Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Crusty Old Broads Go to College

[From NewsitemStorymakers Post]
by Lael Littke

"Nancy, Carroll, and I are dazzled to learn that the first book of our Company of Good Women trilogy, Almost Sisters, is on the assigned reading list for a class titled The Literature of Mormon Women at Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California. A note in the class syllabus adds, "You'll want to read Three Tickets to Peoria and Surprise Packages as well." The class is taught by Claudia Bushman, adjunct professor of history in the recently established Mormon Studies Program of the university. Prof. Bushman and her husband, Richard (author of the definitive biography of Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling, published by Knopf in 2005) both recently retired from teaching at Columbia University in New York. Richard is the first holder of the Howard Hunter chair in the Mormon Studies Program, and Claudia is pioneering the LDS women's studies field. Our trilogy deals with the friendship of three women from different parts of the country over the course of 25 years. And by the way, Crusty Old Broads is a complimentary appellation, rising from an incident in the early part of Almost Sisters."

Lael sent each of us the announcement as well as the syllabus from the class. Questions students were asked to consider in the syllabus included: "Who is the audience for this book? What do the authors say of the LDS community? What do we learn of the author? How has she interpreted LDS life? If she writes of a past (or future) time, what does her interpretation say about the relationship between the period of writing and the period written of? What skills does the writer display? What are the tensions in the book and how do they reflect LDS life?" (The Literature of Mormon Women, Claudia Bushman, Syllabus, Spring 2010)

I would love to be a fly on the wall during those discussions. Our Lovely Miss Lael has been invited to join the class at the end of the semester. We'll look for a more detailed report then.

A few of the other books and authors included in the reading list were The Giant Joshua by Maureen Whipple, A Little Lower Than the Angels by Virginia Sorensen, Lighten Up by Chieko Okazaki, and Goodbye, I Love You by Carol Lynn Pearson. We feel honored to be in such company.

Releases for our New Release

For those of you wondering where our newest release Leaning into the Curves (Deseret Book)has been, it's been waiting in the warehouse for Carroll and me to get all the releases necessary sent to our product designer from people we quoted, a real organization whose name we used, and living individuals featured in our story.

It's been an adventure and an education in the legal hoop jumping to get this book on the shelves. We learned some important steps to take when building fiction around living private persons and registered or tradmarked organizations.

First, know you legal responsibility and liability. A careful reading of your contract with your publisher is a good place to start. Ours clearly stated that obtaining all the needed written legal releases was the authors' responsibility. Verbal permission isn't enough!

Next, keep a running list of the name of every living person you use in your manuscript other than recognized public figures, every statement quoted, and every trademarked or registered name mentioned. Make sure that list is complete. One legal staffer recommended even story lines most loosely based on real life experiences of someone other than the author should begin with obtaining the written permission of such usage. Know how to contact everyone on your list.

Get in touch with your publisher's legal department for copies of the forms needed. We suggest you send each participant two copies, one for them and one with a SASE for you. Upon receipt of the original signed document, make a copy for your own files and forward the original to your publisher.

It's easier than it sounds. When everyone we contacted realized how positive the image portrayed was, they were delighted to provide us with the needed forms and we eager for the novel to be a success. But we were lucky. The book had already gone to print and they could have as easily said no.

So don't take the risk. Don't wait until you have the galley in hand to start the process. Believe me, nothing, no reassurances, no electronic facsimile, no he said she saids will get those books out of the warehouses and on the the shelves until the publishers have the original releases on file. So stay ahead of the game and do the legal hoop jumping when you start your stories.