction is nothing new to the human being."
I do not think that I will ever reach a stage when I will say, "This is what I believe. Finished." What I believe is alive ... and open to growth.
Those who believe they believe in God but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.
In addition to About.com, most of my resources came from www.madeleinelengle.com - with other sources from the links page there.
Friday, March 26, 2010
I have a friend who's currently going through a lot of things right now, so I took Wednesday off (one of the benefits of the work I do is a wonderfully flexible schedule), and spent the day with her. Food, of course, was part of my plan from the get-go.
There's something wonderful about giving and receiving food. When my dad passed away, I was deeply appreciative of everything everyone sent, but two things were the most helpful. My brother's best friend's family made a lasagna that lasted for two days; no one had to cook. And another very good work friend of mine sent a fruit basket, which also fed us for days. When you're grieving - or even going through major life changes - receiving food is a very tangible show of love. Even if you love to cook, it's effort… and sometimes you only have enough energy to make it through the day. You can cook later, when you need to be busy and you need that kind of personal therapy.
But in the moment of difficulty, someone providing for one of the most basic needs of the human condition - nourishment - means an awful lot.
Lasagna is my mother's favorite food of all time, and both my brother and I do try to eat healthy - so the choices also make a difference.
For my friend, I know she likes more unusual foods - and spicy foods. I had an idea of Mexican Lasagna in my head, and when I asked her about it, she sounded very excited, so I knew I was on the right track. I really didn't know what I was going to do until I got to the night before and hadn't a chance to do much shopping… but didn't want to do a lot of cooking at her house. So, I did one of those kitchen inventories, found I had chicken in the freezer, a can of chipotles, beans, and salsa - so that became my plan for the meat filling. The rest… I kinda figured out as I went along. The result, no leftovers to bring home to the Husband-of-Awesome, and requests for the recipe.
So, here goes:
1 lb chicken tenders or breast meat roughly chopped
1 4 - 6 oz can of chipotles (confession, I wasn't paying attention, but the can most stores sell them in).
approx 6 oz medium heat salsa (I used up what was a little under half of a 16 oz jar in the fridge… one 8-oz jar probably would be fine)
1 14 oz can of black beans
1-2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa
1-2 tbsp dark chili powder
1-2 tbsps cumin
1 heaping tbsps of minced garlic
1-2 tbsps garlic powder
(Potential additions: You can probably make this vegan by doing all beans and adding some corn and canned chiles)
Throw all that in the crock pot overnight on low. Use the chipotle can and the salsa jar to add any extra liquid (and utilize all the yumminess while cleaning them to be recycled). Liquid should cover just above the chicken.
In the morning, tear apart any leftover large chunks of chicken. Let cool and put aside for when you're going to use it.
4 oz goat cheese
1 small pkg of mild spreadable cheese with chipotle or Mexican flavoring (I used Rondole)
(My original intent was to use a soft Mexican farmer's cheese called Campesino, but I couldn't find it anywhere)
2 really ripe avocadoes
Smoosh all these ingredients together in one beautiful mess. Do this just before you make the lasagna. If you want to do it ahead of time, add the juice of one lime to keep the avocado from turning.
1 pkg of 8 burrito size tortillas
1 pkg shredded "Mexican Blend" or "Taco Blend" cheese
1-2 green peppers, sliced
1 small bottle of either recaito or smooth green taco/enchilada sauce
Shake/spoon 2-3 large tbsps of the green sauce on the bottom of a lasagna pan.
Layer three tortillas across the bottom.
Spoon on your pre-cooked chicken mixture.
Give a fine sprinkle of the shredded cheeses
Layer three more tortillas across
Layer the slices of green pepper
Smooth the cheese across the top of the peppers
Layer on the last 2 tortillas
Spread another 3 or more tbsps of the green sauce
Spread more of the shredded cheese to your preference over the top.
Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until nice, warm and bubbly.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Have you ever found yourself in an argument and had someone say, "Now, we're just arguing semantics!" It always sounds so dismissive, like semantics shouldn't matter.
Right, and that's why this white girl won't use the "n" word on her blog.
It's just the semantics.
Yes, there is a strong argument that we, as society, assign meanings to strings of letters called "words" in an arbitrary manner.
That doesn’t mean that those "arbitrary" meanings don't matter.
Semantics is the study of meanings as they are addressed to words. There's a reason we've assigned different meanings to different strings of letters; those meanings – well, they mean something. If there wasn't a difference in significance, we wouldn't have chosen, in our respective cultures, to create different symbols for those different definitions.
I got into an argument with a friend about semantics yesterday (yesterday in respect to when I wrote this blog, but I know I'll still be smoldering about it when I publish this) (Edit to add: Ok, not smoldering, but still bothered). I won't go into details, but this friend didn't understand why I was getting upset about a point he was making. In retrospect, we probably agreed on the same point, but his word choice conveyed an entirely different meaning for me – a meaning specific to the social, political, and cultural language of the conversation. It was one of those ridiculously stupid arguments, but it was the topic of cultural history and accuracy, which is something I get passionate about.
Why are semantics so important to me? And why shouldn't they be dismissed in an argument?
Another topic that will get me into a passionate frenzy is this one: Two people of the same sex are in love, have chosen to be devoted to each other for their entire lives and exchanged vows of this dedication; if their governing state does not recognize this union and affix the "correct" term to this relationship, it is devastating. One of those partners or spouses may not receive necessary medical care, the other may not even be able to be present if their beloved is dying.
Marriage, civil union, illegal. Different words applied to the same situation. Different meanings. Just semantics, right?
It's absolutely semantics. And it matters.
Semantics can deny a group of people their culture, their history, their reality, their rights – their very lives!
Words are a powerful weapon, and as Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, "With great power comes great responsibility."
Use your words responsibly, and respect the damage you can do with them.
Monday, March 22, 2010
For those of you going to Conbust this coming weekend, please feel free to be friendly stalkers!
Friday, sharply at 6PM, I'll be talking faeries with Jane Yolen and Sharyn November.
You'll probably catch me after that hanging out with Genetic Imperfection as they talk about Shadow Casting (particularly for Repo! The Genetic Opera, but I'm sure some Rocky Horror Picture Show might come up.) Of course, that depends on my Mom, too… as she might be coming. In that case - I'm not sure.
On Saturday, we've got a Rapid Fire Reading (labeled as a Round Robin Reading) with members of Broad Universe. Come listen for a tidbit of the NEW Bad-Ass Faeries short story!
After the Rapid Fire Reading, I'll be doing my Writing and Tarot workshop... which doesn't have a description listed. This workshop will get your creative juices flowing with Tarot Cards. Be prepared to write!
Sunday, I'm back to Central MA so that I can make it to the Bay State Equine Rescue Wine, Beer, and Liquor Tasting!
I look forward to seeing some of you this weekend!
Friday, March 19, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Last night I went to bed with the decision that I was going to take a break from this copyright/plagiarism topic and do "something else" today. (Something else = long list of topics that kept changing).
I do have a great list of links about the topic that people have been sending me in email and Twitter, but More Importantly, I got this information in my inbox today (courtesy of the fine discussion list for Broad Universe!) (And especially Brenna Lyons and Elaine Isaak):
Dear Copyright Advocates,The Obama Administration is asking to hear from YOU, the creative backbone of our country, about how intellectual property infringement affects YOUR livelihood. The Administration is also seeking advice on what the government could be doing to better protect the rights of artists and creators in our country. HERE'S A CHANCE FOR YOU TO BE HEARD!
BACKGROUND:Last year President Obama appointed and the U.S. Senate confirmed Victoria Espinel to be the first U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator. Her job is "to help protect the creativity of the American public" by coordinating with all the federal agencies that fight the infringement of intellectual property, which includes creating and selling counterfeit goods; pirating video games, music, and books; and infringing upon the many other creative works that are produced by artists in this country.As you know, the unauthorized copying, sale, and distribution of artists' intellectual property directly impact the ability of artists and creators to control the use of their own creativity, not to mention their ability to receive income they have earned from their labor. This impacts U.S. employment and the economy, and our ability to globally compete.As required by an Act of Congress (The PRO-IP Act of 2008), Ms. Espinel and her White House team are preparing a Joint Strategic Plan that will include YOUR FEEDBACK on the costs and risks that intellectual property infringement has on the American public.Here's how to make yourself heard!
1. Send an email to Ms. Espinel and the Obama Administration:email@example.com and copy the Copyright Alliance on youremail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Begin your letter with "The Copyright Alliance has informed me of this welcome invitation from the Obama Administration to share my thoughts on my rights as a creator."
3. Include in your email: your story, why intellectual property rights are important to you, how piracy and infringement affect you, and what the U.S. government can do to better protect the rights of creative Americans.
4. Also include in your email: your name, city, state, and what type of artist you are.
5. DO NOT include any personal or private information as all comments will be posted publically on the White House website.
All comments must be submitted by Wednesday, March 24 by 5:00 p.m. EST. To read the entire call for comments, click here.
Don't be shy! Take two minutes today to make your voice heard, and don't forget to spread the word to everyone you know. Forward this notice using this short URL - http://bit.ly/cjDZJt - by email, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and more!Best,
P.S. If you received this email from a friend, and you are interested in receiving more information about how you can speak up for your rights, sign up for our network of Copyright Advocates.
Now, I've had a few posts on copyright/plagiarism regarding a number of art forms starting about a month ago. My simplified stance on the topic is a more middle ground than most of what I've seen. More specifically, my stance is as an educator and suggests that people make their own decision based on research.
Regarding the abovementioned Espinel, I found this article at Wired.com.
And more here on Compliance Matters.
One of my favorite writerly resources, Writer Beware!, had this post on recent copyright activities.
Another photography friend sent me this post on plagiarism and art from another photographer blogger. (It also has some gorgeous pictures!)
From Twitter came "What every writer ought to know about fair use and copyright" from www.thebookdesigner.com and how publishers are being urged to change their focus regarding copyright.
And lastly, from my educational colleague, Julie, came this article about plagiarism in higher ed and even job interviews, which made me very sad.
Do you have any articles on plagiarism and copyright that you would like to share? There's an AWFUL LOT out there and it's important for anyone creating and writing to know the story.
And now to be a part of the decisions made regarding copyright, per the letter above.
Go forth and change the world!
Monday, March 15, 2010
This definitely goes as a Manic Monday post… since it made most of my waking hours on Sunday (into Monday), well, MANIC. (To put it nicely).
Back in August or September, I volunteered to put together a podcast for Broad Universe. It seemed simple enough. I mean, I KNEW there would be a reasonable amount of work in making it happen, and I was good with that.
In fact, I'm loving most of it!
I enjoy organizing, keeping people on the time table, recording the intros, outros, etc.
In general, I love learning new things.
As an added bonus, I get to hear these fabulous snippets from the other Broads.
What I hadn't entirely been planning for was the issues regarding hosting. The Catch-22 of free Podcast hosting seems to be that for the hosting site to be easy to use, it has to have space issues. If you don't want space issues (or other issues), you need super-special-ninja-tech skills to get it to work.
Or, you have to pay. Which I had not planned on doing, nor is it in the Broad Universe budget (or my own!) for me to pay to host our episodes somewhere.
After fighting for a good 4 hours with mypodcast.com, I am trying out podbean.com, where Morven hosts her podcast.
The problem with mypodcast.com, as I'm inferring based on the forums, is that the group was entirely unprepared for the memory or bandwith or something like that because for this second episode (we're updating once a month), I was told I needed to change it from 128 kmb… something or another… to 96 of that. (i.e. make it smaller). However, when I changed the size, the file was unreadable. After a lot of help from friends, like Dan Kupka, Morven Westfield, and the Husband-of-Awesome, we found MANY forum questions facing this same issue. One of the answers was that mypodcast.com had to delete old posts to make room, and that was causing the problems. Considering I had a whopping ONE podcast archived, I really wasn't ready to delete it… and even if I did, it probably wouldn't have solved the problem.
Long story short, I've moved the podcast to podbean.com - but our memory is now at 71% used with the whopping TWO episodes posted now.
Obviously, I'm off to see if a free hosting site exists that will let me have a few episodes… AND WORK! Am I really asking for so much?? Really?
Some general thoughts on podcasting, though, are that the advice I've found online all only match with the type of podcasts that the advice-givers had. While I have been able to glean bits and pieces from all the articles and publications I've read, I'm still floundering in the dark - especially on the hosting and promoting part.
The Broad Pod is basically a podcast of the trademark Rapid Fire Reading that Broad Universe has become known for at convention across North America. A Rapid Fire Reading throws together several women in one time slot, and we each give a small reading based on work we want to promote - or that fits the theme of the convention or convention track. It's an awful lot of fun, and the audience gets a variety of snippets from all sorts of work: humor, bone chilling horror, moving, hard science, social science, high fantasy, urban or contemporary fantasy…
As a benefit to members who don't or can't attend conventions, the Broad Pod is opening up this promotional arena to them. Any member can send me a recording - regardless of if she attends conventions or not - and we will broadcast these readings to the world.
So, if you'd like to help members of Broad Universe AND hear some fabulous writing, feel free to check out our latest installment of the Broad Pod, as it is currently hosted here:
And if you have any advice on my ever-so-wonderful hosting issues - please send me an email!
Friday, March 12, 2010
Ok, I was going to go the Sesame Street route and talk about vitamin B.
True Confession: I want more research before I just spout off what I think I know about vitamins and schtuff.
So, you get the recipe I made for dessert that worked well yesterday, and even better today.
Instant Kashi ® Pudding
A Recipe constructed based on Trish's thought-process (using lots of parenthesis)
Find an instant pudding lying around your kitchen. (Or, actually preplan and buy one. You can even go healthy and get a lowfat or low-sugar kind… I honestly don't know if they come in organic and instant yet…)
1 - 1 1/2 cup/s of your favorite Kashi ® cereal (to make up for the fact that, if you're me, you grabbed regular old unhealthy instant Jell-O ® pudding. Cheesecake flavor to be exact.) (I picked the fiber one, but the honey puffs would also make a good mix. The fiber one (which I can't actually remember the name of because I finished off the box) made a nice grape-nut pudding consistency on the second day.)
Prepare the pudding per instructions.
Well… mostly. I actually substituted 1/4 cup (out of 2 cups) milk with amaretto coffee creamer. Gave it a great flavor. French Vanilla would probably make a fab substitute, too - or any favorite flavor with vanilla pudding.
About 1 minute into the "beating" add in about a cup to a cup and a half of cereal. (The contents of a little under a full breakfast bowl… or whatever you have to finish off the box that has been open for a few weeks). Fully incorporate.
If you find another mostly empty box of cereal that is the mess of your kitchen, cover/fill the bottom of ramekins or sundae cups.
Pour the cereal-laden pudding into 4 + ramekins/dessert cups.
Chill for a minimum of 10 minutes to enjoy the crunch of the cereal with the creaminess of the pudding, or up to a day to get a grape-nut pudding-like consistency.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
I started several weeks ago discussing copyright and plagiarism in response to the accusations of plagiarism against Helene Hegemann in her (still best-selling) novel Axolotl Roadkill. In seeing if there were any new articles about her, specifically, I see there hasn't been much of anything since the story broke, but I did see this particular article that interviews the person whose text she used/stole for her novel.
In one of those weird twists of fate or coincidence, the argument comes of very similar to the Molotov Man debate I was planning on investigating today, anyway.
In 2003, artist Joy Garnett did a series of paintings to capture her feelings about the Gulf War. One of those paintings was a piece of a larger photograph taken by photojournalist, Susan Meiselas, about human rights issues and political storms in Latin America. These paintings were representations of pieces of photographs Garnett had found on the Internet. She was invited to showcase this series in 2004, and she and the art director decided to have the opening and main piece be "Molotov Man," the painting that borrowed from Meiselas' photo. While I suggest you read the whole article and the follow up to it, the crux of the debate was that Meiselas' wanted credit for the original image and had threatened to sue for copyright infringement. The suit never went through, but Garnett did end up ensuring that credit was given whenever she used or promoted the image - but she would not take responsibility for other artists who she allowed to appropriate and reinterpret her version. Garnett argues that artists have the right to reinterpret and reinvent to promote cultural growth (much as my friend, Dan, stated in his guest post.) Meiselas states that Garnett's use of the image decontextualizes it and undermines what she is trying to do in documenting the historical event.
Fast forward to February and the Hegemann/Airen plagiarism and controversy. In this article from Speigel Online, the blogger and writer, Airen, is not quoted in asking for money or anything; he states that he wrote from personal experience, documenting the actual use and destruction of drugs… Hegemann is decontextualizing the actual experience in her using his words… cheapening the experience. While newer editions of Axolotl Roadkill do now credit Airen in the acknowledgements, it's interesting to see the similarities.
Turning the mirror back over, when I originally mentioned my first plagiarism blog post to my artist friends and explained how Hegemann used the piece of Airen's Strobo, they didn't see how it was such a big deal of plagiarism. My friend and colleague, Renée, who has been a photographer with me on several assignments and for similar publications, said, "I honestly don't feel Joy was committing copyright infrigment with her paintings […] I would not as a photographer be offended by Joy's work of art." She also points out that Meiselas saw the image used all over the place besides the painting - and not related to the painting - yet she did not sue or try to collect licensing fees from all the other imitators.
Another friend and colleague, Stef, who has her visual art displayed in the new store Renée and her fiancé, Sean, have opened, and has worked with museum art and stores for years, gave an even more in-depth analysis of the Molotov Man debate with her husband, Dave (who you may have seen responding to various Facebook posts of this blog).
First, they look at the guidelines and laws for publishing photos. What Meiselas is doing is protected under First Amendment rights for photos without consent. (Meiselas states she didn't even know the photo/painting subject's name until 11 years after she took the picture, and it was part of a series of people amidst public events.) In light of that, Stef and Dave make the following points (quoted directly from email):
* All the reproductions of the photograph we see when reading Susan’s argument more closely resemble her original photograph than does Joy’s painting.
* Susan’s contention that she felt she had to speak out against (and now she uses his name) “Pablo Arauz’s context being stripped away…” fails to take note of the simple fact that, had she kept silent on the matter, Joy’s painting would have remained an anonymous “Molotov Man.”
* Pablo was not even the subject of a photo journal. He happened to be in the center of one of Susan’s photographs while she documented the struggle in Nicaragua. Had she followed him as a focus of her photo series, and had Joy then knowingly used such photos as the basis for her paintings, then not only would Susan have grounds for a lawsuit, but so would Pablo.
* Susan documented a moment in history, a news story. “This is what happened.” Joy’s exhibition is about extremes in emotion. “How does this make you feel?”
In looking at those points, let's look at Hegemann's use of a piece of Airen's novel. The two are communicating different points in different styles. Airen is documenting actual events with the purpose of teaching people from the experience; Hegemann is exploring and searching for ways to rebel in a world where there is nothing original and everything is borrowed from something else. In fact, the very piece she lifted is self-referential in its usage.. down to the character stating his words were taken from a blogger. (Airen is a blogger.)
If writing is an arm in the branch of the Tree of Art (like music, sculpture, painting, etc.), what is the difference between the Molotov Man debate and the Hegemann "scandal"? While Garnett does now credit Meisalas when she uses her version of Molotov Man, and while current and future editions of Axolotl Roadkill credit Airen, there is no money exchanged. Are things all soothed out now? Or do writers still hold Hegemann in contempt? What about artists?
Many, many artists rose to defend and champion Garnett during the suit. On the other hand, you'll find most writers rose to condemn and insult Hegemann. What creates these different mindsets of copyright and creation?
Monday, March 8, 2010
For time and events this month, March is no Lamb for me! Lots of Lion reigning over my time and effort.
Good thing I like Lions. J
BTW: As a teaching point, I have 2 main calendars. I have my purse-sized calendar that is either in the purse or on my desk. And then, I've got the Family calendar, which is a desk calendar that is tied to the wall so Scott & I can keep each other updated.
Speaking of which, I need to update that.
I'm getting poetry published!! :D Check out this blog entry for Poetry Locksmith.
Chris & I got the galleys for BAD-ASS FAERIES 3: IN ALL THEIR GLORY. Yay galley proofing before the 10th!
Saturday was the first Broad Universe Women's History Month event, held at the Shrewsbury Borders. Three of us were there to give reports on women who have influenced our lives and writing.
I covered Madeleine L'Engle
Jennifer Pelland covered Octavia Butler.
Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert covered Marge Piercy.
The rest of the month goes something like this:
11:30 AM - Society of Professional Communicators Luncheon
7:00 PM - Spanish Language Speakers meeting
March 11th or 12:
A birthday party that I CAN actually make! (But Scott might be working!)
7PM - Broad Universe Women's History Event at Toadstool Books Milford, NH
6:30PM - Broad Universe Women's History Event at Jacob Edwards Library in Southbridge, MA
St. Patrick's Day Party with Friends (yes, I do occasionally get to socialize with friends!)
Meeting with Karine Johnston
6:30 - Downtown Women's Club, Worcester Meeting
Bay State Equine Rescue's Wine, Beer, & Liquor Tasting at the Castle Restaurant
That's just events… many of which I have to prep for. I've still got deadlines and other projects I'm working on… so wish me luck!
Enjoy the Lamb or Lion that your March brings.
Friday, March 5, 2010
As I mentioned on Wednesday, a lot of the discussions regarding plagiarism and copyright, writers have brought in the concept of music. Specifically, sampling and "mixing" (as alleged plagiarist and young German author Helene Hegemann termed it… which started me on this line of posts).
The problem, of course, and most logicians would note: Writing and music are two different media.
I spoke with two musician friends of mine and Wednesday was an excellent guest blog by esteemed filker and author, Roberta Rogow. Today I have the honor of introducing you to another good friend of mine, Dan Kupka. Dan both composes music and is a DJ. While he doesn’t have anything to sell now, those who are close enough can see him in concert on April 17 at Gulu Gulu Café in Salem, MA.
So, without further ado, here is Dan's guest blog (with minor proofing/editing/linking):
Well, as is so often said... 'my thoughts and opinions are solely my own, and I make no respresentation of others' as my own or my own as others' blah blah blah...'
When DJs mix for a club or similar venue, to my understanding, the club/bar/establishment catering to that sort of thing already is, or should be, responsible for paying a nominal fee based upon that set with an organization such as ASCAP [The American Society for Composers, Authors, and Publishers]; ASCAP is one of the companies involved in covering royalties distribution to artists who might have been, er, covered by another band or played by a DJ on a CD or other media, under what's known as a "public performance." This probably includes things like the well-known Mario theme - you've heard it, even if you don't know what it's called. (I'll write about this last one - or 8-bit music in general - in a bit.)
As a musician myself, generally I compose - and I use that verb loosely - music on a laptop that has special applications running on it that assist with electronic music production, one specifically being Reason. (I'd like to thank Chris, former keyboards player for the Cruxshadows, for steering me that way!) All vocal samples I use (or might use) that aren't from Reason thus far come from one or two royalty-free sample CDs that I had purchased from a store. The license allows use for commercial or non-commercial use, so long as credit is given, I believe, to the original medium from whence it came. There are those musicians or DJs who try, or succeed with respect to skirting the legal waters, by not clearing samples that might have been recorded for use in their work simply because cost may be prohibitive to license the sample(s) for that use. Unfortunately, I don't have the foggiest idea of where that starts, as, again, I haven't dipped into that area myself. When I do, of course, I'll let you know. :)
There is a relatively recent trend toward licensing works under the Creative Commons license. In a prior discussion relating to a note you had posted on Facebook regarding copyright, I touched upon the idea that 1. copyright initially was designed to allow a temporary monopoly of rights ownership with the original creator - or, ultimately, whoever became the rights-holder - to receive, and I will reiterate this, TEMPORARY compensation for said work, after which time the work would enter the public domain; the knowledge of this temporary nature would spur the artist or musician to continue creating works that would, hopefully, benefit the public with respect to art, science, and knowledge in general (or, as I'd prefer to term it generally, culture). Copyright, as it stands now, has a shelf life of 75 years plus the life of the author. I think a Twinkie still lasts longer, but in any case, the idea that I have to wait effectively two generations before I am allowed to do anything I see fit to a work that I find interesting and put my own spin on it is, frankly, rather absurd. This is where I say that copyright, as it is currently, impedes what would be the natural spread of culture, or its tendency to reach out geographically, broaden minds. I will, however, stop short of making a completely political statement, with ramblings about corporate this, and social that... I'll leave that for another rant entirely.
So, on to Creative Commons itself, briefly. In a nutshell, this license allows those who wish to share their work to do so freely, and even would allow it to flourish in someone else's hands in different media or different styles in the same medium, with less inherent restriction than what would be provided under typical copyright terms - which some might find much more draconian, given the current state of copyright (read about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for insight into the tip of the iceberg about "draconian" [from Trish: and also here for authors]). I don't have much else to say here, as I'm not familiar with legalities and liabilities as it pertains to using commercial vs. noncommercial works, what's constituted as derivative or adapted - and that I'll leave to the music law professionals to determine...
Back to Mario and at least some things Nintendo. There has been a growing interest for some time overseas in what is known as 8-bit music. I haven't been involved directly in the scene myself, though I have seen some local artists who have made use of various Gameboy and NES consoles, with various hacks and modifications to turn them into (what else?) music-making machines. This music, as the name of the genre would imply, uses the hardware from the aforementioned consoles to produce the old-school-ish video-gamey sounds from the 80s, but applies those sounds in sometimes very new and interesting ways. To rattle off a few bands that I've seen and enjoyed, in no particular order: Br1ght Pr1mate, Active Knowledge, Bubblegum Octopus... Conceptually, I liken the idea to going to your favorite music equipment store and buying an instrument. That's really all it is, and it's not the size of it, what you do with it is what counts! (The prior sentence could be applied to any number of activities that are outside the scope of this discussion. I'll leave those to your imagination.)
I'm not entirely certain as to what [Trish is] asking about when [she asked me] "what's the line for sampling in music?" If you mean the quantity of, say, the Mario theme or another familiar tune that may still be under copyright which is used in a piece of music by another musician, then that is a bit murky, as I don't think there is a set percentage or time-count cutoff after which the lawyers are called in to have a meeting. Needless to say, however, based on my aforementioned distaste with the current copyright scenario, I do think it is far past time for an overhaul to get back to the basics as to what life and culture is all about. Everyone is a part of this culture, so why should only a select few be in control of its dispensation even after several generations?
[From a follow-up email from Dan]:
Quick little addition... while this is no substitute for a lawyer involved in music law, I did come upon some information that, generally, in the scenario of a live performance, sample clearance may not be needed as the venue owner pays license fees to ASCAP and/or BMI [Broadcast Music, Inc], and you're not making copies of the sample / music for distribution.
If, though, I were to press or copy CDs with that sample included on the CD, then the sample clearance is necessary. A lot of what determines what can be flown under the radar and unnecessary for clearance is pretty murky under even the best of circumstances (transforming a sound so it's barely recognizable to the original, burying it underneath the music so-to-speak, and so forth).
So, writers looking to make comparisons of written plagiarism and musical plagiarism/sampling/mixing are hiking shaky ground - whether they are using it as an example promoting "sampling" or as an example where plagiarism has happened. Since it goes even beyond words, there are more facets to the music argument, too. However, the "murky depths" still show that copyright and plagiarism arguments are anything but clear cut.
Thank you very much, Dan, for your insights!
What are your thoughts on copyright law and the DMCA and how that applies to both music and writing? Are there things that you see need to be changed, readers? :)
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
In a lot of the discussions regarding plagiarism and copyright, writers have brought in the concept of music. Specifically, sampling and "mixing" (as alleged plagiarist and young German author Helene Hegemann termed it… which started me on this line of posts).
The problem, of course, and most logicians would note: Writing and music are two different media.
To see if I could help with some record setting in regards to comparing music sampling/mixing and written plagiarism, I chatted with a couple of friends of mine who are musicians, one of which is also a DJ. In fact, both are so eloquent and well versed, I will be borrowing liberally from them. (But not plagiarizing as I will use quotation marks and proper attributions… AND… please patronize these fabulous people if you see them online or catch them at a convention!) In short: this blog post will read more like a "guest blog."
(Edit to note: Because the two people I chatted with were kind enough to give me wonderful responses with more details than I could conceive of, myself, I'm giving each her/his own post… Today we will chat with Roberta Rogow.)
One friend, Roberta Rogow, is a well-known and well-respected filker in the Northeast. Her credits, as she wrote them: "I've been writing, performing and recording Filk since 1976; I've written an article on Filk in The Encyclopedia of Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy; I have published filk lyrics in my own fanzine Rec-Room Rhymes since 1978. I've been running the Filk Track at Lunacon (the NYC area SF Convention) since 2003. And I'm going to be Filk Guest of Honor at I-Con in March 2010! I currently have two CDs available: Rogow, Alive and Filking and One Filk, Two Filk, Old Filk, New Filk, both recorded by Harold Stein's Floating Filk studio."
I also happen to know that Roberta has a great mystery book out as well and while she doesn't currently have a website, I will gladly link to the Amazon page for her book, THE GUILTY CLIENT.
What's filk and why do I bring it up? Well… if you didn't follow the link on "filker" above, basically filk is a type of folk music that draws from science fiction and fantasy literature, television, and movies - often borrowing or using tunes from classic folk, rock, country, and other music (including hip-hop, rap, metal… it's pretty varied). The name originates from a typo of "folk" in a convention that happened before I was born - though the matching of genre topics to folksy music and concerts has continued advancement under said typo. Most of filk falls under "parody" in regards to copyright laws, so there isn't the plagiarism stigma… but, filk musicians still have to navigate the rough waters of copyright law and proper attribution.
Now, I'll let Roberta speak for herself (with a few proofreading edits):
Filk started out as parody... taking a familiar tune and putting new words to it. There's nothing wrong with this; it's a got a long and honorable pedigree. After all, "The Star-Spangled Banner" poem was sung to the English drinking-song, "To Anacreaon in Heaven", and no one seemed to mind.
However... there's one big caveat: singing these songs in a more-or-less private gathering like a SF Con filk circle is one thing... publishing them, or recording them is quite another. As I have found out!
When I recorded my first audiotapes back in 1984, I paid royalties on the tunes I used through the Harry Fox Agency, which handles these things. Over time, the fees have grown, to the point where my CD Rogow Alive and Filking cost the producer more than $500 in copyright fees. And this is for a measly little 500-item deal!
The result is that filkers either write their own music or comb the archives for material that is in the Public Domain. And you'd be surprised what is not in the Public Domain, because it's not a "folk song" in the traditional sense. All of Woody Guthrie's output is under copyright; so is Sholem Secunda's (he wrote "Dona, Dona" and many other Yiddish classics) and "The Unicorn Song" (Shel Silverstein). Don't touch Bob Dylan or Paul Simon; Canadian Stan Rogers, a filk favorite, is similarly off-limits for recording. You can sing the parodies in the privacy of a Con or a house-filk, because that's not "public performance," but recording and distributing said recordings is definitely "public," and for that, the composer gets compensation. In some cases, the composer doesn't want anyone touching her work without her co-operation (which is why I can't record anything originally written by Dolly Parton).
If you use the tune written by another filker, that's within the boundaries of filk parody. There are so many parodies of "Banned From Argo" that they've been collected into a fanzine, "Bastard Sons of Argo." And the US Supreme Court has ruled that parody is legal, especially if done with comedic or satiric intent, as a commentary on the orginals, as done in Mad Magazine, or by Weird Al Yankovich, […].
Filk lyrics often riff off someone else's work. There are countless songs about the Star Trek and Star Wars characters; songs based on Tolkein's Lord of the Rings saga; songs that derive from all sorts of novels and movies and TV shows. This is considered acceptable, because you're not directly copying someone else's work, you're commenting on it in a way. And when you perform the material, you always cite the original source, if it isn't immediately obvious (as with my ballad "The Woman in the Snow", which I always attribute to a story written by Patricia McKissick).
There are one or two authors who are extremely leery of filkers or anyone else messing with their characters. There was a notorious case back in the late 1980's, where someone used a character in a well-known series in a fanzine story, and the original author not only sued, but won her case. Since I wrote a filk about said character, I have been very careful about recording that particular song. However, most authors are one with Harry Turtledove, who said "I'd be jazzed!" when I asked if he minded when other people were inspired to write something in response to one of his books. They look at filk as free advertising... if someone sings about their books in a filk circle, the listeners may want to go out and read them, just to find out what the song was about.
A general rule about parodies: you can get away with a lot if you're trying to be funny. But parody is not plagiarism, because there's a creative element to it. I may "borrow" a tune, but the lyrics are mine. Setting someone else's poem to an original tune is certainly not plagiarism, because the original poet is acknowledged. Plagiarism involves saying that someone else's work is your own, and filk is definitely not that.
So, in the case of filk, the response to Hegemann and her take on "plagiarism" is that she needed to credit her sources, still. On a CD, one can do that in the cover and in the blurb for the song; in concert, since most filkers perform pretty openly at conventions, I have heard them give credit where credit is due, also.
Rather than talking food on Friday, it will be my pleasure to include my friend Dan Kupka's response to this question! He goes into even more detail in regards to "mixing" as both a DJ and composer.
Until then, what do you think of using the medium of music as a comparison to writing in regards to copyright and plagiarism? While both are art forms, what makes the difference and how much leeway is there?
Monday, March 1, 2010
My Monday is not quite half over, workwise, though I intended to wake up much earlier. Obviously, I was still worn out from deadlines and morning-person sleep patterns. (luv U Renée & Sean!)
I turned in all my deadline stuff Friday, in a reasonable time frame. (Before midnight to all editors!) On top of all that, I was already at Renée & Sean's for their grand opening. I helped organize the shop, cook, and felt useful… all while tapping away at said deadlines. I went to bed (after a shower - after the all nighter on Thursday night) around 1AM or so, and was up at some pre-noon hour, probably 8:30, because the store was opening at 9. (I thought it would be opening at 10… oops!) There were about 75-80 people who came into the tiny store (which is more like an open studio), and a good amount of stuff was bought, some classes were signed up for… and we busted into a FABULOUS cake by my friends at Sturbridge Coffee Roasters.
Aaand, I got about 4 pages done on the kelpie story that's been in my head for almost 2 years now. J
Other news this week is that I'll be at Borders in Shrewsbury with Broad Universe friends & colleagues talking about "our maternal lines in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative fiction." The Borders event is Saturday, March 6th, and starts at 1:PM. We've also got plans for similar events at Toadstool Books in Milford New Hampshire at 7:00PM on Saturday, March 13th, and Jacob Edwards Library at 6:30 on Thursday, March 18th.
Later on this month, I'll be at Conbust in Northampton from Friday, March 26-27 - and then back home on the 28th for the Bay State Equine Rescue's Wine, Beer, and Liquor tasting at the Castle Restaurant in Leicester.
Yeah… March is quite the lion for scheduling. J April… won't be all that much better. Or May…
But it is all a good kind of busy; the kind of busy I dreamed of being as a kid when I dreamed of being a writer.
Now, it's back to my own to-do list for the week, which includes more evals and follow-ups for tutoring, going through "Cemetery Angel" feedback, submitting Starbard queries (upon hearing back from one last person whose opinion I dearly respect), a restaurant review, and actually writing my Women's History Month report on Madeleine L'Engle.
Happy writing to all of you!