Last Round-Up for Western Writers of America?

On the eve of the Western Writers of America’s annual convention, legendary western novelist Richard Wheeler laments the state of the western genre…and the wisdom of the WWA’s decision to "drop its professional requirements for membership."

This merely formalized the practice of admitting most
anyone, regardless of the strict bylaws, which had been going on for
several years. So the organization switched from being a classic guild
looking after professional members to being an open-membership group.

Recently it was noted that Library Journal, which scrupulously
publishes the winners of various awards given by author societies, had
not included Spur Awards in its listings for some while. Apparently it
deemed the WWA awards to be beneath notice, which is a good indication
of the fate of the western novel. Maybe the LJ has a point: many of the
Spur judges no longer have true professional credentials, so the Spur
Awards are increasingly fan-given or wannabe-given awards rather than a
selection made by professional peers.

WWA is booming, actually, now that anyone can join. It has around 600
members, publishes a flossy magazine, sets up booths at trade shows,
and is prosperous. And there is no lack of books written by members,
even if these are often print-on-demand titles from vanity presses, or
more commonly, works published by spare-bedroom presses, some of which
do not even have ISBN numbers or bar codes, and thus are not
distributed by larger booksellers.

I am wondering where it will all lead.

That’s a good question…and one the Mystery Writers of America might ponder before they ever consider loosening their membership requirements.

5 thoughts on “Last Round-Up for Western Writers of America?”

  1. The death of a genre.
    The mythological underpinnings of the western have been transformed into the mythology of the fantasy novel.
    I read a lot of Louis L’Amour when I was quite young. I remember his books claiming that he was the foremost author of ‘the authentic west’. Yeah, right. Even at 12 I recognized that for the bullshit it was.

  2. I think the way MIT handles clubs is a good example of how to handle these things. Clubs cannot limit who can become a member, but they can limit voting rights. (This began when people complaining that ethnic-based clubs were discriminatory.)
    Shame to see an organization unwittingly lose its reputation like this.

  3. Groups like MWA and ITW aren’t clubs, though. They’re professional writer’s organizations. It would be stupid for them not to limit membership, as it seems the WWA is doing. What’s the point of even having the group then?

  4. I’m a crime writer based in Toronto. We met briefly in the book room at Bouchercon last year.
    There were some posts on your blog awhile ago questioning whether MWA should be open to “pre-published writers,” a.k.a. fans. Recent Canadian experience has been instructive.
    As you know, the Crime Writers of Canada established a listserve early this year. You were the first to post, if I recall. Since that august beginning, however, things have shot down the toilet. A group of ten or so of the most fatuous pre-pubs and self-pubs have taken over. They post eight out of every 10 messages. You get the Rotarian from dairy country who wonders whether his editing hours count as much as his writing hours; the incurable optimist from the deep interior of British Columbia who posts every time a friend or relative likes her book, sure that this time she’s about to get published. You get the self-published author who just happens to run a contest.(
    Look at the numbers of posts. They have dropped by half every month since the launch, from a couple hundred or so to a couple dozen. I only go there now for entertainment of the train wreck variety. I learn more spinning one time through your blog and the others you link to than I could in a month of CWC pap.
    There are great crime writers in Canada. You probably met them all when you were here. It’s a shame that a guild listserve can be taken over like that. There should be two-tier membership, if nothing else. One for (genuinely) published authors members and one for everyone else.


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