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Wondering Whether A Work is Public Domain?

March 28th, 2011

Wonder no more!  The helpful folks at Sunstein Kann Murphy & Timbers LLP have created a flowchart that helps you determine whether a work is in the public domain.

Check it out here.

What’s nice about the public domain?  You can freely create derivative works without fear of infringing on someone’s copyright.   That’s right, if you want to use the ghosts of Romeo and Juliet, you do not need to seek out permission from his descendants.

That’s part of the reason that so many movies remake classic stories, or why the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has not been sued by Jane Austen’s descendants.

What is your favorite story in the public domain?  Have you written a derivative work based on a classic?  What do you think?


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What To Do at a Writer’s Night Out

March 21st, 2011

Here in Rochester, MN, I organize a monthly Writers Night Out.

The meetings are described as an “informal gathering where writers can meet and talk about current projects, story ideas, or any other writing-related topics.”

If you’re looking to organize Writer’s Night Out events in your area, there are a few things I’ve found to help them be more successful:

1.  Stay “relaxed” and “informal”

We meet at a local coffee shop to take advantage of their casual atmosphere.  Even though there’s no formal agenda, I often have several topic ideas in mind.  A few that are always sure to provoke debate are:

  • self-publishing vs. traditional publishing
  • whether writers should start out writing a novel or write smaller articles for newspapers first
  • when is the best time to write?

When the conversation lags, I toss out questions that center around debatable points, and let the opinions of others unfold.

Keeping the conversation informal is important.  When people are relaxed, ideas flow more freely.  They’re also more likely to come because they believe they may get something out of it.

2.  Talk about opportunities

In our area, there are several monthly meetings hosted by different writing groups, and other opportunities (like writing conferences and festivals) that people can attend.  I make sure to mention these at each informal meeting, especially if there’s a new member who shows up.

Other opportunities might include:

  • Topics that need coverage in a local newspaper
  • Freelance opportunities (I’ve gotten a few jobs this way)
  • How to find story ideas
  • Contests
  • Agents/publishers seeking particular types of work

3.  Be willing to listen

There are many times where I let others take control of the conversation.  Since this is informal, there’s no meeting moderator, though I often serve that role to keep the conversation flowing.

If you get a good mix of writers, there are going to be other talented folks who deserve your attention.  Pay attention to their experiences.  No matter how much you know, there’s always more to learn.

4.  Thank everyone for coming

Regardless of how the night flows, always be sure to thank everyone for coming.  They took time out of their hectic schedule to come and feed off the energy of other writers.  Let them know you appreciate their time.

Have you gone to a writer’s night out?  Are you interested in finding one in your area?  Do you host one?  What have you found successful?  What do you like to get out of a writer’s night out?  Let us know in the comments!


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