The HWA – Educating Writers
I’ve been a member of the Horror Writers Assn. for more years than I can count—well, that’s not exactly true. While my math skills might be terrible (half the time I figure the tip out wrong at restaurants!), I know that I joined the HWA in 2002. So that makes it 17 years. I originally joined for the same reasons as most members: to meet like-minded folks, to make connections, to meet the writers I admired for so long.
And most importantly, to learn.
I wanted to learn everything I could about the craft of writing books and short stories, and I wanted to learn it from the people who wrote fiction for a living, not from college professors or magazine article writers. Not that there’s anything wrong with those people being instructors, but I wanted real-life experience as well as technical instruction.
So I talked to people. Back then, there was no mentorship program, no library program. Any type of continuing education was sporadic at best.
During those years, I took classes (the Borderlands Boot Camp) and corresponded with people to pick up tips. It was great. I learned a lot, from writers like Tom Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, David Morrell, Jack Ketchum (Dallas Mayr), Richard Chizmar, Thomas Tessier, Douglas Winter, Brian Keene, and Ginjer Buchanan.
Then the mentorship program started, and I immediately signed up. I had the good fortune to be assigned to Deborah LeBlanc, who at the time was the president of the HWA. She tirelessly worked with me to get a novel and several short stories in shape for publication, and in the process gave me invaluable advice on everything from style to grammar to the submission process.
Although I was already an Active member at that point, I still considered myself a novice, and it wasn’t until several years later, after multiple short story publications, two novels, and Bram Stoker Award® nominations to my credit, that I felt I was ready to really get involved in the organization that had helped me so much. Instead of just volunteering at cons, I jumped into the deep end of things, first becoming a trustee and then signing up as a mentor.
It was time for me to do what so many before me had: give back.
In the years since, I’ve mentored probably 23-24 HWA members. All have gone on to have things published, many have achieved Active status, and a couple have gone on to shine brightly, with good book deals and even awards. Each time it happens, I smile. Not because I’m taking credit—the credit always lies with the writer—but because every teacher gets a kick out of seeing their one-time students succeed.
So, if you’re an Active member, I urge you to sign up to be a mentor. Your advice, your experience could really help a young writer, even if it’s just to teach them how to write a cover letter (my skill in that area increased tenfold after working with Deb and with Jonathan Maberry).
But the mentor program isn’t the only way to help a writer. We all have different skills, different talents. And it behooves us to pass them on if we can.
For instance, I was taught how to write a script by the amazing Rick Hautala, when we worked on one together. He didn’t have to do that; I had made an attempt, asked him for some advice, and he not only helped me with formatting (and turned me on to Final Draft!) but also made suggestions on how to migrate my story from the written form to the script form. And after all that, tried to refuse a writing credit when we submitted it for a contest.
All he cared about was helping me get better.
In a similar vein, a few years ago I wanted to put together a couple of pitches to a television executive. Daniel Knauf, who at the time was new to the organization, taught me how to prepare a story “bible.” He didn’t have to; he’s a busy guy with his own writing and television shows. But he did.
And that’s how we can all be mentors, simply by helping each other. In my mind, that’s the real purpose of the HWA, to help each other learn and grow as writers.
We do it in so many ways. The mentor program. The library program, which includes programs for teen and adult fiction writing. Horror University, which teaches the art of the craft of writing. All the panels we put on at StokerCon.
Most importantly, the bits of advice we share at the bar, over the phone, in the airport, and via E-mail. Or through our blogs, or on social media.
Every time we help a writer, we are also helping all writers, and the genre as a whole.
So, please, do your part. Give back. Be a mentor, even if it’s not officially.
Shameless self promotion!
My next novel comes out in August (Hellrider) from Flame Tree Press, and the print editions (hardcover, trade paperback) are available right now at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hellrider-Fiction-Without-Frontiers-Faherty/dp/1787582620.
When Eddie Ryder is burned alive by fellow members of the Hell Riders motorcycle gang for ratting on them, he vows revenge with his dying breath. He returns as a ghost, with his custom motorcycle Diablo by his side. After he finds out he can possess people, he launches a campaign of vengeance that leaves plenty of bodies in its wake and the police in a state of confusion. Spouting fire and lightning from his fingers and screaming heavy metal lyrics as he rides the sky above the town of Hell Creek, he brings destruction down on all those who wronged him, his power growing with every death. Only Eddie’s younger brother, Carson, and the police chief’s daughter, Ellie, understand what’s really happening, and now they have to stop him before he destroys the whole town.
“Hellrider is a thunder and muscle hell ride through dangerous territory. Fun, wicked, and unrelenting. A horror thriller that breaks the rules and the speed limit at the same time.” – Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author
Also out now is my new collection of short stories from Cemetery Dance Press, Houses of the Unholy, which includes a brand-spanking-new novella, “December Soul,” which is a sequel to my popular short story, “The Lazarus Effect.” “December Soul” is a darkly poignant romance set during an unusual apocalypse.
Available in e-book and print formats: https://www.amazon.com/Houses-Unholy-JG-Faherty-ebook/dp/B07QR7R7KZ/ And also at B&N and other retailers.
And, as always, check out all my other titles: http://tinyurl.com/jgfaherty.