Horror Writers Association Blog

Females of Fright:
Rena Mason and Kathy Ptacek

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Rena Mason

By Naching T. Kassa

It’s Women in Horror month and, as we appreciate all ladies in the genre, I’d like to extend my thanks to two of them. These ladies have influenced my writing and helped me along the way. They are Rena Mason and Kathy Ptacek.

When I joined the HWA, I signed up for the mentorship program hoping to acquire a mentor who would help me with my writing, the submission process, and formatting. I was fortunate enough to be assigned the wonderful Rena Mason.

Rena was honest and no-nonsense from the start. For a year, she advised me and answered questions. She recommended reference books to buy, and how to improve prose. She taught me how to write a cover letter and how to address an editor. She killed my darlings and taught me to do the same.

To another woman, Rena might’ve seemed too tough, too honest. To me, she was the perfect mentor. I still do the things she taught me. I can’t thank her enough.

When I was fifteen years old, a friend of mine loaned me a book called, Ghost Dance. The novel combined the two things I loved most—mystery and horror. I loved it and the author. She had such an effortless style and the story really appealed to me. Being Native American—among other things—I appreciated reading a book with a Native protagonist.

Kathy Ptacek (right)

Fast forward to 2014 when I joined the HWA. I had been searching areas of the HWA in order to volunteer, and I happened on a Facebook post asking for proofreaders for the HWA Newsletter. I applied and told the editor, Kathy Ptacek, I could start right away. She explained how to proofread for the newsletter, and we started up a correspondence.

Memory is a funny thing and for some reason, mine is slow. I had worked for Kathy for several months before I realized she was the same Kathy Ptacek who had written Ghost Dance. I couldn’t believe it. Only in the HWA could you meet the author of one of your most favorite books.

Kathy is incredibly humble and kind. She has never bragged about her work (even though it was she who edited one of the first Women in Horror anthologies ever) and can’t stand talking about herself. She acts the way a legend should.

Through your patience, kindness, and humility, you’ve both shown me how to be a Lady of Horror. I am forever grateful.

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