May 2016 Inside ▪ Writers and the law, Part 2: Peter Shaver on copyright▪ Born funny▪ Writing prompt: 20 years ago▪ Happy birthday, Kickstart!▪

Kickstart Your Writing Green

May 2016



Writers and the law, Part 2: Peter Shaver on copyright
Born funny
Writing prompt: 20 years ago
Happy birthday, Kickstart!
Bart King novel published
Market tip: Besides The New Yorker
IT spotlight: Understanding your slow computer
Jocelyn Mozak shatters mystique of website design
Nerdy Words: “Lead” vs. “led”
Student showcase: “And Then What Happened?” (excerpt) by Mark Alejos

Peter Shaver copy

Peter Shaver

Peter Shaver on writers and the law

Part 2: Copyright

Last month, in the first part of our Q&A on writers and the law, Northeast Portland arts and entertainment lawyer Peter Shaver discussed the legal risks of writing about other people. This month he focuses on copyright.

What do writers have to do to copyright their work?

Basically, writers take a creative idea and express that idea in a tangible form. At that point, a writer has some rights, but the best practice is to go a step further and solidify their rights by registering their works with the Copyright Office, which is part of the Library of Congress. Registration is really a gold-standard insurance policy for protecting literary work rights. Most applications are filed via the Copyright Office website at The process can be confusing, but there is a wealth of information available online at that website.

What type of protection does copyright offer?

Copyright registration provides a number of rights, including (a) constructive proof that a writer created a work as of a certain date and a copy of that work was filed with the Copyright Office, (b) access to the federal court system (all modern copyright infringement cases must be filed in federal court and registration is required to do so), (c) possible recovery of attorney’s fees and court costs (this can be crucial in terms of getting an attorney to take a case on, or to provide additional leverage against an alleged infringer, in terms of settling or litigating an infringement matter), (d) statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringement (for cases where an infringer acted in a “willful” manner, and where calculations of actual damages [profits earned, or opportunities lost] are difficult to calculate), (e) possible injunction or criminal prosecution of infringers by the court, and (f) further enforcement of rights by federal authorities, such as customs agents and the like.

Should writers register their copyright? Why or why not?

Generally, if a literary work has some commercial value it should be registered. Any work that is being sent out to agents or publishers or other parties for review should be registered. To do so otherwise entails the risk of infringement, in whole or in part. Drafts, treatments and notes can also be submitted for protection, and subsequent revisions or derivative works may be submitted for registration if any changes to the originally protected content have been made.

Are rights related to online publication different from those for print publication? If so, how?

The basic legal framework applicable to print publications also applies to online publications.

Has the emergence of self-publishing changed writers’ legal risks and responsibilities?

Yes and no. Self-publishing involves the same amount of legal review and the same issues, but the writer, not the publisher, is now more responsible—and liable—for thoroughly and thoughtfully reviewing their self-published works. Normally, publishers will review and may advise writers on works for publication, as they might be held jointly or severally liable for any legal violations.

Editor’s Note: For more on copyright, see the “Resources” page on the website of Shaver’s Hollywood District law firm, Sound Advice.

Graphic - Tall Trees

Born funny

In her recent blog post, author and writing coach Nancy Woods muses on how she became so funny. Her post is an excerpt from her book Under the Influence of Tall Trees: Humorous Tales From a Pacific Northwest Writer, available (of course!) at Amazon.

Writing Prompt

Writing prompt: 20 years ago

Write a short story that starts with these sentences: The last time I saw my brother was 20 years ago. He wasn’t looking so good.

Birthday cake

Happy birthday, us!

As of this month, the Kickstart newsletter is one year old. Congratulations, Kickstart! Nancy Woods had been publishing a writing newsletter for several years, but she revamped Kickstart into its current form last June. She also enlisted writer/editor Ann Sihler to help.

So far, so good. Year 2, here we come!

The Drake Equation

Bart King novel published

Bart King, local author of The Big Book of Boy Stuff and The Big Book of Girl Stuff, has something new to celebrate: His first novel, The Drake Equation, for middle-grade readers, was published this month by Disney Hyperion. (Kickstart readers may remember an interview with King last December, when he talked with us about writing humor.)

Not surprisingly, King’s novel is a humorous adventure about a young birdwatcher named Noah Grow. While searching for a wood duck, Noah instead discovers a mysterious disc. This leads to a string of outrageous events, and Noah is swept up in a storm of intergalactic intrigue and middle-school mayhem.

The Drake Equation is available now from Amazon.

Market tip

Besides The New Yorker

If your submissions strategy is to aim high but you still haven’t been published in The New Yorker and are ready to consider other options, this month’s market tip is for you. It’s the top 12 literary journals that Authors Publish reviewed last year.

These journals consistently publish good writing, and it could boost your writing career to appear in them. It might be worth your time to read them, get familiar with what they publish and consider how your writing might fit.
As a bonus, these journals do not charge a submission fee.

Especially noteworthy among the journals are A Quiet Courage (editor Clara Ray Rusinek Klein was interviewed in the January 2016 issue of Kickstart) and Alaska Quarterly Review (because Kickstart publisher Nancy Woods comes from Alaska).

Good luck!

Andy Hundt

Andrew Hundt

IT spotlight

Understanding your slow computer

By Andrew Hundt

EDITOR’S NOTE: Andrew Hundt is a computer consultant in Portland, Oregon. He has more than 20 years of experience assisting small businesses with their network setups, server and computer troubleshooting, and technology planning.

When you notice that your computer is slower than you’d like, it helps to ask, “How is it slow?” The answer will help you understand what is going on with your computer and what to do about it.

There are three main types of computer slowness. The first is slowness getting started, when your computer takes a long time to start or reboot but then works normally. This is typical of older computers that have slow or dying hard disk drives. But it may also be caused by a lot of software loading at boot time, such as complex security systems, Adobe down-loaders, backup utilities and Spotify. In bad cases, it can take a long time to open a program or document but the computer works normally until it is time to save the document.

The second kind of slowness is slowness on the Internet: your computer acts normally when working in Word or other local software, but it takes a long time to load web pages. This typically is associated with slow Internet connections, but it may also occur with certain types of malware infestations. To avoid this type of slowness, make sure you have a top-tier, professional-grade anti-virus product, such as Norton, ESET or Trend Micro.

The last kind of slowness is general slowness. This is when your computer is slow at everything, particularly when many programs are open or you have many tabs open in your web browser. General slowness happens with older computers that have low RAM, although some types of malware infestations could eat into the RAM in ways that get hidden from the system performance monitoring tools. This sort of slowness also appears when the motherboard and other components are starting to degrade.

Those are the three ways a computer can act slowly. Hopefully this will help you think about your computer performance and how to improve it. If you suspect malware, try a scan with Malwarebytes Anti-malware. If that reveals nothing, consult your local computer technician, and be sure to specify how and when you notice the slowness that is plaguing you.


Joycelyn Mozak

Jocelyn Mozak shatters mystique of website design

By Kathy Eaton

Eight years ago, website designer Jocelyn Mozak started using WordPress as a blogging site and today claims it is the best website platform for writers. She shared valuable tips about website design at the May Willamette Writers meeting in Portland, Oregon.

I was initially skeptical, fearing that Mozak would use technical computer terms that I wouldn’t understand. It didn’t help when she revealed she held a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering. However, Mozak hooked me when she compared the website platform to a house, saying you need all features—domain, hosting, plug-ins and themes. As the software, WordPress represents the house, plug-ins are the functionality (utilities) and themes are decorations or the visual appeal of the webpage.

“You need a plot of land to host a domain,” said Mozak. These days she recommends SiteGround for website hosting.

Website essentials include easy navigation, clear calls to action, links to help you build your email list, and information about you. An optimal website for writers provides your email (with links to social media), your face, endorsements or testimonials, press kits, and a bio box. Muzak recommended using no more than seven tabs on the website header, and always using the footer to provide information on how to find you. She also suggested incorporating a blog and updating it regularly, so that you always are providing fresh content, which will boost your site’s ranking in Google searches.

Mozak reminded the audience that people don’t read copy; they scan it. “White space is your friend.” She recommended using 16-point font, headlines, bulleted and numbered links and images.

“Make it easy to contact you and easy to buy from you,” she said.
Mozak also counseled people to not be perfectionists in building their sites. “Something is more than nothing, so start it and it will grow.”

If you have finished your own website and are looking ahead, remember that May 31 is the deadline for early-bird pricing for this year’s Willamette Writers conference, which takes place August 12-14 at Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel.

Nerdy Words

Nerdy Words: “Lead” vs. “led”

By Ann Sihler

Quick! Say this word out loud: “Lead.”

Okay, how did you say it? With a long “e,” as in “reader”? Or with a short “e,” rhyming with “head”? In the first pronunciation, the word could be the present tense of the verb “to lead,” or it could be a noun meaning a leash, a wire, a position in a contest, or various other things.
In the second pronunciation the word definitely is a noun, and it has only one meaning: It's the heavy, gray metal that still is common in old water pipes, as in Flint, Michigan.

Without seeing the word in context, you don’t know exactly what it means. But one thing it definitely is not is the past tense of the verb “to lead.” The correct past tense of that verb is “led,” as in, “Her attempts at explanation simply led to further confusion."

I often see people use “lead” as a past tense for the verb “to lead,” and for a while I wondered whether “lead” and “led” both are okay. So I looked it up. As it turns out, “led” is the only acceptable spelling of the past tense of “to lead.”

Even if “lead” were an acceptable alternative spelling for the word “led,” would you really want to use it, given that “lead” can mean so many different things, and even be pronounced two different ways? You might be introducing confusion and leading the reader down the wrong path. In contrast, the short, unambiguous “led” would be perfectly clear.

In the writing world clarity isn’t necessarily next to godliness, but most of the time it’s pretty darn close.

Student Showcase

“And Then What Happened?” (excerpt) by Mark Alejos

Mark Alejos has been writing fiction on and off since middle school but is taking a Kickstart writing class for the first time. He came to Kickstart looking for some structure, feedback and inspiration for his writing, and to improve his skills. “So far, so good!” he says. Mark mostly writes short stories and vignettes, where he can focus on short periods of time and pull out details. The excerpt below is typical of his work in that it relies heavily on dialogue.

“What are you lookin’ at?” she asks, as she walks around the bar. “You need another one right fuckin’ now, huh.” She grabs a new glass and begins to fill it. “This place brings in nothin’ but fuckin’ retards, I swear.” She puts a full one on the bar, spilling a little, leaving the dirty. “There you go! You good now?!”

I nod.

“I’m gonna go smoke a fuckin’ cigarette. Don’t steal anything,” she says lighting up while heading for the door. “I’ve had it with this place. Always gettin’ treated like shit. I don’t nee….” Her voice trails off as the door closes behind.

I raise my glass toward the old man. He lights a crooked cigarette on the third try.

We sit in silence. The TV is barely audible. He finishes his smoke, pours himself another, and coughs his throat clear, eyeing my notebook.

“You a writer?” he mumbles.


“A writer. A storyteller. Is that what you do?”

Flattered, I pull my shoulders back and silently toast myself … letting the recognition soak in.

I am, I answer with newfound pride. I’m a writer.

She’s laughing in the background. I didn’t hear her come in. She walks behind the bar and pours three shots, still amused while putting one in front of the old man, and then me. She throws her head back and takes the liquor in. Eyes closed. Breathing easy.

Opening her eyes, “Now ask him what he is,” she says motioning toward the codger.

What? I say, my guard back up.

Laughing again, she spits out, “Go ahead! Ask the old fart.”

The old man stares at his drink, ignoring the reminder of a dream that turned out to be fantasy.

I lay a twenty on the bar, and pass up the free liquor. Suddenly the stench of bleach and bug killer are getting to me.

Her laughter booms with each of my steps.

“There goes another one,” I hear, just before the door slams shut.

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