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A groovalicious (as co-chair Coe would say) way to get more involved in the Boston Chapter is to join our Steering Committee. Come help shape the future for writers.
Lucy Sutherland, for instance, wanted to know as a new member who else was in the union. So she volunteered to update our member networking directory, which you can now find in the members-only section of this site.
Here are ways you can participate in building our local work.
*Add your bio blurb to the Boston Chapter Directory. (email@example.com)
*Check out notes/tips from recent workshops on www.nwuboston.org.
*Offer to share your expertise in an NWU workshop. Write Co-chair Charles Coe with suggestions.
*Offer to volunteer at an NWU event that you'll be attending.
*Write a 2-sentence "Why I'm an NWU member" blurb to add to our www.nwuboston.org collection and/or for the national NWU Web site. Email it to Barbara Beckwith.
*Keep your membership current.
*Check out your "member profile" on our national Web site. If you change your email, mailing address or telephone number, the NWU would like you to enter those changes yourself (to reduce staff work and to insure security of your contact info). To enter the "union hall" (members-only) section of www.nwu.org (on left side of homepage), enter your "user name" (first initial & last name; eg. bsmith) and then your password (# on your membership card or, if you haven't been sent a card, click on "forgot my password" and you'll be given a new one). Enter your contact changes.
*Join the NWU-Bos discussion list and post news, professional questions, events, calls for submissions and job opportunities. To subscribe to this low-volume list, write to former co-chair Leslie Brunetta . Type "subscribe" in the subject area and "subscribe nwu-bos" in the body of the message.
*Join the NWU-Activists discussion list where activists discuss the latest national issues and national events are publicized. Get to know Union writers in other chapters. To join, send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It then goes to list owner Barbara Mende for approval, usually within two days. If you have trouble, email Barbara for tech support.
Lucy Sutherland, a Boston Chapter Steering Committee member, is volunteering with the non-profit writing program "826 Boston" in West Roxbury. Says Lucy, "I've been volunteering weekly for the drop-in tutoring program. My duties include helping a loquacious 10-year-old boy write a new chapter for his sci-fi adventure story, and walking a sweet, shy 6-year-old girl through her grammar homework. Watching these smart, hardworking students evolve as thinkers and writers is a rare and exciting experience." The program is part of a nationwide organization co-founded by the San Francisco-based writer Dave Eggers; more information can be found at www.826Boston.org.Back to top
If a few NWU members volunteer for their on-air fundraiser, WBUR will mention the National Writers Union on the air. Please sign up online here. When you get a confirming email, identify yourself as an NWU member. The sooner you contact them, the more shifts you have to choose from.Back to top Our chapter hasn't had a brochure in a long time, and we need one. If you're one of our many multitalented members and are interested (sorry, it's a volunteer opportunity), contact Barbara Beckwith.
Get on the list for our next training session for new grievance officers and contract advisers. For further information, contact National Contract Adviser Susan Davis or National Grievance Officer Amy Rose. It's one of the most rewarding things you can do for your fellow NWU members − and for yourself.
Here's a great description, provided by former NCA Chris Ammer, of how the division works:
Being a contract adviserYou're the sort of person who reads your own contracts and negotiates changes when you can. You pay attention to the business side of writing. You enjoy dotting the i's and crossing the t's. You can make time in your schedule to help a writer promptly. As a contract adviser, you'll specialize in a genre. Advising generally consists of reading the contract and explaining it to the writer, especially the undesirable parts, and helping the writer decide what to do about it. Sometimes a writer will prefer not to send you the contract, asking you direct questions instead, which you'll answer as best you can with the proviso that you are depending on the writer to give an accurate account of the contract. In these instances, you'll have to gently probe the writer to get an account of all the dangers in the contract. Much of your contact with your advisees will be by email; some will be by phone, especially if the contract is a long document requiring considerable changes. Your phone expenses can be reimbursed. A book contract advisement can take 1-3 hours, including your review of the contract and discussions with the writer. A few will take longer. Journalism contracts can usually be reviewed in much less time--sometimes just a few minutes. Work-for-hire and agent contracts lie somewhere in between. Some weeks you'll have as many advisements as you can handle (you can always turn down a referral because you're too busy); some weeks you won't have any advisements at all. Most are a one-shot deal, but sometimes the writer will have follow-up questions. Later, you will check with your writers to see how their negotiations went. You will need this information for your reports; twice a year, all contract advisers and grievance officers report to the division on their cases, providing the division with invaluable data on contract trends and new issues. You only give advice. You do not negotiate contracts on writers' behalf, nor do you do lawyer kinds of things. Although some of us happen to be lawyers, the whole point of contract advice is to provide effective help without the expense and complications of legal representation.
Being a grievance officerYou enjoy winning. You enjoy the feeling of solidarity you get from being in a union. You have a thick skin and a quick wit. You can be patient and persistent in the face of obstinacy, and you can create win-win solutions where others can't. Grievance officers usually handle cases in all genres because publishers generally behave the same way regardless of genre. Many grievances conclude quickly, but a few drag on for weeks, so you have to be able to manage your time and energy throughout the course of a difficult grievance. The early phases of a grievance are routine. You investigate the writer's complaint to be sure it's valid and worth pursuing. You help the writer review her options and develop her expectations; then you help her to write a demand letter to send to the publisher. The demand letter may be enough to motivate the publisher to settle the dispute, but if more action is needed, you send the publisher a letter on NWU letterhead to show that the union has become directly involved.
If your letter doesn't answer the purpose, you reach into your grievance officer's bag of tricks: letters, faxes, and phone calls to the miscreant or, if necessary, throughout the miscreant's organization; being persuasive, informed, and non-antagonistic; making complaints to government agencies, the Better Business Bureau, and the like; publicity through NWU outlets, writers' organizations, Web sites, and even picketing and sit-ins; and whatever else you can think of.
Some months are busy, some are not, but, on the average, you'll probably carry 1-2 grievances a month.
You advocate for your writer, not mediate or arbitrate. You do not provide legal representation for your grievants, nor do you or the union sue on their behalf.
Training for the workAfter a brief screening telephone interview with a leader of the GDC, you start your training: You study thoroughly the union's sample contracts and guides to contracts (there is an additional manual for those who want to be grievance officers). Next you complete a weekend of training workshops conducted by the Grievance and Contract Division. After the training, you are assigned a mentor who will coach you through your first cases and evaluate your success.
Provided you do well, you'll join the division as one of the union's true heroes. You will never be alone and without help. In addition to your mentor, you'll be on the division's private email list, in daily contact with the union's many contract advisers and grievance officers. You can rely on them to give you their best advice and assistance promptly.
Being in the Grievance and Contract DivisionJoining the division means joining a winner. You'll be adding to the nearly $1.5 million won in grievances; you'll be helping hundreds of writers a year sign better contracts and avoid hopelessly bad ones.
Both contract advisers and grievance officers must fulfill the following conditions:
You'll receive nearly all your cases by email through the division's Coordinator. You're asked to respond to the Coordinator within 48 hours.
If you accept a referral, you're asked to contact the writer just as promptly (within 48 hours).
Since the division is investing considerable time and money in your training, we ask that you make at least a two-year commitment to the work.
Please consider joining this important volunteer activity for your union, your chapter, and your fellow writers. The rewards are enormous, and you will learn information, negotiating techniques, and collection strategies that will help you in your own writing career.For more information on what GCD does and how it works, click here.
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