Since its inception in 2018, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) Mentoring Initiative has been connecting experienced authors and editors with writers who are new to the industry. The program offers new(er) writers a chance to benefit from the wisdom and guidance of someone more familiar with the ins and outs of the genre fiction world. It’s an incredibly popular program, and after two years of trying, I finally made it into the program!
What is the SFWA?
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (formerly known as the Science Fiction Writers of America) dates all the way back to 1965. It was founded by Damon Knight and some other writers connected with the Milford Writers Workshop. Their mission? To quote the SFWA website directly, “The purpose of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association is to promote, advance, and support science fiction and fantasy writing in the United States and elsewhere, by educating and informing the general public and supporting and empowering science fiction and fantasy writers.”
I grew up reading science fiction, fantasy, and horror magazines filled with authors who listed SFWA membership in there credentials. So, of course, little ol’ me decided at a very early age that someday I would too. At the time of this post, I’ve sold enough stories to qualify for an associate membership, but I’m holding out hope that in the months between now and December 31st, I’ll sell enough to qualify for a full membership. Fingers crossed. For now, though, I’ve got my mentorship match to enjoy.
What is the SFWA Mentoring Initiative?
There are actually two different mentoring programs offered each year. There’s the Conference Mentorship Program and the Career Mentorship Program.
The Conference Mentorship Program
This program happens during the Nebula Conference. Basically, it’s a mentor and mentee sit down for an hour-long Q&A session and chat about the publication industry or the basics of conference attendance.
The Career Mentorship Program
This is the program I’m participating in this summer. It’s goal is to assist in the professional development of emerging or isolated writers of speculative fiction. They aim to foster success in emerging writers, educate new writers about predatory industry practices, and offer the collective experience and wisdom of the larger genre fiction community. Luckily for me, you don’t need to be a member of the SFWA apply for the program.
Meeting My Mentor
I can’t believe my good fortune in having been paired with Julia Rios. They’re a writer, an podcaster, a narrator, and the brainchild of Worlds of Possibility, and online speculative fiction magazine that specializes in hopeful, peaceful, and otherwise chill stories.
I sat down to zoom with them for the first time Friday morning for a “get to know you” chat, but our call was cut short when my power blipped off for absolutely no reason and my wifi couldn’t seem to figure out how to turn back on afterward. (Curse you, Loki!) Julia was very kind about the whole thing, and we ended up zooming on Saturday morning. Julia and I were matched because we’re in similar life stages (mid-40s) and we live relatively near each other. In fact, we’re both going to be attending ReaderCon in July. They’re attending as a participant. I’m attending as a volunteer. We’re hoping to some find time to connect in person and indulge in our mutual love of coffee together.
In the meantime, we’ve agreed to weekly check-in meetings to see how I do with all the goals I’ve set for myself this summer.
The Weeks Ahead
This next week will be… interesting. My youngest villain won’t yet be in camp. My eldest villain hasn’t yet secured a summer job. Does it speak ill of me that I’m feeling a bit ugh about having to be a parent for a week? Don’t get me wrong. I love both my future Evil Overlords, but as a fully established Evil Overlord myself I very selfishly want to be left alone to do my things. This weird limbo week when the kids aren’t in school or camp (or working a job) is a problem. It means either intentionally neglecting my kids to pursue my own stuff or cramming my stuff into the margins of their lives and needs. I’ll likely do a bit of both, to be honest.
But then, as of June 26th my youngest will be in camp all day and my eldest will be faced with the decision to either get off their evil ass and find a job outside the house or else be put to work here at home sprucing up the Evil Lair. Then, I’ll be able to devote my full time and attention to writing for a good solid five hours/day.