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Q and A

Jun 01, 2008; Dr. Green Genes Asks:

How do you go about acquiring a map to buried treasure?

Stacey answers:

Go to thrift stores and check inside the boxes of Buns of Steel workout tapes from the early nineties.

May 31, 2008; James Asks:

Why do croutons come in airtight packages?

Stacey answers:

To protect their inherent crunchiness.

May 29, 2008; James Asks:

Yeah, I, too, noticed similar patterns in the "Q and A" section of your site.

Stacey answers:

Yes. But that's not a question.

May 29, 2008; J. Palmer Asks:

hey there, I heard medium, medium's "so hungry,so angry." I now realize it's a song from the 'high-school years." -James

Stacey answers:

I remember it! But only after I went on iTunes and played a bit. That's a good song. I like the feeling of my neural pathways re-opening when I hear a song I haven't heard for many years. It reminds me of the great Garcia Marquez story The Sea of Lost Time where the townsfolk sit around listening to the gramophone after it has been broken for many years and everyone feels sad.

It's great to hear from you James--but I just want to point out that this Q and A has now officially devolved into questions from fifth grade cousins, high school boyfriends, and people I once met at cocktail parties...not that that's a bad thing, necessarily, but bear in mind that I will still happily answer absurd question from random strangers.

May 28, 2008; dsp Asks:

I remember you asking me in 1997 or so how to get a fellowship from the Arizona Arts Commission. We were at a Best of Tucson Tucson Weekly BBQ with a bunch of people. I'd just gotten a grant in poetry and you were looking to get a piece of the action ... Anyway, can I claim any credit for the massive success you've had since?

Stacey answers:

Why, that sounds like it was a very important, very influential conversation. Yes, dsp, you can claim credit for my massive success--but you have to take responsibility for my abject failure as well.

May 19, 2008; Ali Richter Asks:

how did you get into writing books

Stacey answers:

Hi Ali! I used to tell stories to my dog when I took him for walks. Eventually, I started writing them down. When I wrote enough stories I had a book.

May 19, 2008; Small Hearted Asks:

The best way to get over a creative slump is to...?

Stacey answers:

go somewhere new and turn off the phone. Turn off the internet. Also: take a long walk.

May 15, 2008; Lance Besore Asks:

I remember you from the time I lived in Tucson (88-96). Where do I know you from? Please forgive me if it's obvious but I drank way too much during that period of my life. I know that I know you somehow but it's eluding me and driving me nuts. Please Help!

Stacey answers:

Though I don't remember you either, my best guess is that I slept with you.

May 13, 2008; Luke G. Asks:

Say I wrote a story that prominently featured a fairly well-known cartoon character. Any legal ramifications to worry about if I were to publish it? Thanks.

Stacey answers:

Personally, I wouldn't worry about it. It's incredibly unlikely that the copyright holder would bother with small fry like us. Here is an elaboration from my copyright consultant Dan Coleman:

There is a kind of copyright "safe harbor" for parodies, but the problem is that if pressed on this point, the writer would have to go to court and convince a judge (and probably a jury) that her work was a parody of the cartoon character and not simply an unauthorized use of the copyrighted character.

Even with parody as a possible excuse, there may be trademark issues to deal with in addition to copyright issues. A copyright issue would come into play if the character kept saying something like "Eh, what's up doc?" and the trademark issue might come into play if the title of the novel was "For the Relief of Unbearable Wascaly Wabbits (and other Loony Urges)"

If this were a graphic novel, or illustrated book, and drawings of the cartoon character were featured, then this would definitely require a license from the copyright holder.

Thanks, Dan. There's a good Wikipedia article entitled "Fair Use" where you can find even more info, including info about the Stanford University Fair Use project that helps with the legal defense of little people who do things like use cartoon characters in their stories (though I still don't think you need to worry about it).

I think the real copyright issue that writers should be concerned about is using song lyrics in their work. You will need to pay for these lyrics. A journal might try to sneak it in under fair use (which is not your problem), but a book publisher will insist on getting the rights, and usually they make the author pay for them, and they're not cheap, and it's a royal pain in the ass in any case. You may think, "my publisher will pay for them," but I wouldn't be so sure. I noticed that Zadie Smith's On Beauty contained incorrect lyrics to "Hey Ya," which I found incredibly jarring. I couldn't believe that she got them wrong...until I realized that she changed them so that she wouldn't have to buy them. And really, it wasn't until then that the veneer of her absorbing, ultra-lifelike prose cracked for me and I realized in a flash that the entire plot of the book was utterly preposterous. I don't think I would have noticed otherwise.

I say keep the mouse but don't let him sing a song.

May 08, 2008; Wag Asks:

Isn't taking relationship advice from the poet Richard Siken tantamount to putting on a Joy Division record as make-out music?

Stacey answers:

Yeah! That's exactly what it's like! Though, to be fair, the Richard Siken wisdom is not relationship advice per se but rather advice about how to best feel really bad--in which case he's sort of the anti Norman Vincent Peale, a guru of the night. Which is also my band name for the day. Anti Norman Vincent Peale.

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