Whenever it’s time to write I get this “here we go again” feeling. All the cool, neat ideas I have in my head make an immediate beeline for the door and I’m left with nothing. Even things I originally thought were pretty funny don’t sound that way anymore. Years ago I wrote a humorous piece titled Do Dieters Have Split Personalities? It’s about why it’s so hard to stay on a diet when success is just around the corner. The Ann Arbor News published it in their Opinion Section. They must have liked the piece because they gave it most of the page. If I redid the piece and freshened it up a little, would it make for a good submission to our Deadwood Writers’ Anthology? That’s where my problems began. Someone in our writers’ group insisted I should check with the Ann Arbor News to see who had the rights at this point in time. Originally that didn’t sound like much of a problem so I agreed. But it’s turned into a big headache. The next day, I sent the Ann Arbor News an email giving them the title of the story, the section, date and page number where it had been published. I told them I’d like to freshen the piece up a bit and submit to my writers’ group. I got a prompt email back saying: “That would be handled by our print group.” They included an email address and a name to send it to. I thought, this is going to get settled quickly. That turned out to be the understatement of the year. On March 9, I emailed Todd and explained the situation. No one answered. I waited a few days. By March 13 I realized that no one was going to answer. I sent an email to the nameless person who had told me to contact Todd in the first place. This time I asked for a telephone number. The response was complete silence. I decided to let this problem sit for a few days, hoping something would happen or I’d come up with a brilliant idea. By March 18, I decided to try phoning. I got the Ann Arbor News’ print edition number from Google and dialed. Jan answered. I asked to speak to Todd. She said she’d connect me. But all I got was his voice mail which wasn’t very helpful. I left my name and number. Then I called Jan back. This time I explained why I was calling and asked if there was someone else who could help me. Jan said yes. Actually, Mickey was the person who did this. She would connect me. The phone rang several times and then I got Mickey’s voice mail. I left my name and number again but didn’t have much hope that I would hear back from him. Then I had an idea. Frequently, people will respond to an email before they’ll respond to voice mail. I’ve never understood why. I called Jan back and asked for Mickey’s email address. I sent him an email explaining the situation. When I woke up Tuesday morning, I checked my email: lots of messages but nothing from Mickey. But, around 11:00 a.m., I got an email from Sara. When I saw that she is the Regional News Manager for the Ann Arbor News, I began to feel better. It looked like my problem was going to be solved after all. Sara wrote, “If you signed a freelance agreement with us, the copyright belongs to us. If you didn’t, you are free to rework it and submit it to your group. If you did sign an agreement, please let us know and we can give you a release.” Now, the truth is, I wrote this piece in 2008 and the only thing in my file is the piece and the 2008 cover letter I sent to Arny. 2008 was eleven years ago. How am I to remember if I signed a freelance agreement or not? I don’t think I did because, knowing me, I would have asked for a copy and put it in the same file with the published piece. The only thing I do remember is feeling nervous when I walked into the Ann Arbor News downtown, met Arny, and had the photographer take my picture. I shared this with Sara, minus the nervous part, and asked if she could send me a release to be on the safe side? I checked my email this morning and there was nothing from Sara. I decided to wait until 11:00 a.m. before printing copies of this piece to bring tonight. I also hoped I’d hear back from Sara in the meantime. This turned out to be a good plan. At 10:29 a.m. I got an email from Sara saying “Please feel free to rework and resubmit the essay to your writers’ group. You can use this email as official permission.” Mmmmmm… after 14 days, closure. Not only do I have the rights to my piece, I have written proof. Great! For once, this is not a case of “here we go again”.
Claire, I enjoyed your blog post and your determination. Smart lady.