Jean Marie Ward

fiction, nonfiction and all points in between

My schedule for Dragon Con 2016

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016 | Author: jmward14 | Dragon Con, cons, jean marie ward | Comments Off

Almost forgot the promotional part of running away to join the circus that is Dragon Con—my schedule! Hope to see you there. This year’s con is sure to be more amazing than usual, since the Dragon is turning thirty. My, they grow so fast. I remember when it was just a little wyrm, too small and too young to vote… ;-)
Happy Labor Day Weekend, everyone!

Time: Fri 08:30 pm Location: Embassy CD – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Title: Social Media as a Tool–not a Trial
Description: Face it, savvy authors use social media to their advantage. But, it’s a two-headed demon…Secrets of taming that beast.
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists: Gail Z. Martin, Jean Marie Ward, Debbie Viguie, Sheila English, Julie Kenner)

Time: Sat 02:30 pm Location: Embassy AB – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Title: Getting it Wrong and Living to Tell About It
Description: Writers aren’t perfect. (I know, shocking, isn’t it?) Sometimes, they get their research wrong, or publicly insert both feet in their mouths and try to run with them. Sometimes, they even change facts on purpose. Panelists talk about the times they screwed up, and how they fixed it.
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists: Jean Marie Ward, L. M. Davis, A. J. Hartley, Milton J. Davis, Roshani Hitesh Chokshi)

Time: Sat 04:00 pm Location: Piedmont – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Title: Reading: Broad Universe
Description: The ladies & gentlemen of Broad Universe read snippets from their work.
(Tentative Panelists: Gail Z. Martin, Jean Marie Ward, Trisha J. Woldridge, John G. Hartness, Clay and Susan Griffith)

Time: Sun 08:30 pm Location: Embassy AB – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Title: Kicking You Out – What Throws You Out of a Story?
Description: You’re reading a really good book, caught up in the storyline. Suddenly it happens. A factual mistake, a really bad typo, a favorite character suddenly acting totally wrong…or something else. What is it that can kick you totally out of the world the writer is presenting?
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists: Jean Marie Ward, Trisha J. Woldridge, Chris A Jackson)

Time: Mon 01:00 pm Location: Embassy AB – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Title: SF Win, Lose or Draw!
Description: Compete with fellow fans in getting your team to decipher your drawings of words, phrases and items from around the SF world. The winners will receive prizes and accolades.
(Tentative Panelists: Jean Marie Ward)

Time: Mon 02:30 pm Location: Chastain DE – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Title: The End of the Line: A Lost Girl Fan Panel
Description: A moderated fan-panel discussion of the beloved series’ last season, and whether or not it provided closure and a satisfying ending.
(Tentative Panelists: Kevin Bachelder, Jean Marie Ward, Valerie Hampton, E.J. Stevens)

Posted 1 year, 7 months ago at 8:25 pm.

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My Schedule for Balticon 50

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016 | Author: jmward14 | anthology, balticon, broad universe, jean marie ward, rapid fire reading | Comments Off

Taking a moment away from baking double batches of molasses cookies and pecan snowballs to share my tentative schedule for Balticon 50. Why did I tantalize you by mentioning baked goods made with butter and sugar and vanilla and all sorts of wonderful things? Because they and a lot of other homemade goodies will be waiting for you at the E-Spec Books Launch Party on Sunday night. I’m also bringing chocolate to the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading Sunday afternoon.
This means you’re coming to Balticon, right? Right?
Can’t wait to see you there!

Saturday 1-1:50 PM, Guilford (Renaissance)
Writing: It’s My Job AND What I Do For Fun—Our panelists discuss how awesome it is having their job be something they love to do: the work itself, the fan, the other authors they meet, the places they get to visit.
Panelists: Carl Cipra (Moderator), Keith DeCandido , Jody Lynn Nye, Jean Marie Ward

Saturday 6-6:50 PM, St. George (Renaissance)
Steampunk and Urban Fantasy Readings with Keith R. A. DeCandido, Christine Norris, Jean Marie Ward, and D. C. Wilson

Sunday 3-4:20 PM, Pride of Baltimore (Renaissance)
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Readings—The woman of Broad Universe are back with flash readings to tweak your appetites!
Panelists: Randee Dawn (Moderator), Roxanne Bland, Carmen Webster Buxton, LJ Cohen, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Kelly A. Harmon, Lisa Hawkridge, Tamara Siler Jones, Paula S. Jordan, Gail Martin, Jody Lynn Nye, Jean Marie Ward

Sunday 7-9 PM, MD Salon B (Renaissance)
E-Spec Books Launch Party—The authors contributing to Gaslight and Grimm, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil and Defending the Future invite you to help them celebrate!
Panelists: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, R. S. Belcher, Danny Birt, Keith DeCandido, John L. French, Eric Hardenbrook, Kelly Harmon, Chris Hiles, Emily Leverett, Diana Bastine, Gail Z. Martin, Mike McPhail, Bernie Mojzes, Christine Norris, Jody Lynn Nye, Ken Schrader, Bud Sparhawk, David Lee Summers, Jean Marie Ward, Robert Waters, Jeff Young

Monday 12-12:50 PM, Parlor 8029 (Renaissance)
What’s Hot Short Fiction?
Panelists: Sarah Pinsker (Moderator), Alex Shvartsman, Michael Underwood, Scott Edelman, Jean Marie Ward

Posted 1 year, 11 months ago at 11:03 am.

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My Capclave 2015 Schedule

Thursday, October 8th, 2015 | Author: jmward14 | Blog | Comments Off

This weekend I get to see some of my favorite people at my hometown con, Capclave in Gaithersburg, Maryland. From 4 PM Friday, October 9, until 3 PM Sunday, October 11, we’ll be hanging at the Hilton and doing what writers to best: telling tall tales and partying until we drop. I’ll also have the last three copies of Tales from the Vatican Vaults available for purchase and autographing in the Western Hemisphere–at least until Hachette gets around to releasing it on this side of the Pond. (It’s currently only available for purchase in the UK and Australia.)

So come and join the fun. And if you’re looking for me, this is where I can guarantee I’ll be:

Friday 6:00 PM: Writing in Multiple Genres (Ends at: 6:55 PM) Bethesda
Panelists: Charles E. Gannon, Sunny Moraine, David Walton (M), Jean Marie Ward
In the 1940s and 50s, sf writers wrote in a wide range of genres, especially mysteries. Today’s writers are more likely to specialize in either SF or Fantasy (exceptions like L.E. Modesitt still exist.) What are the advantages and disadvantages to writing in multiple genres? Are the knowledge and skills gained from writing fantasy transferrable to SF, to mysteries, to romance? Should a writer use pseudonyms when writing in a different genre? Does it hurt one’s career, or does it refresh an author to write something different?

Saturday 2:00 PM: Workshop – Allen Wold Writing Workshop (Ends at: 3:55 PM) Seneca
Coordinators: Jean Marie Ward, Allen Wold, Darcy Wold
Allen Wold will lead a panel of authors in a hands on workshop. Learn many skills as you work on a short story. All you need is a pen and paper.

Saturday 6:30 PM: Reading – Jean Marie Ward (Ends at: 6:55 PM) Frederick
Author: Jean Marie Ward

Saturday 8 PM: Mass Autograph Session (Ends at: 8:55 PM) Salon A/B/C

Sunday 1:00 PM: Workshop – Allen Wold Follow-up (Ends at: 1:55 PM) Suite 1209
Coordinators: Jean Marie Ward, Allen Wold, Darcy Wold

Posted 2 years, 6 months ago at 1:16 pm.

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The Baltimore Book Festival and me

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015 | Author: jmward14 | jean marie ward | Comments Off

For the second year in a row, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has invited me to participate in the Baltimore Book Festival, September 24-26. *user rubs hands in anticipation and utters a muted “Mwahahaha!” then looks around guiltily and hopes no one saw*
This year, you can find me in the SFWA tent for two full hours on Friday afternoon (September 24). My schedule is:

4 PM
Find your new favorite author
Four writers, one hour. Prepare to be surprised and intrigued. Readers: Anatoly Belilovsky, Robin Wyatt Dunn, KM Szpara, Jean Marie Ward

5 PM
When sci-fi and fantasy get sexy
It’s not all ray guns and unicorns… join our writers to talk about the hotter side of science fiction and fantasy. Panelists: Kelly Harmon, Carmen Maria Machado, Emmie Mears, KM Szpara, Jean Marie Ward (Moderator)

Not only will these panels give you a chance to sample the wit and works of some great authors, you’ll get to hear me read a bit from “Cooking up a Storm” from Tales from the Vatican Vaults, which is only available in the UK–or in the few places I happen to be speaking. It’s gonna be fun. Looking forward to meeting you there!

Posted 2 years, 7 months ago at 11:36 am.

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My Dragon Con Schedule, 2015 Version

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015 | Author: jmward14 | Dragon Con, cons, jean marie ward | Comments Off

It’s that time again–Dragon Con time. Starting this afternoon, Greg and Pumba will be on their own for the better part of a week, and I’ll be working panels and catching up with friends at the world’s number one summer camp for wayward adults. If you’re going to be there, too, I hope you’ll join me at one of my panels:

Title: And, That’s the Truth!
Time: Fri 02:30 pm Location: Embassy D-F – Hyatt
Panelists: Mike Bara, Michelle Belanger, Dr. Bob Blackwood, Mike Faber, Jean Marie Ward (Moderator)
Description: How to build a career, or supplement your fiction career, writing non-fiction.

Title: Broad Universe Reading
Time: Fri 07:00 pm Location: Embassy A-B – Hyatt
Panelists: Trisha Wooldridge, Gail Martin, Kathryn Hinds, Jean Marie Ward and more
Description: The ladies of Broad Universe read snippets from their work.

Title: Navigating the Media/Online Frenzy
Time: Sat 11:30 am Location: Embassy D-F – Hyatt
Panelists: Gail Z. Martin, Tom Merritt, Michael Z. Williamson, Mike Faber, Jean Marie Ward (Moderator)
Description: What else is out there besides Facebook? How to generate “buzz” about a book to promote sales.

Title: The Source: Folklore & Mythology in UF
Time: Sun 01:00 pm Location: Chastain ED – Westin
Panelists: Alethea Kontis, Leanna Renee Hieber, Jean Marie Ward, Jonathan Maberry, Valerie Hampton, Samantha Sommersby
Description: Urban fantasy is rooted in age-old myth, legend, and folklore. Authors discuss influences.

Title: Showcase: Todd McCaffrey
Time: Sun 08:30 pm Location: Embassy A-B – Hyatt (Length: 1)
Description: Todd McCaffrey discusses his life and work with Jean Marie Ward (Moderator) and answers questions from the audience.

Title: Win, Lose, or Draw, SF Style
Time: Mon 01:00 pm Location: Embassy A-B – Hyatt (Length: 1)
MC: Jean Marie Ward
Description: The game of drawing & guessing returns to the Lit track. Prizes & glory!

But even though I’ll be away from my keyboard for the next week, you can still participate the great Zombies Need Brains Kickstarter for two (count ‘em) new anthologies, Alien Artifacts and Were- featuring authors like Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Phyllis Ames, Jacey Bedford, Patricia Bray, David B. Coe, David Farland/Dave Wolverton, C.S. Friedman, Walter H. Hunt, Faith Hunter, Katharine Kerr, Gini Koch, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Gail and Larry N. Martin, Seanan McGuire, Juliet E. McKenna and me. Click here for the details on two of the best anthologies you’ll read in 2016. The Kickstarter will be ending just about the time I return, so don’t miss out!

Posted 2 years, 7 months ago at 10:14 am.

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My Schedule for Balticon 49

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 | Author: jmward14 | balticon, cons, conventions, jean marie ward | Comments Off

Balticon has posted its 2015 program—and not a minute too soon. The con starts in three days! I can’t wait. There will be friends to see, toasts to raise, costumes to praise, and panels to enjoy. This year, I have three formal panels, and three readings, at least one of them involving more than my usual offering of chocolate.
Yes, I share chocolate at all my readings—and bring swag to all my panels. I trust that means I’ll see you there. ;-)


6 PM, Chesapeake
Readings: Keith R.A. DeCandido, Sunny Morraine and Jean Marie Ward


8 PM, Salon B
The Scholar as Author: Not every great author is an academic, or vice versa, but it doesn’t hurt. Our panelists discuss what scholarly experience brings to an author’s tool kit, and what writing techniques can’t be picked up in the academic setting and have to be learned the hard way. Karen Burnham (Moderator), Tom Doyle, Ada Palmer, John Skylar, Jean Marie Ward

9 PM, Frankie & Vinnie’s
Broad Universe Fabulous 15 Birthday Party: The Balticon Broads celebrate 15 years of Broad Universe with readings, goodies, giveaways and food! Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Day Al-Mohammed, Sarah Avery, Roxanne Bland, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Kelly A. Harmon, Gail Z. Martin, Roberta Rogow, D.H. Timko, Jean Marie Ward and T.J. Wooldridge

10 PM, Salon B
Diversity in Popular Culture—Fad or the New Normal: Diversity and representation has been a hot topic
in SF/F literature, gaming, and other parts of fandom and popular culture over the past few years. Is this a phase or a watershed moment in the broader pop culture landscape? What role can individual readers, writers, and fans play in this discussion? Jean Marie Ward (Moderator), Day Al‐Mohamed, Stephanie Burke, William Galaini, Sunny Moraine


12-2 PM, Concierge Lounge
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading: Bite-sized readings from your favorite Broad Universe authors. Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Day Al-Mohammed, Sarah Avery, Roxanne Bland, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Kelly A. Harmon, Gail Z. Martin, Roberta Rogow, D.H. Timko, Jean Marie Ward and T.J. Wooldridge


11 AM, Salon B
Ancient Greece in SF and Fantasy: Greek history—rewritten or reimagined—is one of the more common sources for stories and novels in fantasy and science fiction. Our panelists discuss why it works so well and what still remains to be imagined. Tom Doyle (Moderator), Jack Campbell/John Hemry, Jo Walton, Jean Marie Ward

Posted 2 years, 11 months ago at 10:00 am.

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My RavenCon Schedule, Version 2015

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015 | Author: jmward14 | cons, gail z. martin, jean marie ward, ravencon | Comments Off

RavenCon 10th Anniversary

If it’s April, it must be RavenCon, Richmond’s home-grown con. Yours truly will be on the program again this year—as will lots of my favorite people. What you see here is only the smallest part of the whole.

Friday, April 24

5 PM (Panel) Urban Fantasy in the Real World
Room G
Panelists discuss using real-world places and historical figures in your writing. What can you do and what will get you in trouble? How do you keep a place real enough to be recognizable to people who have visited or lived there, but still make it suit your fiction needs?
R.S. Belcher, J. T. Glover, Kurrie Hoyt, Gail Martin, Jean Marie Ward (Moderator)

7 PM Opening Ceremonies
Rooms E & F

11 PM (Event) CJ Henderson Memorial
Bon Air
Friends and fans of CJ Henderson gather together to remember this iconic author and frequent guest of RavenCon.
Danielle Ackley-McPhail (Moderator), Heidi Hooper, Mike McPhail, Michael Ventrella, Jean Marie Ward

Saturday, April 25

4 PM (Presentation/Workshop) Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
Bite-sized readings from seven of your favorite authors.
Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Meriah Crawford, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Gail Martin, KT Pinto, Jennifer Povey, Jean Marie Ward (Moderator)

7 PM (Panel) Weird Westerns
What is it about the west that attracts speculative fiction writers? Firefly, The Dark Tower, Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, and The Wild Wild West; film, television, anime, and commercial fiction use the west as a setting and place for magic to happen. Why do we love this sub-genre? Where is it going next?
Danielle Ackley-McPhail, R.S. Belcher, Doc Coleman, Nicole Givens Kurtz (Moderator), Jean Marie Ward

10 PM (Panel) The Villain’s Journey
We all know about the Hero’s Journey. But is there a corresponding Villain’s Journey? Panelists will discuss the arc villains (or antagonists) can and should take through novels and other media.
Emily Lavin Leverett, Kate Paulk, D. Alexander Ward, Jean Marie Ward (Moderator)

Hope to see you at the con and at the book launch parties being hosted by my good friends Gail Z. Martin (Saturday, 11 PM—I love her so much I may actually crawl out of my coffin before noon to attend) and the folks at Double Dragon Publishing (Friday, 6 PM—by far a saner hour). ‘Til Friday!

Posted 3 years ago at 9:58 am.

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Getting out the Vote–Awards Version

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 | Author: jmward14 | cons, conventions, jean marie ward, | Comments Off

Buzzy Mag

Whatever side you take on the current Hugo Awards kerfuffle, you gotta admit it highlights the importance of voting for what you want. Roughly two thousand ballots were submitted for this year’s Hugos, which sounds like a lot until you realize that the pool of eligible voters encompasses the members of three different Worldcons, and the 2014 Worldcon alone numbered over ten thousand members.

Where were all the other voters? If as one of my old political science professors claimed, people are more likely to vote when they’re unhappy, it seems like most of the voters must have been okay with recent trends, such as increasing diversity among writers and subject matter. It will be interesting to see the numbers next year. To say nothing of the numbers for the other science fiction, fantasy and horror awards, like the 2015 World Fantasy Awards.

Mwahahaha! You knew I was hiding a big sharp, pointy thing in here somewhere.

Seriously, if you’re eligible to vote in this year’s World Fantasy Awards, please, vote. Vote for the works that make your heart sing, even if they aren’t something your high school literature teacher would dismiss as unworthy.

No. Especially if it’s something he or she would dismiss as “unworthy”. Great writing isn’t always about making you feel awful. Death, despair and dystopias are part of the human condition and need to be addressed in ways that make us think. But great writing also about opening yourself to wonder, possibility, hope and joy. Frankly, a lot more people read Agatha Christie and Bram Stoker than will ever read Henry James. And don’t get me started on how many people have dissed Jane Austen through the years, both for her subject matter and for her gender.

In addition, may I suggest looking at candidates other than the usual suspects in all the awards categories. For example, there are a lot of great books published by small presses. Naturally, I plan to nominate all the 2014 anthologies on my home page. It’s a writer’s version of showing the flag. But I’ll also be nominating a middle grade book for Best Novel–and I almost never read middle grade novels, much less recommend them. That book I wanted to live.

Even more important is coloring outside the lines when it comes to the Special Awards, Nonprofessional and Professional. There are lot of folks in fandom who are critical to the tribal gatherings we call cons. But do you ever stop to think about how important the con chair or department chairs are to your experience as an author or a fan?

For example, writers and fans in the DC/Maryland/Virginia metro area are facing a giant hole in the center of our universe due to the passing of Peggy Rae Sapienza, co-chair of World Fantasy Con 2014. Peggy Rae was a major part of every Washington area convention for close to forty years. She had a knack for finding the right people to do the big jobs and persuading them to do them–including me. I spent much of last year working with her, Sam Lubell and Bill Campbell on the World Fantasy Con 40th anniversary anthology, Unconventional Fantasy, at her behest. The finished anthology comprised six volumes (including an exhibit catalog for the con’s Virgil Finlay exhibit), 3200 pages, over three hundred art works and a hundred historic photos. And that was only part of what she did for that one con.

But there are folks like that associated with every convention. I think of the good folks who run the many tracks at the cons I attend. I may be buying World Fantasy Con supporting memberships for years just to nominate all of them.

Then there are the professionals we take for granted. Maybe it’s the reviewer or interviewer for your favorite online magazine. How about the publishers of that same magazine?

I can tell you one vote I’ll be making this year. I’m nominating Joy Poger and June Williams of Buzzy Mag. Buzzy’s parent company started life creating wonderfully snarky t-shirts and audio versions of novels by Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs and more. But that wasn’t enough. About four years ago they decided they wanted to create an online magazine that covered every aspect of science fiction, fantasy and horror. They post interviews of Hollywood types and writers (in the interests of honesty, some of them by me), as well as reviews of anything that takes their fancy in films, TV, gaming and fiction. But best of all, they are a major market for new SF/fantasy/horror fiction. And the stories… Well, you can read them for yourself. Just follow the link.

Vote your joy. I’m voting mine. ;-)

Posted 3 years ago at 10:15 am.

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My first annual awards suggestion post

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 | Author: jmward14 | anthology, jean marie ward, short stories, short story | Comments Off

Yeah, I’m late to the awards nomination party. Surprise! But if you’ve still got space on your Hugo or Nebula ballots–or are looking forward to the 2015 World Fantasy Awards–have I got some suggestions for you.

First the writing. This year I had three eligible stories published. How you classify them depends on the award, so I’ll give you all the relevant details. In ascending order of size, they are:

“The Wizard of Woodrow Park” published in The Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens (Zombies Need Brains, LLC)
Hunting for a rogue anthropologist, Aviann Special Agent Hreaak Meekram finds himself confronting a wizard.
(7,000 words)

“The Gap in the Fence” published in Athena’s Daughters (Silence in the Library Publishing)
Ten-year-old Ana will do anything to save her best friend’s dog–even challenge the fairies who live beyond “The Gap in the Fence”.
(9,600 words)

“Glass Transit” in Hellfire Lounge 4: Reflections of Evil (Bold Venture Press)
Bumbling sorcerers Eddie Woodhouse and Ducky “Duke” Orr get more than they bargain for when they leap from a magical bottle into the skies over Lakehurst, New Jersey, on May 6, 1937.
(13,500 words)

And don’t forget all those anthologies are eligible for Best Anthology or Best Related Work, depending on the award. But honestly, one 2014 anthology knocks them and every other potential contender out of the park: Unconventional Fantasy, a celebration of 40 years of World Fantasy Cons published by the Baltimore Washington Area Worldcon Association.

Go ahead, accuse me of favoritism. I’m one of the editors, along with Peggy Rae Sapienza, Sam Lubell and Bill Campbell. But look at the stats.

The six (yep, six!) volumes of Unconventional Fantasy comprise over 250 short stories, essays and poems by best-selling, award-winning authors and amazing new talent. We’re talking writers like Neil Gaiman, Hideyuki Kikuchi, Guy Gavriel Kay, Patricia McKillip and Joyce Carol Oates. Then there’s the art. In addition to the catalogue of the Virgil Finlay exhibit hosted by World Fantasy Con 2014 and the fifty-image gallery of WFC 2014 Artist Guest of Honor Les Edwards, the collection features over two hundred images of artists from around the world–artists like Alicia Austin, Kathleen Jennings, Dr. Moro and Mahendra Singh. To cap it off, there’s a 100-image pictorial gallery of World Fantasy Cons past. Taken together it’s over 3,200 pages of text.

The anthology was formatted in PDF, MOBI and EPUB on a souvenir thumb drive given away (yep, as free!) to all members of WFC2014. As publications go, it was a very limited edition, but thanks to the generosity of our contributors, we just might be able to offer an electronic version to 2015 Worldcon and World Fantasy Con members if the collection makes it to the final awards ballots.

And if that’s not a reason to vote it on every major ballot, I don’t know what is.

Happy voting!

Posted 3 years, 2 months ago at 10:02 am.

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Hasta la vista, RWA

Friday, October 31st, 2014 | Author: jmward14 | Blog | Comments Off

Ah, Romance Writers of America, you were afraid Gamergate wasn’t trashing women creators quite enough. So you’ve decided to vote in punitive membership requirements, including automated review software to determine whether a writer’s book qualifies for the exalted name of Romance.
I’d post a link, but in a move that almost qualifies as cunning, RWA has only posted the new rules and procedures in the members only section, split among several different releases and FAQs. But I can provide the full text of the letter of protest I wrote to my local RWA chapter, Washington Romance Writers, as soon as the proposed rules were shared with the organization’s members:

First off let me say I love you all, and everyone is entitled to their opinion on the proposed changes to RWA’s membership rules. This is mine.
The tax code isn’t magic. It isn’t foolproof, either. It’s a compilation of often conflicting Congressional directives, composed by bureaucrats and compounded in obscurity by changing fashions in legal language and punctuation. As a result, you can make it stand up and dance to any tune you choose. All you need to do is line up your intentions with the laws core requirements.
What are the core requirements of the law with respect to a group like RWA seeking to retain its tax-exempt status as a professional organization? Stripped of all the fancy language, the applicable requirements come down to this: RWA must define the professional group it will serve, its mission with respect to that group, and the goals it will pursue in the group’s interest in terms which do not conflict with the laws of the United States and its Territories.
In other words, no matter how you look at it, RWA gets to define its purpose, mission and goals. I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the punitive terms of the proposed definitions, the outrageous provisions for enforcing those definitions, and the blatant indifference to the professional interests of the majority of its members, regardless of their status.
Genre is a marketing concept which only became the norm in North America within the past fifty years. It exists solely to help publishers and booksellers point potential customers to big bunches of books they might like without the need for personalized recommendations. It’s not a universal concept. Most European bookstores don’t organize their shelves that way.
In the past few years, RWA has turned itself inside out trying to define romance. Is it between a man and woman? Can a LGBQT love story qualify? What about a girl and an alien? A boy and his vampire? Werewolves and cat shifters? What about a story with hot sex scenes or more than one partner/life mate?
That’s not how the ever-consolidating number of big publishers looks at it. As far as New York is concerned, if the story focuses on a romantic relationship involving characters legally or culturally defined as adult, regardless of planetary or magical origin, and resolves itself into a happy ending, it’s classified as romance. If a story about Young Hannibal Lector hooking up with Shub-Niggurath struck the right note, they’d throw that in there, too.
Even this categorization is too particular for most readers. Unless you are an RWA member, a reader who exclusively reads Romance-with-a-Capital-R, or an attorney or CPA paid by an writing organization with an agenda, the term romance embraces everything from Nicholas Sparks to Sara Gruen to Charlotte Bronte (whose body of work would not qualify her for RWA membership, Jane Eyre notwithstanding). Remember, genre is a marketing construct without basis in law or tradition. It is whatever you say it is.
For example, the first winner of the Hugo, science fiction’s highest award, was Alfred Bester’s The Demolition Man. It was a futuristic police procedural mystery in which the only truly speculative element was telepathy.
Which means RWA has a lot of scope when it comes to defining itself as an organization dedicated to supporting the interests of professional writers in the romance genre. Do these proposed rules take advantage of that scope? No. Instead they restrict the definition of a professional writer of romance to writers blessed by circumstance with the time and contacts to produce what a small clique of individuals consider a published romance of acceptable length. It’s like an exclusive 1950s country club. “After all, we can’t have the *wrong element* taking tea in the clubhouse with respectable folk, now can we?”
If that wasn’t bad enough, they plan to enforce these exclusionary policies with a shadowy (and dubiously funded) cadre of monitors tasked to grub around in the members’ proprietary financial information like a Facebook data miner on steroids, and grade their output like a multiple choice quiz. The notion is preposterous and completely unparalleled in other professional writing organizations.
I’m not saying SFWA, MWA, Novelists Inc., or the rest are perfect. Far from it. But they’re a lot less hypocritical about determining member qualifications and rights. They establish their membership requirements right up front. They won’t take your money unless you meet those qualifications. Once you’re in, you stay in as long as you pay your dues, don’t commit any major felonies, and don’t unduly harass the other members. Not one of them can boast anything approaching RWA’s membership numbers, yet their various records with respect to insurance and catastrophic aid to members put us to shame.
How long did it take RWA to offer insurance? Would it have even happened without the Affordable Care Act? What’s RWA’s idea of catastrophic financial aid? A scholarship to Nationals. Riiiight.
This brings up another aspect of the proposed rules: their unmitigated cruelty to writers afflicted by bad health or impossible employment situations, or who are the primary caregivers of ailing loved ones. Those situations can last for years, and the recovery takes even longer. You think you can write saleable fiction in a situation like that? Don’t kid yourself. The notion that you can write through life-consuming stress without destroying your own health and creative spark is a lie promulgated by abusive bosses through the ages to further their own ends, not yours.
While we’re on the subject of abuse, let’s not forget the vagaries of the publishing industry—traditional and Amazon-dependent—which is currently going through more convulsions than RWA. For example, Macmillan authors can wait up to five years between the signing of the contract and the appearance of the first book in a new series. The tenure of an acquisitions editor can be measured in weeks. Their departure inevitably orphans writers and their works. Years and incalculable emotional and creative energy–energy and time stolen straight from the writing–can be spent unraveling predatory contracts.
Romance writers pride themselves on being nurturers. Yet these proposed rules are the opposite of nurturing. They penalize the very writers who most need and support of a committed professional organization. Published writers don’t stop being professionals or writers because circumstances beyond their control prevented them from putting new words on the page or shriveled up their sources of income. Yet for all their skill, they’ll have a more difficult time getting published than a shiny new face willing to accept an underfunded contract just to get their foot in the door. And if by some miracle these returning writers publish something that by all rights should be celebrated as a romance, how long will it take to reinstate them to full memberships?  Will they be vetted in time to compete for any awards for which they might otherwise be eligible?  We’re Washington writers. We know better; bureaucracy doesn’t work that fast. Ever.
For years romance writers have been sensitive about how we are perceived by the media and the general public. RWA National and chapter conferences even offer seminars on how to address the issue in public forums. If that worries you, think about how this will play on Stephen Colbert.
Think also about whether or not anyone ever questioned Thomas Pynchon’s status as a professional writer although he goes ten years between novels. Imagine how J.D. Salinger–and his agent–would’ve reacted if anyone tried to peer into his finances. Ask yourself if Mystery Writers of America has any plans to show Charlaine Harris the door now that her novels are shelved in the SF/Fantasy section. Then contemplate the sorry case of Harper Lee, in a fight to the literal death with publishers, agents and caretakers, all of whom claim to know what’s right for her. They all say they have her best interests at heart. They know what’s right for her. Do you believe them?
So why should you believe a professional organization who wants you to pay dues and yet seeks to limit your ability to exercise the rights of a full voting member? Do you think RWA has your best interests at heart? Consider the organization’s track record–how long it took to get insurance for its members, the years of fighting it took to recognize the legitimacy of erotic romance, the years it demonized e- and self-publishing, its dilatory and half-hearted responses to predatory publishers. Do you think you can trust these people to protect your rights as a writer *unless* you have a say in their deliberations? Why should you pay them to protect your interests if you don’t have a say in defining what constitutes your interests as a professional and a writer of romance?
That’s the heart of the matter for me. I don’t think I’d object so much to the new rules if it signaled RWA’s desire to collapse itself into a much smaller organization dedicated to serving a narrowly defined group of professionals, excluding all others. But they don’t want to reduce the number of members to the writing niche it proposes to serve. It wants to grow its non-voting membership and use their due to support the aims and interests of a much smaller cabal who will have absolute, unregulated power to determine who joins their privileged number.
That’s taxation without representation, folks. We fought a war about that against the British once upon a time, women as well as men—women whose efforts on the home front and occasionally in the trenches made possible the ultimate victory of Washington’s army.
One of those women on the home front was Abigail Adams. She wrote to her husband, later the second President of the United States, at the Continental Congress in 1776: “…remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”
But John Adams and the other delegates to the Continental Congress didn’t pay any attention. *They* were in charge, which obviously meant *they* knew what was best us simple-minded womenfolk.
Yeah, like that turned out so well. It was another hundred and forty years before American women were finally recognized as full citizens of the country they helped to create. We still make less than 87 cents on the dollar compared to men of equal education and experience. You’d think an organization founded by women supporting a genre primarily written by women would learn something from that.
I can hear the objections even before I hit send. “But I wouldn’t be a writer if it weren’t for RWA. The programs… My chapter… My friends… The fellowship…” To which I say it was never the organization or the paid officials whose salaries are paid by your dues.  It was the good-hearted individuals who make up local chapters like WRW–chapters who raise their own funds to pay for conferences, scholarships and monthly programs with virtually no support and considerable interference by the national organization–who helped you. Writers and aspiring writers who will continue to pay it forward with priceless volunteerism, support and encouragement regardless of what RWA National decides to do.
As for the national organization, well, at the moment I believe my professional interests as a romance writer–as a writer. Period–would be best served by donating my RWA dues to the legal defense of Dear Author in their fight against the defamation suit wrongfully brought by Ellora’s Cave. Dear Author is fighting for their First Amendment rights, and by extension, the First Amendment rights of every writer victimized by publisher malfeasance. I can get behind that.
Taxation without representation? Not so much.

The issues I raised in that open letter were just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Those in the group with financial management and legal background raised grave concerns about liability issues, copyright violations, etc. I hope they will share their concerns publicly in the days ahead.
Not that I expect it to matter to RWA officials, nor do I expect them to be swayed by the departure of members like me, who are appalled by the organization’s current direction. Romance is half the fiction market. RWA is too big to care. It is unsinkable!
Yeah, that’s exactly what they said about the
Now excuse me. Now that I
won’t be renewing my RWA membership, I’ve got checks to write.

Posted 3 years, 5 months ago at 5:11 pm.

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