As hard as it is to consistently motivate yourself to keep pushing forward when you are working in the arts it makes it all the harder to know that your own community isn’t always pulling for you. I can understand and appreciate the competitive spirit that is inherent in all of us, and can also appreciate that art is a business and when people have that as their sole source of income then it will reach past the spirit into a real competition. I get all that. What I don’t get and don’t like is the sense of being the stupid cousin I get from writing organizations like the Horror Writer’s Association. Years ago I had looked into getting a membership into the organization and quickly found that I wasn’t what they were looking for. The yearly fees alone gave me pause but then I suppose most professional organizations have those but what stopped me dead were their restrictive membership requirements. To join you had to be published professionally, meaning you were paid by someone for your work and paid professional rates. Back then it was a matter of ‘well, duh’ for me. It was disappointing but shoot, it made sense.
It doesn’t make sense anymore.
The world has evolved.
I took a look at the requirements again and to even look at them is madness. It’s complicated, it’s lawyer talk, and it takes the fun out of writing horror in the first place. For me, I might fit into their narrow band because I was published professionally four times – three Bare Bones collections and Cthulhu Sex but I don’t know that I got paid at the ‘pro’ rate. So those neat feathers in my cap, two of which I was recognized for, could essentially be worthless because the publications didn’t have a higher budget. That’s what I get out of their restrictions. My books don’t count because they were self published. So it falls to the stories. And that sucks. It sucks because it embraces the glory days of writing and publishing that no long exist, and that’s the problem.
The world moved on and they haven’t.
Do I get that you don’t want every person out there that puts a book out or gets a story on a webzine into your organization, uh, sorta. I get that you want to keep some manner of professionalism and integrity, and if you are a professional organization then you want pro writers. Ok. Sure. Sadly, I think those numbers are falling rapidly. There are just not the writers, the markets, or the publishers out there that can or will support the old system so you are left with an aging professional circuit that isn’t reaching out for fresh blood. Not a key to longevity.
Maybe I am in the wrong. I mean, I am far from a professional but I have been writing for twenty years and despite my last three books being self published they are professional quality, and I would put them up against anything out there. Maybe they won’t be as good but I guarantee you that you’ll get an engaging story. It’s funny that I worked all those years to get published only to find no one interested yet I hear time and again that people like my work, and like my books. Heck, the recent recognition as Best In Blood proves that. Again, I see that you want to keep a reign on who you have representing you but every writer comes from somewhere and if you don’t cultivate the future then you’re short sighted and doomed. King threw his first novel in the trash, thinking it was awful. Lovecraft languished in the pages of pulp magazines. These are two seminal authors in the genre and someone had to believe in them to help make them legends. It takes talent, yes, but it also takes someone else believing in you. Sure, we need to believe in ourselves in the arts but if others don’t believe in you as well then you’re doomed. You need that encouragement. Without it you can simply throw it all away.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s me and the other writers, and other artists that won’t take ‘no’ as an answer. Maybe it’s those of us that have enough courage and belief in ourselves to find ways to get our works out there, even if they are uncommon and unconditional ways, and won’t accept that we are not part of the professional collective. Maybe it’s time there was a place for the rest of us to work together, to band together, and to talk about how we can change the perceptions of the mainstream.
It’s a drag, as someone who takes his writing very seriously and who has been at it a while, to feel as if you’re forever stuck at the kiddie table. The facts are that the world of writing has changed, and to deny it is an utter lie. The way we read, the way we write, the way we publish has changed and we need to change with those times and need to start recognizing the work that is being put out by people who do not, who cannot write professionally. We need to recognize the people who, even if they are simply ‘hobbyists’ are putting out great work and who deserve to be the recognition of our peers. And sometimes, as artists, we must be the first to stand and applaud good work, important work, and must be the ones who bring the attention of others to those who go otherwise unnoticed. That is what being a professional is – taking the mantle of responsibility to champion and cheer those around you while you work to be the very best you can be. Maybe that’s what we need, not dismissal and clucking tongues but for our peers to help us join them in the ranks of the recognized.