Thursday, March 31, 2011

Writers & Income Tax Time

I have the fondest memory of my Dad holing up in the basement, from which a cloud of blue smoke and colourful profanities wafted up for several days. It was income tax time and Dad went head to head with the Prime Minister of the day, determined not to pay “that bloody ......” or “that smarmy ....” a cent more than absolutely necessary to keep the Canadian safety net shipshape.

          Since 1981, I’ve filed my income taxes as a writer, thanks to hopping off the career ladder and lugging home 1500 rice paper fables I’d had made in Kathmandu, Nepal. Writers are allowed three to five years to produce a novel and to earn zero income while racking up research and travel expenses. I am proud to say I managed to earn more than zero from selling my writing every single year since 1981 but some years, especially those fifteen years when we ran a bookstore and then I worked as a publishers’ rep, it was a minor miracle for me to write a grocery list let alone a haiku or to sell a single bon mot.
          But if we writers don’t take our work seriously, then we will be hobbyists forever more and the fact is, a great many of us donate hundreds of hours and dollars to our communities and the causes of the world annually. You can be very sure that the Prime Minister’s minions will seek you out and pick your pockets when your next book is a bestseller and that they don’t much care if you took an eighteen year apprenticeship at very low ‘wages’ to become an overnight success.
          I’ve used the same one-page format to report my writing expenses and income since 1981. I ignore the reams of forms provided for professional and small business people and so far, the Prime Minister has merely sighed and accepted my puny efforts.

2010 Writing Income & Expenses

Caroline Hendrika Woodward
Social Insurance Number


  1. Advertising/Promotion…………………….$x (website, author photos, schmoozing costs at ½ the meal or pub bill. Sadly, not for new shoes to wear when launching your latest book)
  2. Automobile Expenses………………………$y (getting yourself to reading tours, workshops, etc. Fuel, repairs, insurance, parking. Keep a mileage log & yes, claim every trip to and from the Post Office)
  3. Office Expenses-ph/fx/internet………… $z (straightforward)
  4. Other Office Expenses & Materials……  $x (magazine subscriptions, stationery, books, a decent chair, bookshelves, computer)
  5. Light/Heat/Water…………………………… $y (if you live in a 5 room house with a one room office, claim 1/5 your annual costs)
  6. Travel, excluding auto………………………$z (bus, plane, hotel & meals for writing gigs not covered by publisher or hosts) 
  7. Office Rent…………………………………… $x (if you rent a separate office, otherwise, claim 1/5 (or whatever) of your household rent or mortgage payments)
  8. Capital Cost Allowance………………………$y (see guide, I used this once in the 80’s to depreciate the cost of a new computer but am no longer a reliable guide to this category)
2010 Writing Income……………………………$not nearly enough
Net Loss………………………………………… (-$sigh, net loss again-bonus, it can be applied to reduce your respectable income as a bricklayer, lightkeeper, ranch hand or writing teacher)


_________________________                     _________________
Caroline H. Woodward                           Date

During this humbling process, I offer up thanks to the determined writers who lobbied for the Public Lending Right so that the library usage of our books is compensated for, ditto for the Canadian Access Copyright group who pay us for our work being used in schools and universities and elsewhere. In memory of Dad, I curse Stephen Harper with gusto and with good reason.
Every year, I look long and hard at the description of the Vow of Perpetual Poverty. There but for the wimple, go I.
Two things: keep every receipt in tidy envelopes for seven years and be scrupulously honest (the karma thing). Also, try filing online. I just got my 2010 return deposited in my Credit Union in seven business days flat. Hurrah for newfangled thingeybobs!

This blog can also be viewed as a guest blog at my friend and writing buddy Paula Wild's site: very soon!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

One-Half Degree of Separation for Canucks

Post-Mexico Update

Yes, my blog has ‘gone dark’ for a while and I have returned from a wonderful four weeks in the Yucatan, browner, poorer and with my betacarotene levels nicely topped up thanks to mango consumption. Mangoes, nectarines, wild raspberries and rambutan-- these are a few of my favourite fruits and I sing their praises like Julie Andrews but an octave lower.
But I digress.
Today I must marvel in print at how Canadians have ½ degree of separation between us while the rest of the world has, apparently, 6 degrees stretching between strangers.
On the February Full Moon, exactly one month ago, mi casido and I were shuffling around an open-air dance floor in our water sandals and flip-flops to a great Louis Prima tune. The Merida Big Band was playing, the third and final band at the Full Moon Jazz Festival near the village of Telchac Puerto on the Yucatan Peninsula. It was the second year of fundraising for students who attend the free public school in the fishing village. But although all public schools in Mexico are free, each student must provide his/her own supplies, uniforms and sometimes, teacher and school supplies, like toilet paper. It means that most children can’t go beyond Grade 6.
The first Full Moon Jazz Festival in 2010 with 300 people attending raised enough money to sponsor 18 promising but financially poor students with the following list: a new backpack, all school supplies (notebooks, pens, dictionary, geometry set, etc), three uniform shirts or blouses, two pairs of uniform pants or skirts, a pair of uniform shoes, three pairs of socks, a sweater and a Christmas present.
The organizers wrangled great corporate support and for our attendance fee (roughly $21 Cdn) we enjoyed complimentary wine and wonderful appetizers, perfect weather, terrific jazz standards and Cuban-influenced Latin jazz too. If you are in the Yucatan next February 12th, catch the bus from Merida or Chelem, Progreso or Chicxulub and support some bright kids while having a good time meeting other music lovers.
Speaking of meeting other music lovers, we invited two women over to our table, Jacquie and Rosie, and really enjoyed talking with the two Canadians after being holed up in our beach casa writing by ourselves for the best part of two weeks. Turns out that Rosie was named for Grace Rose Darling, an ancestor who was a revered Victorian lightkeeping heroine!  In 1838, Grace Darling rowed out in a storm with her father, the lightkeeper at Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland, to rescue survivors of a ship which had sunk after hitting the rocks on this treacherous bit of coast (rather like the West Coast of Vancouver Island’s Graveyard of the Pacific reputation). So Rosie was delighted to chat with real Canadian lightkeepers and then we four enthused about music, all forms of it.
Turns out that one of Rosie’s sons is a classically trained guitarist who also plays jazz and moreover, he is a favourite rockabilly musical act of ours, having seen him perform at the Vancouver Island MusicFest, none other than Cousin Harley aka Pigby aka Paul Pigat!
So that’s what I mean about Canadians getting together. Sooner or later, we’ll find out who and what we have in common and then laugh at all the connections and celebrate them too. It’s a great big country in a beautiful, small world.