Monday, April 2, 2018

A Story of a Stolen Mermaid--(and the Infringement of an Artist)

Fact: I wrote Sirena: A Mermaid Legend from Guam in 2010.
Fact: My brother, Sonny Chargualaf is the talented artist behind the imagery.
Fact: Our Sirena is copyrighted.
Fact: I haven't blogged in two years and this incident has made me mad enough to start again.

And so begins the story of a sister/brother team, who collaborated to bring a platform to our Chamorro culture and a book to honor their late father to the forefront.

Sirena, the legend of a mermaid, told to me first by my father and next by my teachers in Guam was always my favorite story. When my father died in 2007, I struggled with the loss. When my mother, moved back to Guam after living with me for a few years, I was again sad. I decided to channel that into creating a children’s book, retelling Sirena in my way. A legend that is public domain, that I wanted to spin into a rhyme. A book that I wanted to create with my artist brother. We began to collaborate via e-mail in May of 2010. By August of that year, I completed the book and Sonny brought to life a gorgeous cover and rich art for the story itself.

A thousand dollars later, invested with an independent publisher, Authorhouse, I had a product. A book dedicated to my dad, with a by line by me and illustration attribution to my brother. I never thought that the cover art would bring us anything but pride…

The first time we began to see the cover art reproduced without permission was for school projects. Children on Guam identifying with the image of Sirena from our book? That was fine. It is a classic representation of ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’. These children were not using the image or their recreation of Sonny’s version of Sirena for financial gain. We smiled and moved on.

In 2015, within a Guam group I was connected with in my new home of Washington State, Sonny’s Sirena image emerged from the deep in the form of stickers. Stickers solely created to be sold for profit. Stickers he never approved. Money not entitled to the people involved in creating the sticker. A Sirena image hijacked from my brother. With some detective work, I received a name. I was begrudgingly given a phone number in Guam. I called and confronted the woman involved. She questioned me, asked me if I owned the image. She was confrontational and tried to make me feel guilty. I invited her to Google Sirena+Taimanglo+Chargualaf and she would see the book. She calmed down after I said my brother’s full name, then blamed a graphic artist she hired. I wrote a letter to the editor addressing this particular incident. It was received well by fellow artists, but scoffed at as being too harsh by others. Apparently, I wasn’t allowed to be upset or question my culture or fight for artists’ rights.
With 2018’s Mes Chamorro, Sirena was seen in numerous places again. A major grocery chain used the image on a large wooden cut out. Their explanation to my brother, the artist? “Oh, it was on Google.” McDonald’s did the same. Printing our Sirena directly from the book cover, minus my name and Sonny’s. My brother handled the calls and the companies gave their lame, ‘I didn’t realize’ excuses.

It’s Monday, the day after April Fool’s, and in the last week, in the midst of my brother’s visit from Guam, we had a stronger case of the misuse of Sonny’s Sirena. This particular company etched our Sirena on their product. They sold this product for a substantial price, $149.99. They went through the process of ‘hiring a graphic artist’ to create a Sirena, which is basically from our book cover. They debuted the product at the March 24th, Chamorro Cultural Fest in San Marcos, California. Ironically, a large annual event produced for the Chamorro people by the honorable non-profit group, CHELU’ Inc. of which I was a Board member for four years, being an organizer for the first 4 fests. Family, friends, those who know Sonny and me and our book began messaging us, tagging us, and questioning the validity of the use of Sirena on this product. Monday, March 26 was stressful. My brother just got to Washington to visit me and we had to deal with this infringement. It was fortunate for us that we were together. It made us fight stronger, in that our father’s 11th death anniversary was looming as well. He always taught us to stand up for ourselves. After finally getting a name for the company, a call was made. I recorded it, heard his explanation. Something not new to us, oh, the “graphic artist” did it. Stealing is stealing. They claimed it was an ‘honest’ mistake. That didn’t sit well with us.

They came up with a weak proposal and asked us to censor our posts on-line. They wanted us to remove “negative” posts on our business and personal social media accounts. Say what? Censorship? Nah. We simply requested help in finding the company owners. The responses from other people were outside of our power and their right to voice their opinion.

We didn’t agree to anything in writing, but suddenly Sonny’s name was being associated with them on their website. I screen shot everything. Yes, I did. I told my brother, it’s like they forced you into a marriage you didn’t agree to.

We discussed the limp proposal and offered a counter offer. After three days and no response, I checked their social media and website. I found that all traces of Sirena disappeared, even their post admitting that they did not mean to use Sonny’s artwork, but did. My brother followed up for a response. None was made. Big sister mode kicked in and I texted the co-owner. Finally, an emailed response came to Sonny only, I was not cc’d this time. They wrote that it was too bad that we didn’t accept their miniscule cut of the profits and that they took the product down. They are claiming to provide refunds to those who bought the unauthorized product. We have no proof that this has been done, at least not via their social media.

It’s like they are erasing the mistake and hoping we will also be silent. My brother and I can’t. Their mistake will not be made into a tall tale, because this is not fiction, it’s real life. We need artists to be protected. We need the infringement to end. There are still 30 of their products out swimming recklessly in the world. They claim they will relaunch the Sirena product with something original. They hope this won’t happen again to us. But, the damage was done. A price must be paid.

Sirena, the story, the legend belongs to us all. The artwork my brother created is his. Good luck to this company. We wish you the best, as long as you don’t force us to swim with you.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tales From Pasifika's Generous Review of Secret Shopper

Humbled by this latest review of Secret Shopper. "We don’t wait for the big storm to happen – we just live. This may be the reason why the plot is so incredibly believable and easy to relate to – this is not a fairytale you dream of, but a story solidly anchored in reality." -Tales from Pasifika

Click here to read more. Thanks!

Click here to purchase your paperback or eBook from Amazon.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Finished.

I was motivated to get my 50K words out for NaNoWriMo in 20 days. Did it in 24 because, life. I was extra motivated because of Tae Kwon Do. Namely, the exam that awaits me on December 5th. I was additionally motivated to complete before Thanksgiving so I could watch Mockingjay 2. Whatever pushes you, right?

Wonder Fall, first draft, completed at 50,013 words. Thank you, NaNoWriMo. Can't wait for my winner's shirt!

Drops mic.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Twyla Tharp. She's a Rock Star.

I was headed to my Tae Kwon Do Instructor's Training Camp in Bellingham last Saturday. It was raining, gray, the usual for PacNorWest. I was wondering why I was torturing my 41 year old body with extra martial arts training trying to achieve more levels than the black belt I already had. Why bother for more? I asked myself. Why do this extra training when I know that it will be two days of muscle aches (before recovery) and mind twisting to remember hundreds of moves I'm required to learn from white belt to danbo level? Self-doubt is normal for me.

I wasn't in the mood for music. I just wanted to hydrate, and counteract that hydration by sipping my coffee, and focus on my one hour drive. When I'm pensive, I prefer to listen to talk radio. Lucky for me, Twyla Tharp's interview was on. A 74 year old woman, doing what she loves. Dance. She described her journey so eloquently. She made me want to be better at the passion of my choice. I am thankful for hearing the interview, as it came at just the right time for me to be inspired. I had always known of Twyla and her association to dance, but nothing more. Now, I am a fan.

Here is the NPR interview I listened to, enjoyed, absorbed, and made mine. Please click here.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

ChaNoWriMo about NaNoWriMo-Full Interview Here

My Name is Tanya.
I love NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month.
I love ChaNoWriMo. They gave me an opportunity to share my strategies to surviving 30 days of writing to reach the goal of 50K words.

They've been sharing bits of the interview on their wonderful Facebook page. Be sure to like them by clicking here. In case you missed those tidbits, here's the full meal.

Thank you and good luck if you're taking on NaNoWriMo. Click here for more information about this wonderful writing challenge.

1. What first got you interested in NaNoWriMo / ChaNoWriMo?

With NaNoWriMo, I can’t pinpoint how it came to my attention, but I believe it was via Facebook, perhaps a post from an author I follow. We were new to Washington State, making a long journey up the Pacific Coast for about a week in October. Once we settled in the area, but before we found our home, I remember being at our lodge and deciding to go for it. I needed a distraction from the stress of our long journey. I liked the idea of challenging myself to write 50K words in 30 days. That was 2012, and I’ve participated ever since. For ChaNoWriMo, I learned about it in 2014 and love the idea.

2. What keeps you going through a whole month, day by day?

Most days, it’s the story that unfolds in my mind—the characters, the events, the dialogue. But, for less motivated days, I love that NaNoWriMo keeps tabs on your daily word average. I also keep up with other writers in my city as well as those on Guam.

3. How much time do you try to spend writing every day in November? What does an average November writing day look like, for you?

I try to carve out time in the morning, before the family rush, and in the evening after the home is tucked in and sleeping. If I get a solid hour or two a day, I can meet my goal.

4. What (if anything) do you do in advance to prepare for actually writing the novel during November (drafting, outlining, lists of scenes, etc.)?

I’m a girl scout in that I’m honest. Sometimes I wonder if other NaNoWriMo participants start writing long before the November start date. For now, I’m debating in my head about two story lines. I don’t actually start writing (again, because of my innate honesty), but I may begin an outline and I love having my character names settled. It helps propel the story and my writing efficiency.

5. Any tips and secrets you would like to share on building plot, character, etc.?

I love sharing. It helps get writers motivated and stories born.

I keep files on my computer for each book I write. I include drafts, outlines, scenes, and character profiles. In my profiles, I may have “journal” entries of the main characters, lists of my character’s likes, dislikes, quirks, and personality. I even go so far as finding celebrities I envision as my character (as if in a movie) and using their pictures as a visual guide. Some people like music when they write, and I’m in that group. I make a ‘soundtrack’ for my book and it helps with feeling and tone as I write. In addition, I print out my drafts and use index cards and stuff them into a journal or folder. If I find time away from home, I have things in front of me that I can work on in my car, or the library, or a coffee shop. As much as I love computers, I keep printed copies of everything I have, so the progression doesn’t need to be dependent on my accessibility to my laptop.

6. Who are the Chamorro or Micronesian, Oceanic, writers that you consider role models?

There are so many. I love that Craig Santos Perez is making waves as a poet. I’m a fan of Sieni A.M. and Lani Wendt Young. I’ve been able to bounce off ideas and information with Young. I’ve met the wonderful author, Kristiana Kahakauwila and her short story collection, ‘This is Paradise: Stories’ is read worthy. And, I appreciate the art and writings of Dr. Judy Selk Flores. She continues to be an inspiration to me.

7. Any Pacific novels in particular that really inspire you in terms of what literature can do?

I feel like my last novel, Secret Shopper was a blend of Guam meets Bridget Jones’s Diary. I like what Lani Wendt Young has done with her YA Telesa Series, and I’m pretty fervent about her dive into Contemporary Romance/Comedy with her Scarlet Series now. For Guam, I am not aware of any novels that are in my genre specifically, which is women’s literature/romantic comedy. I have a number of projects in the Young Adult genre, and again, would love to see a rise in Chamorro titles out there.

8. What inspired you to use Chamorro motifs and language in various pieces of writing (especially in your wonderful short-story collection Attitude 13)? What do you think that adds to your work?

The biggest inspiration is being Chamorro. It’s what I know and what I am. My father passed away in 2007 and that’s when the short stories started to build in me and burst onto paper. I feel like writing stories that reflect my island and upbringing brings a mirror up to those readers from the same heritage and a light to those not familiar with us. I wrote Attitude 13 with a conscious effort to include Chamorro themes and ideals. I’m working on a volume 2 of short stories that I want to be more wide ranged and organic. I have many influences that I would like to seep into the writing.

9. What does the Chamorro canon of literature look like, to you? What do you dream of it looking like in the future?

It’s misleading to say it’s burgeoning, because, it’s always been there, a constant, but gentle flow. With the rise of indie publishing, there is more out there than we realize. Sometimes, and I invite others to try it, I type in ‘Guam’ or ‘Chamorro’ in the search bar of Amazon, under books. You’ll be surprised by what’s being published. Some of them come from a genuine place and from Chamorro writers. My hope is that Chamorro writers, whether on Guam or other places in our great big world, continue to write, to hone the craft, and be bold and publish.

10. What advice might you give about publishing, promotion, etc.?

I’ve been doing self promotion since 2010. I’ve attended Chamorro Festivals up and down the west coast—selling my books, speaking on writing and publishing. Social media is a big help to authors, so as introverted as I may be, I utilize Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and my blog, Guam Goddess in Training, to my advantage. I used to carry business cards, but found them, at least for me, an uncomfortable tool.

In terms of publishing, indie publishing is great. I used Authorhouse in 2010 to publish Sirena and Attitude 13. I didn’t in 2013 when I self-published Secret Shopper. The difference, money. Amazon’s Createspace offers a free self-publishing program. I’ve done the traditional publishing route too and hold my numerous rejection letters as trophies of honor. I would travel that route again, once I’ve polished a manuscript I deem worthy enough to submit. Find yourself a publishing company, large or ‘boutique’ and follow their submission guidelines. Brace yourself for the sound of crickets, i.e. ‘no response’, or a cookie cutter rejection letter, but don’t stop, because what one publisher might turn their nose up to, another might love.

11. Are there any historical or current events that inspire you in terms of writing?

I can’t say that there are any specific events. I’m very inspired by people who are underdogs or wallflowers who rise to an occasion, even if it’s just discovering their own power. I’m inspired by other writers who keep trying. And, that’s why I love NaNoWriMo, because it gets me to wring that story out of my brain, which would otherwise not happen.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Let's Support Art and Writing! The Dark Reaches

Here's a Kickstarter Campaign that’s personal to me. My kid brother, awesome artist (HeroesandHeadkicks), Sonny Chargualaf is to be included in some major artist company and I couldn’t be more proud. Literally, I’m so proud, I’m blogging about this before my morning coffee and that’s a big deal.

The Dark Reaches is a horror anthology spearheaded by Rus Wooton (The Walking Dead). With your support, this project can take off.

Thanks in advance! Share and share and share. Link here.

A Story of a Stolen Mermaid--(and the Infringement of an Artist)

Fact: I wrote Sirena: A Mermaid Legend from Guam in 2010. Fact: My brother, Sonny Chargualaf is the talented artist behind the imagery. ...