Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I just finished reading the biography of John Adams by David McCullough. What a fascinating read! I discovered that Adams was more astute than I thought and Jefferson was no saint. The country struggles today with the same issues that plagued us at our birth.

In light of our current political climate, I was impressed by Adams’ statement, "There is nothing I dread so much as a division of the Republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures into opposition to each other." Political parties, he also said, are to be "dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution."

Even as two political parties were forming and the struggle for domination of our country began, Adams communicated his concern in such strong words that they reach us more than 200 years later. Our founding fathers were mere mortals and as subject to the allure of great power as politicians are today.

How do we know this? Because we have their letters. Much of the McCullough biography is based on the letters the Adams family wrote and received. We also have Adams’ books and essays about various topics he felt were important.

In an earlier post, I alluded to the loss we will suffer because people no longer write to one another. Adams’ biography is a perfect example. What I now know about our second president would not have been possible without his written correspondence.

Somewhere a future president is happily texting her friends or parents. Centuries from now, Americans will not know much about her because her thoughts will be lost in cyberspace. I hope that changes. I enjoyed getting to know Mr. Adams and I think future generations will want to learn more about their leaders, too.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


According to the article posted at:, libraries are grabbing rights from unsuspecting writers. Authors, who want to donate a copy of their book to local libraries, are sometimes asked to sign a “gift contract.” Thinking they are signing a donor acknowledgment form, writers are actually signing away the rights to their work.

I grant there is a big difference between my donation of a single copy of a Kyle Shannon mystery and the donation of a collection of rare books. Perhaps the libraries that take rights intend only to affect the second type of donation. However the moment they use the same form for the Kyle Shannon book as for the rare collection, they cross a line.

Let’s take a quick look at what these libraries are communicating through this behavior:

1. Theft and cheating are OK.
The library advocates stealing. They cheat authors out of their rights by disguising a surrender-of-rights document as a donor acknowledgement form. Royalties and the sale of written work is how writers make their income. By stealing rights, libraries are literally taking away a writer’s grocery money.

2. Nothing is more important than money.
One must assume that the reason libraries are stealing rights from authors is for money. Imagine the lucky library that acquires the rights to the next international best seller (a certain youthful wizard comes to mind) through these nefarious methods. They will be sitting on the proverbial gold mine.

3. No one can be trusted.
Libraries are generally run by elected officials and are supported by tax dollars. Is this the handiwork of more crooked politicians or are the librarians themselves at fault? In either case, apparently writers cannot trust anyone, not even the local librarian.

I have several friends who are librarians. One called this practice “scary.” I agree. What are we to think when libraries sponsor writers groups and then steal rights? I grant that writers should be more aware and careful about what they sign. I cannot say the same for the libraries. It is obvious that many of these gift contracts were written by attorneys. The libraries know exactly what they are doing.

We count on libraries to support us, not to appropriate our livelihood.