E.D. Walker: Why SFWA?

Walker_The Beauty's Beast Web FileA few years ago I attended Viable Paradise, which is a one-week writer’s workshop taught by some of the most talented authors currently writing SF/F. The year I went Steven Gould (our current SFWA president) critiqued my story, in fact, which was wonderful but more than a little surreal. Another indelible memory from that experience was being told by instructor Elizabeth Bear after graduation that we weren’t her students anymore–we were now her peers.

It was great to hear, obviously; it was a little harder to believe. Before attending the workshop, I’d already published two books and seen two different small publishers go down in flames around me. For years, I kept thinking I’d finally “made it”, that I’d reached some level of legitimacy in my career, and then the rug was repeatedly pulled out from under me.

As a SF writer geek, I’ve been aware of SFWA for a long time, and it’s always been a dream of mine to someday “make it” into the hallowed ranks of SFWA’s members. To sell the big book, to clear the publishing gatekeepers and finally qualify as an active member. Especially after my Viable Paradise experience, a SFWA membership came to represent a goal post to me, an external marker that my writing would finally be good enough, finally be ready.

But a few months after I finished Viable Paradise, I decided to pursue self-publishing instead. After my publishers tanked, I spent over a year and a half with a literary agent trying to sell my other books. That whole experience left me feeling like I was wasting my precious time pursuing traditional publishing with its long, long delays. Once I parted ways with the agent, I decided to take charge of my own authorial destiny. In March of 2014, I self-published my fantasy novel The Beauty’s Beast— a mash-up of “Beauty and the Beast” and the medieval werewolf tale “Bisclavret”–and I pretty much forgot about that book as I worked on other stuff.

And then the first royalty check came in. Not bad. Then the second…pretty nice…and then during the summer of 2014 the book really took off. I made more in one month of sales than I had made in all the years I’d previously been published put together. It was great, it was exhilarating! People liked my book!

And yet…

This achievement still wasn’t enough to qualify me for SFWA because it was all income from self-publishing.

I musWalkwer_Headshott admit it was frustrating to look at the SFWA qualifications page and realize that all this success with my fantasy novel still didn’t mean anything to the major organization in my field.

So you cannot imagine my elation when the announcement went out earlier this year that SFWA was going to allow self-pub members to join. The same day applications opened, I sent mine in. A week later, I was one of the very first to be approved.

I was also one of the very first of the new members to post on the forums. Boy, is that cool, let me tell you, to be in a chat room shooting the shit, talking the biz with some of my favorite authors. When I got the approval email it felt like what Elizabeth Bear had said two years ago was coming true: I finally believe that I am a legitimate member of the SF/F writing community.

And that’s what SFWA has really meant to me: my membership has helped me feel like I’ve finally made it. In my mind, I’m a real author now! 😉

E.D. Walker (a.k.a. Beth Matthews) is a Southern California girl born and raised. She’s also a total geek, a movie buff, and a mediocre swing dancer. Currently, she lives in sunny SoCal with her husband and two of the neediest housecats on the planet. Find her on twitter @IAmBethMatthews and at her website.