Monday, January 05, 2009

Generosity... or not?

I'm working on some new stories and songs for my repertoire. One story is a variation of the Nasreddin/Nasr-ed-din Khoja story called "The Loan of a Cauldron" which you can find here and also in collections of Yiddish fairy tales such as Isaac Bashevis Singer's When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw ("Shrewd Todie and Lyzer the Mizer"). My version features a seamstress who is frustrated over her repeated attempts to get the rich mayor of her town to pay her for the bright green coat with brass buttons the seamstress made for him. The seamstress outwits the mayor and ends up doing quite well for herself.

This brings me to a small quandry. In earlier days, I would have happily shared my version of the story in its entirety on this blog. However, once something is posted on a blog, it's considered to be published without the author legitimately being able to claim a publishing credit. I discovered this paradox after a magazine expressed interest in my "Children's Books That Never Were" series, but didn't want anything that I had already posted on Saints and Spinners. By the time I'd heard from the magazine, I felt I'd already shared my best pieces with the 30+ people who regularly read my blog.

With all of the folktales and folksongs I perform, very little of it is actually my intellectual property. I'm starting to feel more protective of the originally pieces I create plus the public domain folktales that I've made "my own," as it were. I encourage audience members to share the stories they've heard and liked, and everything on this blog is published under a Creative Commons License. The chances that someone is going to appropriate one of my works for his or her own is slim, and the likelihood that my works would make me wildly successful is even slimmer... so why am I feeling so protective of my creative output? This is not a rhetorical question. If you have some perspectives you'd like to share, I'd like to read them in the comments or your own blog posts.

9 comments:

Beth Kephart said...

This is helpful to know...and also sad.

I think of you as a performer. As one whose work can't be carried forward by anyone but you.

Lone Star Ma said...

Funny that you should post this just now. I have recently curtailed several blog posts into much shorter versions of what I really I had to say because I had articles in the works on similar things. It's kind of frustrating to me - I maybe yearn for the days when people blogged their novels to attract publishers, not replace them. This whole World Wide Web, in all its wonders, can make things complicated.

Vivian said...

Because you worked hard at creating something...

I'm sorry to hear about the magazine. Your pieces are brilliant.

Schelle said...

I feel similarly in regard to my fairy-tale-becomes-a-novel The Seven Ravens. It's currently stalled for lack of time, but I justified posting it on the web as I wrote it because I am only posting the first draft and intending it to undergo major revision before it ever sees a publisher. This may come back to bite me - I don't know, I haven't really done the research yet (tut tut for the about-to-become-qualified-solicitor). Perhaps you could just post an excerpt as a 'taste' for those of us who can't be in your live audience? It may also serve as a 'teaser' to which you could direct potential publishers? Now you've got me wondering whether I should be posting the poems for my planned photo/poetry collection...

Saints and Spinners said...

Schelle: I love The Seven Ravens! I look forward to reading your novel in draft form. If my Seamstress and Mayor story works out well, I may end up filming it.

Vivian: Thank you. I hope that someday Minh and I will think up something so brilliant that it will be the piece we submit.

LSM: We definitely live in interesting times. (Did people ever live in boring times?) I do wonder what publishing is going to look like in 20 years, or even 10!

Beth: Thanks. I am grateful that you share your pieces on your blog as well as in your books.

K. Jay said...

Gosh, I don't know. For me the reluctance to publish online (or in any way share my creative works) is based on fear of criticism. But I don't think that's what you're getting at.

Related to my fear of criticism is the fear that once I've published something and shared it, I no longer control it. It's now in the hands of the reader to reconstruct and I can't make them read into it precisely what I intended. Take that notion to the extreme and I realize that, especially on the web, my words can be taken from me and used in ways I couldn't imagine.

That's why I'm sometimes glad I only have three readers at AG. :^)

adrienne said...

It *is* a quandry. I have found that the more I publish in the non-blog world, my blog work has been less regular and creative and energetic. I feel like part of that is because I only have so much creative energy in me in a given day, and it's certainly been pulled in more directions the last couple years. I'm hoping to do some things this year to help make my life a little calmer, so hopefully I can throw more creative energy at the ol' blog again. I do genuinely love blogging and the community.

Bridget Zinn said...

Does it vary by publisher how they view work previously published online? I wonder how authors like Jeff Kinney have handled that since Diary of a Wimpy Kid (so funny) was originally published online. I'm so glad that it was discovered online and made it into print! Boys love this book.
I wonder why that publisher took such a strong stand against things you'd put online compared to other publishers who don't seem concerned about it. Or who let their authors put up chapter length excerpts (Meg Cabot) or whole books (Neil Gaiman) for free?
I can see why you'd be cautious -- it's completely out of your hands once it's online. I'm just curious about how that works with writers who have things up online and in print. Maybe they have really good lawyers? :)

Saints and Spinners said...

K.Jay: I know what you mean! If nothing else, I've had my reviews quoted so that it appeared I liked the books better than I did.

Bridget: I suppose it all depends upon the tastes of the publisher as opposed to the legality of the matter. Your point about Jeff Kinney is valid, and there are plenty of people out there who are publishing books based on stuff they had on their blogs. I don't know what the difference is, and all I can think is that it's up to the preferences of the publishers.

Adrienne: Yes, there is only so much energy one has in a day, and so often, it comes down to what pays the bills. I periodically think about whether I want to continue to review books, because I don't get paid for my work.

Still, I believe in gifts, i.e. things given, not sold. Blogging for me is sending out little beams of light into the world. I hope.