• LeoOtherland

Joining SFWA and Recognizing Defining Moments

It’s funny how certain months can be rollercoasters that give you insane highs one moment and try to drop your stomach through your toes the next. February has definitely been one such rollercoaster of a month. So many things have happened in this short space of time I can’t even really describe them all. Some of them I can’t even talk about much because while they are “for sures,” and no longer just “maybes” hanging out on the horizon that might become realities all in an unexpected instant, they’re not announced yet. A few more days and we’ll talk about those particular excitements.


For now though, there is a different thing that happened early this month I can and do want to talk about.


Let’s start with Upon A Twice Time.


Upon A Twice Time, Upon A Twice Time… How many times have I sat here now and written about how being accepted to this anthology by the fabulous Air and Nothingness Press has had an impact on me and been a rewarding experience? I feel every time I come back to this publication from the spring of 2021 I find something new in it to relate. This time the new thing is about SFWA, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.


In an earlier post, I mentioned my inclusion in Upon A Twice Time made me eligible to join SFWA. On the 12 of this month I became a member, and I have been coming to terms with all that means to me ever since.


It’s common to have a dream of what you want to do with your life when you’re young. We all have at least one at some point. But as we get older we come to realize those dreams aren’t what we thought they were when we viewed them through the eyes of childhood. They take a lot of work and commitment and time. And if we even get to dabble in those dreams we once held dear and feel we are doing somewhat good work there we count ourselves lucky.


But when you have a dream and decide to turn that dream into a career, it takes on an even more complex and daunting aspect. It becomes more than a thing you hold in your hands and your heart and call dear to you. It becomes something tangled up in professionalism, and yes, work. Hard work. Lots of it. And it becomes difficult to remember why you had that dream to begin with.


Joining SFWA has made me pause and once again examine why I wanted to write. And not just write, but become an author and work hard to get my words into print.


When I was young books kept me alive in more ways than one. They were magic, and I wanted to create that kind of magic. I wanted to create something that could keep someone alive.


And that is the kind of dream you have no idea how much is involved in making it a reality until you try. Oh, you can have the dream, but how are you going to make it come true?


To begin you have to write, and write a lot. And determine just what you’re going to write. For me that was always fantasy and science fiction. Because we lived in reality I didn’t want to write about it. I wanted to write about the “what ifs” and the “maybes.” I wanted to give other people the same escapes that were given to me.


I still want that.


The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve realized what I love in writing is to place very real and relatable characters into extreme and unrealistic settings and situations. To create beautiful juxtapositions that make people come back to my worlds time and again to discover something they missed on previous visits. To weave dark and broken things side by side with the light and beautiful, these are my goals in writing because life and the people in it are not either “good” or “bad,” they are both at once.

Facing down my own newly minted membership in SFWA I’ve had to review my dream and all of these whys that pushed me to pursue it. All the more so because I haven’t felt worthy of my own acceptance to this organization.


The SFWA is a big deal, earning membership is an accomplishment, but one I felt I managed on a kind of fluke. I wrote one story, doodled it out in a notebook, and then somehow got it published with an established publisher who paid pro rates. It didn’t feel like it was anything special at the time. It felt like more of an accident than anything else. And that set the precedent on my feelings regarding joining SFWA.


I felt like an accident. I felt unworthy. Honestly I felt like a mistake.


And so for a long while after realizing I could join SFWA I didn’t. I sat debating if I even should. When I finally gave in, applied, and then received my acceptance letter, I found myself sitting and wondering what I’d done. How I’d gotten here. Why it felt like nothing had changed despite being a part of this amazing organization a younger me would have died for the honor of being in.


I thought it would be this great, defining moment.


But it wasn’t. It was just another moment.


Or it seemed that way.


After some time and reflection, and quite a few conversations with friends in the industry, I realized several things.


First, I realized what joining SFWA meant to me on a professional level. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is an amazing and well established group consisting of thousands of authors, artists, editors, and other industry professionals. Not only do I suddenly have a credential to put on my cover letters, but I have literally thousands of experienced individuals in the science fiction and fantasy genre I can reach out to and learn from. Through discussion boards, conventions, and newsletters I now have a host of information and networking tools at my fingertips I didn’t have before.


Suddenly, I have a far larger support group that has my back and will take me further along the path toward my dream. And that has been a huge realization.


The second realization I came to was what joining SFWA meant to me on a personal level. This had very little to do with the things SFWA could do for me, and far more to do with understanding that it wasn’t a fluke that I was a member, that I had earned my place, and that this was a defining moment for me.


I may have felt as though I did nothing but doodle out a story that got accidentally accepted by an established publisher, the truth remained if I hadn’t written a good piece of work I wouldn’t have been accepted. If my skills weren’t valid and well-honed after years of practice, my story would never have been published and I would never have been eligible for SFWA.


The bottom line was I was worthy, I just didn’t believe I was.


I was worthy before I joined SFWA, and I remained worthy after I joined. That was the key point for me. Becoming a part of SFWA was a defining moment for me because it showed to myself and others that I had already reached a professional level in my writing. It wasn’t a defining moment because I still would have been at that level of skill and professionalism if I hadn’t become a member.


No author needs to be a part of a professional group to be at a professional skill set. No writer needs to join a professional group to prove their worth. The worth is already there.


But that does not make being eligible to join a group like SFWA any less an accomplishment. Becoming a part of this group is a huge step forward for me. It is an accomplishment I am choosing to embrace and one I am refusing to downplay. This unbelievable opportunity is one I earned and am proud of.


It is in fact a milestone on the path to a dream I chose to make a reality through hard work and dedication. I hope it is just one of many and that several years from now I’ll be facing a different accomplishment wondering how I got there and how on earth I’m worthy of it.


And why? Because if I do that means I will have carried on and moved further down the path to leaving behind something meaningful for other people. I will have gotten a little closer to creating the magic that just might keep someone else alive.


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