Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Alice Walker's Archives going to Emory University

Local gal (she's from GA) does good. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

From journals and notebooks of poetry written when she was growing up in Eatonton, Ga., to drafts of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "The Color Purple," Alice Walker saved every scrap along her journey to becoming one of the leading literary figures of the 20th Century.

Her literary and personal archive contains many letters from such friends as Toni Morrison, Gloria Steinem, Quincy Jones and Oprah Winfrey, as well as a remarkable volume -- "Poems of a Childhood Poetess" -- that she composed when she was 15.

By the end of this week, her entire archive -- all 122 boxes -- is expected to arrive at its new, permanent home at Emory University. Emory announced Tuesday it had acquired Walker's archive for an undisclosed sum.

The acquisition is a "major addition to Emory's collection," which will help students and scholars learn more about Walker's commitment to social activism, literary and personal growth and spirituality, said provost Earl Lewis.

At Emory's Manuscript, Archive and Rare Book Library, Walker's papers will join those of author Salman Rushdie, the late British poet laureate Ted Hughes and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney as well as significant collections related to Harlem Renaissance novelists and poets Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson.

Walker is the author of eight novels, four major poetry collections and many works of nonfiction. She became the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1983 for "The Color Purple," which was adapted into a critically acclaimed 1985 movie as well as a musical that had its world premiere at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre in 2004 and made its Broadway debut a year later.

"I can imagine in years to come that my papers and memorabilia, my journals and letters, will find themselves always in the company of people who care about many of the things I do: culture, community, spirituality, scholarship and the blessings of ancestors who want each of us to find joy and happiness in this life, by doing the very best we can to be worthy of it," Walker said in a statement.

Walker said Emory's relationship with the Dalai Lama also played a part in her decision. The Tibetan spiritual leader joined the university's faculty in October as a presidential distinguished professor and plans to periodically visit Emory to give talks to students.

Emory is "a place where my archive can rest with joy in the company it keeps," Walker said.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Essence to Honor Writers, Help Libraries

From Publisher's Weekly:

Essence Magazine will honor African-American writers and help public libraries by launching two overlapping initiatives this winter: the Essence Literary Awards and the Save Our Libraries campaign.

The nominees for the awards--in fiction, nonfiction, children's, poetry, commentary/public affairs, memoir and photography--will be selected by the editors of Essence and will be announced on December 19th. The winners will receive their awards during Black History Month, on Feb. 7, 2008, at a ceremony in New York city that will also kick off the Save Our Libraries campaign. Emcees Hoda Kotb of the Today Show and Dr. Ian Smith will preside over the event, which will honor the winning writers, as well as a "Storyteller of the Year."

Terry McMillan will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to contemporary African-American literature. McMillan, who is writing her eighth novel, Getting to Happy, added, “There are so few venues for African-American writers to get attention. This is a positive way to draw attention to African-American writers whose work is of high standards and merits attention.”

“We love books,” Bass said, describing editors at the magazine as committed to coverage of African-American authors and their work since Essence launched in 1970. Essence currently dedicates at least 3-1/2 pages to authors and books each month, second among women’s fashion/beauty/ lifestyle magazines only to O: the Oprah magazine.

You can still vote. Go to and pick your choice, or nominate one.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

When Your Characters are No Longer Yours

In an effort to answer the question of "When does a character stop being the property of its creator?" or "How popular does it have to be to become Fair Use?" Stanford's Law school will defend the publisher of the Harry Potter Lexicon against Warner Brothers and author JK Rowling.

According to the press release:

RDR Books contends it has the right to publish the encyclopedic reference book under the fair use doctrine, which safeguards the use of copyrighted material so long as it is used transformatively and does not damage the market value of the original work.

“The Harry Potter Lexicon draws material and inspiration from the Harry Potter series but is an entirely new piece of work,” said David S. Hammer, co-counsel for RDR Books. “It is a companion to Rowling’s work, not a substitute for it. No one is going to buy the Lexicon instead of a Harry Potter book, or instead of seeing a Harry Potter film.”

“This book is a reference work based on more than seven years of research by a distinguished volunteer team of librarians and academics,” explained co-counsel Julie Ahrens, associate director of the Fair Use Project. “Fair use protects scholars’ rights to create such companion guides. It simply is not the case that authors can exploit copyright law to prevent analysis and commentary on their work.”

It will be interesting to see how the ruling goes on this. I think it's one thing if this was a literary criticism of the body of work. That sort of thing has been done to authors and their work for decades. But if courts rule in RDRs favor, any group of people could beat an author to publishing a concordance of their work, as long as one of them is an academic. That might not be good news for authors of popular series, such as J. D. Robb's or even J R Ward.