The Special Page

Bram Stoker Award-winner and President of the Horror Writers Association

Lisa Morton

...tells us what it's like inside the HWA


Joe R. Lansdale
Scott Virtes
Andy Weir
Caleb Straus
Elizabeth Massie
Ramsey Campbell
Mathew Cade


by Lisa Morton


I occasionally look at all the time I’ve put in to various volunteer positions with the Horror Writers Association (HWA), and think I must have been loco. I’ve given literally thousands of hours of time to virtually every job in the organization; maybe I would have been better off putting that time into some other charity, or (gasp!) my own career.

But here’s the thing: Like HWA’s founders and like probably just about everyone else who has volunteered, I love the horror genre and I love the people who write it.

I’m currently serving as HWA’s President, and since I worked closely with our Vice President John Palisano, Treasurer Leslie Klinger, Secretary Joe McKinney, the entire Board of Trustees, webmaster Angel McCoy and administrator Brad Hodson, I’m pretty well qualified to give you some idea of how we at HWA go about achieving our main goals of promoting the genre and our members.

The elections were just held, and voters chose Becky Spratford for Secretary. Linda Addison, James Chambers, and Ellen Datlow have been (re-)elected to Trustee positions.

While I know it’s fun to imagine some sort of super-secret cabal whispering sinister notions to each other, the truth is our day-to-day activities are pretty boring. Our first chunk goes to administrative stuff, helping Angel and Brad make sure our members are getting access to the website, placed into the directory, voting privileges, etc. HWA has around 1,300 members right now, with new members joining every day, and of course it’s important to us that we serve their needs first.

Most of our other work tends to be cyclical. Usually summer is a quiet time for us when we can catch up on various projects, but this year has seem a significant increase in members wanting to get involved, all with fantastic suggestions, so it’s a hot summer in more ways than one! By December much of our administrative time will go to what we think of as “Stoker Season”. Since 1986, HWA has annually given out the Bram Stoker Awards® to recognize superior achievement in horror writing; the awards are considered to be the most prestigious prize in the horror world (think Oscar with a haunted house statue). The recognized works come from a combination of members’ recommendations and jury choices, and the whole process tends to get fast and furious as each year winds down. Inevitably, our time each December goes to a combination of award administrative duties, and handling the inevitable rash of complaints, disputes, and suggestions that arise.

However, while that makes working with HWA sound at best dull, at worst stressful, the reality is that 90% of the time the job is deeply rewarding. We've  assisted literacy organizations and have sponsored busts of Mary Shelley  and Bram Stoker for the Museum of Pop Culture. We’ve established www.horrorscholarships.org , where we offer an astounding five scholarship opportunities as well as an endowment grant to libraries with young adult writing programs. We’ve examined and implemented ways to expand diversity within both the organization and the genre (see our marvelous column “The Seers’ Table” at our blog). Our annual StokerCon™ now includes: “Horror University”, a track of educational workshops taught by top professionals; the Final Frame Short Horror Film Competition, which has featured celebrity judges like Mike Flanagan (Gerald’s Game, Oculus), Daniel Knauf (The Blacklist, Carnivale), and Mark Miller (Seraphim Films); “Librarians’ Day”, during which we interact with the librarians who keep horror in front of readers; and the “Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference,” at which academics present papers. Our anthology, Haunted Nights, was released by Anchor Books/Blumhouse in 2017. We also sponsor booths, panels and signings at events like the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Word on the Street in Toronto, and the Tucson Book Fair. Each of these events provides local members with a chance to meet readers and talk about horror and their own work.

Speaking of local members, organizing local chapters of HWA continues to be an ongoing project for us. We recognize that local chapters provide members not just with a chance to meet and socialize and exchange information (although that’s certainly important), but also to organize events at local libraries, schools, festivals and more. Our chapters have grown exponentially over the last few years as a source of new members and promotional opportunities, and we’re especially pleased with our major international arms – HWA Ontario (Canada), HWA U.K., and HWA Italy.

So, we’ve already got daily administrative work, awards, outreach, major promotional events, and chapters…sounds like a lot, right? But that’s just the start. On any given day, we might also be working on approving hardship loans for members, working with our brilliant agent to create more members-only anthologies, continuing to improve our publicity and social media, gathering new articles for our newsletter and blog posts for our website, and dozens of other topics.

Yes, I put a lot of time into HWA, and yes, it can occasionally be a difficult and taxing job serving as the organization’s President, but the satisfactions of helping other writers, of introducing our genre to new readers via library programs or assisting new writers in learning the craft, far outweigh the trying times…and I like to think we get something positive out of those, too, since they help us restructure existing protocol or create new assets.

There you have it – a brief look at what the HWA does. I wish I could tell you that during new moons we don black robes and offer up nubile virgins to elder gods...but that sounds way too easy for us.





























































About Lisa Morton

Lisa Morton

Photo credit: Seth Ryan

Lisa Morton is a screenwriter, author of non-fiction books, and award-winning prose writer whose work was described by the American Library Association’s Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror as “consistently dark, unsettling, and frightening”.  She is the author of four novels and more than 130 short stories, a six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award®, and a world-class Halloween expert. She co-edited (with Ellen Datlow) the anthology Haunted Nights; other recent releases include Ghosts: A Haunted History and the collection The Samhanach and Other Halloween Treats. Lisa lives in Los Angeles.

Lisa can be found online at http://www.lisamorton.com

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haunted nights morton