Horror Writers Association Blog

Recollections

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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.”

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