Like all high school cafeterias, my cafeteria was divided by social structure. Jocks and cheerleaders by the glass doors so everyone could see them, country kids in the back, cowboy hats and smuggled tobacco marking their turf, the rank and file in between, and outside, some five hundred feet across the quad, my own motley crew. I’d made the mistake of trying to sit at an empty table on my first day, the scathing glares and nasty words are best left unremembered. After that the group of outcasts broiling in the Florida sun, far away from the air conditioned comfort of socially cataloged seats, felt welcoming.
My group understood the things that mattered to me: stories, philosophy, science, life. They knew the difference between telekinesis and telepathy. They watched the ‘new’ Star Trek religiously. They quoted Asimov and Tolkien. They got my jokes. Outside of high school people like that were rare, in the writing world they felt even rarer.
Writing groups vary, and, of course, no group is perfect for everyone. I will forever be indebted to RWA (Romance Writers of America) for teaching me the ropes. But RWA conferences focus on the hero and heroine, their romantic journey. They don’t know the difference between a parsec and a light year. I remember attending my first RWA conference and feeling horribly alone. I didn’t know any of the authors everyone mentioned, I wasn’t part of that group.
Then just a few days ago I received my acceptance letter from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Suddenly there’s another group for me to sit with, another place where people understand the things I wonder about whether it’s an orc or a wormhole.
I’m also basking in a certain level of prestige. SWFA doesn’t take everyone, and I’ve know some pretty good authors who didn’t make the cut. Even if that weren’t true, I think I’d still be walking on air. As I kid I devoured SciFi and loved fantasy. When I look around at the members of SFWA, I’m seeing the people who wrote my hopes and dreams. Now, I’m one of them, and it blows me away.