Wednesday, May 27, 2015

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday - Turtle Rock & Links

While hiking in Ute Valley Park in April (know how you know it was April? BLUE SKIES), I took a picture of this rock. It looks like a cartoon turtle to me. Doesn't it have a cute face?

Link time! I am not endorsing any of these, merely passing them along. Always do your research before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Threepenny Review is accepting submissions. Pays $400 per short story or article, $200 per poem or Table Talk piece. Word count varies per type of writing. They do not take submissions July through December, so have them in by June 30.

Another Dimension Magazine is looking for horror and dark fantasy in the tone of Night Gallery and Twilight Zone. 1000 to 3000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline June 30.

Fey Publishing is putting together a Halloween horror anthology. Almost anything goes. Up to 10,000 words. Pays $5 per story. Deadline June 30.

Spectral Press is putting together the Spectral Book of Horror Stories II. 2000 to 8000 words. Pays £20 per 1000 words. Deadline June 30.

Bloodshot Books is looking for stories for their anthology Not Your Average Monster. 3000 to 20,000 words. Pays $.01/word, plus contributor copies. Deadline June 30.

Knightwatch Press is open for submissions to A Thousand Tiny Knives. This is a charity anthology intended to raise awareness of endometriosis (and if you've suffered from it, you understand the title.) I don't usually pass along publications that don't pay, but as someone who has experienced endo since middle school and had to explain to tons of people what it is, I get to change the rules when I want. :) Horror/body horror, diaries, memoir, poetry. 2000 to 6000 words. Pays a contributor's copy. Deadline June 30.

Strange Musings Press is seeking stories for Alternate Hilarities 4: Weirder Science. Science fiction and humor. Flash fiction 500 to 1500 words. Short fiction 1501 to 6000 words. Pays 1/2 cent per word, plus royalties and a contributor copy.  Deadline June 30.

Third Flatiron is looking for stories about superstition for their anthology entitled Ain't Superstitious. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, and anthropological fiction. Also take short humor. 1500 to 3000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline June 30.

Imaginate is accepting submissions for September issue with the theme of Music. Short stories, flash fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and photography. Short fiction is up to 2500 words. Pays $.05/word. Deadline July 1.

Mocha Memoirs Press is looking for short stories for An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Dark and paranormal fantasy. 3000 to 8000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline July 1. They also have several imprints open to novellettes 10,000 to 50,000 words.

Any of these of interest? Anything to share? Do you see a turtle in the picture, something else, or just a rock. 

May you find your Muse.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Horror List Book Review: In Silent Graves

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.) To see the books I've reviewed so far, you can view the list at the end of this post where I rank them. I'm far enough in that I figured continuing to add the titles to this first paragraph would take up too much room.

This week I'm reviewing In Silent Graves, by Gary A. Braunbeck.

This book started out promptly with a severe loss for the main character. Since it's on the back cover blurb, I'll go ahead and say that his wife and unborn child die. His daughter's body is then stolen from the morgue, and he is haunted by a man with a facial disfigurement.

For a book that is gruesome at times, Braunbeck knows how to wrench the heart. Robert Londrigan is living the high life before he's sent plummeting into a spiral of horror. He has no chance to get over his loss, because he's being haunted by a smartass phantasm with no initial explanation as to why. The last few chapters were surprisingly touching (though also grotesque.) At the heart of the tale is a love story that has spanned a greater time than even Londrigan had imagined.

It slowed down in the middle once it was revealed to the reader what was happening to him and why. There was a mythology introduced that took bits from already existing mythology and expanded on them. Time was twisted and deeper questions were raised than I expected. There was a lot in play in this book, which made it a slower read during the introductions and explanations, and a little confusion at times. But where he went was definitely interesting.

There was character growth for Londrigan as he came to terms with the reality behind the facade he'd been seeing his entire life. He saw what was important to him and actively pursued it. Secondary characters were well developed; there were a few I became fond of. 

A few things made me wonder if it was necessary to go there, though what disturbed me most wasn't what disturbed DeAnna most (I haven't spoken with M.B. since I finished it, so I can't say what bothered her.) What I can tell you is that both warned me in advance that there were disgusting and bothersome parts, so I went in prepared. 

I can say I think Braunbeck is a good writer. What I can't say, still, is how I felt about the book, though I've tentatively added it to my rankings below, subject to change.

My new rankings:

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
3. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
4. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
5. The Wolf's Hour (Robert McCammon)
6. Berserk (Tim Lebbon)
7. Best New Horror, Volume 1 (edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell)
8. In Silent Graves (Gary A. Braunbeck)
9. The Imago Sequence (Laird Barron)
10 The Cipher (Kathe Koja)
11 Drawing Blood (Poppy Z. Brite)
12. The Doll Who Ate His Mother (Ramsey Campbell
13. Hotel Transylvania (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)

Once again, I'm not sure what my next book will be. This one was steered by having the physical copy on hand. I've run out of books I have possession of from the list, so it's whatever I find next.

Have you read Braunbeck? This book? What's your favorite Braunbeck? If you've read any of the books above, how would you rank them?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday - Weekend Trip & Links

We went up to Estes Park this weekend to visit an out of state friend, and I snapped a couple shots, including the obligatory elk photo.

Now, straight to the links! I am not endorsing any of these places unless I specifically say I am. These are just links I happen across and pass along.

Accepting Submissions:

Liminoid Magazine is open for submissions for their summer issue. 500-10,000 words. They want fiction that challenges the boundaries of genre. Pays $20 per piece. Deadline June 10.

Inkstained Succubus Press is looking for stories for their anthology Have Quest, Will Travel. They take speculative fiction and erotica with a twist, and specialize in QUILTBAG fiction. A happy ending is required for this story. 4000-10,000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline June 15.

18th Wall is open for submissions for Those Who Live Long Forgotten II. What they want is a mythological creature or fictional character brought to life. Pretend they were real and write us a story of how they were lost to myth. All genres. 2500-10,000 words. Royalties. Deadline June 15.

Freeze Frame Fiction wants qualify flash fiction in any genre. Up to 1000 words. Pays $10 per piece. Deadline June 15. They also have a themed version closing the same day with a YA theme.

Sorcerous Signals is reading for their November issue. Fantasy. Up to 10,000 words. Pays $5 for short stories, $2 for poetry. Deadline June 15.

Wolfsinger Publications is looking for villains for Under a Dark Sign. Speculative fiction. Up to 7000 words. Payment is $5, plus royalties. Deadline June 15.

Garden Gnome Publications has several anthologies closing the same day. The themes are Garden of Eden, Deluge (think Great Flood), Sulfurings, and Land of Nod. Flash fiction, short stories, narrative poems, and novelettes. Pays $3 to $13, depending on submission type, or $.003/word for novelettes. Deadline June 23.

Lackington's is open for stories with the themes of Dreamings and Architecture. Speculative fiction. 1500-5000 words. $.01/word CAD. I didn't see a deadline, but these are for specific issues, so I'd go with sooner, rather than later.

Of Interest:

I saw this one on Alex's page and am passing it along. Authors United Against Child Slavery is a campaign to raise money for Operation Underground Railroad. Those who contribute $20 or more get various rewards, starting with a free book from a participating author.

Blogger Traci Kenworth posted a ton of links to helpful articles for authors, even splitting them by genre. There might be something for you. And, hey, I made the cut with one of my diversity posts! For some reason, it's not letting me leave a comment for her, though. :(

Any of these of interest? Taking any vacations this summer? Anything to share? Any publication news? 

May you find your Muse.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Writing Diverse Cultures

This is Part III of a three part (I think) series on diversity that occurred by happenstance. 

In Part I, I addressed Diversity vs. Exclusion

Today, I want to talk about whether we should write cultures and experiences that are not our own?

I have mixed feelings on this. I suppose it depends upon the way in which it is handled. My knee-jerk reaction was to say no, but then I thought about the books of Tony Hillerman. I enjoyed reading books about Native Americans as a teen. It was the only window I had into a world that was a distant element of my heritage. I discovered Hillerman long before I discovered Sherman Alexie. In turn, I discovered Alexie long before I discovered Stephen Graham Jones. Yet Hillerman led me to seek out Alexie. I realized there were books I could read about Natives, that there was something different out there, even though I'd been perfectly happy reading books full of the usual non-Native characters.

It took a white man writing about the Navajo people to open up a different world to me. But once I discovered it, I expanded my horizons. I was able to seek out Native authors and discover new voices, new ways to experience the world.

From what I know of Hillerman, he treated his characters and their culture with honesty and respect. Biographies and interviews I read said that he did tons of research, as well as having Navajo friends read the stories to give him feedback and insure what he wrote was accurate. There was even a story about him having an English class on the reservation discuss whether one of his stories would work. They said no, so he didn't write it. However, I can't say whether there were people that were bothered by his books, and whether everyone felt he was doing a good thing. I've seen the argument that "There are Natives who aren't offended by the Redskins" means it's okay. (And, no, I have no interest in discussing that topic on here.) My point is, because these thirty people say it's accurate and non-offensive, it doesn't mean those other thirty people aren't hurt by the depictions they see. There's no way for me to know that.

Here's the thing. Characters are people. People are characters. He wrote people. He researched the culture, religion, and life of the Navajo and wrapped that around and into the people he created.

He also brought attention to the fact that Natives are people like you and me. They have the same kinds of problems. They aren't running around with feathers in their hair, saying, "How." They aren't savages or simpletons. They're just people, with everything that entails. Books like Hillerman's, Alexie's, Jones', and Margaret Coel's (white author of a series set on the Wind River reservation) remind us that there are as many different lifestyles and characters among Natives as there are among any other race.

If he'd done it differently, though, if he'd treated it with less respect and hadn't tried to get it as accurate as possible, I'd be singing a different tune, yes?

This is a subject I personally struggle with. I may have Native blood, but I haven't lived in that culture. I've never lived on a reservation. I have family on various reservations, some that I've visited, but none of them are a large part of my life. I don't know the languages and I wasn't brought up in those cultures. So do I have a right to write Native characters? Is there a blood quantum that has to be met? And what if someone has less Native blood than me, but has grown up on a reservation? Who gets to dictate who's qualified and who isn't?

Authors are sometimes told to write what they know, but if we followed that to the letter, fantasy wouldn't exist. No form of speculative fiction would exist. And how interesting would that be? Our job is to extract those things we know and fill in the blanks that surround them. We take those seeds and lovingly grow them into larger stories. In short, we make stuff up. So how does diversity play into that?

I agree with folks who responded to the last post saying you write the characters as they come to you, and you don't write diverse characters just to do so. The stories lead me; the characters are who they were born to be. I think it would be dishonest for me to do it any other way.

Thanks for the great comments you guys have left in this discussion! I still need to catch up from last week, but I've read the comments, and just haven't had the chance to respond. You'll hear from me soon. I've enjoyed the conversation, and the fact that it has stayed positive and thoughtful, despite what could be touchy subject matter (I didn't sleep the night I wrote the first post, and checked my comments in a panic the next morning.)

What are your thoughts on this topic? Is it okay to write a different culture? If so, are there limits or rules that you think apply? What would those be? If the answer is "it depends," what does it depend on? Have you written a different race, culture, lifestyle, nationality, etc.? Would you?

May you find your Muse.

*Community by OCAL,

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Signs of Spring? & Links

I posted a picture of a hardy desert flower last week as a sign of spring. In the days following that post, we were given completely different signs of spring. Golf ball sized hail, for instance. Thunder storms, hail, flooding, tornado warnings, and snow, all in the same day. So I figured I'd post some different signs of spring.

(Warning: Crappy photos taken from my cell phone.)

An intersection after the 1st of 3 storms. (#2 started less than a mile down the road.)

My windshield when I was stuck in the car during hail storm #2.

A view of the hail coming down in hail storm #2. The blobs are hail.

These are the signs of spring I'm less delighted with, but valid all the same!

Now for some links. I am not endorsing any of these, merely passing them along.

Accepting Submissions:

Unlikely Story is taking submissions of clown flash fiction for a collection, The Journal of Unlikely Coulrophobia. Up to 1038 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline May 31.

One Story is looking for literary fiction between 3000 and 8000 words. Pays $500 and 25 contributor copies. Deadline May 31.

Sirens Call Publications is seeking pieces for an anthology and their e-zine. Through Clouded Eyes is an anthology of horror stories written from the perspective of a zombie. The issue they're trying to fill is about nature gone bad (Eco-Horror). They will take submissions from 100 words up to 2500 for the e-zine, 4000-8000 words for the anthology. It appears the e-zine only pays in a contributor copy, but the anthology pays $25 for accepted stories. Deadline for both is June 1.

A Murder of Storytellers is looking for speculative fiction stories on broken worlds. 500-13,000 words. Pays $15 and a contributor copy. Deadline May 31.

Submissions are open for Best Women's Erotica 2016. 1500-3500 words. Pays $100 and two copies of the book. Deadline June 1.


Brain Mill Press is holding a novella contest. The theme is "over." 20,000-40,000 words. Three novellas will win $250 and publication. Deadline June 1. They're also holding a cover art contest and are open to novel submissions.

The Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest is looking for sonnets. No entry fee. Cash prizes. Deadline June 1.

Inkitt is holding the Epic Worlds Fantasy Writing Contest. No entry fee. Up to 15,000 words. Cash prizes. Deadline June 3.

Blog Hops:

Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather Gardner are holding the Blood, Boobs, & Carnage Blogfest on May 18. Post about a book, television show, movie, or all three that falls into the category of blood, boobs, and carnage.

Of Interest:

Harlequin is hosting a  Back to Basics Boot Camp online May 21 and June 18. It will be run by Harlequin editors. I'm unsure of price.

How's your spring weather been? Any crazy weather? What signs of spring do you see around you? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share? Publication news?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Diverse Authors vs. Diverse Characters

I didn't intend to do a "series" on diversity, or to even address it again, but a couple interesting points/questions were brought up in the comments of my Diversity vs Exclusion post last week.

The short version of each was:

1. The diversity of the authors is less important than the diversity in the stories.
2. No one should write characters of a diverse population they aren't part of.

Obviously, these were raised by different people, as they contradict each other.

I don't have anything brilliant to say about either. This post is more because I want to know what people think about this. Which one is true? Are both or neither true?

On the diversity of the characters being more important than the diversity of the authors, the question becomes: Why does the call for diversity exist? Why does it matter? What is the most important aspect of it?

Perhaps answering questions like those will make things clearer. Diversity more accurately mimics real life. When you go out, you probably don't just see Caucasian folks. (I guess that depends upon where you live.) And even if you think everyone near you is heterosexual, there's a good chance you're wrong. Every time you go out in public, you're surrounded by a sea of humanity made up of different colors, different personalities, different financial levels, different needs, different problems, different pains. Every single one of us is different in a variety of ways, but then we're also the same in many ways. This is how we can write characters that are different from each other--they're all similar, too, and they likely have pieces of the author in them. We bury the humanity we know in each person we create, switch it up, swirl it in. Each creation is a beautiful thing, a different way of bringing a life into the world.

For every individual, the world revolves around ourselves. My world revolves around me. Yes, it also revolves around my kids and my husband, sometimes even my extended family. But at its base, my life revolves around me. I'm the center of the universe. To me. Not to anyone else. Because they're all busy being the centers of their own universes.

Yet, when reading a book we lose ourselves in the characters. Our lives suddenly revolve around them. Their lives become ours. We become someone of the opposite sex, someone from a different planet, someone of a different color, someone with a different love, someone with a different struggle.

If those characters don't resemble us, can we still lose ourselves in them as completely as if they're more like us in ways we identify with? Can we be friends with those secondary characters if they don't feel familiar?

You tell me.

I don't feel one is more important than the other. They're both important. We need diverse authors, because we need diverse voices. We need characters. We need stories. We need them to represent all people from all walks of life. We should know other people's stories and experiences, because it broadens our worlds. How can we understand other people if we don't hear from them? The more we open ourselves up to someone else's world, the more we can come around to understanding it, and when we understand things, we tend to fear them less, to suffer less apprehension about our worlds in general. Who doesn't want that?

I think this post has become long enough, so I guess this has officially become a series. I'll address #2, writing cultures other than your own, next Monday.

What do you think? Why do you think diversity matters? Does diversity matter as much as creating good characters and stories? Is writing diversity more important than having diverse authors? Or vice versa? Why?

May you find your Muse.

*Question Mark image by Gayane and Mohamed Ibrahim on
*Northern Hemisphere Globe by OCAL,

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

High Desert Spring, IWSG, & Links

Signs of spring are popping up here in the high desert. Here's a hearty little desert bloom I got a picture of on a hike a few weeks ago.

It's also the first Wednesday of May, which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

Originally created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG is a way for all us insecure writers to get together and air our fears or provide support. If you click on Alex's name up there, you can go to the sign up to join in the monthly support. 

This month's co-hosts are  Eva Solar, Melanie Schulz, Lisa-Buie Collard, and Stephen Tremp! Stop by and visit them if you can.

Each month I post my progress as part of IWSG in order to keep myself accountable and hopefully encourage others by showing rejections mean YOU'RE WORKING. If you aren't getting rejections, you aren't trying hard enough! (Unless, of course, you aren't going for traditional publishing.)

In April, I:

Submitted 8 pieces
Got 1 short story edited and out with the others already submitted
Got 2 rejections
Have 1 piece that is currently short-listed
Have 12 pieces currently on submission

I'm starting to see more positive feedback on my rejections and I'm getting short-listed here and there. I'm taking that as a positive sign! Several editors have recently asked me to submit something else, even though they rejected the pieces I had sent. Here's where my insecurity kicks in, though...I've never taken one of them up on that. Somehow, knowing that they liked my writing, but that a particular story didn't work for them, makes me feel extra pressure. I'm afraid they'll be disappointed in the next submission I try, that I won't get that positive feedback again, and that will be a sign I'm not good enough. 

I really should get past that.

Eventually I will. And when I do, I have notes on who asked for more, and what their exact comments were. What they liked and what they didn't like. I love getting feedback. I just need to be brave enough to try another story with them and stop fearing that rejection.

Now for this week's links:

Accepting Submissions:

Vine Leaves Literary Journal is looking for vignettes in any genre except erotica. No more than 800 words. They take poetry, prose, artwork, and photography. Pays $5 AUD. Deadline May 31.

Raven Warren Studios is seeking pieces for "Winning: A Guide to Games That Never Were," an anthology of game guides for games that don't exist. 1000-3000 words. Humor. Pays $5 and a contributor copy. Deadline June 1.

Contrary Magazine is looking for short fiction of about 1500 words. They pay $20 per piece, no matter the length. Please note that they require you to send them an invoice for your pay or you will not get paid. Current deadline June 1 for the summer issue.

NonBinary Review puts out a theme and invites all manner of plays on that theme. Current themes are 1001 Arabian Nights and Woman in White. Pay is $.01/word. Arabian Nights theme is up to 5000 words. They also take poetry and artwork. Deadline June 1.

Blood in the Rain is looking for hot vampire fiction, all the way up to erotica, but it does not have to be erotica. Though they prefer pieces from writers in the Pacific northwest, or stories linked to there, I'm passing this along because they're open to all submissions--they will give writers from the Pacific northwest preference. 2000-7000 words. Pays 2.5 cents/word. Deadline June 1.

Paper Road Press is looking for novella submissions between 10,000 and 20,000 words. Pay is not specified. Deadline June 1.

Splickety Love is looking for romance flash fiction. Theme is Smitten Summer. Up to 1000 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline June 5.


The new theme for the M.O. Short Story Contest has been announced: Wishful Thinking. It must be a crime story of between 1000 and 1500 words. Winner gets published online and in the newsletter, and gets $.05/word. Those who get short-listed will also be published in the newsletter, but not for pay. Deadline May 29.

Winter Tangerine Review is holding a contest. Winners will be published, receive cookies, and paid $250. Deadline June 1.

Write to Done is holding the Freeditorial Long-Short Story Contest. 10,000-40,000 words. Once submitted, your story is put online for free. Winning is based on quality of the work and number of downloads. First prize is $15,000. Deadline June 4.

What are your insecurities? What are your favorite signs of spring? Are you submitting? How many rejections did you get this month? Any of these publications or contests of interest to you? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Diversity vs. Exclusion

There's been a lot of talk about diversity lately, and when doing market research I see the call everywhere. The vast majority of markets (speaking specifically of short fiction markets, but not excluding novel-length, as many are one and the same) have it written somewhere on their web page, most somewhere on the submission guidelines page. Diversity, in these cases, is broadly defined as gender, race, age, nationality, level of ability, income level, and LGBTQ+.

Of course, this is a good thing (I think at least most of us can agree on that?). Though I wondered aloud to my critique group what one is supposed to say in their email to let the editors/agents know they're a diverse author. Ask and ye shall receive. One of the members of my critique group asked an agent at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference whether you're supposed to list the ways in which you'd be considered diverse, which feels a bit awkward ("Dear editor, I am a female Cherokee/Patawomeck author [. . .]"). The agent said that you should just mention in your cover letter or query that you are a diverse author. I still feel weird about that, and have no intention of adding that into my contacts to publications. If my story gets accepted, I hope it's just because my story is liked, not because it got bumped up on the list because I happen to be female and possess some Cherokee and Patawomeck blood (as well as Irish, German, Dutch, Scottish, and English--I'm a mutt).

I also don't think any less of those who do include that information. All it means is that we feel differently about it, and I have no right to judge that. For many, their gender and race might be obvious by their name, which makes it unnecessary to put in the bio. My name is fairly genderless. If you do a search on "Shannon Lawrence" you're going to have both males and females pop up in the search window. Does that work for or against me? I have no idea. Which bias does it appeal to? Because a bias for each exists in various places right now, or so it appears. From what I've read, males tend to have an edge in speculative fiction (while females have a significant edge in romance), though I haven't seen actual numbers on submissions versus acceptance.

Screen shot from first results when searching Shannon Lawrence. Look, there's me in the 4th row!

On the other hand, my name's as Irish as it could be. My maiden name was German. So while it can't be inferred from my name that I'm female, it can probably be inferred that I'm Caucasian (or, at the very least, stand a good chance of being so, as it should be noted there's some diversity in the Google search I linked to above)(Fun fact: It appears the name Shannon is popular in porn, judging by some of the search results). Here again, one has to wonder if that works for or against me (the race thing, not the porn thing). Will a publication leaning toward diversity skip me because my name screams Caucasian? Or will it work to my benefit? I have no idea. Are these publications looking that deeply at the issue, or are they judging the stories on their merit alone? I know it's been shown in the regular job sector that names make a difference on resumes, but is that true in the writing world, as well?

I kind of got sidetracked from my original topic. Shifting gears.

In response to the bias in publishing, some organizations have been created throughout the years. I actually belong to an all-female national writing group called the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW). This organization was created in Washington, D.C. in response to women not being allowed in press clubs and not being privy to rights granted men in the arts. It should be noted that this organization was formed in 1897.

Here it is, 2015, and organizations like these still exist. There are also publications that only take work from women. Taking that further, there are groups/publications that restrict all manner of things, down to only accepting work/membership from LGBTQ+ individuals and specific nationalities. For instance, while doing market research today, I came across one publication that would only take submissions from Canada (there are several with this restriction), one that would only take submissions from the Pacific northwest, one that would only take publications from Australia/New Zealand, and a couple others with similar restrictions. While these all had to do with location/nationality, I've seen restrictions that didn't.

My question to you is: Is this still necessary?

I had the opportunity to meet the national president of the NLAPW recently, and she said membership was falling at the national level. She has been encouraging dialogue on why. It was a surprise to me that membership was falling, so I had no answers for her. After I left, I kept thinking about it. It's an interesting thing to ponder. Some of the possibilities I came up with were:

1. The restriction to being female only
2. The cost of joining
3. The requirement to have a certain amount of accepted publishing credits to be a full member (and further to this, not having access to all the benefits of being a member unless you're a fully qualified member)

Is membership failing because most writing organizations welcome both men and women? Is there a need for an all-female writing organization when there aren't groups in place that say men only, when those previous restrictions no longer exist? In fact, could it possibly be damaging in that groups that are restrictive to members, whether that be race, gender, whatever, expose members to only half (or less) of the networking they'd be able to do in a group that accepts all? For instance, the other writing group I belong to is Pikes Peak Writers, which is open to anyone who wants to join for free. Without any exclusions, the membership is much larger than more restrictive local writing groups.

One of the benefits of these female-only groups is that they often have their own publications and awards. This gives women belonging to the groups a better chance of being published and receiving awards, which looks good in bios, on cover letters, and in query letters. Does it get them any closer to winning the bigger, more well known awards? Does it increase the chances of publication elsewhere? I can't comment, because I'm not sure how well known the NLAPW magazine is outside of Pen Women. In fact, I'm not even certain you can get the magazine unless you're a member. Hm.

On publications, if they restrict who can be in the magazines, do they, in turn, restrict their readership? Will someone pick up a magazine that is made up of one specific group? I think the Women Destroy issues that came out last year did pretty well, right? But was that because of the amount of free marketing they received? They were widely discussed and crowd funded, so they may have been different. They were also a one-off situation, rather than being a regular thing. Again, I have no idea. Was the exposure those female authors got more or less than they would have in a mixed gender magazine?

Basically, I'm rambling. These are things I've been thinking about and questioning lately. I don't have any real answers, because I have no real data. I don't know if Pen Women are failing because of one of those three things listed above, a combination of them, or something completely different. And I have no data on other exclusive groups and publications, how they sell, or whether they're more beneficial or harmful. I'd be curious to know, though. I frequently feel conflicted about belonging to an all-female writing group, but I like the ladies in the group, so I stay.

What are your thoughts on exclusive writing groups? Are they beneficial? Are you part of one? Do you feel they might be damaging in certain ways? Are magazines really leaning toward diversity, or is it something they say because that's what people want to see? Is there still a place for exclusive groups, or has the time passed? Or has it only passed for certain groups, while other groups are more in need of it than ever? What do you see as the benefits and drawbacks to exclusive groups?

May you find your Muse.