There’s been some talk here, specifically in the comments to my "Hot Button Comments" post a few days ago, about what the MWA should be. It’s a discussion that’s certainly on the minds of many mystery writers I know…and seems timely, given that the Edgar Awards are occuring tonight.
Here are some excerpts from several of Michael Bracken’s comments:
My concern throughout the discussion is to ensure that work that
doesn’t clearly fit either end of the spectrum (bestselling novel
published by major NY house at one end, perhaps, and never-appeared in
print in any form at the other end) is given fair and appropriate
consideration and that the line between "professional" and
"unprofessional" isn’t drawn arbitrarily because someone or some group
is unwilling to carefully examine that gray area between the extremes.
More importantly though, why does one need to have a book published to
be a mystery writer? Why is it that mystery novelists (and I’m
generalizing here, not picking on David specificially) who want to
reform the MWA seem to constantly ignore those writers who write short
What we can hope to happen, David, is a reasonably level playing field
where short fiction writers are treated in a manner similar to
novelists and that they have an equal voice in any organization of
One of David Montgomery’s replies was:
Letting everyone in makes about as much sense as the WGA
opening up their rolls to people who like to watch movies. It’s a
professional writers group, and should remain such.
With all due respect to Michael, I agree with David. The MWA began as an organization for professional
mystery writers and should remain so. I remember how I felt when I got
my WGA card… I knew then that I’d become a professional TV writer and
I was thrilled. I felt the same way when I qualified to join the MWA. I
think the more flexible MWA becomes in their admission requirements the
less meaning membership will actually have. Is that elitist? Yes, it
is…and it should be. What is the point of having a professional
organization if you let in anybody who can pay the dues?
Thriller writers felt under-served by the MWA… so what did they
do? They created their own organization, the International Thriller
Writers for professional writers of thriller novels and
screenplays. The ITW also has rigid membership requirements…as well
they should. The requirments of membership go a long way towards
defining an organizations goal’s and identity.
Where does this leave short story mystery writers? Screwed,
probably. The market for mystery short stories is all but evaporating.
My suggestion? If there’s a viable number of disenfranchised writers,
they can start their own organization… the Mystery and Suspense Short Story
Writers of America….or the P.O.D. Writers of America… or the Self-Published Mystery Authors Coalition. Whatever.
I’m doing something like that right now. I’m involved in the early
creating, along with a bunch of other writers, an organization for
who toil in the world of tie-ins, novelizations and other licensed
writing. We’re talking about forming the International Association of
Writers (IAMTW, which is also an acronym for "I AM a TIE-IN WRITER").
We’ve had a Yahoo Discussion Group going for some months now, made up
of the leading writers in the field, and have hashed out some of the
issues, goals, and pit-falls of creating such an organization. Will it
happen? I don’t know, but at least we aren’t wasting time complaining
about how MWA or SFWA or other writers groups don’t serve or reflect
the unique needs, talents, and goals of tie-in writers.
Anyway, this is my long winded way of saying I’m all for
the MWA becoming more exclusive and less inclusive, even if that leaves
some short story writers or POD authors or tie-in writers out in the cold.