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The Writer's Law School : Legal Tips for Writers

2018 Adriance Honors

The Top 5 Things that you didn't know about me and my relationship with the library
Many Thanks to the Friends of the Poughkeepsie Public Library District for his prestigious award

     On October 15, 2018, my friends, family and supporters of the PPLD gathered to celebrate the 32nd Adriance Honors. Chris Silva, Executive Director of the Bardavon 1869 Opera House was the master of ceremonies as her presented myself and Mark and Julie Nelson with the awards.


     I have had a long, wonderful relationship with the Poughkeepsie Library and below is the speech I presented in honor of this wonderful occasion.




     I would like to thank the Friends of the Poughkeepsie Public Library District for this prestigious Adriance Honor.

     Many of you have known me for a long time. We've worked together, played together and some of us have even rock and rolled together.

However, there are probably things about me that you don't know, especially concerning my life-long friendship with the Poughkeepsie Public Library District. So, I'd like to share the Top 5 things you didn't know about me, and my relationship with the library.

     1. Throughout my life, the library has played an instrumental role in my development as a person. My father, Sandy Millman, was a native Poughkeepsian and, among other things, an author who loved spending time at the "liberrry" as he called it. My mother, a Baltimorean, calls it the "librey". Whether my Dad was working on a project with Issac Assimov or a travel article or a book, you could find him at Adriance doing research among the stacks.

     As a kid, my parents brought me to the musty Children's Room located in the basement of Adriance Memorial Library. There were no kindles or Ipads, and kids didn't really own books except an Encyclopedia, if we were lucky. If we wanted to read a book, we'd borrow them from the library.

     Now, I was an avid reader –Nancy Drew, To Kill a Mockingbird and A Wrinkle in Time – were some of my favorites – so I was there a lot.    

     2. When I attended Forbus Junior High School, and my friends were all becoming Candy Strippers at Vassar Brothers Hospital, my first volunteer job was at Adriance Library. I stacked the shelves and I especially loved the Children's room where I'd read to the kids and travel around the city in the Story Bus.

     Somehow, I think I knew back then that literature was going to play an important role in my life.

     During High school, if my assignments required more in depth information than could be found inside our white and green leatherette World Book Encyclopedia, the library was the place to go. And yes, I occasionally used a trip to Adriance as a subterfuge for hanging out with my friends.

     After law school, my first assignment as Assistant Corporation Counsel for City of Poughkeepsie was, you guessed it, Adriance Memorial Library where I worked closely with Kevin Gallagher on a variety of legal matters affecting the library.

     3. When my kids, Max and Ben, were little, we'd make weekly trips to see Barbara Hayman Diaz in the Children's rooms. At that time, I had the honor of serving as a Library Trustee when the town and city library districts were about to merge, and the proposition for the new tax was placed on the ballot. That was an exciting time to be a Trustee and to see my sons' excitement every time they attended a story time.

     The library fostered their desire to explore the world and helped contribute to the interesting and successful people they are today.

     4. Some of you know that my Dad and I have written a guide to Broadway called SEATS, but you don't know that I have a dark side. Oh yes, I'm a crime fiction writer. I like to read this genre as well, the bloodier and gorier the better. All of the murders in my novels are inspired by crimes that have occurred in the Hudson Valley, and for some strange reason, there's been a lot of murder and mayhem in the Queen City. My historical research always leads me back to the microfliche at Adriance. And I'm proud to say that I've finally mastered those damn machines. Tom, it's time to digitize the back issues of the Poughkeepsie Journal. Please!

     5. Currently, as one of the lead partners of Movies Under the Walkway, the library works closely with our family foundation, the Millman Harris Romano Foundation, as well as Walkway Over the Hudson and New York Parks, to produce our movie nights. For the past four years, they've provided guidance in operating the free summertime movie program; organized children's activities like hoolah hoops, karate demonstrations and the Reptile Guy, and they've been present onsite to sign up a whole new generation of library goers. They've also generously loaned their graphic artist to create the beautiful posters, banners and printed materials that we use to promote our movie nights.

     6.  I know that I said FIVE, but here's a bonus fact. In the 1970's, I was a rock and roll DJ on WPDH, which is where I met my husband, Mike Harris. That has nothing to do with the library, except that I wouldn't be receiving this award if not for his support in everything that I do.

     As you can see, I've had a long, lasting relationship with the Poughkeepsie Public Library District. Longer than most of the other friendships in my life. The library has been a good friend, and I've tried to give back whenever possible.

     I'm sharing my Top 6 with you because I hope that you'll think about your life and the part that the library has played in it. I guarantee that there's not one person in this room who wouldn't consider the library as a family friend. It's been an implacable community resource for your grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren as well.

     It is incumbent upon each of us to continue the legacies of the Poughkeepsie Public Library District and the Friends of the PPLD as information technology expands and changes our world so that the library will continue to provide its excellent services, classes and programming to your children, grandchildren and the community. With your generous support, the library will remain a place of unification that is accessible and open to everyone, and a place that fosters unhampered access to the free exchange of ideas.

     With an honor like this, I'd like to acknowledge Rob Dyson and the Dyson Foundation for offering me the platform to support the library and many other worthwhile non-profits throughout the Hudson Valley.

     I also must thank my parents for instilling in me the importance of public libraries, my children for reminding me that libraries are not just for grown-ups, my friends for showing up tonight, and as I mentioned, my husband for encouraging me draw outside the lines.

     Also, you know that when you have a true friend, you take for granted that you appreciate one another. You don't have to constantly reassure them of your friendship because you know they're there for you. It is unspoken between you.

     That's why receiving the 2018 Adriance Honor from the Friends of the PPLD is so special and meaningful to me. Thank you again.

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Choosing a Business Entity : Mind your Business




          In July, Immortal Works Publishing of Salt Lake City, Utah accepted my debut thriller novel, The Midnight Call, for publication. As a writer, this is a dream come true, and as an attorney, it raised certain questions about how to handle the business side of writing.
          We all know that there is the writing and the business of writing. The former is act of creative expression, where the thoughts fly out of our heads quicker than we can capture them on the page. The later is the dollars and sense of the writing biz. It's the monetary investment in your craft - joining organizations like Sisters in Crime, taking classes and seminars, attending conferences, hiring an editor, self-publishing expenses, book promotion and touring. It's also the Holy Grail – getting a publishing deal and receiving royalties.
          For many years, I've been writing a theater guide series, SEATS : NEW YORK, but the business of non-fiction writing is a completely different animal then fiction. I've experienced the process of trying to figure out what kind of business entity would be best suited for me. In this article, we'll review they types of business entities so that you can make an informed decision when you mind your business.          
          Many authors wonder what legal form their writing business should take. Should it be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a corporation or an LLC?

Sole Proprietorship

          As you're reading this article, you are a sole proprietorship. Whether you write in your real or pen name, you are the owner of your own writing enterprise. All of your expenses and profits are automatically income and expenses for you, personally. Also, if you get sued, you are personally liable as well.
          The upside to a sole proprietorship is that it is absolutely free. If you are using a pen name, you could file a Certificate of Doing Business with your County Clerk to protect that name. For example, "J.K.Rowling d/b/a/ Robert Galbraith," is a DBA, although she's undoubtedly protecting her vast empire through corporations and subsidiaries.
          Even if you're not J.K. Rowling, and your making $50K a year from your writing, then a corporation or LLC might be helpful.


          What is a corporation? It's an entity created by filing a Certificate of Incorporation with the Division of Corporations of your state. In my case, it would be the New York State Department of State, Divisions of Corporation, State Records and UCC. Here is the link: https://www.dos.ny.gov/corps/bus_entity_search.html. Forms are available on the website to create corporations online for a minimal filing fee. In addition to the Certificate, you would create a business with by-laws, minutes, directors and issue shares to your company. All shareholders would share in the profits and losses of the writing business as well as the management of the operation. Can you imagine getting in on the ground floor of the Pottermore empire?
          If you hit the big time and receive a fantastic advance, a few good reasons for incorporating are for estate planning purposes or to immediately shift income to family members in lower tax brackets, or to raise capital for projects like a theme park or movie based on your book.
          There are two types of corporations: "C" Standard corporations, like most companies on the stock exchange or sub-chapter "S" corporations which is a "flow through" entity so that income is treated like personal income. "C" corporations are taxed twice – once when the business when it earns income and, again, when the shareholder when the income is disbursed to them. With the additional IRS required tax filings, corporations can be an expensive way to operate your writing business. For a deeper discussion of taxes and bookkeeping, check out The Writer's Legal Guide: An Authors Guild Desk Reference at www.authorsguild.org.
           In my situation with SEATS, I had a small research and graphic art team working with me, had made investments in software and had inherited the franchise from my father, Sandy Millman. SEATS was really a family affair, so we formed a Sub-Chapter S corporation. For a while, SEATS was a bestseller for Hal Leonard Publishing, but over time, royalties dwindled and it became expensive to maintain the entity. Each year we had burdensome corporation tax filings with little income. Ultimately, after consulting with our accountant, we dissolved the corporation, but it's had served it purpose at the time.

Limited Liability Company

          Another choice is an LLC or Limited Liability Company, which is similar to a partnership without certain IRS restrictions like a corporation. In New York, you can create an LLC with the Article of Organization forms available online at https://www.dos.ny.gov/corps/llccorp.html, but take notice of the publication requirements. A notice of the formation of an LLC must be published in the newspaper as required by statute. An LLC can be organized with one or more members, and insulates the members from personal liability. Like a Sub-Chapter S corporation, an LLC is a "flow through" mechanism where income or loss flows directly to the writer or partners.


          In contrast, a partnership is a sole proprietorship with more than one partner. It is extremely flexible, often formed with a handshake. However, it is advisable to put your agreement down on paper, just in case you split ways. I've always advised clients who are creating a partnership to put their agreement in writing so that they will remain friends in the future. There's nothing more heartbreaking than losing a friend or family member over a dispute concerning money, as many plots have described. Irwin Shaw's Rich Man, Poor Man and Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's The Nest, are two good examples of familial contention over the mighty dollar.

          With the newest chapter in my writing career, I've opted for an LLC. For tax purposes, it was easier to organize my accrued writing expenses as a separate entity. This time, the bookkeeping will be simplified when it comes to April 15th. And when the royalty checks being to arrive, I'll be all set.
          Which entity is best for you? The decision as to whether to become a sole proprietorship, LLC, partnership or corporation shouldn't be taken lightly. It depends upon your professional goals, income, desire for control, and estate and tax planning, just to name a few considerations. If you're an emerging writer –take it slow. It's rarely cost effective to rush into a corporation.
          I hope that my personal experiences have provided insight into the benefits and burdens of the business of writing. As you know, each writer's situation is different, so it always best to seek professional advice from a trusted tax professional and attorney to help you mind your business.


 This article appeared in the September 2018 issue of inSinC Quarterly, the newsletter of Sisters in Crime.


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