From the Trenches

As Treasurer of HWA, I see the paperwork for our involvement in a multitude of conventions and expos. Looking at our calendar (elsewhere in this issue), you’ll see “Screamfest,” “Monsterpalooza,” the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival, comic book conventions such as New York Comic-Con, the American Library Association gatherings, and the biggest event of all, Book Expo America (in New York).

The dollar cost of participating in these events is only a small part of our annual budget. What isn’t evident from the budget, however, is the amount of energy that members of HWA devote to these events, arranging booths and panels and finding speakers and participants to attend the events carrying the flag for HWA.

What’s the benefit? Why all this energy? Certainly, it’s an opportunity for individual members to showcase their creative efforts and meet the public. Speaking on a panel is a great opportunity to demonstrate that not all writers are inarticulate recluses who can only communicate with a computer keyboard! It’s a chance to talk about ideas, not just promote your own books, and it’s often a chance to actually learn something from other writers. I recall one such experience, when I was very pleased to find out that I was not the only one to suffer what another writer termed “research rapture,” falling in love with the research and having to drag oneself back to actual writing.

But there are more important opportunities than merely shilling one’s own books or showing off one’s own verbosity: These events are our big chance to promote reading in the horror genre. The primary reason HWA supports these events is blatant self-promotion--for the genre itself. Some of these events are focused on something other than books--films and comics in particular. Having a significant presence there gives HWA a chance to introduce fans of horror in another medium to our medium of choice, the written word.

Equally important are the book-oriented events. The L.A. Festival of Books and BEA are prime examples. There, thousands of readers are walking around, hoping to connect with authors and publishers who put out material that will be of interest to the readers. These give us a chance to talk with readers about horror. Not only can the readers meet actual authors but they also have the opportunity to find out that the genre is much deeper and broader than they suspected. Yes, there are writers other than Stephen King and Clive Barker, and there are many kinds of “horror” writing!

Finally, there are the library-related events, such as ALA and local-ibrary programs. Like other book-oriented events, these library events give us a chance to meet readers; in addition, however, they also give us a vital inroad with librarians, people who regularly buy and recommend books to their constituencies. We’re there reminding them that the genre of horror is a house with many rooms and is as important a part of their collections as mysteries, science fiction, and other long-established genres.

So it’s a simple matter: Events not only help our individual members promote their work, they promote the genre and the craft of horror-writing as a whole. Why don’t you consider taking part in one? There’s surely a chance coming up in your neighborhood--watch the calendar!