Monday, 27 July 2009


If you scroll down the sidebar you'll see I've put up two new link categories: Potentially Useful Organizations U.K. and Potentially Useful Organisations U.S..

This is where you'll find links to organisations such as the Association of Authors' Agents (U.K.) and the Association of Authors' Representatives (U.S).

The list will grow over time.

So, why potentially? Just to be straight, I'm not inferring anything negative about the listed organisations; they probably do a fantastic job for their members. However, I couldn't hand on heart tell you from experience if such is the case or not. I do not belong to any organisation.

I've just told a lie - I am a member/soc un soci of the Ateneu Barcelonès. If you go HERE HERE, HERE and HERE you'll see why.

I'm also an active member of a Barcelona English Writers' Group which meets every Thursday at 7.15pm at Bar Acústic, Carrer València 367, if you're interested.

I did try three times to join the National Union of Journalists. But they wouldn't have me.

Before attending college I used to edit an underground rag and contribute to others. The papers worked with N.G.A. printers and NATSOPA print operatives and were keen to regularize their contributors' position and prevent trouble. No way with the N.U.J..

Before attending college I took off for Afghanistan via Pakistan, with the intention of reporting on events over there. Despite encouraging words from staffers at the Guardian, they could not handle any material filed by a non-N.U.J. member. My application was refused again.

When doing my first degree in creative writing I found that the college owned the copyright on ALL creative work produced by students, including writing. Don't think this a problem? Well, you try selling photographs featured in your final-year exhibition only to find that the photographs you think you've sold have been retained by the college authorities for their collection.

I was outraged to find that the same rule applied to creative writing, i.e. any work we students sold to publications, and all revenue generated, could be rightfully claimed by the college.

The National Union of Students (bless 'em) were not interested. And our local students' union (affiliated to the Federation of Conservative Students) were beavering away trying their damndest to break the mandatory link to the N.U.S..

"We're not having this," I railed, and contacted the N.U.J. Basically they told me to piss off. They would only accept student members if said students were signed up to one of two officially approved journalism courses, or who were indentured to a newspaper and attending day-release or block-release educational courses.

The Society of Authors weren't much help either.

I was brought up within a very strong trades union background. My grandfather was, for many years, the treasurer of a branch of the Transport & General Workers' Union; my mother was a member of the Labour Party and a clerical workers' union; my step-father was a shop-steward for the Electrical Engineers' and Plumbing Trades Union, and I had been a proud member of the National Union of Railwaymen (sexist or what?). One of my proudest possessions is a Northumberland Union of Mineworkers badge given me by Ronnie Campbell M.P. as thanks for my efforts during the Coal Strike.

But I'm not bitter. I still believe solidarity, direct action and mutual aid is the way to go. And, if my command of spoken vernacular Spanish were better, I would likely join the C.G.T. or C.N.T.

Looking back it's difficult to believe, contrary to all Thatcher's spiteful rhetoric, how feeble, how moribund, how reactionary, and how very uninterested in social and environmental struggles the U.K. trades unions were at the time. Hardly the cauldrons of social revolution the Tories made them out to be.

I'm not bitter, I'm just a déclassé element who has become wary of joining any organisation which purports to promote and/or defend my interests.

I'd be keen to hear your experiences of being a member of, or trying to join, a writers', agents' or publishers' organisation.

p.s. And don't start me off on Equity!

1 comment:

  1. I'm a member of the International Thriller Writers, and the Crime Writer's Association. The latter is amusing and has a nice newsletter.

    ITW, on the other hand, is a great organization that offers good publicity to its members as well as providing links that allow readers to find their favorite writers, monthly alerts about our new publications, etc. They also host a major annual conference; I haven't been there, but I hear it's marvelous.

    It's not exactly a union, though. MOre like a club. All unions have ever done for me is kept me from finding work at periods in my life where I was literally begging on the streets to get enough money to eat. My take on unions is that they are lot like communism--they sound like a good idea on paper, but the implementation is usually inhumane.