Copy writing? Copyrighting? What’s the difference?

From time to time I get asked about how to obtain copyright protection—for a song, a play, a book—you name it.  I realize the words copy writing and copyrighting are homonymic; but their meanings have about as much in common as iPad and eye pad.  Just to clarify, copy writing is the creation of text (i.e., copy, as it is known in advertising parlance) to sell a product or service. On the other hand, a copyright is the exclusive legal right given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.

Not too many years ago, the process to obtain a copyright involved sending materials through the mail to the Library of Congress where a record could be established and registered. I know, because I’ve been through it for myself. The last time I registered something, it took several months—the better part of a year—before I received official notice of registration in the mail. I haven’t been through the process recently, but I do know you start at the Copyright Office web page. In case you need it, here’s the link:

However, if copyrighting is not what you seek, but you indeed seek copy writing, here’s the analogous link for your quest:

And if you need another reason to engage Wordman for copy writing, how’s this? Every new client this month receives a free eye pad. (Sample on left may or may not be exactly like the one you receive.)

Toasty by the Fireplace

When the season’s chilly air nips at you, there’s nothing like a fire in the fireplace to create a warm and cozy atmosphere in your home . . .

For a few weeks this fall, I was honored by a visit from my cousin Seamus, who hails from Ireland. Seamus enjoys the outdoors, and he spent a good deal of his time in the woods behind my house. I’d see him mainly at supper time. He always seemed happy, sporting a big smile and talking and laughing as if he hadn’t a care in the world. I felt good knowing my cousin was enjoying his stay.

On a Saturday afternoon in late October, two men dressed in suits and carrying axes went into the woods. A loud commotion commenced, as if Thor and Iron Man were to duke it out. When the men in suits departed, I hiked in and investigated. Near the base of a tall oak I found shattered glass, crumpled steel, and a wad of twisted copper tubing. The ground around the tree was a muddy splotch from which emanated an odor akin to Seamus’s always-medicated breath.

I looked for my cousin’s beaming face at supper, but he never showed. I hoped he was okay and told myself his absence was probably for the best.

That night, a fierce storm blew in. Sometime after midnight, my room flashed intensely white. A second later, kra-boom! A loud crack followed, then splintering, and crash! I rushed to the window to look. A torrent of rain flooded the glass, blurring my view.

Early the next morning I went back into the woods. The tall oak had sustained a fatal strike and now rested right over the spot where cousin Seamus’s happy factory had stood. I thought nothing more of this until a couple of weeks ago when I used up my last stick of firewood. Recalling the wisdom of Lincoln, I took axe in hand. He who chops his own wood is warmed twice.

That evening, after supper, I went to the fireplace and set a starter briquet on the grate. I stacked three freshly cut oak logs and struck a match. As I moved to light the stack, flames of blue, green, and yellow instantly engulfed it—like charcoal that has been doused with kerosene.

I settled into my overstuffed chair beside the fireplace. The colorful flames entranced me as they licked and danced about the wood. Even better was the atmosphere in the room. I sat there in the glow and soaked up the feeling, tingling from head to toe in mild euphoria.

A neighbor couple from down the street stopped in to deliver a fruitcake. I had always found the wife to be quite talkative and the husband just the opposite. However, in the aura of my fire, the mister opened up like a hydrant at a three-alarm blaze. The longer we sat there, the more talkative he became. In fact, we all became quite chatty. And a little boisterous. It seemed I was especially witty. And smart. Everything I said was either laugh-out-loud funny or deeply profound.

It was after midnight when I noticed the time. “My giddiness, I mean goodness,” I announced, looking at my watch. “We’ll have to continue this another time.” I stood and yawned. My guests were tiring as well, for they stumbled a little as they headed for the door. I’m glad they had walked to my house—they were in no shape to drive.

With the fire yet a full blaze, I closed the doors on the fire box and went off to bed. The next morning, amazingly, the fire was still burning. I suffered a slight headache. But as I stood there warming myself, the throbbing disappeared.

The fire burned all day and was still burning that evening when the doorbell began to ring repeatedly, heralding a steady stream of visitors from up and down the street. Word had gotten around about my special atmosphere. I was delighted to share it and to see my neighbors “lit up” in the warmth of my home.

The fire burned all night, all the next day, and it’s still burning. I suppose it will go right on into the new year.

Yesterday, I finally heard from cousin Seamus. He says he plans to stop in sometime over the Christmas holiday. He wants to tell me about how well he’s doing “on the wagon.” I’m glad for him. I won’t dare add anything in his eggnog.

But I may throw an extra log on the fire.

Can this board be fixed?

I like this headline. The PG-rated double entendre makes me smile. But before I can nod in agreement with the sales proposition, the last word in the second line hits me like a five-ton compressor dropped from a ten-story building.

Here’s the disconnect. Most consumers (including the men this ad targets) are not HVAC diagnosticians. When the AC quits working, we don’t know if it’s a major problem or a minor one. We do know this: we don’t want the expense of replacing a unit that can be fixed.

But this advertiser, apparently, is not interested in repairing systems. Regardless of the problem’s magnitude, the copy suggests I’ll be writing a big check. Ouch.

A clever headline may get attention. But it should lead to a common-sense conclusion. When I sense a shakedown, I recoil. Wouldn’t you rather know whether your AC can be fixed before you decide to replace it?

Wordman’s Assessment:  A near miss. Fix the copy by replacing the word replaced with fixed. Or change the second line to read: Is it time to replace the AC? (Picayune type correction: “is” needs an initial cap).

Postlude . . .  

To all who came out on a brisk ides of March to hear “Songs of the Wandering Aengus” performed by the Maud Gonne Musical Society, you were a wonderful audience. (My apologies to the few who had to stand because we ran short of chairs.)

Our musicians were gratified by the enthusiasm you showed, especially for the new musical settings of the five Yeats poems. I’ve included the lead sheets at the foot of this post; feel free to enjoy these for yourself. I think my favorite is The White Birds; however, our flute player most enjoyed The Lake Isle of Innisfree—the interlude caught her fancy.

It seems we all found a bit of Irish cheer to carry into St. Paddy’s Day. Laura’s whistling on Danny Boy haunts me still. For the record, this was our playlist:

1. Let There Be Love (Ian Grant/Lionel Rand)
2. Song of the Wandering Aengus (W. B. Yeats/Music J. M. O’Leary)
3. The White Birds (W. B. Yeats/Music J. M. O’Leary)
4. The Rose Tree (W. B. Yeats/Music J. M. O’Leary)
5. The Lake Isle of Innisfree (W. B. Yeats/Music J. M. O’Leary)
6. When You Are Old (W. B. Yeats/Music J. M. O’Leary)
7. Love’s Old Sweet Song (G. Clifton Bingham/James Lynam Molloy/Arr. J. M. O’Leary)
8. Meet Me Down At Micky’s (Lyrics J. M. O’Leary/Music J. M. O’Leary & C. E. Eakins)
9. Blue Moon (Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers)
10. Danny Boy (Fred Weatherly/Traditional)
11. When Irish Eyes Are Smiling (Chauncey Olcott & George Graff, Jr./Ernest Ball)
12. The Parting Glass (Traditional/Arr. J. M. O’Leary)
13. (Encore) Evansville Is Calling (Come on Home) (Words & Music J. M. O’Leary)

Special thanks to John Hendricks and Art “The Dude” Woodward (, fellow creatives and collaborators, for shooting and sharing their photos of this event. Special thanks also to Michael Woodall for his invaluable assistance in room setup, hospitality, and audio tweaking with help from Nathan Tester. The Maud Gonne Musical Society is: John Michael O’Leary, piano and vocals; David Tester, guitar and bass; Bret Birkhead, flugelhorn; and Laura Beth O’Leary, flute.

John Michael O'Leary, Vocalist. The Maud Gonne Musical Society presents "Songs of the Wandering Aengus: A Concert for Love and Beauty." March 15, 2017, Evansville, Indiana.

Channeling Yeats

Songs of the Wandering Aengus. Concert for Love and Beauty. The Maud Gonne Musical Society. View of stage from back of house.David Tester plays the guitar on Danny Boy. Songs of the Wandering Aengus: Concert for Love and Beauty. The Maud Gonne Musical Society.Bret Birkhead, Flugelhorn. The Maud Gonne Musical Society presents "Songs of the Wandering Aengus: Concert for Beauty and Love." March 15, 2017.

Lead Sheet for The Lake Isle of Innisfree. Lyrics by William Butler Yeats; Music ©2017 J.M. O'Leary.

Lead Sheet for When You Are Old, a musical setting of the poem by WB Yeats.

Lead sheet for Song of the Wandering Aengus. Lyrics by WB Yeats/Music ©2017 J.M. O'Leary

Lead sheet for The Rose Tree, lyrics by WB Yeats/Music ©2017 J.M. O'Leary





Pick a Golden Apple

Poster: Songs of the Wandering Aengus Concert for Beauty and LoveIt will soon be time for friends to raise pints of stout in honor of Saint Patrick. On the Wednesday before, I will offer a public musical prelude to the greenest day of the year with a tribute to love and beauty. On tap: new song settings of five poems by Yeats (The White Birds, The Rose Tree, When You Are Old, Song of the Wandering Aengus, The Lake Isle of Innisfree) plus a few traditional and popular tunes. It takes place from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM at the Arts Council Gallery, 318 Main St., Evansville.

This is a free concert—click on poster image at left for details.

First Draft

First Draft


Thoughts fall to paper,

pummeled to eruption 

like piñatas raining

on the playroom floor.

Pink and blue shreds of

luckless laughter

and barely dared joy


until the janitor

with stiff new broom

gathers and feeds them 

with careless ease

to the gray furnace.