What SFWA Offers Me

Cat Rambo and Connie Willis

Here I am with one of my personal heroes, Connie Willis. In Chez Rambo, we have a frequent saying: What would Connie do? And I note that she’s a SFWA member.

One of the questions that’s come up repeatedly as a result of the recent vote to admit indie and small press published members: why join at all?

I joined as soon as I was qualified because Ann Crispin told me to, and she was a smart lady. And here’s a list of the things SFWA has provided me. I am a professional writer. I make a modest amount off writing and teaching, and have a spouse who takes care of a lot of the bills plus the health care. My hope is to continue to grow my writing income. With that in mind, here’s what I get for my dues.

What SFWA offers me:

  • The Grievance Committee. I’ve benefited from mentioning its name in the past when trying to shake payment from a magazine publisher, for example.
  • The Emergency Medical Fund, which I personally haven’t had occasion to use, but am happy to know exists.
    Similarly, the Legal Fund.
  • The SFWA suite at conventions, both for food and drink as well as for the chance to hang with other members and enjoy their conversation. I was delighted to have a chance to sit for an hour and talk with Jacqueline Lichtenburg and Jean Lorrah at Worldcon, for example.
  • Knowledge resources on the website, such as the document on formatting manuscripts or Myrtle the Manuscript.
  • Knowledge resources in the Bulletin, such as recent pieces on what conventions might be useful to me, how teaching and writing intersect, and how to write (and publish) serial fiction.
  • A chance to participate in book festivals and other events, such as the Baltimore Book Festival or the ALA.
  • The PNW SFWA Reading series, at which I’ve been both reader and frequent attendant.
  • Opportunities to publicize books through the SFWA web site, Youtube stream, and Twitter stream.
  • A sense of tradition, of belonging to an institution founded by and which has included (and continues to include) so many of my early influences and heroes in its ranks.
  • The Nebulas and the East Coast Mill and Swill.
  • Free fiction! Both the Nebula Voter packet and what gets uploaded to the boards.
  • New friends who are writers, and plenty of them. I’ve deepened earlier friendships with others and even seen some of my students enter SFWA, which delights me.
  • A opportunity for meaningful, interesting, and informative volunteer work. I’ve served on the Nebula Short Fiction and Norton juries, worked with the Copyright Committee, written for the Bulletin and the SFWA blog, sat at the SFWA table at conventions, helped moderate the discussion boards, and now serve on the SFWA Board. All of that has been rewarding and engaging.

Speaking of that last item, that’s another big plus for me of SFWA: a community that I see evolving on the discussion boards on a daily basis. I see members doing all of the following:

  • Celebrating each other’s victories and small joys
  • Promoting each other and organizational efforts
  • Teaming up on promotional efforts
  • Sharing knowledge, encouragement, and advice
  • Grieving when a member dies and supporting other members through illness or loss
  • Being silly together at some moments and serious at others
  • Discussing the issues affecting writers, the industry, and SFWA overall

So there’s my two cents worth. To my mind and as someone who’s been writing professionally (fiction and freelance) for a decade, SFWA offers me quite a bit. People are welcome to quote this post elsewhere as long as they include attribution.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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