About volunteering for SFWA

Those of you who aren’t interested in the politics of Science-Fiction and Fantasy can skip this post. For the rest of you, I have some explaining to do.

I’ve volunteered to help SFWA by chairing the Service to SFWA committee, which has been revamped to recruit, retain and reward volunteers. Any service organization, like SFWA, relies on its members to be active participants in supporting its goals. More specifically, it relies on its active members to set those goals.

I have not been happy with a number of things about SFWA lately, however, when I look at the organization as a whole it has accomplished some very good things. Griefcom, the Legal Defense Fund, the Emergency Medical Fund, raising the pro-rate standard from 3 -5 cents… These are good things that volunteers accomplished. At its core, SFWA exists to promote and aid Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers.

That’s me. I am a science-fiction and fantasy writer.

So my choice is to walk away from the good things or to try and change the things that I don’t like. I want an organization that represents me and that represents my interests. From working with other non-profits, I’ve found that quickest way to be taken seriously is to volunteer. So that’s why I’m doing this.

And that’s why, if you aren’t happy, I think you should consider volunteering. Shift the balance. Help me.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can help your fellow Science-Fiction and Fantasy authors, please fill out the following questionnaire and email it to sfwavolunteer@gmail.com or leave it in the comments here.

1. I am interested in volunteering for SFWA — [short-term/long-term] (ie.a quick one-time job, versus an ongoing position)

2. I can offer [x] hours per month for volunteer work.

3. I am interested in learning more about volunteering to help with
a) Website
b) Writing related advice
c) Legal advice or issues (ie contracts, copyright, etc.)
d) Outreach (ie, Youth, Speaker’s bureau, Conventions, etc.)
e) Publicity (ie publications, Nebulas, PR, etc.)
f) Operations (ie audits, procedures, run for office, etc.)
g) Grunt Work (ie stuffing envelopes, sorting lists, lifting tables, etc.)
h) Other (ie I got mad skillz you don’t even know to ask about, teleportation, graphic design, an active fan base, FTL travel, etc.)

4. My SFWA membership status is: [non-member, affiliate, associate, active]

Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to working with you.

Mary Robinette Kowal

Edited to add: You don’t need to be a member to volunteer for anything except those things that involve voting, such as running for office or chairing a committee. All you need is an interest in support science-fiction and fantasy writers, or concern with helping to shape the future of the organization.

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12 Responses

  1. David de Beer

    I sent you the mail, but I’m a lot more despondent since Friday.

    >These are good things that volunteers accomplished.

    see, this is a problem. Accomplished. Past Tense. George Martin seems puzzled that younger writers are asking: “what can the SFWA do for me?”, as if it’s a selfish question. And then he makes some JFK stirring quote.
    But it’s not a stupid question at all. It’s not meant to be a one-way street, it’s meant to give something to the writer and the overwhelming perception right now is that SFWA rests on what has been accomplished, and brings little to nothing to the table to help writers in the new millenium, to face the future.
    Martin and others can dismiss it, make pretty stirring quotes, but the questions is valid and needs to be addressed.

    > At its core, SFWA exists to promote and aid Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers.

    let me go out on a limb here – it is why it existed, it is why it should exist. But inherent in the skepticism of the question that Martin and others dismiss is this very belief taking shape: that SFWA is precisely not doing this.
    This is I think what all of us want to believe; and it’s the disillusionment when we begin to get the perception that it’s not doing these things, it is not promoting and furthering the growth of science fiction and fantasy.
    More than that, I would like once and for all for the SFWA to take an official stand on whether they stand only for America, or whether they mean to represent the world.
    Perhaps this is one more irrelevant question to most, but to me it is important.

    Anyways, I sent you the mail. Now we’ll see what we will see.

  2. Mary Robinette Kowal

    > At its core, SFWA exists to promote and aid Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers.

    let me go out on a limb here – it is why it existed, it is why it should exist.

    David: Let me give you an example of how SFWA is aiding writers, right now. The work that Griefcom does is active and ongoing. The volunteers there spend up to 20 hours a week resolving member’s grievances. SFWA is still doing good work, but I’ll totally grant that it is only slowly facing the fact that this is the 21st century.

    But like any volunteer run organization, it will naturally cater to the people who are actively involved. The only way it will be relevant to new members is if new members are active and vocal.

    So that’s why I think that people who have a vested interest in what SFWA should be, people who want to be involved in promoting and aiding SF & F writers, should volunteer.

  3. Chris Gerrib

    Congratulations (or condolences) as appropriate for deciding to volunteer for SFWA. You’re absolutely correct – the place won’t change unless the people who are active decide to change it.

  4. Mary Robinette Kowal

    Nancy: You don’t need to be a member to volunteer for anything except those things that involve voting, such as running for office or chairing a committee.

    Chris: Thanks. I’ve been pleased with the response thus far.

  5. Caryn Cameron

    Amen. I’ve been volunteering doing author websites for SWFA for years. Yes, it feels a bit silly being a volunteer for an organization that I don’t qualify to join, but it’s fun and (at the risk of sounding selfish) enhances the rest of my web work life by giving me places to play where the client -doesn’t- get to direct what it looks like. My play space. Not to mention I’ve dreamed of joining SWFA since I was a teenager.

    Volunteering feels good.

  6. Michele Lee

    I am good at making lists. I can stuff envelopes. 😀 Perhaps there might be more. What can a non-member, stay at home mom with no car and no long distance do to help?

  7. Mary Robinette Kowal

    Michele and Jessica: Thank you so much for volunteering! There are loads of things for non-members to do, much of it from home.

    Would you mind filling out that questionnaire and emailing it to me? It’s easiest for me to sort volunteers that way.

    Thanks again!

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