Newsletter 2023-12

For ASJA members in
Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon and Washington
December 2023

In This Issue

From the Prez, Alcott’s Legacy , M. Carolyn Miller, ASJA PNW President
Jack El-Hai: Performance Rights Can Expand Story Lifetime and Profits, Fred Gebhart
Little Things Make a Difference, Bruce Miller
Member News and Announcements

Join us for our December meeting!

M. Carolyn Miller is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.


Time: December 20, 2023 01:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 815 3315 9297
Passcode: 809320

Holiday Party Anyone? 
Former ASJA PNW member Howard Baldwin has offered to host a holiday party at his home for chapter members and their spouses, and we’re taking him up on the offer!
Party Details:
Date: Friday, 12/15/23
Time: 3pm
Place: 937 F Avenue, Lake Oswego, OR (a Portland suburb)
RSVP: to Carolyn Miller
We’re asking half the members to bring a dish to share, and the other half to bring a drink to share. (State what when you email Carolyn.) And if you live outside Portland, consider making the trek. It would be great to see everyone!

This newsletter publishes the first day of each month and welcomes article submissions and photos. Please email the ASJA PNW Newsletter Editor, Maxine Cass, at

From the President

by M. Carolyn Miller

ASJA PNW Chapter President

Alcott’s Legacy

Louisa May Alcott could have been a member of ASJA, so determined was she to make her living in the creative arts. I discovered this when perusing the (few) paper publications left at the library and read an article about her, “Louisa May Alcott and Her Needlework” by Susan J. Jerome in Piecework Magazine.

Alcott was determined to be rich, writes Jerome. Indeed, in Alcott’s own words, “I will do something by and by. Don’t care what, teach, sew, act, write, anything to help the family. I’ll be rich and famous and happy before I die, see if I won’t.”

But it wasn’t easy for women to live independently from men during her time, notes Jerome. In fact, in 1832, when Alcott was born, women learned how to sew, not only to take care of their family’s needs, but also to make money. And until Little Women was published and brought her fame and fortune, she made her money as a seamstress. She also became an expert at it, and her knowledge and expertise often appeared in her later works.

Alcott reminds me that no creative work, be it the play-acting I did as a kid that is echoed in the simulations I design now, or the essays I published 20 years ago that are becoming part of the book I’m writing, is wasted. All come from the same well and have value.

Additionally, as one who saw the fabric arts change from necessity to luxury during her lifetime due to the Industrial Revolution, Alcott offers hope that our profession will not only survive but flourish, despite AI, thanks to the creative well it springs from.

M. Carolyn Miller, MA, spent her career designing narrative- and game-based learning. Today, she consults and writes about narrative in our lives and world, the inextricable link between the two, and the critical role of self-awareness in transforming both.

by Fred Gebhart

Jack El-Hai: Performance Rights Can Expand Story Lifetime and Profits (November meeting)

“Why retain performance rights?” veteran writer and ASJA member and former president Jack El-Hai asked, speaking to ASJA PNW chapter members via Zoom on November 15. “The main reason is the money, a way to make multiples of what we were originally paid for the printed version of whatever it was we wrote.”

It’s almost automatic to think of an article or book as having a finite lifespan. Your work is written, paid for, published, and filed away in some digital archive, never to be seen or thought of again. The reality is that many, perhaps most movies, television shows, and other productions are based on books and articles. And the original authors got paid for the reuse of their work—if they retained performance rights.

“I often feel devoted to my stories and I want them to have longer lives than comes with them being just in print,” he continued. “If you retain performance rights, you can option and sell rights for your work in podcasts, documentaries, stage plays, and films.”

Many of El-Hai’s articles and books have gone on to new lives—and new payments—because he insists on retaining performance rights. No performance rights, no publishing contract.

“If someone doesn’t want to give you what you want in the (contract) negotiation, there is always a better market and somebody who will,” El-Hai explained. “To me, performance rights are paramount, even beyond whatever I’m getting paid to write the piece. In the long run, having performance rights is more important than getting top dollar for a story.”

His 2013 book, The Nazi and the Psychiatrist: Hermann Göring, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII, begins filming as Nuremburg, staring Russell Crowe, in early 2024. Multiple other works have earned additional income through options and transformation into other media.

El-Hai explored the writer’s side of performance rights in a talk for the PNW chapter’s November meeting.

Performance rights are the rights to allow third parties to use, adapt, rewrite, perform, or somehow use your intellectual property (IP) in another medium, he explained.

A would-be buyer usually options performance rights, renting exclusive rights to the work for a set period of time for a set payment. When the rental period expires, options can be renewed at the same or a different rate.

When an option is exercised, it is moved into production and the owner gets a substantially larger purchase price. El-Hai said option prices vary depending on the work, the author, how well the author’s agent negotiates, the optioner’s budget, and other factors, but are typically four to five figures. Exercised option prices typically start in six figures.

Authors may also be offered a shopping deal that allows a third party, for a pittance, to shop the option to producers and others that may be interested. El-Hai said he has not done a shopping deal because they seldom turn out to the writer’s advantage.

“Writers should make real money, not $100, for the right to have exclusivity on the property for any length of time,” he said.

Book contracts typically leave performance rights to the author as well as audiobook and other rights, but writers should be on the lookout for more restrictive contracts and insist on retaining rights.

Article contracts are more problematic. Publishers increasingly try to license all rights, or as many as they can get away with, El-Hai warned. They, too, recognize the potential value in performance rights and want to retain them, or at least retain nonexclusive rights to license performance rights.

Don’t sign.

“No film, stage, or podcast producer will invest money in a work if somebody else has the right, even a non-exclusive right, to do the very same thing,” El-Hai said.

Another bad option is to allow the publisher to license performance rights and share proceeds, often 50-50, with the writer. That amounts to paying the publisher a 50% commission in a business where the standard fee is 20%.

El-Hai has a proactive solution. As soon as an editor expresses interest in a story, he tells them he must retain performance rights and other must-have terms. If the editor balks, he moves on to a different market.

“Always be prepared to walk away,” El-Hai said. “Publication is not the final stage in that story’s life and you mustn’t think of it that way. This is a long game and those stories can have many lives in different mediums. When I send an article to a publication, I think of it not as a sale, I think of it as a test drive for something else I want to do with the story.”

Agents are key to retaining and exercising performance rights. Book authors are accustomed to having a literary agent, but they also need a performance rights agent and a performance rights attorney, said El-Hai. Article writers may not need a literary agent, but they, too, need an agent and attorney who specialize in performance rights.

Performance rights agents get producers, actors, directors, and others interested in a work. Performance rights attorneys hammer out the details.

“There are so many sharks and barracudas out there trying to get as much as they can and leave you with as little as they can,” El-Hai said. “The attorneys can get into the nitty-gritty of a 30-page contract, see what is absolutely ridiculous, unfair, and skirting criminality, and get it changed.”

Want to learn more? El-Hai moderates an ASJA discussion group, Profit from IP. Membership is by invitation only, email if you are interested.

Fred Gebhart is a Southern Oregon-based medical writer.

by Bruce Miller

Little Things Make a Difference

Recently I bought the wrong kind of ethernet switch. I failed to pay attention to the little LED lights on the switch before ordering. The switches that came had one LED light for each port – which lit up when the port was in use. What I wanted was a switch with LED lights that differentiates between a 10/100 megabits-per-second connection (fast) and a 1000 megabits-per-second (gigabit) connection. The visual cues help to instantly determine if the connection – or ethernet cable – is running at gigabit speed. I also use the switches to test ethernet cables before they are deployed. The difference in cost is only a few bucks and worth it for the additional, easy-to-see information.



Paying attention to the little things can add up to an easier workflow or a more frustrating workflow. Here are a few little (not necessarily free) things that make my (work) life easier:

YouTube Premium: Pay Google money for Premium and then you have no commercials to waste your time and you can download video for later use.

TuneIn Premium: I like to catch up on news from CNN, MSNBC and Fox. With TuneIn Premium, commercials in those three audio news feeds are replaced with short news recaps. With these virtual credit cards you can set different kinds of limits. These cards have saved me a bunch of money after a cheap trial period fails to renew at the way more expensive regular rate.

The right office chair: I like high-back chairs and will sit in 30 chairs before buying.

Dymo Label writer: Handwriting is not one of my skills, so I prefer typing (and saving) addresses to print on the adhesive label. Printer, peel, paste, done — and completely legible for USPS.

Flat ethernet cables: Easier to manipulate and manage.

Seattle resident Bruce Miller sometimes writes with YouTube streaming something. This time it was the TV morning show live from South Africa:

Columbian Black-tailed deer buck (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) Gold Hill, Oregon Photo © Maxine Cass

Member News and Announcements

James Carberry notes, “The Medill J-school at Northwestern University has published a 2023 update to its State of Local News report. It shows a breakdown by county (including Oregon and Washington) of news deserts, counties with only one newspaper, and digital startups, among other information.”

L.M. Archer’s article, “Armenia fizz is coming of age” was published November 14 in The Drinks Business. She wrote, “It may have taken 8,000 years but Armenian sparkling wine is having a moment.” An upcoming piece on biodynamic bubbles will appear in the December 2023 print edition of Wine Enthusiast, and an article describing glass bottle reuse programs will be published in the December 2023 print edition of Wine Business Monthly.

Joanna Nesbit ( is seeking ideas and contacts for future ASJA PNW meeting speakers.

ASJA National News

ASJA, Gotham Ghostwriters Announce Andy Awards Finalists

Books by a superyacht captain, country music star Miranda Lambert, abuse survivor turned Hollywood stuntwoman, IBM’s former CEO, and the host of the award-winning podcast Therapy for Black Girls are among the nine finalists in the inaugural Andy Awards.

The Andy Awards, cosponsored by ASJA and ghostwriting agency Gotham Ghostwriters, honor outstanding nonfiction book collaborations between authors and ghosts. To be considered, both the author and the paid collaborator had to have agreed to co-submit a book and share the award.

The 2024 finalists were named in three categories: business and thought leadership, memoir and narrative nonfiction, and prescriptive nonfiction. See the Andy Award shortlistees here.

Andy Awards winners will be announced at the Gathering of the Ghosts, the first-ever national convention of ghostwriters, Jan. 22, 2024, in New York. Madeline Morel, President of 2Mm Communications Ltd., will present the awards.

The Gathering of the Ghosts brings together professional ghostwriters for a day of conversation, education, and celebration of a profession that is expanding and evolving. The meetup takes place at the New York Academy of Medicine in Manhattan; see the full schedule and register here. Discounted rooms are available for convention attendees at three area hotels; see rates and book a room here.


EDITOR: Maxine Cass
ASJA PNW monthly meeting coverage: Darlene West
PROOFREADER: Catherine Kolonko

*All stories are copyright by their respective writers.
*All photographs and illustrations are copyright by their creative makers.
*All rights are reserved to each of them for their own material.