The Horror Zine
Lisa Morton

What goes on inside the Horror Writers Association?

Lisa Morton tells us


Owen King
John Shirley
Brent Monahan
Joe McKinney
Simon Clark
Bentley Little
David Brin
Bill Hinzman by John Russo
Earl Hamner


by Lisa Morton

I occasionally look at all the time I’ve put in to various volunteer positions with the Horror Writers Association (HWA), and think I must have been loco. I’ve given literally thousands of hours of time to virtually every job in the organization except President; maybe I would have been better off putting that time into some other charity, or (gasp!) my own career.

But here’s the thing: Like HWA’s founders and like probably just about everyone else who has volunteered, I love the horror genre and I love the people who write it.

I’m currently serving as HWA’s Vice President (immediately before this I was Treasurer), and since I work closely with our President Rocky Wood, Treasurer Les Klinger, Secretary Joe McKinney, the entire Board of Trustees, webmaster Angel McCoy and administrator Brad Hodson, I’m pretty well qualified to give you some idea of how we at HWA go about achieving our overarching goals of promoting the genre and our members.

While I know it’s fun to imagine some sort of super-secret cabal whispering sinister notions to each other, the truth is our day-to-day activities are pretty boring. Our first chunk goes to administrative stuff, helping Angel and Brad make sure our members are getting access to the website, placed into the directory, voting privileges, etc. Fortunately Angel and Brad are dedicated and efficient, so that leaves Rocky and I (well, mainly Rocky) to deal with the emergencies or problems…of which there are always plenty. HWA has nearly 800 members right now, with new members joining every day, and of course it’s important to us that we serve their needs first.

Most of our other work tends to be cyclical. For example, it’s December as I write this, so much of our administrative time is going to what we think of as “Stoker Season”. Since 1986, HWA has annually given out the Bram Stoker Awards® to recognize superior achievement in horror writing; the awards are considered to be the most prestigious prize in the horror world (think Oscar with a death’s head). The recognized works come from a combination of  members’ recommendations and jury choices, and the whole process tends to get fast and furious as each year winds down. Inevitably, our time each December goes to a combination of award administrative duties, and handling the inevitable rash of complaints, disputes, and suggestions that arise.

However, it’s not all boring paperwork and placating bruised egos – we also spend a lot of time thinking of ways to make the organization and our promotional work better. This year, we’ve worked intensively on building our relationships with libraries (thanks mainly to the brilliant work of board member JG Faherty), which is probably more important than you realize. Beyond any sort of sociological argument about libraries being important to a culture is something more practical: With some 30,000 libraries in the U.S. alone, libraries are a major market for books and most librarians we’ve spoken to would like to buy more horror titles but don’t know the genre at all. That’s where HWA comes in: We’re putting together a blog for librarians (and one specifically for young adult horror fiction, one of the fastest-growing areas of horror), we’re attending the American Library Association’s major events in 2013 and working with them to provide programming that addresses horror and libraries, and we’re putting together promotional materials that will help librarians become more familiar with the genre (some librarians, for example, have told us that they’d buy more horror works from small presses if they just knew about them). We even worked with cartoonist Ray Billingsley (creator of the syndicated daily comic strip “Curtis”) to create a poster that promotes young adult horror and literacy.

But we don’t limit our promoting to librarians: We also participate in book festivals and trade shows around the U.S. and Canada (and we’d like to do more internationally). Our big event each year is the BookExpo, which is the premiere book trade show in North America. BookExpo gives us a chance to promote HWA, our members’ books, and the genre in general to thousands of booksellers, librarians, editors and publishers, and we put a lot of work into it every year (with thanks to Vince Liaguno, who has been overseeing our BookExpo appearances for many years now). BookExpo usually has a few unexpected payoffs for us as well, like the chance to improve relations and communications with other writers’ organizations (we usually partner in some way or other with the Mystery Writers of America now). We also sponsor booths, panels and signings at events like Printers Row in Chicago, Word on the Street in Toronto, and the West Hollywood Book Fair. Each of these events provides local members with a chance to meet readers and talk about horror and their own work.

Speaking of local members, organizing local chapters of HWA continues to be an ongoing project for us. We recognize that local chapters would provide members not just with a chance to meet and socialize and exchange information (although that’s certainly important), but also to organize events at local libraries, schools, festivals and more…but, with 800 members spread out all over the world, figuring out stuff as seemingly simple as geographical areas has proven to be the stuff of nightmares. We remain committed to chapters, however, and hope to offer something solid in 2013.

So, we’ve already got daily administrative work, awards, library outreach, major promotional events, and chapters…sounds like a lot, right? But that’s just the start. On any given day, we might also be working on legal matters (we recently trademarked the name of our awards, for example), our members-only anthologies (we hope to build on the success of our three-volume Blood Lite series and provide many more opportunities for our members to contribute to our books), additional methods of fundraising (we’d like to be able to hire at least one full-time employee to oversee many of the day-to-day operations), news items regarding publishing that might affect us, ways to improve our website (which is already huge and offers everything from articles on writing to a complete history of the Bram Stoker Awards®), our own annual conference (which in 2013 will be combined with the World Horror Convention and held in New Orleans – see for more information), and dozens of other topics. Our current President, Rocky Wood, puts at least four hours a day into the organization, and that’s on slow days.

There you have it – a brief look at what the HWA does. I wish I could tell you that during new moons we don black robes and offer up nubile virgins to elder gods...but that sounds way too easy for us.





















Author/screenwriter Lisa Morton is the current Treasurer of the HWA

About Lisa Morton

Lisa Morton

Lisa Morton is a screenwriter, author of non-fiction books, award-winning prose writer, and Halloween expert. Her work was described by the American Library Association’s Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror as “consistently dark, unsettling, and frightening,” and Famous Monsters called her "one of the best writers in dark fiction today."

She began her career in Hollywood, co-writing the cult favorite Meet the Hollowheads (on which she also served as Associate Producer), but soon made a successful transition into writing short works of horror. After appearing in dozens of anthologies and magazines, including The Mammoth Book of Dracula, Dark Delicacies, The Museum of Horrors, and Cemetery Dance, in 2010 her first novel, The Castle of Los Angeles, was published to critical acclaim, appearing on numerous “Best of the Year” lists. Her book The Halloween Encyclopedia (now in an expanded second edition) was described by Reference & Research Book News as “the most complete reference to the holiday available,” and Lisa has been interviewed on The History Channel and in The Wall Street Journal as a Halloween authority.

She is a four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award®, a recipient of the Black Quill Award, and winner of the 2012 Grand Prize from the Halloween Book Festival, and she recently received her seventh Bram Stoker Award® nomination for the collection Monsters of L.A. A lifelong Californian, she lives in North Hollywood, and can be found online at

The Castle of Los Angeles

Monsters of LA

The Halloween Encyclopedia