The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Monday, March 31, 2003

Original Author's Statement and Guidelines

tony gallucci
march 2003

Update: This has been edited to reflect the move to this site.

Hi,

I am sending this email out to writers nominated for inclusion on the week-old Nature Writers of Texas website. While several of you are familiar with this project already, and some have already sent materials, please bear with me while I explain this to the several who probably have no idea what this is about. I will also beg all of you to read completely through this email, because even if you don't want to participate there will be information of importance to you here.
In early March [2003], Midland nature columnist Burr Williams broached two subjects in an email to the Texas Birds listserv. One was the idea that a separate listserv or group of Nature Columnists/Writers might benefit from shared insight. The second was that a communal website where writers could place their more current columns and archive past ones might be a valuable addition: collecting the various works at a central location where naturalists, birders and people who just enjoy reading about nature might be enriched by the writerly resources of our state.

Burr is handling the group idea. Meanwhile, I volunteered to do the website. My doing so came about for several reasons -- one, I used to be a nature columnist (and a fulltime reporter for that matter); and secondly, I already "own" and maintain about 30 websites and so have some "expertise" (although more about that later) in doing these things, and access to a free host server with 100megs of space [now unlimited blog space]. It took little time to get a website going, and already 10 folks have contributed in some way to the site, with others letting me know material is on the way.

The "clientele" of TexBirds quickly nominated 22 writer/columnists they thought were deserving of inclusion, and others have been added since. Not that it takes that, necessarily, to be on here, but that's where it started, and so far all of the nominations have originated there. I am still trying to contact Richard Moore, Julius Knebel and Shannon Tompkins -- if any of you have email addresses for those folks, please pass them on to me, and i'll send them this email [some since contacted].

Now for those of you who have not already responded, and those who are just now finding out about this: This site is already online and it has a set of pages with YOUR NAME on it. I'd ask you to continue reading to the end, maybe check out the site some, etc., BUT if you already know you want no part of this, just reply to this message saying TAKE ME OFFA THERE, and I'll have you off within a few hours (I need a little sleep!). Again I'd ask that you take this for a test drive first before making a decision.

I have to admit straight up that I made some subjective and arbitrary decisions about the website in putting it online. However, when i did so I thought I was just developing an idea. So far, the site design has been accepted by everyone that has corresponded about it (there are some issues I'll deal with later). So I guess we're here by acclamation until the "group" decides differently.

In any case, everyone on this list was set up with a personal page (for a photo if you'd like, and a bio, contact info if you wish, and links to your article pages), a separate page for your current article or one you choose, and an archive page for past articles.

If you cruise the site you will already notice a couple of variations on that theme. Ro Wauer had a number of book reviews, separate from his columns, which I thought were wonderful, so I set up a separate page for him for those [now handled differently]. I can do the same for anyone else who has something "different" like that (perhaps feature articles, or a page advertising books you have published; after all the idea is to showcase writers too). Two writers have obligations with other sites that republish their pieces so we used the personal pages to provide links to the other sites so everyone can access their columns though they won't actually appear on our site.

Having worked on a newspaper myself I fully understand the obligations there. I already know some folks receiving this message have all or some of their articles archived by the newspaper online. We'd really like to reprint your articles here, but if we can't (because you'd rather not, or because the paper won't release copyrights, etc.) we'd at least like a bio and the ability to link to your current pieces and archives, if you'll agree to it. P.S. getting your copyrights back often involves simply asking for them. I did that automatically when I left my last paper job and it was as simple as getting a letter from the editor (AP papers, or syndicated pieces may be a little more difficult, but attainable if you want it done I think).

We can always provide as little or as much information as you would like.

You'll notice that one of the articles, appears on both a "current" page and on a page I've labelled "Feature" column [no longer handled this way -- current articles by any writer are always on or near the top]. Just a way, I thought, to highlight a writer. My idea was to change the feature article weekly and to do so by a constant rotation of authors (so that everyone is featured before we begin again).

Many great suggestions came from both the "group" who have participated so far, and even from TexBirds readers who aren't columnists. Carol Cullar, in particular, provided a host of wonderful ideas. Some of these things are in place -- Carol's idea of putting contact info in the sidebar under the author's picture for instance, and Ro Wauer's idea of a site search engine (which I'd never done before, and is a monster job to initiate, and to keep current for that matter; nevertheless one's in place and let's hope it works) [the sidebar is moot now; the blog search engine is much improved over the earlier version]. Some authors have already requested that we not add contact information and that's an easy request to honor. If you do want contact info, I'm smart enough to not display the entire address (so that web-crawlers can't add you to their spam lists).

There are some suggestions I haven't acted on yet. Some of those because, as a webmaster and a longtime editor, I value the stylistic integrity of a site and want some consistency (especially in simple things like design placement, font types, formatting, site-mapping, etc.). Some of the things I did not put in place have simply to do with my idea that some things may be better left as "group" decisions, and I plan to wait to see if a group forms, and if so, if they want to set some specific formats for me to follow. In the absence of that, these may eventually become editorial types of things (with author input).

Let me explain a little about the site set up, the snafus, and the possible solutions. I have all these sites up because they're free and they're easy. I use a Trellix Sitebuilder web-authoring program on FortuneCity's server. I like it because it's unbelievably simple, flexible enough for me to make it graphically exciting, and MOST OF ALL because I don't have to know or write any code to put it up. It's fast too. Since May of last year I've put up over 10,000 photographs on 12 of my sites, about 800 of butterflies and insects for instance on my 5 Fauna and Flora of Kerr and Trinity County sites.

Now, what does all this mean to you. Well, what it mostly means is that for as long as you're stuck with me, you're also stuck with this program and the server it goes on. That's because of my lack of skill at writing code (which, frankly I have no need, incentive, desire, or time to learn -- not to mention that it would vastly expand the number of things I'd volunteer for).

The downside of this is, as some folks have already determined, you get banner ads on the site (though they're not TOO terrible), and worse, pop-ups (some of which are thoroughly obnoxious -- for instance the Xupiter and Weatherwatch programs). The pop-ups you can click out of, but you're gonna get more than one. For anyone interested i can direct you to a popup killer software program (for about $20) that takes this headache away [banner ads and popups are no longer an issue].

We are working on attaching a professional domain name to the site, which also will do away with the ads. The process is not simple, and will require money, which have not figured out how to raise.

Other sites are also a possibility, but . . . [this is allmoot now]

The banners and pop-ups of course are the means by which the server pays for allowing us free server space. If we had to pay for that 100Megs of space I think we're looking at a minimum of $100 per year (there are other fees to consider as well). We could pay less, but get less space. We could do it with less space, but where we'd sacrifice would be in pictures mostly, and secondarily in archives.

Now the domain name may not be all that necessary. I have already registered an alternate name that will appear on the site that I think will do right fine. It will add a popup on opening as well, another price to pay. The domain I have registered is TexasNature.rulestheweb.com or in your URL space it would be http://TexasNature.rulestheweb.com
http://Rulestheweb.com/TexasNature also works, though I think it's more unwieldy. [this has changed to http://TexasNature.blogspot.com]

In actuality that name is only a mask for the name most of you already have, which is: http://www.fortunecity.com/victorian/riley/36/ which still works perfectly fine, and if you'll save the site in favorites that way you'll get one less popup. But I think the name we ought to put out there to the public is the TexasNature.rulestheweb.com address. It ought to be much easier to remember. [this is moot]

Now, when/if it comes time that: a) someone with the higher skill level and expertise volunteers; or b) the "group" decides to go to a code-based site; I'll gladly turn the site over. It will require paying a host for the space ($ based on megs used), paying for both the domain name itself and maintenance of the rights (sometimes done by the server host, but more $), and possibly hiring someone to write the code and set up the site, which requires more than just a simple set up job and occasional tweaks -- it requires posting several to many new articles on a weekly basis (all more $). Those are just things to consider if and when the group decides to go biggertime. [although this is still a possibility, in two and a half years no one has volunteered, and the issues which would make it a priority are now non-issues]

Finally, let me address the nuts and bolts of sending materials. I'm going to insist that all pictures and large files be sent to this address I am writing to you from (SwallowtailedKite@hotmail.com -- which is reserved for this website). My personal email account fills hourly with much important mail (I have several non-bird lives), and one large picture will (has) completed wiped out my account. I suspect some things have already been kicked back for the same reason. If I stay alert with this Swallowtail account that should never be a problem.

I think pictures of the authors would be great. Also note that Carol has sent a picture with her column, and I've added some to Terry Maxwell's article. Those too are most welcome, though I may not be able to archive them for long, depending on space.

If you send pictures please send jpegs if at all possible. It simply helps me avoid time manipulating the image. Also, the ideal size, if you are capable of resizing them, is 2 inches wide at 300 dpi (with the dpi more important than the width). At that size i can resize without losing quality, and they are not so large as to flood the email. Try not to send lower resolution pictures as they tend to pixilate or come up with reduced color repertoires if you do. If you have other types (gif, tiff, bmp, bitmap) or sizes of pictures, you can email me for instructions. Super large pictures may get kicked back altogether. And remember to send them to the Swallowtail email.

We already have a wide range of article reprinting situations in place. My concept was that this was a review, where published articles were reprinted for the benefit of a larger audience -- a sort of Reader's Digest of Texas nature writers. I already have one syndicated writer who is sending me things in advance at the same time they are delivered to other publications. It matters not here. I'll simply put the most recent on the current column page and bump the last one to archives, unless you tell me different [the placement is now a non-issue].

For the archives I can simply start with the first thing you send when it gets bumped or, if you'd like, you can send me as many back columns as you wish to be archived. I will decide on a page by page basis when to split archive pages, perhaps monthly or seasonally. You might even want to provide only a "selection" of what you deem to be your best pieces. Whatever. [this is now a non-issue]

When you send me articles on a weekly, or regular, basis, they can be sent in the body text of the email. I'd ask that you put spaces between your paragraphs if possible. If not, cut-and-paste runs them together. For submitting large numbers of archive pieces it would be best if you pasted them in a string (in reverse chronological order) in a single Microsoft Word document and send that as an attachment. Alternately (and I know how valuable your time is) you could send each article as a separate attachment. That will take me a bit longer to get everything posted, but will work fine. And the first initial burst of archiving from everyone should be all there is.

Those of you who have archived pieces already online through your paper, AND who want to reprint on this site, need not send me anything. Simply direct me to your archive, tell me which (or all) articles to archive and I'll grab them straight from there.

A bio would be most nice. I think many people access sites like these as much to learn about the writer as the subject. It also makes for a nice online bio in case someone wants to know more about you anyway (and of course, once this is Googled, your page will come up on searches of your name). Please also let me know the correct name and spelling of your paper (all of them if you syndicate or publish in more than one). And please put the publication date of the article on each one so I can post it with the article. Please, somewhere in your first submission indicate for me the region you would like to be associated with if you want to be regionally identified [this has never been followed much].

My server will not allow any movie files (such as AVI, MPEG or Quicktime), sound files (such as WAV, CDA or MP3) or document retrieval files (which are stored only for downloading and not open access). Not that any of those fit our objectives here, but I thought I'd warn in advance.

On a technical basis, your providing these articles implies that we (the "group") are obtaining secondary one-time serial electronic publishing rights (that's not exactly the right term, but I'm dead tired and worse-lazy right now). The idea is that first rights belong to your paper, and that we are republishing "once", if on a permanent basis. The obtaining of "one-time" rights explicitly means that once published here rights revert to the author; and neither the site, the group, the "officers", the site-owner nor webmaster have any claims whatsoever to any rights to your pieces. We have already noted on the site that rights belong to the authors and their newspapers, and that all permissions for further reprints must be directed to the authors. I would hope that this might be a springboard to someone offering to syndicate or reprint your articles (maybe those magazines that I constantly encounter in my writing life that are looking for specific articles for instance).

I know from being in the "writing world" that it's writers who most know about other writers. There are certainly more writers/columnists out there we haven't heard about yet (in fact I learned of another, thanks to Georgina Schwartz, right before sending this out). Please let me or Burr know of these folks so we can add them to the "group".

Well, I'm certain there are other things that need discussing here, but as I said my head is sleepier than my body right now. I hope this at leasts spurs folks to contribute. If not, and you want yourself removed from association here, please let me know. I hope that by the weekend there is nearly full participation and we can go public with it and make a big deal. I have a pretty good distribution network.

Check the site out at:

http://TexasNature.blogspot.com

All my best, tony g

tony gallucci
hunt, kerr county, texas
p.o. box 6
camp verde, texas 78010-5006
SwallowtailedKite@hotmail.com
HurricaneTG@hotmail.com
http://milkriver.blogspot.com
http://invertebrates.blogspot.com
http://flying.to/KerrFauna

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