Furry Writers' Guild Forum

A Few Immodest Proposals

As I write this, our esteemed incumbent President is running unopposed. I do not find this situation disagreeable for anything that Poetigress has done or not done in her year as President of the Guild. I find it disagreeable that I see little involvement from the membership. Allow me to remind the members of the definition of “guild.” Per Merriam-Webster online: “An association of people with similar interests or pursuits; especially : a medieval association of merchants or craftsmen.” In addition to this more romantic description, I also found the following definition: “An association of people for mutual aid or the pursuit of a common goal.”

In my cursory glance over the debate of last year’s debate thread, I seemed to see a lot of “What’s in it for me” attitude. Forgive a gray muzzle for invoking a past, great, genuinely inspiring leader, but I offer this paraphrase: “Ask not what your guild can do for you, but what you can do for your guild.” Rather than asking what we can take, what if we look instead at what we can give?

I was once a member, in professional standing, with the National Writers Association, a venerable organization founded by (among other notables) Earle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason and other immortals. As part of my professional-level membership, I was allowed – not paid, not cajoled, not given a discount, but allowed – to be a volunteer critic. The membership office swiftly learned to send the most “hopeless cases” to me, as I infallibly found in every submission something to praise, encouragement to provide, and education in the sense of the Latin root “educare” – to lead. Therefore…

Proposal One: In the spirit of medieval guilds, FWG should allow and encourage their most supportive and benevolent crafts-furs to offer reading, encouraging critique, and supportive, constructive assistance to our members who may not yet be as sure-pawed as those of us who have been published for (in my case) over 35 years. That’s a lot of experience to offer.

Proposal Two: Let the guild offer this service, for a nominal fee (perhaps 1¢/word, with a $20 [2000 word] minimum, to NON-MEMBERS. The Guild will retain the fee, and volunteers will offer this same previously discussed critique in service to the Guild and its potential future members.

Proposal Two-and-a-Half: Got ideas for other things we could offer? Let’s hear 'em!

Proposal Three: Strive for a genuine presence at various fur-cons throughout the world… providing, of course, that we – the Guild – actually DO something. Begging the pardon of you all… I’ve heard FWG described variously as “an insiders-only club” and as “the what guild?” I don’t think it’s necessary for FWG to be in any way elitist or superior. What we need, in my opinion, is to present a commitment to its own credo: “Supporting, informing, elevating, and promoting quality anthropomorphic fiction and its creators.” So this proposal is that we do precisely that, in visible, tangible, supportive ways. Put another way, this proposal says that we – actually or metaphorically – modify the credo to put the word ACTIVELY at its beginning, and that we follow through with that commitment.

Finally, Proposal Four: Let’s all pitch in. I say this, fully aware that I’ve been silent and non-participatory since I first joined. I’m a shocking offender myself, and I don’t offer this proposal as a kvetch. (Side note: Who says furs can’t use Yiddish?) I offer this proposal to light at least a small match under our collective furry tail. HOW do we become more active? HOW do we participate? HOW do I turn off the all-caps button? I offer the perspective of someone who was around before there was dirt: Not everyone has active Twitter-feeds, SmartPhones, and/or something just short of wetware/jacked-in instantaneous reception and ability to provide commentary. Had Poetigress not sent out the email, I’d have been blissfully unaware of any of this. So my proposal is to be active both ways – let the President and/or other FWG luminary offer (perhaps) semi-monthly emails, letting us know what’s going on. Let the Guild (as represented by its leader(s)) be active in keeping us in the loop, but if-and-only-if we are equally active in responding and becoming involved as much as possible. Like the most useful streets, it has to run both ways. No President can succeed if the people do nothing.

TL/DR: Let’s get off our tails and make this Guild into what our furry community needs. Participate! Be active! Dream and accomplish! Be the change that you want to see in the furry world!

Thanks for reading. Now get back to writing. (Dons asbestos, just in case.) Let’s hear it, furs.

This was the heaviest criticism levelled at the old guild.

We have worked hard at various cons to change that mindset by pointing out that you don’t have to be a member to be on the forums, which has helped to alleviate that issue. (which can be seen by the sheer amount of new blood in this last year) FWG is anything but elitist or superior at this point, and I’m pretty sure no one actually thinks that within the guild. (though they are free to prove me wrong)

You do raise some good points, though some have been already acted upon by the more active members of the forums. As you state, with the guild, you get back what you put in.

Once again, let me point the finger at myself for being quite a shocking offender in the realm of non-participation. As you say, I may well be out of touch enough that some or all of my points have already been addressed, and I’ve merely exceeded the freshness date of my think-pudding. Is there, for instance, a FWG 101 “class” in the form of a short video, PowerPoint presentation, animated production, etc.? We, collectively, have the talent to produce such things; surely I’m not the only voice actor who could volunteer narration, the only writer to volunteer helping with the prose, the only educator to help create the flow?

How can we make the Guild even more than what it is, or what it seems to be? Or am I merely playing the ignorant ass after all?

I will admit to, and apologize for, an egregious choice of words in my original post. I said the the Guild need not “be in any way elitist or superior.” My intent, if I may correct so cavalier a phrasing, was to say that it need not appear to be in any way elitist or superior. Please forgive my hastily-worded statement. Even proofreaders and editors benefit from using the talents of others in their field.

As a relative newcommer to both the guild and the writing scene in the fandom at large, I’ll offer my two cents.

As for a president running unopposed, there can be a lot of factors for this. If people are content, they’re happy to keep the status quo, but also, finding a replacement who has the time to spare can be an issue. There’s always the option to vote to re-open nominations if people feel that the situation is not satisfactory.

As for members giving feedback at a charged rate, I feel there are potential issue with this. Firstly, this can possibly conflict with the notion that FWG is elitist, because the proposal is to make new writers pay to have access to knowledge and experience. The other option is what would the money be used for? I don’t see the need to change things, because as a non-member, I’ve managed to find willing beta readers from guild members free of charge, to whom I am grateful for their time. This was for a piece around seven thousand words long, and let’s just say it would not be helpful at all to charge, as non-members would be paying out more money in beta reading that what they’d get if their submission was accepted.

Con presence is a good thing to go for, though it is reasonable to ask whether the costs of having a presence is useful for the aims. I do believe however, that various members of the FWG have given panels on writing at various cons. Con presence after all, is only visible to those that can attend.

It seems though, the overwhelming point is that the group needs to be more active. Having some experience in running a guild myself at university (though this was a climbing sports club), I can say that the staff can do all they can to promote the guild, but it all comes down to whether people decide to come over and join. People may say they want to climb and would love to do it, you give them all the dates, the times, and the encouragement, but they don’t turn up. Of our 400+ people who signed up to the club’s mailing list, only 150 turned up to our fresher’s event, and then of that, only about twenty people became regulars by the end of the first twelve week term. The point is just to illustrate that you can do all the promotion, but it is down to whether people decide to participate themselves. I have found the members of the guild to be very welcoming, encouraging and supportive - so claims of elitism are unfounded.

That’s my impression as a relatively new member.

I just want to add as well that there are several forum members that believe that the forums ARE the guild (as I’ve discovered by talking with them and have corrected them), so once they join the forums, they’ve joined the guild.

Have we tried opening up a thread to ideas of guild membership perks before? I honestly don’t remember. If not, we should try that. I’m sure we can come up with at least a couple of things.

Hmm, that’s true, though from my impression guild membership just entails a nice purple username and a bio on the guild website. I’d say that because most discussion occurs here without a barrier between those with purple names and green. Besides, having one work published in a paid publication and two in non-paid is pretty fair in terms of getting your purple.

I agree that some of Tristan’s points are important, but I also think we have come a long way from where we were when we (how much alliteration can I manage?) were perceived as an elitist club. I’ve been on the roster from very early, and I admit I wasn’t very active until recently. I have excuses, but they’re not relevant. The thing is, better tools for achieving the Guild’s mission are available now. We are starting to use them.

The active (and this certainly is active) forum is one of them, and convention workshops and readings are another. The shoutbox obviously appeals to a lot of people, and the fact that it is available to members and non-members alike is very important. I think the shoutbox coffee-chat things are a great idea even though scheduling and staffing them is a bit of a problem.

Availability of critiques, advice, and beta reading is quite good, actually. Tristan probably hasn’t been around enough to see that. I’ve been doing some myself, and though I’m not particularly famous I find that my advice and suggestions are well received. I don’t feel any need to charge for helping, and if the Guild is in need of a cash infusion I’d frankly prefer to help with that by donation or payment of annual dues.

The guild anthology that Sean produced was an excellent and worthy project. I hope we can repeat that. Munchkin’s proposed poetry anthology is another good example of the kind of thing we can do.

I’ll also point out that the forum is invaluable even just because it provides a single focused place to post and discover new calls for submissions. I had submitted nothing for “furry” publication in the last several years, and I have been inspired to submit again by finding this resource.

I’m certainly willing to hear anyone who has ideas for improvement, but first I want to applaud Sean RiverCritic and Poetigress for what they have already done.

First off, some of this is going to be covered in more detail whenever I finally have enough free time to get the summary of Part Two of the member survey written, but I wanted to go ahead and touch on a couple things in reply.

Proposal One: In the spirit of medieval guilds, FWG should allow and encourage their most supportive and benevolent crafts-furs to offer reading, encouraging critique, and supportive, constructive assistance to our members who may not yet be as sure-pawed as those of us who have been published for (in my case) over 35 years. That's a lot of experience to offer.

Essentially, that sounds similar to the mentor program we had a while back, which succeeded only marginally due to lack of participation from members willing to serve as mentors. I’m not against bringing it back, but I haven’t yet heard any suggestions that sound as if they would solve the problems it had. Granted, maybe more people would be willing to participate if it meant helping earn funds for the guild.

As far as what we need money for, I direct your attention to the treasury thread. :slight_smile: We do have ongoing costs to maintain the website, advertise, and print/distribute materials at cons, as well as the costs for the Cóyotl Awards. Whether we can continue to pay all that with donations and royalties from anthologies, etc., or whether we need to look into other funding options is a question I’ll get into more with the survey summary.

Proposal Two-and-a-Half: Got ideas for other things we could offer? Let's hear 'em!

Yes, please. :slight_smile:

As far as member benefits go, I’m not sure if there’s been a thread specifically for member perk suggestions, though I seem to remember something like that. And it was also a question in the member survey. So far, I think we can all agree that we’d all love to have more benefits of guild membership, but when I ask for suggestions, there aren’t many ideas, and I admit I haven’t been able to come up with much myself that doesn’t require a much larger/broader membership and much, much more funding. That said – if you’ve got an idea, please feel free to speak up or message/email me if you’d rather talk privately.

I just want to add as well that there are several forum members that believe that the forums ARE the guild (as I've discovered by talking with them and have corrected them), so once they join the forums, they've joined the guild.

nods I’ve noticed that to some extent, too – and I’ve run into a similar problem where people think the forums are the whole deal, and aren’t aware that we have a website with a blog and tons of resource links for writers and readers. Since all our advertising material links back to our website, I don’t know how much more we can do to deal with that, but again, I’m open to suggestions.

As far as the forum/guild confusion, I think this is going to be something that we’re always going to have to deal with (kind of the way people still confuse the Ursa Major Recommended List with the Ursa Major nominations, even though they’ve done pretty much everything they can to make the distinction clear). I do try to talk about “forum members” and “guild members” or “FWG members,” but it’s possible some people just hear “member” and nothing else.

though from my impression guild membership just entails a nice purple username and a bio on the guild website

Other benefits of guild membership:
-Being able to write guest blog posts for the FWG blog
-For members who are on Twitter, getting retweets for help promoting your work
-Being able to nominate and vote in the Cóyotl Awards
-Having your writing news (publication announcements, links, etc) included in the guild news post made to the blog on the 1st of each month

I also strongly favor works by members when selecting the Book of the Month.

The guild anthology that Sean produced was an excellent and worthy project. I hope we can repeat that.

So do I. More on that later.

One of the next projects on my to-do list was to send out a member questionnaire to find out what sorts of skills individual members have, so I know who I can potentially call on for various needs. What I’m thinking now, though, is that it may be easier and faster to make up a list of what we need, and put that out there so people know what’s available in terms of volunteer opportunities.

As far as a presence at cons, that’s something we’ve been improving on in the past couple years – and I’m not using the royal “we” there; that’s something members have helped with, and I’m very appreciative of that. I can’t get to more than one con a year lately, if that, so I do need help with this aspect. But we’ve had FWG-focused panels at Rainfurrest, Further Confusion, and Anthro New England (at least – I’m probably missing something), and members have also distributed our flyers and bookmarks at those cons (which to my mind is some of our best advertising). So to everyone – guild members and non – if you’re going to be at a con and want material to distribute, you can download our two-sided flyer as a PDF and print it out, or if that’s not convenient, contact me and I’ll get some mailed to you for free. (Another item on my to-do list is to get a simpler flyer made up that’s easier for home printing – which is also something that’s likely to end up on that volunteer opportunity list for those of you who have graphic design experience.)

I think the shoutbox coffee-chat things are a great idea even though scheduling and staffing them is a bit of a problem.

I wouldn’t call it a problem, necessarily; things have just been in transition lately with the changed time for Saturday.

Finally, to address the perception of elitism: This is something that’s been present from day zero. I don’t take that perception lightly, but honestly, at this point I don’t exactly lose sleep over it either. If there are simple things we can do that will help decrease that perception, I’m definitely interested in doing them, and if there are things that are going to make it worse, obviously I want to avoid that.

But based on my experience so far as president, I don’t believe anything we can do is ever going to completely eliminate that perception. Any organization that has criteria in order to join is going to have to deal with cries of elitism, purely for not automatically letting everybody in. And I think we all know that for some, if they’re not immediately handed what they want with no effort on their part, it’s much easier for them to complain about or badmouth the organization than actually do the work to get in. So, you know, I’m not blowing off that perception as irrelevant, but I’m not as idealistic as I once was about combating it, because I see those same charges leveled against other organizations that I know don’t deserve it. Some people just don’t like a locked gate, even if the key’s hanging right in front of their faces. shrug Human nature. :slight_smile:

So… this has ended up way longer than I thought it would be, but – to reiterate – I’m always open to suggestions. Thanks, Tristan, for speaking up. Let’s all keep talking and see what happens. :slight_smile:

Well, I ATTEMPTED a FWG-focused panel at ANE… ended up having to cancel that and talk about it during my other two panels. The message got across and a lot of people had pamphlets, so that was good!

To touch on a few items from PT’s post…

The mentor program was one of the first ideas I had after I created the forum, and it had very little success. Very few FWG members wanted to mentor, and most that would be interested didn’t feel as though they had the time to do so. The beta readers thread and general chatting through the shoutbox has helped to achieve a lot of what the mentor program was meant to do, though. Several less-experienced authors have been able to ask questions of those more experienced and have seemed to grow from that advice.

Concerning the forum/guild membership confusion: I also know that there are guild members who refer to joining the forums as “joining the guild” as well. They know that’s not correct, but don’t bother changing the wording because of the lack of perks for being a member.
Funny that you mention the website and blog. I just was speaking with my husband about the guild, and even though I was in charge of the guild for awhile (and even though he’s kind of a twit sometimes), he didn’t realize there was an actual website for the guild; he figured the forums WERE the website.

I know we’ve mentioned (as an idea for a unique guild member perk) a dedicated place outside of FA/SF/Others for members to post their work, linked to the guild website (or on the guild website), separate from the hodgepodge of stories you get on the other websites, with a favorable posting format (like being able to upload a file and have the text appear as desired on the page). The idea was met, when I proposed it, with some extremely mixed responses. A few thought it would be a waste of time, though many thought it would be a great idea and a great perk. However, we knew that it would be something that’s VERY complex to put together. Finding someone to put that all together would be the biggest obstacle.

Other than that, I’ve been completely stuck on member perks. The guild has the problem of, and I hate to say it, being a professional-focused group in a fandom where professionalism isn’t a huge focus. For example (and I’ll pull this from the tail-end of Saturday’s Coffeehouse Chat discussion that I saw this morning, since it’s the point that affects me directly): being an editor in this fandom involves raising your hand and volunteering. I’ll save this for another thread/discussion, though, because I’d rather not get emotional, and it’s not really the point of this thread.

Yes, the mentoring program was a good idea. I thought about it but backed away because we had tried something similar at FurRag for a while and I ended up trying very seriously to help someone who insisted he wanted to write but who really hadn’t the least notion of how to put together a coherent sentence, let alone a paragraph. It was not a good experience. I kept trying to tell him that he needed to read more and his response would be “I’ve read a book,” which turned out to mean he had read one book and it was a graphic novel. I’m sure you can imagine.

Anyway, I agree that the beta reading concept has done a good job of substituting for a one-on-one mentoring program. I have been able to work with a couple of relative newcomers and they seem pleased with the help I could give. It’s possible to do that without feeling obligated to continue for weeks with session after session.

The idea of a story archive is a really nice one, but you’ve already found the pitfalls. You’re talking about the same kind of structure that FurRag had, with a fiction archive and a discussion forum. No matter what cross links we created between the two, about half the users of each part never seemed to catch on that the other existed. The real issue is that while you can get pretty decent ready-made software to run a forum on, there is really nothing for a prose or poetry archive. Building one from scratch is a major task for a skilled web designer and even then fraught with security issues like the one that caused FurRag to shut down. In theory, it could be done using something like Drupal or Joomla, but the security weakness are so many that it’s just not a good idea in my opinion.

What if there were a link from the forum website to the guild website? In fact, it seems kind of surprising that there isn’t. I don’t know how flexible this forum software is for customizing the interface, but you could certainly put a link to the website under the “News:” item in the upper-right-hand corner. If the domain names were the same, this would be less of an issue.

That’s a good idea. It’d also be a good idea to find a way to put the forum under the same domain; “forum.furrywritersguild.com” or “furrywritersguild.com/forum” would make it more obvious that there’s, well, a separate web site. (I don’t know enough about the specifics of the hosting arrangements we have now to offer definitive technical advice on that, though.)

When I first made the forums, Duroc was too busy to be able to give me the hosting to the main website, which is why I could only alter it as it stood, and why the forums are being hosted on my website. I do believe PT owns the hosting now (correct me if I’m wrong) so it could be done. Then I’d just have to figure out how to setup a redirect.

The website is hosted on Wordpress.com now, with Duroc still handling the domain registration. I don’t think there’s a way for the .com version to host the forums.

Since the anthology has been out for a while now, I’ll add a website link in the news area. I have to admit, it’s pretty frustrating to work that long on getting the website updated and transferred, and now maintained, and then have people think it’s all just the forums. :confused:

It shoooould be possible to add custom links to the top of the page, along with Home, Help, Search etc:


(I have some experience with Simple Machines; little rusty on it, though.)

There should definitely be a way to migrate the forum over to the WP site, too, though this always carries a degree of risk…

You can say that again. The last time I did any migration on this forum to update things, it erased two weeks of posts. I’m sure some of you remember that… I definitely don’t claim to know much of what I’m doing on the tech side.

I feel like I’m going to show up my ignorance of the FWG website, but do we have a catalogue of everyone’s works that people can search? I feel like it could be beneficial to have an archive like that so people from the outside can see exactly what we offer without having to click on individual names and go to their personal websites, etc. Even a standalone WordPress page set up with the express intent of listing titles, blurbs and buy links, with tags, so people could look through what we have. It could be an even more comprehensive search than you get on Amazon or GoodReads.

And I’d be willing to create/maintain that, by the way, if everyone can forward the book details to me. I’d also be willing to mentor if that program ever came round.

There was something like that on the old website, but frankly it was far too much work to even begin to maintain, so I scrapped it when I reorganized the website and moved it to Wordpress. (We’re probably talking about at least a couple hundred books, if everything were to be listed.)

Right now, there’s a Goodreads shelf that’s been created for works from members:

That has the advantage of multiple users being able to contribute to it, so it’s not all on one person to maintain.

I’ll be getting the word out about the Goodreads group and that shelf soon, via the blog and possibly email. (My free time has been slashed lately thanks to mandatory overtime at the day job, so I’m behind on… well, pretty much everything that isn’t the day job.)

Ha, snap, I was posting something similar while you were replying :slight_smile:

Wordpress.com itself can’t host the forum; they don’t give you any access to install new software (even including WordPress plugins, IIRC, unless you’re at the enterprise support level). However, you could host “forum.furrywritersguild.com” on another machine and set up a CNAME record in DNS. This is how “ranea.org” points to a site on my Linode but “tracks.ranea.org” points to Tumblr