The following are a series of articles that loosely describe the History of the Horror Writers Association.
A Shockingly Brief and Informal History of the Horror Writers Association
By Stanley Wiater
As with most great ideas, the concept for a horror writers
association originated in the fevered imagination of one individual
-- in this instance, one Robert R. McCammon. In an interview with
Publisher's Weekly in 1984, the author (who had already
published six horror novels) first publicly expressed his desire
for a professional organization specifically geared to the needs of
fellow writers of fear. At that point, however, his decidedly
colorful name for the then nonexistent organization was "HOWL"
(Horror/Occult Writers League.) Even so, reasoned McCammon, mystery
writers had their professional organizations, as did science
fiction writers. Wasn't it past time that the equally honorable
genre of terror, shock, and the supernatural be formally
Perhaps more than anyone, McCammon was himself shocked at the
subsequent -- and often sincere -- interest from the media to his
remarks, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. Then
the B. Dalton and Waldenbooks chains wanted to know more. Horror
writers began to hear the HOWL and wrote McCammon to ask where to
sign up--though it had always been his intent to first survey every
writer he could contact before ever making a formal announcement
about the proposed organization. Nevertheless, McCammon was deluged
with still more letters of support from writers, editors, and
scholars both stateside and overseas ... my own enthusiastic
response as a self-styled "horror journalist" included.
Before long, McCammon enlisted the support of two colleagues
from Texas who were instrumental in bringing the concept of HOWL
snarling into reality: author Joe R. Lansdale and his wife, Karen.
They in turn sent out a formal letter of invitation to some 177
writers, of whom 88 subsequently responded with suggestions or a
willingness to join.
Working by phone and letter with McCammon, the trio committed
themselves to the insane task of creating what they believed could
be a nationally -- perhaps even internationally recognized
-- writers organization. Thanks primarily to Karen's unflagging
energy, they then drew up the constitution and bylaws, formulated
mailing lists, took out ads, issued press releases; whatever it
took to insure that HOWL would be (hopefully) immediately
recognized as a professional writers organization, not "a
fan club" for side-show horror buffs.
Other new volunteers contributed in numerous ways, most notably
in the production and content of the early newsletters. We took our
organization seriously -- right from the bloody start. And why not?
Stephen King and Peter Straub, among others, were becoming
increasingly known as "brand name writers." For the first time
"Horror" was being labeled as a separate category in most
bookstores. The entire field was riding a growing wave of
popularity in the Eighties; it was only logical that those of us
exploring this increasingly recognized genre would desire to have
our own legitimate organization.
The goals of HOWL were stated simply and directly in the preamble to the constitution
and bylaws: "Be it known that the Horror and Occult Writers League is a non-profit
organization of professional writers of fiction and non-fiction pertaining to
or inspired by the traditions, legends, development, and history of horror and
occult. Its members are together for their mutual benefit in an earnest effort
to further a more widespread publicity, promotion, distribution, readership
and appreciation of the literature of horror and occult."
The lack of high profile authors like King was one of the
stumbling blocks early on, even as the organization was searching
for recognition by its peers precisely among those most
successfully working in our genre. (Dean Koontz and Robert Bloch
were among the very first to respond favorably to the concept and
to volunteer their aid and reputations.) Regardless, new members
from all across the country -- and overseas -- were being added to
the growing roster. And it was obvious from the burgeoning
newsletters that, for many writers, editors, and critics, the
fledgling organization was being taken quite seriously.
Unfortunately, the "Horror/Occult Writers League" was not being
taken as seriously by some colleagues...as well as much of the
mainstream media. (If I can easily poke gentle fun at the acronym
"HOWL," just think how anyone less than sympathetic would describe
the virtually unknown group -- and its membership.)
Nevertheless, history was made when the first formal meeting
took place on November 3, 1985, at the World Fantasy Convention
held in Tucson, Arizona. (Subsequent meetings have taken place at
both the World Fantasy Convention and the World Horror Convention
ever since.) A total of no more than two dozen people attended that
fateful meeting, lead informally by founder Robert R. McCammon, and
Joe and Karen Lansdale. Of course, there were literally hundreds of
writers, agents, and other professionals at the convention.
Dare I say it, there yours truly took note of the small number
of the faithful in attendance that glorious Sunday morning. And so
made a brief yet heartfelt speech imploring those present to change
the name from the undeniably memorable "HOWL" to, say, the "Horror
Writers of America." With the obvious intent to bring our name
recognition to the public more in line with such well established
groups as the Mystery Writers of America and the Science Fiction
Writers of America. By unanimous vote, this small suggestion was
After that initial gathering, others were inspired to make our
new organization a truly viable-and far more visible -- one.
McCammon then formed a steering committee with Melissa Mia Hall and
Joe R. Lansdale in order to be successful in (as described in an
open letter to members) "the toughest part of putting the HWA
together -- the trial by paperwork, if you will -- and after these
hurdles are overcome with your help and support, we'll have a
stronger organization that will benefit authors in our field for
generations to come."
Dated July of 1986, Volume 1, Number 1 of the official
newsletter appeared. Entitled "Our Glass" (after a famous medieval
statue in which a corpse is admiring itself in a pocket glass), the
professionally printed first issue was a total of eight pages in
length. It featured timely news items, a letters page, a market
report, the first ballot for the formal election of officers, and
brief interviews with artist Phil Parks and founder Robert R.
McCammon. Only two issues appeared with this title, even as a
search was launched for a permanent logo for the organization.
(While the admiring corpse was suggested as one possibility, the
logo would ultimately be a tastefully stylized haunted house.)
Later that year, early supporter Dean Koontz was chosen as the
organization's first president. In a statement to the membership,
Koontz declared his belief that the HWA could "add dignity and
publicity to the field, as well as giving horror fiction a focus."
Koontz further suggested an annual anthology to be composed of
contributions from the membership ranks. (The first of several such
anthologies to subsequently appear would be Under the Fang,
edited by Robert R. McCammon.)
Through the volunteered help of legal counsel Sheldon R.
Jaffery, the HWA was legally incorporated in March of 1987. The
initial board of trustees was also in place, which included at that
time McCammon, Lansdale, and Koontz. The HWA was formally on its
way, anxious and ready to make its unique voice heard.
Koontz was instrumental in furthering the idea that the Horror
Writers of America was a serious organization for writers, and damn
well should be taken seriously by all concerned. Before he left
office, there were some 300 members. With many of them are among
the most popular and respected authors in the business. (As most
everyone is aware, the most recognized horror authors in the world
have since become members, including Ray Bradbury, Stephen King,
Peter Straub, Clive Barker, Richard Matheson, Ramsey Campbell.)
Indeed, Koontz's considerable contributions to the newsletter alone
would help any writer thrive, no matter what the genre.
It was also under Koontz's administration that the formation of
an annual award for "Superior Achievement" was initiated. At the
time, Koontz was chief among those who believed the award be named
after a famous -- and deceased -- writer. His short list of dead-on
recommendations: Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft --
and Bram Stoker. The membership ultimately voted on the "Bram
Stoker Award," to be issued in the form of a magnificently wrought
haunted house designed by Stephen Kirk.
Charles L. Grant ably succeeded Koontz as president (as he would be succeeded by such acclaimed authors as Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Craig Shaw Gardner, Dennis Etchison, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Brian Lumley, Janet Berliner, S.P. Somtow, Richard Laymon, David Niall Wilson, Joseph Nassise, Gary Braunbeck, Deborah LeBlanc, and Rocky Wood). In 1988, the first Annual Bram Stoker Awards Banquet and Business Meeting took place in New York City. Since then, the officers have attempted to satisfy both the West Coast and East Coast members by swapping coasts from time to time.
In 1993, to further involve its international membership, the
name of the organization was changed once again, from the "Horror
Writers of America" to the "Horror Writers Association." Whatever
the name, the horror genre it proudly champions continues to be
further recognized and increasingly appreciated as we approach the
Just as the HWA continues to flourish -- and be taken seriously
-- by both publishers and the public alike.
If I may close on a personal note, its been my singular pleasure
to be a dues-paying member from the earliest origins of the
Association. My highest honor in the literary field has undoubtedly
been to win the Bram Stoker Award in 1991. Without the Horror
Writers Association, it's difficult to say where the career of at
least one writer might have ended up. In fact, one might be sorely
tempted to say it's too damn frightening to even contemplate...
This article originally appeared in Writing Horror: A
Handbook by the Horror Writers Association, edited by Mort
Castle. Copyright © 1996 by ShadoWind, Inc. Used with
The following articles appeared in '25: Celebrating A Quarter-Century Of HWA', edited by Lisa Morton published upon the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of HWA's incorporation and the Bram Stoker Awards®. It was released at the Celebrate HWA Day component of World Horror Convention 2012 held in Salt Lake City, Utah in March 2012. All material is copyright by the individual author.
"Some Recollections" by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
(Chelsea Quinn Yarbro was HWA's third President, and served from 1988 to 1990)
Charlie Grant talked me into it, knowing just how to go about it. "We've discussed what kind of organization horror writers need —well, here's your chance to do something about it" and "You'd be our first female president, and it's good to set the precedent early on" and "You're good about getting people involved", etc., etc., etc. I finally agreed, with Charlie's assurance that he would be available for consultation when necessary, since he was stepping into the role as Head Trustee.
The most constant niggle was the newsletter, and getting out the short article for most issues. Then there were questions from new members about what the organization could and could not do. Most of the time this was not particularly difficult, but a few times it was a hassle. After my first six months in the job, HWA was taking up to twenty hours of my week, with fifteen being the average, about half of that dealing with issues between writers and editors: phone calls where possible, letters where not. I made a point whenever possible to call new members and welcome them to the organization, on my own dime, since the Internet was in its infancy; it was also a way to get the new members involved. At the end of the first year, things had steadied down, and even the changes among the officers went relatively smoothly. After being reelected to a second term and some discussions with my fellow officers, we went looking for a part-time paid secretary to handle the basic routine stuff, which took a lot of weight off not only my shoulders but helped most of the officers with the routine stuff. I also tried to find a company that would give us a good group rate on health insurance, but since I couldn't guarantee enough members would join such a plan if one were offered, the attempt came to nothing, which is a disappointment to me still.
The organization was growing rapidly and that meant occasional growing pains, and personality clashes among the members. I believed then and I believe now that feuding is not helpful within organizations, no matter how laudable the goals of feuding may be; having been raised Quaker (I lost the faith but not the manners) I thought that internal feuds were divisive and that a strong united front was our most useful stance. For a while we had occasional brushfires among the big commercial publishing writers and the prestige small press publishing writers, but aside from hassles about the awards, which seems to be ubiquitous in writers' organizations, most of our stresses and strains were handleable. There were demands for a two-tiered award system, which I thought then and think now was a bad idea; the Trustees said no, and the membership debated putting it to a vote, which, if it happened, happened after I left office.
On balance, I'm glad I did it. I'm glad HWA managed to hang together through the first decade of existence and then redefined itself about seven or eight years ago, a first step in dealing in this brave new world of electronic everything. All writers will need to keep their wits and their backlists about them while our profession sorts itself out yet again. In times like these, having this solid organization as back-up is doubly important as it was all those years ago when Charlie was saying, "Oh, go on. Run. You might like it."
"Horror In Ancient Times" by Craig Shaw Gardner
(HWA's fourth President, Craig Shaw Gardner, served from 1990 to 1992)
I spent two years each as president of HWA and president of the HWA board of trustees. Twenty-plus years later, some of these events tend to run together, but I thought I'd give a brief rundown of what we did, and were trying to do, way back then.
HWA had been the brainchild of a number of big name horror writers, who then turned the reigns over to Charlie Grant, who really got the organization up and running. The next president was Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and the folks who were trying to establish the organization as a viable, long-term organization, were looking around for her replacement—someone with organizational skills and a recognizable name within the industry. So they asked me—I had written a fair amount of horror short fiction (since collected in A Cold Wind in July), but was better known for my humorous fantasy and my bestselling media tie-in to the first Batman film. And hey, I had been interviewed by a half dozen media outfits and had even appeared on the Today show. I was also a close friend of Charlie's, and was honored to be chosen for the position. (Back in the early days of HWA, we would be lucky to find enough people to volunteer to run the basic business of the organization. Actual contested elections had to wait for the rise of the internet.)
So what happened on my watch? HWA grew into a more stable organization, with well-attended meetings in New York and fabulous Redondo Beach, CA, both of which involved a great deal of leg-work by everyone (especially secretary Cheryl Sayer, aka Tamara Thorne) and a great many phone calls by me when our original main speaker in California was unable to fulfill his duties (and great thanks to Clive Barker, who filled in admirably.) We came up with a basic health care program (thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Thomas Smith), changed our name from Horror Writers of America to the more universal Horror Writers Association, and spent a good part of our budget on printing and postage (Kathy Ptacek was already editing the newsletter, but an awful lot of stamping and sealing of Stoker ballots was performed by yours truly). The first horror community rose up online thanks to the GEnie bulletin board, and we all got to experience our first flame wars. But most business was still conducted by phone, and I would get regular late night calls from Certain Famous Horror Authors who didn't want to be directly involved in the organization, but were helpful in other ways. I also had a tremendous group of fellow writers who gave great amounts of time as officers and committee members.
I passed the presidency on to others. HWA and the horror field in general had since had their good times and their bad times. I watched more recent administrations completely reinvent some of the stuff we had done—a side-effect of a writers' organization run almost entirely by volunteers—but whether I've agreed with their decisions or not, I'm happy to see HWA still alive, and still helpful to all its many members, past and present.
From Lawrence Watt-Evans:
(Lawrence Watt-Evans, HWA's sixth President, served from 1994 to 1996)
I don't know what effect I had on HWA, in the long run. It had fallen into a somewhat disorganized state when I was elected president, and I did my best to remedy that. I'm proud of creating the Internet Mailer and the first HWA website; some of my other attempts at innovation, though, were less successful, and many ideas that I held dear have been discarded by subsequent administrations.
I do know what effect it had on me, though, at least in part. It showed me that yes, I did have some organizational skills, and it taught me that horror writers are the nicest writers in the business. I've dealt with SF, fantasy, mystery, romance, and western writers, and the folks in HWA were the best of the lot.
"The Quarter-Life Crisis" by Kelly Laymon
(Richard Laymon served as HWA's tenth President, from 2000 to 2001. He tragically passed away during his term. His daughter, Kelly, kindly provided this piece.)
Unfortunately, I can't say very much about my father's time as President of the HWA. His term ended up being unusually short. Who's to say what would have been.
People can complain about the politics and the system for the awards to no end. God knows, I've done it once or twice. But when I think about the HWA, I usually try to focus on the great things. About the people who have been brought together. There are people I met through the HWA that I've ended up knowing for a decade or almost my entire life. I probably would've gotten to know them anyway, but, hey, the sooner the better.
Looking back on the HWA, I can't help but remember my first Stoker banquet, which was also the very first Stoker banquet. Perhaps there are some flashes of the second banquet mixed in there as well. They were at the same location and I attempted to fact-check some of the details with three people who were there and failed. It seems no one quite remembers the differences between the first and second.
For the first year, I was present for the tallying of the final ballots at Dean Koontz's house, along with my parents and Bentley Little. I remember many stacks of paper, people getting tired of counting, doing knitting projects with Gerda, and industry gossip. I seem to recall a few other local genre personalities making an appearance, but no one can confirm or deny those either.
Once we got to New York City, we stayed at the Hilton, which is diagonally across the street from the legendary Warwick Hotel, which was the site of the event. There was a story HWA legal counsel Sheldon Jaffrey enjoyed telling at HWA events about how trashed my father got at the hospitality suite that first year. There had been a misunderstanding with Charlie Grant just beforehand. After hanging out with Sheldon for several hours and landing half in the bottle, he decided Sheldon was Charlie and started breaking bread and making peace with him. A lot of drunken "You're not a bad guy, Charlie!"-style lines came out of my father that night. This was in the early dawn of card keys and some guys had to drop dad off across the street at our room in the wee hours and had a lot of trouble finding the room. If you want to guess who they are, check out his short story, "The Tub."
On the awards night, during the dinner portion of the banquet, my parents hid me away in Gary Brandner's room. Before the awards began, my mother came up to get me and sat me down with them at the Tor table. Also at that table was F. Paul Wilson. They were still serving dessert and he gave me his. Smash-cut to fifteen years later and Paulie is still a close friend. We text about politics, cons, etc.. And we've had more than our fair share of joint merry-making at convention hotel bars. And if Tom Monteleone's around too, we'll just shut that place down.
The most poignant moment of the night was David Morrell's speech about the death of his son. I didn't fully understand the weight of it at that moment, but I knew it was something special. With age, I have grown to appreciate it more and more with each passing day. I remember how he spoke at length about his son reading a Stephen King book while in the hospital and the joy and level of escape it gave him. Saying, basically, that entertainment can mean things in our darkest hours. How some silly book, movie, tv show, or song can be so special, so much more. Or, that's what my seven or eight year old brain comprehended and carries to this day.
In June of 2001, I began an HWA chapter for the Los Angeles region. Two high school acquaintances unknowingly re-connected at our first meeting at The Warehouse bar in Marina del Rey. They walked in and said, "Hey. You? I haven't seen you in ten years." I made friends through that experience who are still with me, some more than others. I met Jenny Orosel through my HWA LA work and we're friends to this day. We hung out all the time at Dark Delicacies, she's talked me through a break-up, I've attended her wedding, and so on and forward. And my baby gift for her not-so-newborn daughter Coraline is still sitting on top of a box.
Things are what we make them. The world would be a better place if we focused on the positive things. So, to everyone who's ever made a friend thanks to the HWA, I say, "Cheers! Here's how!"
"HWA in the 21st Century" by Lisa Morton
(Lisa Morton served over a decade as HWA's Treasurer through October 2011, when she was elected Vice President.)
To paraphrase (appropriately, perhaps!) the Grateful Dead, the 21st century thus far has been a long, strange trip for HWA, but one which overall has seen the organization continue to grow in size and reputation.
Certainly no development has had such an impact on the organization as the growth of the internet and e-mail. At the turn of the millennium, most of HWA's communications with its members—whether it was monthly newsletters or voting ballots—was still conducted via snail-mail (in fact, a significant portion of each year's expenditures went to mailing). Presidents, meanwhile, were racking up huge phone bills trying to coordinate the organization's ever-expanding operations.
For one thing, HWA's anthologies became almost yearly undertakings. That first one from 1991—Under the Fang, edited by Robert R. McCammon—inaugurated a string of themed anthologies featuring well-known writers as editors. In 1997, HWA released its first (and to date only) non-fiction anthology, Writing Horror, edited by Mort Castle; the book is now widely considered the definitive guide to the art of horror literature. A revised edition, On Writing Horror, was released in 2006, and continues to pay royalties to its contributors every year.
In 2008, HWA's anthologies struck gold with Blood Lite, a compendium of humorous horror stories edited by Kevin J. Anderson. The first volume included work by such luminaries as Kelley Armstrong, Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, and Joe R. Lansdale, and led to two follow-ups, Blood Lite II: Overbite (2010) and Blood Lite III: Aftertaste (2012).
As the landscape of publishing in general and horror in particular changed throughout the first decade of the 21st century, HWA strove to adapt. New categories for the Bram Stoker Awards were voted in and out...and sometimes back in again, as with the Young Adult, Graphic Novel, and Screenplay categories (which were reinstituted in 2011). Perhaps the biggest change regarding the awards, however, involved moving to a partial juried system; as of 2011, the list of final nominees was determined half by the organization's membership, and half by juries made up of volunteer Active members.
The presentation of the awards occasionally caused as much debate as the awards themselves. Sometimes the awards were held in conjunction with the yearly World Horror Convention (which began in 1991), while in other years the Bram Stoker Awards Weekend was a stand-alone event, organized solely by volunteers from within HWA. After an extremely successful weekend in 2009 in Burbank, California (which included Guests of Honor John Farris, Mick Garris, David Hartwell, Richard Matheson, Richard Christian Matheson, and Harry O. Morris), HWA officially adopted the position of holding solo events in odd-numbered years, and joining with WHC in even-numbered years.
Another topic that HWA has wrestled with over the last dozen years is the definition of "professional writer". In the mid-2000s, the organization moved to define itself more clearly in professional terms by requiring all members to have attained at least one sale. However, recently a "Supporting" membership level was added, allowing fans of the genre and new writers to interact with their favorite authors. HWA continues to offer a Mentorship Program, which connects writers who are just starting out with more experienced authors, and recently offered five scholarships to Mort Castle's acclaimed writing workshop.
HWA also redefined its image in the 21st century, first by creating a new, professional logo, and then—under the guidance of our long-time webmaster, the late Mark Worthen—by extensively remodeling our website. Under the new aegis of webmistress Angel Leigh McCoy, the website continues to improve in functionality and timeliness.
As has been the case with all major professional writing organizations, HWA has also fought to keep up with the monumental changes occurring almost daily in the realm of digital publishing. The days when writers could count on publishers to handle all the promotion of their books are now all but gone, and HWA's has offered everything from newsletter articles to a Facebook group to its widely-read "Dark Whispers" blog to assist authors in promoting their work. Perhaps most importantly, in 2008 HWA finally exhibited at BookExpo America, the nation's largest book fair. That first year saw us with a tiny table buried in the depths of "Printer's Row", but by 2011 we were firmly seated on the main floor, and participating authors found themselves with long lines of happy booksellers during signings.
By the time of the millennium's second decade, HWA had instituted major changes to its basic operations as well, changes that soon led to an explosive growth in membership numbers. A permanent New York mailing address alleviated the confusing problem of new addresses with the election of each new treasurer, and paid administrators and webmasters quickly brought the organization up to a high standard of daily operation. Increased expense on salaries more than paid off in increased revenues from membership dues, and HWA soon boasted over 700 members. A change in our tax status finally gave HWA tax-exempt status, and allowed us to increase sponsorship opportunities.
HWA has also sought to expand its presence globally over the last decade. In 2007, for the first time the Bram Stoker Awards presentation was held outside the U.S. (in Toronto, Canada); and in 2010, the awards were presented outside of North America (in Brighton, U.K.). More recently Alessandro Manzetti has had great success with an Italian arm of the organization and HWA also continues to have a strong Canadian presence, largely under the leadership of Sephera Giron.
HWA now looks forward to a strong future, and one with a few specific goals: We hope to have firmly established chapters soon, with budgets to pursue activities such as book fairs and workshops; we plan to continue expanding around the world; we'd like to increase our ties with other major organizations; and of course we aim to see our membership numbers continue to grow.
We hope you'll grow with us. The future looks bright...in a dark, horrifying way, of course.
"HWA—Here and Now" by Rocky Wood
(Rocky Wood is HWA's fifteenth President. He took office in 2010.)
The last few years have been a particularly challenging and interesting period for the publishing industry, for the horror genre and for our members, and have seen the opening of doors that lead to as yet undiscovered countries.
The explosion of the eBook has apparently freed authors from the previously limited range of publishing choices—mainstream publishing, small press and magazines—and allowed an almost infinite series of publishing models. Which of these will prove to be a success in terms of garnering readers, and more importantly, income for our members will play out over the remainder of this decade. And, considering the constant innovation in technology, probably for the foreseeable future. It seems to me that the opportunities far outweigh the challenges but we do owe it to ourselves as an Association and as a genre to be constantly debating the merits of each change, if for no other reason than to ensure we are well informed as to our options.
A debate that is about to explode is how publishers and particularly resellers (not just Amazon and bookshops now but Kobo, Sony, et al) justify their margins; and how accurately and quickly they report sales to their contracted partners—those of who create their content, in industry parlance—authors! And of course how accurately and quickly they pay us. There is no excuse in the modern digital world for sales channels and the publishers not reporting digitally, almost instantaneously and providing auditable royalty and sales statements to authors. And there is even less excuse for publishers not to pay regularly—no worse than quarterly, and preferably monthly. And by pay, I mean actually fork over our hard-earned dollars by the contracted time, not months or years later, if ever. On time, every time should be the minimum acceptable standard. Resale channels and publishers who fail to do so will soon be, and should be, bypassed by our members and authors in general. And information about who pays accurately and on time, and who doesn't, is likely to become public and transparent in the near future.
In content terms, the genre is as strong as ever—the variety and quality of horror writing is outstanding and apart from genre giants who continue to write compelling tales; there are many new names coming to the fore with outstanding new writing that will serve our readers and our genre well for decades to come.
Moving to the HWA, I am proud to report the Association is in the best state it has been in for many years. Fortunately, that opinion is widespread. When I became President eighteen months ago I continued to build on the legacy of my predecessor, Deb LeBlanc and her Officers and Trustees. I was fortunate to serve two years on the Board before taking over, as this allowed me to observe both the good and the need to improve areas of HWA and to understand the inner workings—what worked, what didn't and why. And to build relationships. It's often forgotten that HWA is entirely built on the work of volunteers—we only have three paid part-time workers, who deliver in specific roles. All the other work, the drive and the leadership has to come from individual members who give up their time to serve us all.
One thing I observed was that we had to spread the load more widely, delegate more, and allow more people their opportunity to contribute. I am proud to report that around 150 (yes, that's right— 150!) members are involved in volunteering at any one time. That's probably an increase from about 50 or so two or three years ago. That spreads the load, allows a lot more work to be done, allows us to innovate and add value, and get more than just process done. Yes, sometimes we creak—but the creaking now comes from trying to do too much, not from trying to deliver the bare minimum.
Among Deb's innovations in the last two years of her Presidency was a full review of the ByLaws, a major result of which was the introduction of the Supporting Membership category. We've found these members to be particularly eager to learn and to contribute. As of February there were 95 Supporting Members and a healthy percentage of them were actively volunteering and working towards an upgrade in status.
The Bram Stoker Award® Rules were also revamped and a half Juried system was proposed to the membership by referenda. That system was accepted by a vast majority and came into place in 2011—in time for the Awards ceremony this book celebrates. We successfully added three new (or renewed) categories—Screenplay, Graphic Novel and Young Adult Novel.
My personal observations of the new system are very positive indeed—we eliminated publishing the names of those who 'Recommended' works and this dealt a fatal blow to both any reality and the perception of widespread trading of Recommendations. In 2011 the more popular works on the Rec lists received far less Recs than had been the case in recent years, and a much wider spread of works appeared in each category. The introduction of the Juries meant a number of things—we had 50 or so Active members directly involved in widespread reading in their category; we got a diverse, interesting and representative set of choices from those Juries, a vast majority of which would not have appeared on the Ballots under the Recommendation process alone. Many works were sought by the Jurors or submitted to the Juries by authors or publishers who were not normally involved with HWA and this will serve to our benefit, that of the Awards and the genre in general as each year passes. We significantly improved the perception and the reputation of our iconic Awards. That can only increase further in future years.
All of the many claims of bias for or indeed against mainstream publishers, small presses, name authors, lesser known authors, etc. are effectively dealt with by this multi-pronged approached to presenting works for consideration and on the Ballot. A process where 750 members can 'Recommend' works to make the Preliminary Ballot; where 50-55 independent Jurors separately seek out, read and present selections to the Preliminary Ballot; and where nearly 400 voting members are able to participate in the Ballots is one that, in reality, is above any claim of bias or manipulation. It is likely to be one where the best works rise to the surface. Our Award is for 'Superior Achievement' and while everyone will never agree on each winner, there is no doubt each winner does merit the Superior Achievement tag.
Of course, there will never be a system that everyone likes for any Award, as there is rightly a diversity of opinion. But I feel we have it pretty much right in 2012, where we have made further tweaks to the 2011 system to better define categories, to present Juried and Recommended Works on the same Preliminary Ballots, etc. We will never be perfect, but our philosophy is to be the best we can and to improve every year.
So, thanks to Deb and her Board for giving me a solid foundation to work with. My overarching philosophy as President is to be as transparent as possible, to expand our membership, to involve our membership as much as possible, to deliver outstanding customer service, and to support the genre we all love.
Apart from successfully implementing the Membership changes; and the revised Bram Stoker Award process, we can proudly point to the following improvements, implemented by all those many people who work hard for our membership every day.
- All our processes have been carefully tested and documented and are now stored in a central digital document repository for easy access by authorized volunteers and members of the Board. This means if a volunteer has to step back, unlike in the past that we do not lose the "intellectual capital" they had built up. It is all documented and can easily be learned and used by their replacement.
- The Web team has been expanded and tasked with a series of innovations under the awesome guidance of our new Webmaster, Angel Leigh McCoy. We introduced the public "Dark Whispers" blog and the "Halloween Haunts" innovation—both of which are hugely successful with fans of the genre. We have documented processes, introduced new methods to capture Bram Stoker Award Recommendations, a new way of presenting the Bram Stoker Award Ballots and of capturing those votes in an easily auditable manner. We are in the process of redesigning the whole site to make it much more user friendly, to change the look and feel, to allow authorized users to edit the content online (which will make updates much more frequent and immediate), and we have changed our service providers to both save money and improve technical efficiency. The website is already much more stable and useful.
- Both the Newsletter and the Internet Mailer have gone from strength to strength, particularly in terms of content. Of course, we know we can do even better, and intend to. I would like to acknowledge here Kathy Ptacek, who has been editor of the Newsletter for longer than she probably cares to admit, and delivers a classy and informative publication every month.
- The Membership Committee has been entirely revamped and professional processes put in place. Not so long ago it took months for a new member to be approved and communication was sometimes lacking. At lot of that was due to not enough volunteers on the Committee. Jim Chambers has proven to be an outstanding Membership Committee Chairman. Writers applying to join get an answer within 24-48 hours (which is a good thing considering the flood of new members we have seen in the past two years), they get welcome emails both from the Committee and the President, with email addresses they can contact about their initial queries. This year we will expand that service with a new member pack that will further explain the nooks and crannies of HWA membership—how to participate in the Bram Stoker Award process, how to access the Message Board, how to find the many other member benefits and so on. Jim is supported by an excellent Committee who actively participate in the process every week, and cover for each other during those inevitable times when personal issues supersede HWA's! All processes are documented and more and more are becoming automated every day.
- The Bram Stoker Awards Committee has been entirely revamped. Instead of a handful of people carrying the entire load we now have a dozen or so. And each of the processes is clearly documented, often automated, and supported by two or three volunteers who can cover for each other when one person is unavailable. Norm Rubenstein and Ron Breznay are doing an outstanding job as Co-Chairs, as are Chris Abbey as Compiler and Eric Christ as Verifier. We will shortly appoint Assistant Verifiers to cover the increased workload that has come as a result of the Jury system.
- We have had a new focus on ensuring that the spirit and the letter of the Bram Stoker Award Rules are adhered to, and we have been open and transparent about mistakes or errors of judgment made both in the past and in the present, and the likely impact of Rule changes.
- We trademarked the term Bram Stoker Award and Bram Stoker Awards, to protect it from unauthorized use, particularly of a commercial nature
- We established and run a very successful Facebook page, as well as involvement in other social media, including LinkedIn and Twitter.
- We established an Italian beachhead with full website presence and great membership growth, under the leadership of Alessandro Manzetti.
- We have continued our successful publishing program with Blood Lite II and Blood Lite III.
- We continue to deliver a very successful presence at BEA, delivered by Vince Liaguno (2012 will be our fifth year there).
- Our most recent stand-alone Bram Stoker Awards Weekend (Long Island, 2011), delivered by Vince Liaguno and Nanci Kalanta, with a slew of outstanding Guests. Many attendees described this as the best horror writing convention they had been to in many years.
- And of course 'Celebrate HWA Day' and this Bram Stoker Awards Banquet here in Salt Lake City, graced as it is by our Founders.
- The one-off Bram Stoker Award for Vampire Novel of the Century, in conjunction with the Stoker Family Estate and the Rosenbach Museum, which garnered a lot of interest and publicity. And it's been great being involved with Dacre Stoker, representing the family, over these past two years.
- We've revamped our Mentoring program that is now serving nearly two dozen mentorees.
- We publicly stood up on certain industry-wide issues, particularly the shameful behavior of Dorchester.
- We undertook the first ever full scale clean-up of the Membership Database, chasing members whose email addresses were out of date, to ensure they receive the Internet Mailers, Newsletters and where appropriate, Ballot papers.
- For the first time ever we sought and received sponsorship for the Bram Stoker Award events. The Sponsors were a large part of the reason we were able to webcast the Awards Banquet for the first time in 2011, and again this year.
- We've funded HWA's presence at wider events, such as WHC 2011 (where we didn't have a Bram Stoker Awards Banquet); and Word on the Street (Toronto).
- We funded 'scholarships' to Mort Castle's writing workshop at this very convention.
And don't forget that we have always had a Hardship Fund that assists with loans for certain members who need them, and funds Dues Renewals for others. Donations for that Fund are always gratefully accepted and are tax deductible to US taxpayers.
All these innovations and improvements have paid off in a very measurable way. Here are our membership numbers at the end of February 2012:
Total Members: 781
This speaks volumes when compared with a membership of 240 or so four years ago, and 400 one year ago. And numbers generate numbers—the more members we have the more services and the better quality customer service we can provide; the more and better service we provide the more our reputation grows and the more new members want to join and the more current members renew. Simply really. Well, apart from all the work!
I want to mention the loss of Mark Worthen, who served the Association for many years as both Webmaster and Bram Stoker Awards Co-Chair. Mark passed in September 2011 and is sorely missed, our condolences were passed to Jeannie and his family and friends and a special tribute is part of this Convention. I would also like to thank long-time Bram Stoker Awards Co-Chair Hank Schwaeble—Hank worked tirelessly in the years when he, Mark and Eric Christ carried the entire load for the Awards. I am sure he is enjoying a rest!
In 2012/3 we plan even more innovations, including:
- Relaunching our Chapters (a lost strength with massive potential)
- Re-energizing our Publications Committee and publications program
- A total relaunch of the website, including new design, new content management and new member benefits, including yet more interaction with the broader reading public
- A new 'Horror Round-Table' interactive blog
- Our third stand-alone Bram Stoker Awards Weekend (New Orleans, June 2013)
- An expansion of the Mentoring Program
- The possibility of more Scholarships funded by HWA
- We're adding a presence at new events, including the Printers Row Lit Fest (Chicago, this June), and looking for more opportunities that our members can man and we can fund
Which leads me to my final comments—this Association is the sum of its parts, and its parts are our Members. Last year the aforementioned 150 members gave up their time to assist us all, this year it will be something like 160, of which probably 30-40 are new to volunteering for us. Without our leaders—people like Lisa Morton, Les Klinger, Vince Liaguno, Marge Simon, Ellen Datlow, Norm Rubenstein, Ron Breznay, Jim Chambers, Angel Leigh McCoy, Kathy Ptacek and Derek Clendening and the other 140 people I haven't listed here—whatever I might try to do as President would fail to blossom. I thank them all for their continued service and encourage you to do whatever you can for your Association—volunteer, promote and encourage friends and colleagues to join. Our strength is yours.
Rocky Wood: 2010-present
Deborah LeBlanc: 2006-2010
Gary Braunbeck: 2005-2006
Joseph Nassise: 2002-2005
David Niall Wilson: 2001-2002
Richard Laymon: 2000-2001
S.P. Somtow: 1998-2000
Janet Berliner: 1997-1998
Brian Lumley: 1996-1997
Lawrence Watt-Evans: 1994-1996
Dennis Etchison: 1992-1994
Craig Shaw Gardner: 1990-1992
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro: 1988-1990
Charles L. Grant: 1987-1988
Dean R. Koontz: 1986-1987
Ohio, March 6, 1987, 501(c)(6) nonprofit
All photographs on this page were provided courtesy of Hunter Goatley at www.robertmccammon.com. Copyright © by Hunter Goatley. Used with