The Special Page
Bram Stoker Award-winner and President of the Horror Writers Association
...tells us what it's like inside the HWA
IN THE "SPECIAL PAGE" ARCHIVES:
HWA: A DAY IN THE LIFE
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; 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 President, and since I work closely with our Vice President John Palisano, Treasurer Leslie 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 main 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. HWA has around 1,400 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. As I write this it’s late summer, a relatively quiet time so it’s a good opportunity to explore old projects and create new ones (like our just-announced Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference, happening within StokerCon 2017 next April). However, come December much of our administrative time will go 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 haunted house statue). 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, while that makes working with HWA sound at best dull, at worst stressful, the reality is that 90% of the time the job is deeply rewarding. I recently made a list of our achievements so far in 2016, and I was astonished at how much we’ve already done. We’ve assisted literacy organizations and a project to place a bust of Bram Stoker in an Irish library. We’ve established www.horrorscholarships.org , where we offer an astounding five scholarship opportunities as well as an endowment grant to libraries with young adult writing programs. We’ve examined and implemented ways to expand diversity within both the organization and the genre (see our marvelous column “The Seers’ Table” at our blog). We held our first annual StokerCon™ to great acclaim; StokerCon’s “Horror University” track of educational workshops and presentations was a hit, as was the first “Lucky Thirteen Film Competition”. For StokerCon 2017, we’re raising the bar again, incorporating a “Librarians’ Day” and the first annual “Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference.” We just released our latest anthology, the young adult-themed Scary Out There, edited by Jonathan Maberry, and we’re currently assembling our next anthology Hallows’ Eve, scheduled for release by Anchor Books/Blumhouse in 2017. We also sponsor booths, panels and signings at events like the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Word on the Street in Toronto, and the Tucson 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 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. Our chapters have grown exponentially over the last few years as a source of new members and promotional opportunities, and we’re especially pleased with our major international arms – HWA Ontario (Canada), HWA U.K., and HWA Italy.
So, we’ve already got daily administrative work, awards, 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 approving hardship loans for members, working with our brilliant agent to create more members-only anthologies, continuing to improve our publicity and social media, 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®), and dozens of other topics.
Yes, I put a lot of time into HWA, and yes, it can occasionally be a difficult and taxing job serving as the organization’s President, but the satisfactions of helping other writers, of introducing our genre to new readers via library programs or assisting new writers in learning the craft, far outweigh the trying times…and I like to think we get something positive out of those, too, since they help us restructure existing protocol or create new assets.
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.
About Lisa Morton
Photo credit: Seth Ryan
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”.
A rare Southern California native, Lisa’s career as a professional writer began in 1988 with the horror-fantasy feature film Meet the Hollowheads (aka Life On the Edge), on which she also served as Associate Producer. For the Disney Channel’s 1992 Adventures in Dinosaur City, she served as screenwriter, Associate Producer, Songwriter, and Miniatures Coordinator. Other screenplay credits include the feature films Tornado Warning, Blood Angels, Blue Demon, and The Glass Trap; in addition, she wrote numerous episodes of the children’s television series Sky Dancers, Dragon Flyz, Vanpires, and Toontown Kids. For stage she has written and co-produced the acclaimed horror one-acts Spirits of the Season, Sane Reaction, and The Territorial Imperative, and has adapted and directed Philip K. Dick’s Radio Free Albemuth and Theodore Sturgeon’s The Graveyard Reader. Her full-length science fiction comedy Trashers was an L.A. Weekly “Recommended” pick.
She has written more than 100 short stories, including the Bram Stoker Award-winning “Tested” (from Cemetery Dance magazine). In early 2010 her first novel The Castle of Los Angeles was published to critical acclaim, and was awarded the Bram Stoker Award for First Novel. Her novellas include The Lucid Dreaming, The Samhanach, Hell Manor, Smog, Summer’s End, and By Insanity of Reason (co-authored with John R. Little). She also wrote the novels Malediction (nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel), Netherworld, and Zombie Apocalypse: Washington Deceased. Her works have been translated into eight languages.
As a Halloween expert, Lisa wrote the definitive reference book The Halloween Encyclopedia (now in a second edition), and the multiple award-winning Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween. She has spoken about the holiday in The Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe, on the BBC and The History Channel, on the supplements for the Blu Ray release of the feature film Trick ‘R Treat, and at the Utah Humanities Book Festival. She supplied a section on Halloween candy for The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, wrote the Halloween chapter for The Art of Horror, and served as Consultant on U.S. Postal’s first official Halloween stamps.
Her other non-fiction books include The Cinema of Tsui Hark (the first comprehensive study of the influential Hong Kong filmmaker), the award-winning Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times (co-authored with Rocky Wood, illustrated by Greg Chapman), and Ghosts: A Haunted History.
She currently serves as President of the Horror Writers Association, and is also an Active member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime.
Lisa currently lives in North Hills, California, and can be found online at http://www.lisamorton.com