Category Archives: Give Me a Break

Rants and Raves, Complaints and Injustices

Authors Demand Fair Contracts

January 5, 2016

An open letter to the members of the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP), the Literary Press Group (LPG), and the Canadian Publishers’ Council (CPC):

Today, author groups from around the world have signed on to an open letter regarding the Fair Contract Initiative from our sister organization, the Authors Guild (AG) in the United States. The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) has included its name and logo on this letter. TWUC works closely with the Authors Guild on many initiatives, most notably global copyright concerns (TWUC is, for instance, a friend of the court in the AG’s ongoing book-scanning lawsuit against Google). We fully endorse the AG’s recent work updating contract principles.

TWUC has been sharing with its members the AG’s new contract principles as they have been published on their website over the last six months. As a founding member of the International Authors Forum (IAF), TWUC is also contributing to work on new, global contract principles for creative professionals. You will find attached both the AG’s open letter and the IAF’s Ten Principles for Fair Contracts.

TWUC has long advised its members on contract terms and negotiation using its own Model Trade Book Agreement, and we believe the time has come to update this document to better reflect the changed reality of writing and publishing in Canada. There is no question the economic reality for Canadian authors has deteriorated in the years corresponding with massive changes in the publishing industry. TWUC’s 2015 income survey report shows that author incomes have declined 27% since 1998, and that, distressingly, annual writing income is below the poverty line for 80% of Canada’s writers. These findings are mirrored by similar studies in both the US and UK. The reasons for this decline are complex, and contract terms are not solely to blame, but they are part of the mix and need to be addressed.

TWUC is aware that many independent Canadian publishers have used its Model Trade Book Agreement as a template when drawing up their own first contracts. In that spirit of professional cooperation, we want to make sure you’re aware of the fair contract movement in the author community. In fact, we invite representatives from the ACP, LPG, and CPC to be part of the Canadian discussion around new contract terms. TWUC proposes a roundtable discussion about contract principles aimed at establishing general best practices. In the meantime, please read the many tweaks and changes to industry standard contracts proposed by both the AG and the IAF.

Thank you for your attention.


The Writers’ Union of Canada

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Writers and Artists Please Vote for Culture in the Canadian Election

Many thanks to the Alliance for Arts + Culture for their Election Toolkit, which arrived in my email box just now. I couldn’t wait to share it with all of you.

Although I realize that most of us would rather chew off our own arm before we’d mark a vote for Harper on our ballots, this sentiment is useless unless we get out and vote for Arts, Culture and the Environment. It’s so important to spread the word to friends, colloquies and family. Usually my mantra is “Show up at the page,” but today it’s “Show up at the Polling Station on October 19th, 2015.

Remember to vote with ABC in mind: Anything but Conservatives (Harper). Both the NDP and the Liberals have some amazing candidates and they need your support.

Even writing Harper’s name makes me feel nauseous…


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Filed under BP Oil Spill, General, Stuff to do, Uncategorized

Ottawa Shooting, Lest We Forget: Hold on to the Dream (of Peace)

When I woke up this morning to the news of the shootings in Ottawa I felt sick and saddened because my Canada has never included gunfights in the Parliament Buildings.

Like many Canadians, I heard the news on CBC first and like many Canadians I tripped over myself leaping to conclusions. Conclusions about who did it and why, anger toward the Harper government, fear about travel, and personal security.  And then I tried to make myself stop, to slow down and push away hateful thoughts of blame and fear and hopelessness. To pause and think about the victims. To take a deep breath and send a prayer to our Capital City.

It was a struggle, until out of nowhere, Roger Waters started to sing to me 🙂

As an avid Pink Floyd Fan, who has probably listened to The Final Cut a thousand times, the lyrics to The Gunner’s Dream flooded unbidden into my mind. I remembered how I used to listen to this song and sing along feeling incredibly lucky, blessed even, that as Canadians we, can relax on both sides of the tracks and maniacs don’t blow holes in bandsmen by remote control. And everyone has recourse to the law. And no-one kills the children anymore.

Had a crazed and bloody morning in Ottawa destroyed our country’s sense of security?

Had an insane act of misdirected hate taken away my right to feel lucky about being Canadian?

“Canada under attack,” said one reporter. Fear mongering and hate can grow from these three simple words. But just because it happened once, doesn’t mean it has to happen again.

I don’t believe we should be at war with anyone and many, many Canadians are of the same mind. The decision to drop bombs in a far away place was never a democratic one. So, it’s up to those of us who believe in Peace to not let the horror in Ottawa destroy us. It’s up to us to “Hold on to the dream.”

Do it for Corporal Nathan Cirillo, (Rest in Peace).

*Fellow bloggers, out of respect for CPL Nathan Cirillo, let’s not ever name the shooter online. Let’s use social media to erase him.


The Gunner’s Dream (Waters) 

Floating down through the clouds
Memories come rushing up to meet me now.
In the space between the heavens
and in the corner of some foreign field
I had a dream.
I had a dream.
Good-bye Max.
Good-bye Ma.
After the service when you’re walking slowly to the car
And the silver in her hair shines in the cold November air
You hear the tolling bell
And touch the silk in your lapel
And as the tear drops rise to meet the comfort of the band
You take her frail hand
And hold on to the dream.
A place to stay
“Oi! A real one …”
Enough to eat
Somewhere old heroes shuffle safely down the street
Where you can speak out loud
About your doubts and fears
And what’s more no-one ever disappears
You never hear their standard issue kicking in your door.
You can relax on both sides of the tracks
And maniacs don’t blow holes in bandsmen by remote control
And everyone has recourse to the law
And no-one kills the children anymore.
And no one kills the children anymore.

Night after night
Going round and round my brain
His dream is driving me insane.
In the corner of some foreign field
The gunner sleeps tonight.
What’s done is done.
We cannot just write off his final scene.
Take heed of his dream.
Take heed.

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Gun Violence and Mass Murder: The Terrible Aftermath

The news out of the United States this week about the latest massacre in a small town called Newport, Connecticut brought back a flood of memories for me.

Just after the killings in an American high school in 1999, (Columbine) I wrote this piece for the Globe and Mail newspaper. Since then, gun violence in the States has reached unacceptable levels. I care becasue they are our neighbours. I care because each time someone is gunned down, a family is destroyed. I care because I know that it doesn’t have to be this way.


May 10 1999, Globe and Mail

What Happens After the Media Leaves Town?

Violent death draws the media to the crime scene like vultures to a carcass, but what happens when the story dies and the media move on to the next big tragedy? There are two dates that haunt my family, now and forever: June 17 and December 3. The former is the day that in 1954 my brother Eddie was born. The latter is the day in 1974 when he was gunned down in cold blood, aged 20 by a 13-year-old boy, just because he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

That date burns in our family’s collective memory, even though 38 years have gone by since Eddie was left to die on the floor in the Christmas tree-trimming department at a downtown Vancouver store.

Eddie was working nights as a maintenance man at Woodward’s department store. The boy had broken into the store, and it’s believed Eddie surprise him stealing ammunition. My brother was shot seven times with a 22-calibre rifle. His body wasn’t discovered until the morning. The boy was caught the next day and charged with what was then called juvenile delinquency.

In 2013, my brother would have turned 58. I struggle to imagine what he would be like now. Would he have children of his own? He was so young when he died. Young enough to dream big dreams about his future, but a young teen took away those dreams before he could realize them.

The local media were there on that terrible day only weeks before Christmas in 1974. A picture of his half-exposed body was splashed over the front page of the Vancouver Sun. Reporters talked about his education at St. George’s private school for boys, about his heart-broken parents and two loving sisters, 14 and 16 at the time.

My parents hid the newspapers from us in a futile attempt to protect us from seeing what no human being should ever have to see, especially two teenage girls whose family had just been violently reduced by one.

I think the story ran for a week or two in the papers across Canada. For us the story is still being written. My mother walks with the memory of my brother hovering beside her. Framed photos of a hopeful young man just into his twenties decorate her living space. A mother does not forget. Ever. Not even for a second. My children, his niece and nephew do not have an uncle. I wish they did. I wish I had more than a memory to offer them. Memories don’t help to celebrate birthdays, graduations, sports days, new babies or go for long walks on the beach.

So 38 years have passed since Eddie died – since the story died. The gore, the shock, the police cars, the detectives, the crank phone calls, the memorial service, the court case – all faded into the past. I used to be the middle child. Am I the oldest now? I don’t really know. My parents had three children. Do they still? Rebuilding a family identity after such a wrenching tragedy takes a lifetime or more.

Things happened because of Eddie’s death. Gun laws in Canada were changed so that a child could not walk into a store, pull a gun down from an unlocked rack, load it and shoot to kill. My mother fought for that. After she identified Eddie’s bullet-torn body, she decided that no parent should ever have to live with such horror. For our family everything changed.

Nothing will ever be the same again.

I have learned about loss and love and forgiveness. I know nothing is guaranteed and life is precious. I know not to read the headlines or look at the front page pictures, or watch American news for hours, because there is no truth or integrity in this kind of reporting. It is voyeurism pure and simple.

In the end, it does not matter whether it took one bullet or seven to extinguish my brother’s life. Do not be fooled by colour photos and live reporting. Remember, long after the terrible crime has been committed, after the cameras and reporters have rushed off to the next massacre, that is when the real story begins.

Ask anyone who has been blessed enough or cursed enough to know.



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Your Chance to Link Arms Against Oil Pipelines in BC and Defend Our Coastline

On Monday, October 22nd hundreds will join together at the B.C. legislature in Victoria to participate in potentially the largest act of peaceful civil disobedience ever to protest tar sands pipelines and tankers.

Then, on Wednesday, October 24th, we’ll link arms in front of MLA (provincial representative) offices across BC to symbolize the unbroken wall of opposition across the province, and say “Defend our Coast” with banners and creative visuals.

Together, we’ll make a powerful visual statement to show the unprecedented depth and breadth of this movement, and make sure our politicians know that we are organizing in the communities they represent.

Let’s shut the door on tar sands pipelines and tankers with a clear message to our provincial and federal representatives. Let’s support the First Nations who have lead the resistance against tar sands, pipelines and tankers. Join us in your community on October 24th to show our governments that BC’s coast must be protected.

Say No To Oil Tankers on our Coastline

Find an action near you.


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Give Me a Break: Metal Detectors in Theatres and Guns in University – What Next?

Yesterday afternoon I went with my mum to see an afternoon film at Fifth Avenue Cinemas in Vancouver. At 4:40 in the afternoon, few people were at the movies, although I know this will change when the fall rains arrive. As we were exiting the theatre, we noticed a worker putting up reserved seating signs so I asked him what the next event was and he explained that it was a premier screening for a new movie called “Won’t Back Down.”

Sounds fun, I thought as my mum and I made our way out of the lobby and into the grey afternoon sun. As we passed the lineup I was shocked to see security guards with metal detectors scanning each and every member of the audience as they entered the theatre. It doesn’t seem like a particularly violent movie, but how sad that we have come to this. “The world,” my mother pointed out, “has changed so much since I was a girl.” It’s true. It can seem like such a threatening place sometimes.

Last night I lay in bed drifting off to the CBC, I listened in shock about a recent decision in Boulder, Colorado that allows students at the university to carry concealed weapons, ostentatiously to ‘protect themselves’ from other shooters.  I have never heard anything more stupid or illogical in my life and agreed with the poor professor who worried about facing a classroom of students knowing that some might be armed. Yikes, have our southern neighbours completely lost their collective minds? More shocking, this was a Supreme Court decision, supposedly made by educated people able to read statistics and understand that where there are guns, there is violence.

Sometimes I wished I lived an ocean away in a saner place… Today I will go for a long walk on the beach and think about my writing, aware that all too often, imagination trumps reality every time!

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Friday was the Second Anniversary of the BP Oil Spill – Vacation Land? Yes According to BP

Audubon is asking that everyone acknowledge this day by walking to work or carpooling or hoping on your bike or taking transit.

They are dedicating this week to “taking action to restore the Gulf to health, to help prevent future disasters, and to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.”
From their email:

The Gulf Still Needs Us
The birds, other wildlife, and local communities along the Gulf are still struggling to recover. The full impact of the disaster is yet to be known. What we do know is this: billions of birds migrate through the Gulf region every year. It is home to a vast diversity of wildlife and, of course, millions of people. We owe it to the people and the wild creatures of the Gulf to:

Make sure BP’s fines are dedicated to restoring the Gulf ecosystem;
Apply the lessons from the disaster to future drilling endeavors; and
Work as a nation to reduce the need for drilling by cutting our fossil fuel use.

This message is especially important to those of us in BC who are determined to not see oil tankers in our pristine coastal waters. The images of the BP oil spill remain burned in my mind, and as disturbing as they are, I hold on to them because I know that Joe Oliver, and the Alberta and Harper government have a huge PR machine and are spending countless dollars on pushing the Endbridge Project through.
We can’t let this happen, and if you need a reminder as to why, think BP.

BP gave 30 million to their PR campaign…and continue to lie to people around the world: BP Oil Spill Two Years Later

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Kitty Moffat Strikes Back with Vengeance!

This morning, Kitty Moffat went in to the vet to get her yearly check up and vaccinations. Kitty hates the vet, as much as I detest my dental visits, and I understand her fear and loathing. Unfortunately, I did not go with her; Pete did and he didn’t realize how important it is to get her in and out of there as quickly as possible, instead, chatting amicably with the vet, while she planned her revenge. Now, those of you who are friends with KM, know she is a princess and quite sweet, at least in appearance. For those of you who don’t know her, here is her picture:

Kitty’s nephew, Little Sheilagh, unlike her father, Pete, has a healthy respect for Kitty and knows that when she is stressed, it is better to keep her distance.

The vet some how managed to weigh Kitty, (she’s half a pound lighter), check out her vitals (all good) and give her one of her three shots before she decided she’d had enough, at which point, she lost her temper and sunk her small and pointed feline teeth into the most tender part of Pete’s hand. Here is the text I got: Where are you? Need to go to emerg. Kitty bit me. Badly!

I wasn’t far and I raced to the vet, grabbed Kitty and brought her home – her new white knight. Next we drove to the UBC ER where Pete was bandaged up, given a prescription for antibiotics and told to watch for infection. Apparently, Sweet Kitty has a dirty mouth.

Now, they are both fine, although it will be a long time before Kitty forgives Pete and maybe allows him to rub her head or pet her. She’s sitting beside me as I write this, after a treat meal and lots of loving. She seems fine and I’m not sure if we shouldn’t just skip the next appointment at the vet altogether and chase butterflies in the garden.

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Arg… When Tecnology Doesn’t Work: My Other Blog on

For a little while now, my other blog is just not working. All I get are the little spinning wheels, spinning round… does not have the support offered by wordpress – it’s all forum, and nobody has answered my question. This is super frustrating and damaging my page views, which have sunk to a big zero per day.
So, Building a Laneway House in Vancouver, is not online.
If anyone can help me out, please do – it’s driving me crazy and I’ve wasted valuable time not writing, trying to fix this.

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Book Warehouse Closing after 32 Years in Vancouver :(

I was sorry this morning to get a message in my inbox informing me that Book Warehouse is closing – another bookseller unable to thrive in Vancouver.

I have a special place in my heart for Book Warehouse, as I worked in the Tenth Avenue store for a couple of years. The pay was pretty bad, but it was a wonderful place for a writer to spend eight hours a day. By the end of most pay periods, I owed the store money for all the books I bought, so I look at that time as working to read, as opposed to working to eat!

The Book Warehouse on Tenth Avenue, where I worked, had a very community feel about it. People usually arrived on foot, perhaps after a meal to browse the many books and magazines. We welcomed dogs and kept a bag of dog treats behind the counter for our four-legged, book loving friends. We knew everyone’s name – human and canine.

Everyone I worked with shared in common a love of books and literature. We loved nothing better than to read the latest arrivals, write reviews and talk to customers about our thoughts and opinions on whether a book was worth the purchase price or not.

Sometimes harried parents would leave their little ones in the kid’s books section while they did errands, or elderly people would pull up a chair and read for hours, happy for the company and warmth of the store.

We played music to read by, encouraging people to feel comfortable and welcomed. That is the beauty of a bookstore. Sure, ordering online is so convenient and ereaders ensure a thousand books in our hands, but the thing they can’t give us is the human F2F interaction, the opinions, the atmosphere and sense of belonging to a community.

Those are the things that I will miss about Book Warehouse and all of the other bookstores that have closed over the years.

Below is the email I received in my inbox: 50% off everything!

Thank you to all our customers and staff for 32 great years of books and friendship.

For many years we’ve had a fantastic time bookselling. We’re leaving with no regrets

and many, many happy memories of customers, books and colleagues.

Our closing sale will go on for several weeks as we empty our warehouse,

so please check back for more great bargains!

book warehouse | 632 West Broadway | Vancouver | BC | V5Z 1G1 | Canada


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