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The Horror Writers Association (HWA) is a worldwide organization of writers and publishing professionals dedicated to promoting the professional interests of those who write horror and dark fantasy.

Members receive a newsletter and e-mail bulletins in addition to gaining access to market information, discounts on books, and details about literary agents and publishers. Members can also receive legal advice in the event they run into trouble with a publisher or plagiarist.

The active membership of the HWA is responsible for voting on and awarding the Bram Stoker Award every year.

The HWA was formed in the 1980s with the help of many of the horror genre's top writers, including Joe Lansdale, Robert McCammon, and Dean Koontz. The HWA now has members throughout the United States, Canada, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Australia.

The HWA has a site at http://www.horror.org/

I left the HWA for several years in large part because of the amount of petty bickering and arguing that went on behind closed doors in the group's various forums. Not that the HWA has any monopoly on petty bickering -- from all I've seen, SFWA is often far worse on that count, since science fiction writers seem far more prepared to argue heatedly over minutiae than horror writers.

At any rate, I rejoined the HWA a few years ago because I had been assurred conditions were better -- and they are. The group is a very good one now, and much of the credit goes to the current president, Joe Nassie. I have a great deal of respect for the HWA's goals and its membership. Its mentoring program is very strong, and it is a great place for writers of all levels to learn and network.

However, it's always seemed to me that HWA has suffered needlessly from something of an unspoken inferiority complex, whether the members cop to it or not.

I was re-reading a membership brochure recently (no, I don't know which year this particular brochure was published), and I was struck by the sometimes outright wimpy language used therein; phrases like "...we think you'll find....", "...it is our hope that you will discover the benefits of membership..."

It almost seemed like HWA was pulling an Oliver Twist, holding out its cup (potential membership) and whispering in a halting voice, "Please, potential member, may we have your support?"  

And it occurred to me that the reason the language was so passive was because HWA has for too long not only listened to the derision and criticism directed at it by other organizations, but (perhaps) started to believe it, and that belief may very well have started to bleed over into our views of the Stokers.

Why not tell potential members, "You will benefit greatly from membership"? Not, "We think you'll find..."?

As an organization, the HWA nothing to apologize for, nothing to feel embarrassed about, and no reason to think that we aren't just as deserving of respect as SFWA, RWA, or any other writers' organization.

I think HWA needs to start focusing on its assets and accomplishments more, and presenting a stronger, more united and confident face to both the fans and other organizations.  It's earned that right.

The Horror Writers Association can trace its origins back to author Robert R. McCammon, who worked with two friends, Joe R. Lansdale and his wife, Karen, to create the forerunner of the HWA. The original name of the organization was the Horror/Occult Writers League, or HOWL, which was eventually changed because most members thought it was keeping the organization from being taken seriously.

While the early organization included such noted authors as Dean Koontz, Robert Bloch, Joe, Karen and Robert, the heavy hitters, such as Stephen King, did not sign up. Eventually they did sign up, and the roster has included such noted names as Stephen King, Peter Straub and Clive Barker (also known as the Horror Holy Trinity to some). Even some folks whose work was geared towards other genres (but did include some horror elements), such as Ray Bradbury, joined after the organization was rolling.

The first meeting took place in 1985 at the World Fantasy Convention in Tucson, Arizona. The HWA is currently involved with the World Horror Convention, and alternate giving out the annual Stoker awards during the WHC or during a separate gathering, typically in Los Angeles or New York because of the publishing industry concentration in those areas.

The HWA published a newsletter starting in 1986, and continues to do so today. The current editor is author and Gila Queen, Kathryn Ptacek. Each issue notes what is currently happening in the industry, and includes interviews and essays for the genre.

The HWA has run a mentoring program off and on, depending on the needs of the organization. The newcomers can get paired with veterans to improve their craft. I was lucky enough to draw Joe Nassise as a mentor. They also run a grievance committee, and help to organize local chapters. I am currently working on this job as the Chapter Chairman.

Memberships are broken into several categories. Affiliate members have at least one professional sale, currently set at five cents per word. Active members have at least three pro sales over 7,500 words, or a novel to an established publisher. There are also non-writer memberships for publishers and agents. There are over 18 ways to join up or to advance to Active membership. The details are on the website (http://www.horror.org) under the Join link or the Membership Requirements link.

The HWA is a registered 501c non-profit organization, so all funds go towards advancing the genre. If you're interested in writing dark things, consider joining after your first pro sale.

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