Monday, November 25, 2013

On Being Part Of The Horror Community; No Writer Is An Island

Not too long ago I blogged about my two consecutive stints at Borderlands Press Writers Bootcamp and the folks I encountered there,  looking at where they'd ended up. Then, several weeks later, I hit AnthoCon 2013 and enjoyed a wonderful time hanging out with friends and colleagues, among them a healthy group of Borderlands graduates who are, like myself, making their way in "the genre." I enjoyed hanging out with them and sharing our Borderlands experiences, and I realized something more strongly than I ever had before:

Working in the horror genre is like working with family.

If you're like me, community and family weren't the first things you considered when you embarked upon your writing career. You  - like me - probably envisioned lots of hours in solitude writing and editing, dreaming of that "big break," but depending on the genre you were targeting, perhaps you never thought (like I certainly didn't) that by joining that genre and laboring in it, you were joining a community of seasoned professionals, popular contemporaries, up and comers, fans, editors, publishers, and newbies like yourself.  You didn't think of it as a family, initially. 

After several years of attending conventions, meeting people and making friends, I'm not even sure if I felt that way. I knew lots of people and liked most of them, could call a few friends and most others amicable acquaintances, but family? A community? I certainly didn't consciously think of that until I experienced an awesome (and yes, much mentioned by now) evening with Tom Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson and Stuart David Schiff (editor and creator of Whispers magazine).  What made it so awesome?

This sense of community Paul and Tom and Stuart shared. They regaled me and each other with stories about the genre and their own writing and editing careers. They talked about the family they'd shared over the past twenty years, and for the first time, I thought to myself: I want to be a part of something like that. And, for the first time, I realized that with the friends I'd made through writing and attending Cons and the two years I'd spent at Borderlands, I might very well be part of a younger branch of that horror community.

And I liked that.

A lot.

No man (or woman) is an island, according to poet John Donne, because...

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

It's probably just my quirk, but hey: I like people. I like being involved with people. I like seeing them succeed, and I like encouraging them when things aren't working out. This is a big reason why teaching high school English has been so rewarding for me. I get to do this almost on a daily basis.

But more and more, along with my own professional goals: I want to do the same thing in the horror genre. I want to cheer on all my colleagues when they succeed, I want to recommend their works to others, I want to come alongside them when they're struggling. Why?

Because, like John Donne was "involved with mankind" I want to be "involved with the horror genre."

At AnthoCon, I spent time talking with a fellow talented writer struggling to balance work and academic studies and family responsibilities and writing. I found myself encouraging this person, feeling invested in them, because I didn't want this person to give up. I didn't try to sell them a "just buck-up and keep writing" line but at the same time, I tried to offer something that would prevent them from quitting. Hopefully, I offered something of worth.

Funds are tight, we're on a budget, and I won't be traveling to lots of Cons every year any time soon. However...I want to become more involved in the horror community. I want to form a coalition (very small) of New York and Northeastern PA horror writers (NYPENN HORROR?) and start traveling together to smaller, more local Cons. I want to join the Horror Writers Association. Open a chapter here in Binghamton? Start rapping about horror over on Goodreads. In short?

I want to be part of a community. I don't want to be an island. 

In closing, fellow Borderlands graduate Tracie Orsi Godier posted the below awesome group photo on Facebook the other day. F. Paul Wilson - a Bootcamp instructor - commented: "I want to see another group photo like this twenty years from now."

And how awesome would that be? Not only for that photo, but all the other group photos of the past few years. We're not all going to have the same successes, and some of us will go different places than others, and, also, some of us will probably drop out along the way. But I want this community to look back at those photos twenty years from now and realize we started something, and that, God-willing, we all stayed at it and traveled forward together.

That's almost better than any kind of "big break," because that's what makes all of this worthwhile.

Left to right: Myself, Gardner Goldsmith, Traci Orsi Godier, Michael Bailey, Meghan Arcuri-Moran 
Left to right: Malcom McClinton, Rob Davies, Scott Christian Carr, Tim Deal, Danny Evarts, Richard Wright, myself
Left around table: myself, Mary SanGiovanni, Michael Brenden, Lorne Dixon, Brian Keene, John Koloski