Monday, May 13, 2013

What’s going wrong at the NZ Society of Authors?

Apologies in advance: what follows is of no interest to anyone who is not a member of the NZ Society of Authors and/or is not interested in watching a car crash. 

This afternoon members received this email urging them to vote in the election to choose a new president:
There is only one week left to vote for the next National President of the NZ Authors!
So far only 13% of our membership have voted. We urge you to get on line and vote – or return your Ballot Paper to PO Box 771, Wellesley Street, Auckland 1141. Exercise your democratic right and vote for the person you want to lead us into the future!
I have asked each nominee to prepare a pitch which was to address the following questions:
The literary sector is undergoing its biggest reformation since the invention of the printing press. This is changing the way books are published and therefore the role of writers. What role do you think NZSA should play in this changing environment?
In these challenging financial times, members are questioning value for money when joining the NZSA. What do you perceive members want from their membership that they are not currently getting and what future ideas and initiatives do you have for improving services to members in the current environment?
The NZSA is facing challenging times in relation to funding and resources. What strategies would you employ to ensure the longevity and fiscal security of the organisation?The NZSA is undergoing a strategic and governance review in 2013. What are the key issues that you feel should be addressed in this review?
Since that email went out, my previous blogpost on this issue, How to Steal an Election, has had almost as many visitors as yesterday’s one about Jesse Mulligan, which is this year’s all-time top-rater. Something is up at the NZSA. I wonder what.

No I don’t. I am in touch with unhappy members from Dunedin to Northland but none of them has an outlet. Well, I do, so here goes. When I joined 20+ years ago in Auckland, the monthly meetings were attended by CK Stead, Maurice Shadbolt, Dick Scott, Daphne de Jong, Kevin Ireland, Graeme Lay – big names, pro writers. It’s not like that now. To be cruel, it’s more for hobbyists than professionals. That’s fine, there’s a place for that, but the rise of the Sunday painters is one reason why the rest of the sector doesn’t take NZSA seriously as a partner any more. As one major publisher said to me last month, “None of my authors are members – so why should publishers treat NZSA as if it represents authors?” I couldn’t answer that.

A discussion is underway about establishing a new organisation that might better represent professional authors, eg the textbook writers who earn the bulk of payments from Copyright Licensing NZ and the many novelists who also regard it as a waste of time; there is another conversation in Auckland about setting up a loose organisation of writers and editors, perhaps designers. None of these people, all professionals in the book trade, feel that the NZSA represents them. I was on the NZSA’s national council for maybe seven years as a branch chair and then vice-president, so I don’t encourage these moves  – but I can see why they are happening.

Add to this the confrontational approach the NZSA takes to the rest of the sector. Most members understandably have no idea about this, or how NZSA is no longer seen as a partner to engage in constructive dialogue but as an adversary. Personally, I find it embarrassing to go into meetings with publishers/funders/etc and be shown letters and emails from NZSA and have to answer a question like “What the hell are they on about?” (“Hell” being a polite substitution.) One member who does know about this, an old leftie from the UK, complains about what he calls “the Scargillite attitude”. If a union has lost the old lefties, it has lost.

And then there is the money. One member who understands the financials better than I do writes:
They are using reserves to fund operations without a plan which is a road to nowhere. If I read it right, there is only $11.3k left of the $30k reserves from six or seven years ago. Reserves should be used for capital purchases or special one-off purchases, not operating costs. Looking at the 2011 P&L there has been an increase in membership fees of $13.5k, decreases in grants of $20k, a decrease in sale of publications of $15.5k and decrease in workshop revenue of $6k. On the expense side an increase in contractors of $6k, bad debts of $13.5k. Over all there was a deficit of $8.7k. Put that together with the drawdown of reserves of $10k for the 2012 year there is a total of $18.7k of reserves gone into operating costs.
Not good. If my friend is right, this is really, really not good. At the AGM in Dunedin the weather will be bracing. Let’s hope there will be some equally bracing questioning about the accounts and the, for want of a better word, culture of the organisation.

So here are Cream in 2005 with “We’re Going Wrong”:


UPDATE
I have had many emails in support about this, comments on Facebook etc. Most people wish to stay anonymous so as not to get offside with NZSA, especially people who hold official positions, but Mary Egan has kindly agreed to let me post her Facebook comment which is representative of what I’m hearing:
I can’t agree more with you Stephen. It has become a joke; an insult to us professionals who want to do the best by authors. It’s become partisan, aggressive, sadly lacking in planning and brings little intelligence to the changes happening in our industry. I remain a member, only just, but that is because I am committed to the idea and not the reality. We have to speak up, loudly. Speaking quietly doesn’t work.
The Otago/Southland branch of NZSA has linked to the post on their Facebook page, and individual authors have tweeted and retweeted the link. We’re going viral. 

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

My biggest problem with the NZSA is they don't know what is best for their Authors, or Authors in general. They don't even offer manuscript assessments anymore, the don't understand the importance of editing, they don't understand the difference between commercial and self publishing and they are giving their Authors false information and false hope.

Stephen Stratford said...

I didn't know that about the assessments - it's a shame as that was a useful service. Presumably Creative NZ wouldn't fund it.

Stephen Stratford said...

Fund it any longer, I mean.

Maggie Tarver said...

The assessment programme is still running and has been extended over the last two years to offer more assessments and follow-on sessions to help with implementing suggestions. The mentor programme has been extended too to include additional mentorships and we are looking at expanding the appraisal service. We are in negotiations to develop an editing programme.

We welcome any constructive input from members and non-members alike. We are in the process of setting up a Strategic Review Committee to establish how we can best serve authors in this rapidly changing environment and would encourage anyone interested to put themselves forward.

Daphne Moran said...

Thanks for this, Stephen. It had to be said. There are many unhappy members out there.

Keri Hulme said...

I was a member of NZSA for over quarter of a century.
It became less & less relevant, insofar as I was concerned,
as the years went by.
The final straw was the 'great NZ books' site fiasco.A total waste of funds-

Anonymous said...

In fact the Great NZ e-book website was a project driven by CLNZ not the NZSA.

BruceL Erasmus said...

The simple fact is that the publishing industry is changing too fast. With mainstream publishers taking on only one new writer per publisher per year, and the biggest names amalgamating, no society can hope to do more than try to survive the upheaval. Old school publishing made its money selling cookery books and writing off obscene profits on novels. Those days are gone.

Publishing needs a Steve Jobs overhaul like the one iTunes gave the music industry which was as moribund as publishing is now. Overweight underworked executives on a gravy train now have to work out a 21st century business model and they are failing miserably. To lay the blame at the feet of the NZSA, who are the creatives, and not the marketing and financial gurus who took 85% of the money, is to blame the sun for shining too brightly and bemoaning skin cancer. What about slop slap and wrap. Slops for publishers, slaps for arrogant prats who cling to the old models when e-publishing is here to stay and wrap up this debate by suggeting that the future of writing and publishing is for writers to write and publishers to evolve into book marketing service providers. They are no longer gatekeepers. Anyone can self publish.

What the NZSA needs to do is to be a forum that helps creatives to find publicists who have open and auditable fee structures and to leave the dinosaurs to become extinct.

keri said...

Aint renewing membership-

BruceL Erasmus said...

Fine Keri, that is your right. But think about this. For your small membership fee you can be part of the process and have an input in the future role of writers and their relationship with distibution channels like Amazon. As a non-member you will have to live with what we get right. And yes, this uncertainty won't last forever. A new publishing business model will arise from the ashes. It is then, and here I have absolutely no doubt when I say this, that all of those people who dropped their membership in the bad times, will come streaming back into the organisation when they can see the money again. And, again I say with absolute certainty, that they will stand around the coffee urn after meeting whinging about the faults in the new model and boring everyone to tears as they tell those who actually did the work how they would have done things better.

Go ahead quit. It's your right, but if you do, then don't whinge in three, five or ten years time with what you get. I guess that I am saying is that you may opt out of the problem, but when the solution is found, accept the fact that if you did quit then you were part of the problem and not a part of the solution.

Keri Hulme said...

Bruce, I have relationships with both publishers and distributors. We find the new ways for writers to get work published & distributed. The NZSA is now pretty well irrelevant - and quite frankly we are solving problems & are part of the solutions right now. The NZSA has had its day.

Stephen Stratford said...

@Bruce, "A new publishing business model will arise from the ashes." Yes it will, but you are much more hopeful than I can be that the NZSA will play any part in developing a new model.

This is invisible to most members but the organisation has gone out of its way to get offside with publishers (individually, and collectively as PANZ), the ministry, Creative NZ and even Booksellers NZ. When the most powerful publisher in NZ rolls her eyes in meetings whenever NZSA is mentioned, we have a big problem. NZSA is simply not seen as a partner ("trusted intermediary" in the jargon) by the rest of the sector. The people running NZSA seem, weirdly, to be quite proud of this. I think it's destructive, and not in members' interests.

Anonymous said...

@Bruce, the very disdain with which you speak of the existing structures within the publishing sector seems to be symptomatic of the issue Stephen is raising. One assumes you've walked in the shoes of the 'overweight, underworked executive..' to develop your keen understanding of the problem?!

Anonymous said...

@BruceL, I don't think you know anything about publishing if you think publishing is just about finding publicists. NZSA should be an environment in which NZ authors are fostered and developed. How can something new grow when there is no dialogue with the wise old heads in the industry? I've been in the publishing industry for a number of years and nobody is underworked. If anything, we are overworked and doing everything we can to do the best by our authors. If only the NZSA would follow suit.

BruceL Erasmus said...

My experience of this industry goes back to the 1980s when I was a journeyman proofreader doing book costings. Now I know that both authors and publishers looked down on us as mere tradesmen, but we learned the book business from the ground up. We learned the economics of the business. In the intervening years I have been the principal of a private business college and won business awards. And my own book is a book about the macro economics of war. I think that I know a little bit about business in general and about the book business.

My experience is that the arrogance is not from the authors who send in manuscripts and who often don't even get a receipt for sending in their book. It is not from the authors who are victims of a book month aimed at selling international novels suitable only for the bathroom, and not a book month that promotes books written by NZ authors. I see no arrogance in the authors who are coerced into signing restrictive international agreements that let them sell only in Australia and NZ, but are denied by the multinational parent companies from having their books sold in the USA and the UK. Do I need to go on, and on, and on, with what is wrong with the publishing industry? By what arrogant right do they force restrictive agreements onto authors when worldwide distribution is available via Amazon, Kobo, etc.

As for wise old heads leading the NZSA. I don't mind how old the head is as long as that head has vision. The fact is that, aside from a few niche markets, within ten years, print books will be a thing of the past in First World countries. And if I have to hear another Luddite tell me that they love the smell of printed books...

I therefore stand by my opinions: They have thirty years of business experience backing them. I also stand by my belief that the future is electronic and that publishers have to evolve, and very fast, in order to embrace the new realities of e-publishing. Or else they risk extiction.


"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change."

Charles Darwin


To quote from my own book: "We can embrace the future or deny it. Therein lies our true free will."

And lastly: Winners never quit and quitters never win.

Linda said...

I am not a member of NZSA, but I am a member of the Swedish equivalent. I am not sure if that is the right word, but it is the Swedish Association of Authors. It seems to be a very different animal. It is purely servicing professional authors. It sounds wonderful to 'nurture new talent' but I wonder if this should be the responsibility of a membership organisation that takes its task as representative for professional writers seriously. There are legal and financial issues that are common for all members of an organisation like this. Or there should be. And members would expect advice and support in this areas. It is particularly important in times of rapid change. Unlike previous commentators, I doubt that publishing will ever again settle down to 'new' way of publishing. I think we will see a future of constant change. And may I also say, though this does not strictly belong here, that the many millions of dollars that the government wasted on a tourism promotional party in Frankfurt, would have stretched a long way to REALLY help take NZ publishing into the 21 century and into the world.

Stephen Stratford said...

@Linda, "It sounds wonderful to 'nurture new talent' but I wonder if this should be the responsibility of a membership organisation that takes its task as representative for professional writers seriously." This goes to the heart of the problem, or at least one of the problems: whom is the organisation for? New talent and professional writers have different interests, different issues, different needs.

Anonymous said...

It must be Wattie's!

Anonymous said...

@ Bruce - yes, the publishing industry IS changing fast, but I'm not sure it needs a Steve Jobs-type overhaul. The music industry WAS moribund when Steve Jobs came along, but I'm not sure that he was responsible for reviving it; I think that was more due to a lot of clever individuals embracing what they could do with digital technology in the new world. The mainstream music industry is as moribund as ever - it's just seen a power shift from 'record companies' to Apple. Do we want the same for books? In the UK right now, Amazon claim more than half of the market. That's not healthier than the situation 10 years ago.
I've been working in the book business in New Zealand for over 30 years, and have been running my own business for a lot of that time. I don't see ANY 'overweight underworked executives on a gravy train' 'failing miserably', I don't see any 'arrogant prats who cling to old models'. Maybe there was a bit of that back in the 80s, but those times have gone. Maybe I wear rose-tinted spectacles, but my experience is that I work around a bunch of highly talented, passionate, realistic publishing employees and directors, who work damn hard; and if they resist change at all it's because they don't want to rush into making the same mistakes that the music industry made. These people have a responsibility to their employers, their employees, their authors, as well as to themselves, to try to get this right. Some of us have worked in and loved this business for a long time - your lack of sympathy for people trying to make a living in a tough environment does you no credit.
Publishers here and internationally ARE embracing the e-book and the digital future, but you seem to be implying that ONLY digital publishing has a future, and that we should just throw everything that we know out the window and start again. Responsible business approach? Perhaps not.

Author keeping her head down said...

"there is another conversation in Auckland about setting up a loose organisation of writers and editors, perhaps designers."

Stephen, this sounds good. Can you put me in touch with them?

Jenny Argante said...

Well, Stephen Stratford didn't get all his facts right (not uncommon, I hear) but he has sparked off a lively discussion. However, that discussion could take place within the NZSA, and people who think things are 'wrong' seem to form a majority that will tell you what they think is wrong (and that needs to be based on accurate information and carefully thought out) and yet do not put their hands up to make the change. An organisation is only as good as its members' commitment and contributions. Yes, we're going through challenging times, and yes, we're all busy people - but my overall view of New Zealand publishing and bookselling is that it seems to have little time to nurture and foster a home-based industry. And someone rolling their eyes at a meeting does not match my own definition of professional behaviour. Only connect. Change comes on a personal level and from people's willingness to not only say what they think is going wrong but to put up their hands to do something about it. And is New Zealand big enough in terms of population, and reader and writers per capita of that population, to support another 'professional association for writers'? Why not improve those we've already got and ask them all to be open to working productively with each other? PS I hate anonymous entries, for whatever reason. Have the guts to stand up and be counted, right or wrong.

Stephen Stratford said...

@Authgor Keeping Her Head Down, send me an email and I'll pass it on. I's at [my first name] dot [my second name] at Xtra.

Stephen Stratford said...

@Jenny, welcome to the discussion. It would be helpful to readers if you could be specific about any facts I got wrong.

As for people not putting their hands up, I was Auckland branch chair for several years, was on the national council for about seven, was national vice-president for a while, and was on the legal advisory committee for 18. I have served my time.

I agree that “working productively with each other” is ideal. This is the criticism directed at NZSA, that it does not work productively with other sector groups. It’s not because of individual members or branches, but because of the mindset of the national body. This has changed in recent years, and doubtless it will change again one day, but right now it is unhealthy.

Anonymous said...

This wasn't happening when Liz Allen was running NZSA.

Anonymous said...

At the (record-breaking) Auckland Writers and Readers Festival over the weekend, among all the great local authors on the programme, there was just one single NZSA member.What is the relevance of this organisation? We need a voice for real writers.

Stephen Stratford said...

Anonymous @1.31pm, you may well be right, but how do you know? I don't usually know who is a member and who isn't. (Though if they are under 50 it's a pretty safe bet they aren't.)

Stephen Stratford said...

Anonymous @10.39, true. Autres temps, autres moeurs.

Anonymous said...

You can search the membership of NZSA here http://www.authors.org.nz/afawcs0139044/Find-a-Writer.html Pick a few genres and you'll get picture. One NZSA member out of c. 80 leading NZ writers at AWRF is something. Same stats in book awards and other festivals?

Denis said...

It's probably not a bad time to be giving the NZSA a bit of a workout as to its role/job/reason for being. The history is fairly clear. It got whacked by hard nosed unionism lightly dressed up as free enterprise. That would be the literary agents whisking the cream away, representing them aggressively, fighting for good contracts, and making sure they were respected.

Over on the other side of town the Writers Guild had the screen and scriptwriters sewn up. An overture from the Writers Guild to get a strategic alliance rolling with the NZSA got shot down at the NZSA end.

The Writers Guild went on its way with its focus on a largely co-operative union stance, and lots of writer education. This seemed to leave the NZSA adrift in the middle, without a clear space to occupy.

Meaning, this is probably a healthy if uncomfortable discussion for the NZSA, but a spot of re-targeting and, dare I say it, looking for ways to help grow the industry rather than being seen as endlessly adversarial mightn't be the worst thing ever.

Stephen Stratford said...

Yes, Anonymous, one out of 80 does rather make one wonder whether the NZSA does in fact represent NZ authors any more. Awkward.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, Anonymous, one out of 80 does rather make one wonder whether the NZSA does in fact represent NZ authors any more. Awkward."

One out of eighty? That seems a bit high. Are you suggesting that we take the total number of members of NZSA and multiply that number by 80 to get the total number of authors out there? That would imply more than 30,000 authors in New Zealand.

Are there really that many authors out there? Where does this number come from? Or have I missed something?

On the issue of the Writer's Guild: Members of the Guild produce bespoke, fixed-length work to deadline. It is a totally different skillset to that of a poet or a children's book writer or an historian working on a magnum opus that has taken fifteen years to research. Writers Guild members can be unionised because there is a strict relationship between time, money and words delivered. They are in a similar category of writer to journalists, and for that matter, advertising copy writers because of the relationship between time, money and words.

Authors by contrast, due to the diversity of their work, their needs and their interests, are like a clowder of cats. They are impossible to lump together in any other kind of organisation. And the nature of the beast is always going to be at odds with the world, purely because of disparate nature of the NZSA membership. The only way to change the nature of the beast is to homogenise its membership - and that is not going to happen any time soon.

Because there is no clear relationship between the effort expended to write a book, and the material reward for doing so, NZSA members cannot be expected to all march to the same drum. And so, I contend, the organisation cannot march to the same drum as any other organistion. Someone may well try to force the organisation to amalgamate with another organisation, but mark my words, that too will alienate certain writers and cause them to go their own way.

I'm not suggesting that the NZSA should not form strategic alliances. It should. It should also act in the best interests of its members; but those interests are really diverse. And that is why we need people to be active inside the organisation, instead of standing on the outside and shouting about how bad we on the inside, who are merely trying to do our best for everyone, are.

But the winds of change are blowing as publishing becomes ever more egalitarian. There will always be content creators. Writers will always be around because each new generation always seeks new voices to express their hopes, dreams and frustrations.

The same cannot be said for agents, publicists and publishers, who now have to evolve rapidly, because as Hunter S Thompson said:

“A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.”

Stephen Stratford said...

"One out of eighty? That seems a bit high. Are you suggesting that we take the total number of members of NZSA and multiply that number by 80 to get the total number of authors out there? That would imply more than 30,000 authors in New Zealand."

Not at all, it's just that apparently only one of the 80 NZ authors invited to appear at the AWRF was a member of NZSA - and 79 weren't. Raises some questions about representativeness, doesn't it?

I don't follow your comments about the Writers Guild. The people I know who write plays don't see themselves as journalists or copywriters. I can almost see that applying to writers for, say, Shortland Street, though it's a bit sneery, but it doesn't apply at all to Roger Hall, Renee, Vincent O'Sullivan, Hone Kouka, Arthur Meek etc. They are not hacks.

Anonymous said...

re: NZSA versus Writers Guild

What ridiculous, old-fashioned, misinformed snobbishness to suggest that people who write scripts are not 'real writers'. I'm not even a scriptwriter and that makes me MAD.

Copy-writers are 'real' writers, too. And so are journalists. FFS, join the 21st century, NZSA.

Stephen Stratford said...

I agree, Anon @7.27. There does seem to be a view in NZSA that only fiction writers and poets really count. I have published 15 books that were commissioned, ie written to order, for money and to a word count but on the previous commenter's view that doesn't make me a genuine writer/author. And these people wonder why the young professionals can't see the point of joining, and why some of us older ones can't see the point of renewing.

Anonymous said...

I fall into the 'younger' writer category. I joined NZSA not as a beginner, but around the time my first book came out, thinking it might benefit me to belong in terms of networking and getting my book out there. I gained nothing on either count from my two years of belonging. I felt the membership fee was far too high for what members receive from the society. I could not understand why they send out a paper newsletter (wrapped in non-biodegradable PLASTIC) when they could impart the same information for much less cost, more speed and less waste via a website. By the time the newsletter came out, it often seemed really out of date and the articles within were (apart from a few exceptions) not well-written or particularly useful. I remember one article about e-publishing which was surrounded by dark imagery of cracks and fissures and was written in a strange, alarmist tone and also seemed fairly out-of-touch. This seems to be a trope of NZSA - 'fear change, fear technology, be suspicious, publishers are our enemies'.

I also wrote an email of objection when an NZSA writing competition was advertised where members had to PAY to enter - this is on top of the large membership fee! I protested, surely this was 'double-dipping' and surely there had to be SOME benefit to belonging to the society, like free entry to a writing competition? My objection was batted away and reframed as miserly-ness. Writers aren't miserly, we're just plain BROKE.

A friend applied for the mentoring programme and ended up with a well-known writer as a mentor, while it started well, my friend quickly became aware that the 'mentor' was not entirely together mentally and ended up as a sort of peer counsellor for this writer in the most inappropriate of role-reversals. My friend eventually had to 'fire' the 'mentor' for the sake of their own wellbeing.

The point where I entirely lost confidence was around the pre-planning for Frankfurt - the way NZSA wrote about being left out of the proceedings, the hustle to get themselves there, the quality of the ensuing NZSA stall....I then had a moment of clarity - 'the industry does not rate this organisation. They do not ACTUALLY represent writers, anymore.'

I would like to be part of a body of writers (maybe including editors, designers and publishers - a united book-world organisation? for networking, debating, sharing ideas and opportunities) but I am clear that NZSA is not that body for now.

Philip Temple said...

NZSA, like any other organisation is the sum of its parts, not some kind of faceless bureaucracy. It only works if its parts - its members - work at it. Resigning achieves nothing except selfish abandonment of a community that has been hard at work on behalf of writers for nearly 80 years. Without it there would be no PLR, no CLL, no engagement with the international PEN community, none of the hard groundwork put in for decent publishing contracts, no successful battles against the likes of the Google book agreement and so on and on and on. Yes, like every organisation, NZSA needs a bit of a rethink. I have been a member for 43 years and I have seen change occur at regular intervals, to meet new needs and demands. There is about to be a strategic review which will look at all the concerns that people have. Be part of that conversation and stop throwing rocks from the sidelines. As for the 79 writers at the Auckland festival who were reputedly not NZSA members - shame on them. They ride on the work and dedication of those in NZSA over decades who have actually assisted bringing about such festivals, book awards, fellowships both here and overseas etc... etc.. Elitist, self-interested attitudes, fostered by such as the IIML, do little to advance the cause of the writing community at large. Only NZSA/PEN has kept its eye on the big picture and tried to serve the needs of all writers. Don't try to re-invent the wheel, just strengthen and reform this one.

Anonymous said...

"Elitist, self-interested attitudes, fostered by such as the IIML...."

This kind of divisive nonsense is why the NZSA is flailing. If NZSA is 'not a faceless bureacracy', neither is the IIML. I'm not an IIML student/writer but "some of my best friends are" (lol!) They are hard-working writers who love NZ literature and have the same 'catholic' tastes as anybody else.

Also read the above comments about script-writers and copywriters not being 'real writers' - if that isn't elitist, I don't know what is... pot/kettle etc.

Stephen Stratford said...

@Anonynmous 3.10pm, when I was invited to join the NZSA 20something years ago it was a big deal, and flattering because of the PEN connection which hardly anyone talks about now but which is very important internationally (and which stalwarts like Philip Temple and Nelson Wattie have put so much time into). Michael Morrissey objected to my nomination - yes, you had to be nominated then - because I was only a journalist, though I had published a lot of stuff on NZ writers and, as Metro's lit. ed. had published a lot of NZ writers. Possibly not Michael.

Some years later when I was appointed a judge of the book awards Tessa Duder kindly explained that many members were bothered by this because "You're not a proper writer." So yes, pot/kettle about elitism.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear you were treated so, SS. Appalling and silly.

I think the internet has really democratised writing in both good and bad ways, but largely good. I also think C21st writers are more cross-genre than ever because they need to be to survive, also because the internet has made cross-genre opportunities more accessible, visible and viable. Also often web-writing is hard to pin down in terms of genre - a well-researched blog post can be of the same quality as an investigative journalism piece, for example.

Thank you for opening up a space for this discussion. It needed to happen somewhere!

Philip Temple said...

'Anonymous' - when you have the courage of your convictions to say who you are, then your arguments might carry more weight. Stop hiding behind a tree and throwing darts. As far as IIML is concerned it is a matter of record that the institution has not become involved in any of the big issues that govern the welfare of the wider writing community. In any case, look up the definition of elitist and you'll see the glove fits fairly well.

Stephen - the kind of attitudes you refer to in NZSA (or rather PEN) are surely ancient history.

Neither of you address the main points I made.

Stephen Stratford said...

There have been a couple of complaints about people commenting anonymously (though it is apparently fine for Jenny Argante to accuse me of inaccuracies and when asked politely to provide evidence not to do so). The reason that so many people here are anonymous (honestly I have no idea who they are, I can match IP addresses so can see which Anon is which but can't be bothered - thing is there are very many) is that they are unwilling to get offside with head office. Several members have said to me privately that they comment here but can't be identified because they occasionally get a job from NZSA, mentoring, assessing, judging a competition, that sort of thing, and they think that if they publicly criticise NZSA they will never get a job again. I wish that people were confident enough to post under their own names - but it's not cowardice that stops them.

Daphne Moran said...

"As for the 79 writers at the Auckland festival who were reputedly not NZSA members - shame on them."

This is the attitude of entitlement that puts non-writers off. Many writers, too. The argument is that because NZSA did great stuff some decades ago, every writer now should join it - the current edition of NZSA doesn't have to make itself attractive to them.

But what's really odd, reading the comments above, is that no one has responded about the accounts, which seem to be in bad shape. Are writers really so careless about money? And no one seems in the least bit interested in PEN.

Jackie Dennis said...

Hi, I stumbled across this blog from last year. The Society is now 'under new management'. I started as Chief Executive earlier this year and we are no longer offside with publishers, the ministry, Creative NZ or Booksellers NZ. Although that was an issue when I joined it’s in the past now. There's a change of Governance as well with Kyle Mewburn as president following the elections mentioned in Stephen’s blog which sparked all these comments. If anyone still has issues just call me and talk to me personally, I'm happy to listen and want make the Society the best it can be. Membership is strong, the professional development programmes are well regarded and advocacy continues... onwards and upwards. Jackie Dennis