tad crawford, new novelist, artists’ advocate, and child of woodstock, gets personal with the nook

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photo: susan mccartney

about tad: author of the novel A Floating Life, as well as The Secret Life of Money and a dozen other nonfiction titles focused chiefly on the business lives of artists and writers; his stories and articles have appeared in such varied mags as Art in America, Confrontation, Glamour, Guernica, and The Nation.

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Q & A with tad:

nook: first things first, i’d love it if you gave us a few impressions from your personal experience of writing and publishing a work of fiction, after so many nonfiction titles. differences and similarities in process? 

tad: the difference in the writing process was enormous. my legal/business guides for artists, or even The Secret Life of Money, allowed for a plan that outlined the entire book before i started to write. when i started my novel, i had no idea what the ending might be. during the process, i wrote sections that risked hitting dead ends, and some of these sections couldn’t be used in the finished novel. as important as ‘knowing’ is to my nonfiction, ‘not knowing’ is to my fiction. i was willing to make mistakes of all sizes and kinds; so, the editing process—the balancing, shaping, and arranging—became ever so important in bringing the novel to completion.

nook: during my time as managing director of clmp, i sometimes found it challenging to advocate for good, diligent organizational practices and development with our members. it’s definitely not the glamorous, sexy part of the art world, or the publishing world, or any creative field! and, of course, so many artists and writers are strapped for time and cash, which makes it even harder for them to address these issues. you have an impressive list of nonfiction titles aimed at helping artists, writers, designers, etc., with the technical side of their careers. can you talk a bit about what drives your passion for the nonfiction writing? 

tad: i grew up in the artist’s colony of woodstock, new york. i wanted to write, but went to columbia law school to be practical. by chance i was offered the opportunity to teach writing at the school of visual arts in new york city. i did this while practicing law, and soon discovered that my students knew little about law or business. this led me to create a course for them. i wrote Legal Guide for the Visual Artist as a textbook for the course. soon i was involved with many organizations that serve artists, and i continued to write books aimed at helping artists approach business issues. my passion for this certainly came, in part, from having grown up with artists and authors in woodstock. but meeting so many sva students, and also faculty, gave me an in-depth awareness of the challenges they face, and a desire to assist them. this finally led me to found Allworth Press in 1989, so i could publish a variety of books by many expert authors, to help creative professionals.

nook: on your website, i read about the recent hearings held by the copyright office on small copyright claims infringement. how’d that go? can you tell us a bit about this issue?

tad: well, the problem is that small claims for copyright infringement can’t be pursued without great expense in the federal courts. this makes it impossible for most artists and authors to sue for copyright infringement. the hearings were an attempt to develop legislation that would deal with this longstanding problem and make the copyright system more available to creators who aren’t wealthy. when i was active as an attorney, especially as general counsel to the Graphic Artists Guild, i focused on educating artists, but also seeking legislative changes to work-for-hire contracts under the copyright law. unfortunately, this remains an important concern for artists and authors.

nook: what was it like growing up on an artists colony in woodstock? i was immediately charmed by this fact in your bio, as the hudson valley holds a special place in my heart. i’ve spent a lot of time at bard in annandale and also in hudson, ny. i’m not sure what the specific question is here; i’m basically fishing for an evocative anecdote!

tad: woodstock in the ’50s and ’60s was a fascinating place. visual artists had discovered the valley’s beauty at the turn of the century, but many famous musicians also made their homes there. my mother was a sculptor who was active in the Woodstock Artist’s Association. the association staged a musical each year as a fundraiser. one year, my mother co-authored the musical with the village anarchist (who, despite coming from a wealthy family, lived without running water or electricity in a cabin in the woods, and hadn’t shaved since before the arrival of beatniks, much less hippies). one song they wrote depicted locals picketing the bus from new york, chanting “tourists go home!” this upset the chamber of commerce so much that, after a huge brouhaha, the lyrics were changed to “tourists come back!” old woodstock’ers (whose families had been there for generations), ibm’ers who came as employees, and artists who loved the rich and sometimes strange culture, all coexisted to make the town colorful even before the counterculture of the ‘60s. and i can’t tell you how often people asked me, “where did they hold the woodstock festival?” 

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