Should You Join A Writers Organization?

There are multiple reasons for joining a writers organization. Some writers join for access to writing resources, while others join for networking opportunities. There are even those who might join an organization out of curiosity, to see what exactly that group can offer them and their career. Or maybe they're just after a little social interaction.

You see, writing as a profession requires long stretches of isolation. We need to be alone at the keyboard, punching away at keys, crafting one sentence after the other, focusing and concentrating. But sometimes when we come up from our completed manuscripts, some of us want to discuss what we’ve created, not just with our readers, but with fellow writers.

A writers organization offers this and many other benefits. They offer community, workshops, seminars about trends in our field, and even overviews on new technology we can use. Some organizations host annual conferences and even awards ceremonies which recognize outstanding achievements in their respective genres.

The following is a general overview of four prominent writers organizations, their membership levels, benefits, their annual conferences and awards. Regarding membership levels, to qualify as a professional writer for each organization a writer must generally meet a threshold of a certain dollar amount of work sold. I did not include those dollar amounts here in this article in the event those requirements shift over time. My recommendation is to check their respective websites for those details. 

Another benefit many of these organizations provide is a local chapter meeting. For example, I’m a member of the Mystery Writers of America and the Horror Writers Association. Each of these groups has a local chapter in my area and I attend meetings regularly. If you are interested in joining any writers organization, it may be beneficial to check if you have a local chapter nearby and attend a meeting to see if you like it and if the organization works for you and your needs.

I know for me, at least, being a member of these groups has provided wonderful networking opportunities. Additionally, I’ve particularly enjoyed my local MWA’s chapter meetings which very often host a subject matter expert (we once had the owner of a biohazard cleanup company speak at our meeting to talk to us about crime scene cleanup!). We’ve also had other writers or professionals host meetings on subjects like character development, plot, or even time management.

There are of course more writers organizations specific to genre, such as Sisters in Crime (which I am also a member of!), and writing groups that are just general to the nature of literature. I would recommend for you to research and see what works best for you and for your goals.

Horror Writers Association

Website

The HWA was formed in the 1980s by Karen Lansdale. This is the largest horror writing organization for professional horror writers, with over 1,400 members globally. Each year the HWA presents the Bram Stoker Awards®.

According to their website, “The Horror Writers Association (HWA) is a nonprofit organization of writers and publishing professionals around the world dedicated to promoting dark literature and the interests of those who write it.”

Membership Levels
There are several membership levels:
• Supporting Ally: you’re not yet a professional writer but have an interest in horror
• Associate Ally: for booksellers, agents, illustrators, editors, teachers, librarians, or others
• Academic Ally: for those with an academic interest in the field of horror
• Affiliate: for those with some published works, but do not meet the active writer or editor status
• Active Writer or Editor (active voting member): for established writers or editors. This level allows you to vote for the Bram Stoker Awards®.

Member Benefits
• HWA’s monthly newsletter
• You can recommend works for the Bram Stoker Awards® Reading List
• Access to participate in the mentor program
• There are also online resources, regional chapters that hold monthly meetings, and charitable works such as scholarships and literacy programs
• In times of trouble, the HWA provides access to hardship loans, and there is also an HWA grievance committee that offers mediation of settlement of complaints among individuals or businesses

Annual Conference 
StokerCon is held each year in a new city. Programs offered at the convention include:
• Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference
• Horror University
• Final Frame Film Competition
• Pitch sessions
• Author signings
• Panels
• and more

Awards
The Bram Stoker Awards®

Mystery Writers of America

Website

The Mystery Writers of America was formed in 1945 to promote and protect the interest of mystery writers and increase recognition of the genre.

According to their website, the “Mystery Writers of America is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre.”

Membership Levels
• Active: for professional writers in the crime, mystery or suspense field
• Associate membership: open to agents, editors, booksellers, librarians, publishers, publicists, and several other categories such as attorney and producer
• Affiliate: for those who have not yet reached the professional writer threshold
• Student member: for those who are between the ages of 18-26
• Corresponding members: for those who do not qualify in any of the above categories

Member Benefits
• Chapter membership – there are eleven regional chapters
• Invitation to the Edgars® Awards Banquet – automatically mailed to members annually
• Access to a national mentor program
• Access to a manuscript critique program
• Ten issues annually of the national newsletter
• Issues of the chapter newsletter
• Access to discussion groups
• Access to loan fund help for those numbers in need of temporary financial assistance
• and more

Annual Conference / Awards

• Edgar Symposium and Panels
• Edgar® Awards

Romance Writers of America

Website

According to their website, the Romance Writers of America® or RWA’s mission it to “advance the profession and common business interest of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy and by increasing public awareness of the romance genre.”

Membership Levels
• General RWA: open to published and unpublished romance fiction writers
• Associate membership: open to those writing in romance, but who haven’t completed a work
• Affiliate: for librarians, booksellers
• Student discount

Member Benefits
• Advocacy – advocates are available to members for resources like contract review
• Local and online chapters
• Conferences – members have a discounted rate for the annual conference
• Education – members have access to workshops, webinars, and other resources that have been created by experts in the field

Annual Conference
Each year the RWA Annual Conference is held in a new city. The conference offers:
• Featured guests
• Pitch sessions
• Book signings
• Panels
• and more

Awards
Each year RWA presents several awards in excellence in romance writing:
• The Vivian
• Lifetime Achievement
• RITA Awards
• Golden Heart Awards
• Other – individuals in service to the association and/or industry are awarded

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

Website

According to their website, “The purpose of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association is to promote, advance, and support science fiction and fantasy writing in the United States and elsewhere, by educating and informing the general public and supporting and empowering science fiction and fantasy writers.”

Membership Levels
• Full Member: for professional authors
• Associate: for authors who have sold some work
• Affiliate: for individuals who work in areas adjacent to the business of science fiction and fantasy writers
• Estate: for the estate of a deceased science fiction or fantasy author
• Lifetime: these members must honor a one-time dues assessment made to the organization
• Senior: after 30 years of continuous membership
• Family/Group: for members who live at the same address

Member Benefits
• Mentoring initiatives
• Special interest groups like the SFWA Middle Grade and Young Adult Writers
• Contracts committee
• Givers Fund Grants
• Medical Emergency Fund
• Legal Fund
• Safety Resources
• Reading Series

Annual Conference
SFWA Nebula Conference
An annual conference hosted in a new city that offers:
• Panels
• Workshops
• Author signings

Annual Award
Nebula Awards®

Cina Pelayo

Column by Cina Pelayo

Cina Pelayo is the author of Loteria, Santa Muerte, The Missing, Poems of My Night, short stories, poems, and more. 

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