Bruce Gillespie

A blog by freelance writer and editor Bruce Gillespie.

Archive for the ‘Freelancing’ Category

Remembering Derek Weiler

Like a lot of people, I was shocked to learn that Derek Weiler had passed away a couple of weeks ago at the age of 40. “Shocked” is one of those words that is usually over-used, but in this case, it was entirely apt.


I worked closely with Derek since I started freelancing in 2002, as he was one of my very first clients (if memory serves, he assigned me a news story about a memoir by the drummer of Rush of all things). That said, I can’t say that I knew him all that well; I met him in person only once, and most of our correspondence was work-related. Still, we got along quite well, and I always liked working with him; the only reason I did so less often in the past few years was that I was getting better-paying offers from elsewhere.


I always found him to be a thoughtful and sensitive editor and one who always made me look smarter than I am (which, really, is the best kind of editor, I think). Even in emails, Derek came off as a sweet, kind guy, and he sent me a very nice note not too long ago when my first book came out, saying that even though the reviews editor had passed on it, he was going to dig it out of the pile to read himself, which I found very touching.


I was surprised to read in his obituary that he was 40, as I’d assumed he was younger than I was. The only time I met him in person, I was surprised by how youthful he looked—enormously tall, but all gangly elbows and arms and a big, open, friendly face.


Q&Qis hoting a memorial party for Derek tomorrow night at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto that is open to all who would like to celebrate his life and his many achievements.


Written by bgillesp

April 28, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Posted in Freelancing

Benefits for writers — update

Just before the holidays, I wrote about the ongoing project to develop a benefits package for writers in Canada. This past weekend, the Globe’s James Adams wrote a great piece on the same subject that looks at why even a bare-bones extended health-care package could make a big difference in the lives of writers, editors and other artists:

According to Statistics Canada, a Canadian scribe on average makes only between $18,000 and $22,000 annually from his or her writing – and this includes royalties from book sales as well as income from grants, giving readings and workshops, writing, say, reviews for magazines and newspapers, and earning a yearly stipend from the Public Lending Right Commission.

It is, in short, a hard life, fraught with long, lonely hours of work, occasional feasts and many famines (in 2005, an estimated 3,000 Canadian authors – 11 per cent of the total 27,500 who identified themselves either as self-employed or salaried writers – reported no earnings from their writing), not to mention the agony of public indifference.

According to Adams’s piece, the plan will be rolled out by the ACTRA Fraternal Benefit Society in May, and organizers are hoping for at least 300 people to sign up initially. That sounds like a pretty achievable goal to me, given how many book, magazine and technical writers and editors there are across the country, but I suppose it’s the yet-to-be-announced fee schedule that will be clincher for most people. Let’s hope it’s reasonable so the plan has a chance of getting off the ground.

Written by bgillesp

February 20, 2009 at 11:08 am

Posted in Freelancing

Tagged with , , , ,

ACTRA to offer health benefits to writers

Some interesting news from Quill & Quire: ACTRA, which represents TV and film workers, will be offering health benefits to writers and authors beginning in 2009. According to the story by Stuart Woods,

The Writers’ Coalition Benefits package will be “a basic, no-frills plan,” says AFBS president and CEO Bob Underwood. Initially, it will target members of participating organizations, which include The Writers’ Union of Canada, the Periodical Writers Association of Canada, and the Playwrights Guild of Canada. There is talk, however, of expanding the program to a broad base of industry professionals, such as freelance agents, self-employed authors, or employees at small publishing houses and distributors.

Underwood says monthly premiums have yet to be decided, but they will be 20% to 30% more competitive than comparable packages offered by commercial insurers, which he says can cost up to $1,500 per year. A model plan will be rolled out by early summer at the latest, he adds, consisting of extended health-care benefits (including prescription drugs, vision and dental care, and hospital visits), limited life and accident insurance, and critical illness benefits. The AFBS is also looking into the feasibility of a disability program and opt-in home and auto insurance, as well as small-business insurance for those who maintain a home office.

As someone who has lived mostly without the benefit of health insurance since deciding to become a freelancer in 2002, I think this is good news. There have been other attempts to offer insurance packages to writers over the years, but one of the sticking points has been finding an insurer willing to provide a decent plan at a reasonable price. For plans to be appealing to an insurer and affordable to members, you need a fairly large, diverse group of people to sign up so that the higher costs of a few are counterbalanced by the modest cost of the many. Finding that mix can be a challenge, especially when you’re dealing with tens, or even hundreds, of people as opposed to thousands.

So, while I’m surprised to see this deal coming from ACTRA, it does make sense in many ways: ACTRA has a large membership base (21,000) and experience in working with freelance artists, so it makes more sense for them to offer it rather than for writers’ groups to interest an insurer in developing a new, reasonably priced package for a few hundred, or a few thousand, writers.

Written by bgillesp

December 5, 2008 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Freelancing

Check out Checkerspot magazine

I have a story in the Fall/Winter 2008 issue of Checkerspot magazine, which came out earlier this week. If you aren’t familiar with this biannual magazine, you shouldn’t feel too out of the loop: Checkerspot is relatively new, having made its debut in August 2007. It’s published by the Canadian Wildlife Federation and is focused on engaging people in the fight against climate change. It’s a great read, and what’s even better is that you can subscribe for free!

My piece is a words-and-pictures feature about artists addressing climate change in their work. Photo editor Margaret Williamson came up with a fantastic collection of different types of art from all over the world, and then it was my job to write up an introduction and captions for each of the pieces. I’m really pleased with how the feature turned out and was thrilled with the opportunity to write about art and get paid for it, which doesn’t happen as often as I’d like!

Written by bgillesp

November 4, 2008 at 2:19 pm

Posted in Freelancing, Writing