by Kate Baker
I have one of the best jobs in the world. As Director of Operations for SFWA, I get to be a part of a wonderful organization that aims to help and protect industry professionals. I also get to meet our talented members and help plan the SFWA Nebula conference. With a fantastic events team consisting of Steven H Silver, Terra LeMay, and all the volunteers who step up to lend their time and expertise to the event, we were all excited as the event quickly approached. After months of planning, I packed my bags, my anxiety and anticipation, and made my way to the airport for what surely was going to be a great weekend. Boy was I wrong. It was amazing.
On Wednesday, May 11th, I flew to Chicago. We unloaded what seemed like hundreds of boxes, sorted them into piles and stuffed them into book bags that would greet each attending member.
Tired and sweaty after hours of work, I sat down to check my phone as we planned to grab something to eat. There in my Twitter feed was a message from a new follower; Omaze. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the company, they partner with a celebrity and charity, design a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a random donor, (and here is the most important part) — raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for deserving charities around the world.
I briefly remembered donating to the Big Brothers and Big Sisters campaign the company had run, hoping to raise funds for a new community building for kids. As a single mom, I realize the importance of having an organization like this, welcoming kids with a place to hang out, have fun, find acceptance, and love. It was never about the prize. Figuring they needed some information for the swag I was to receive for donating, I quickly followed them back and responded. That’s when I found out that I was a finalist for the grand prize and to satisfy their partners and sponsors, they wanted to do a short Skype interview that evening.
Unable to contain my excitement, I rushed around my room, curling my hair, refreshing make-up, doing cartwheels, moving furniture, opening blinds, you know — normal things.
As 6:00 CST hit, I took a deep breath and answered the call. Three smiling people sat across from me on my laptop screen, introducing themselves as the co-founders of the organization and woman I had spoken to via DM and email. They asked me all sorts of questions on what it was like to be a finalist and what would I do if I won? What would I say? Who was Kate? What did I do for a living? Hoping I didn’t sound too tired or tongue-twisted, I answered as best I could, happy to be a finalist on a campaign that had reached its fundraising goal. The building would be built, the kids would have a place, and I was elated for all of it.
That’s when they sprung the surprise.
Remember when I said Omaze partners with a charity and a celebrity? Out of all the thousands of people who opened their hearts and their wallets, I had won lunch with Chris Pratt. I was going to visit the set of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in Atlanta!
I have been a fan of the SFF genre since I was a kid. This is the community where Robert A. Heinlein first told us to pay it forward. To give where we can, when we can, to spread a little love and goodwill throughout the universe. I never thought in a million years I would win, and it wasn’t the prize that necessarily drove the donation, but the idea that my small contribution would make a difference.
That I won is just icing on the cake. Much like my job here at SFWA. Some days, I still can’t believe how lucky I am to be a part of something this big, this strong, and this amazing.
I am still walking through the haze, waiting for someone to pinch me, to wake me up from this surreal dream, but I hope it’s after I go give a guardian a hug in a few weeks.
Kate won the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine in 2011 and 2013, the British Fantasy Award for Best Magazine in 2014 and the World Fantasy Award for Special Award: Non Professional in 2014 alongside the wonderfully talented editorial staff of Clarkesworld Magazine.
Kate is currently situated in Northern Connecticut with her first fans: her kids.