Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Ideas and Suggestions for the Guild Future

So there’s been a good debate on the telegram channel for the future of the guild. I’d like to summarise some of the suggestions brought up, and lay out some thoughts for what I think need to be done.

I believe the guild needs some structure in order to provide a clear, coherent path forward to be a better place for writers within the fandom. The guild needs to offer something for writers, beyond just the social group that it currently is.

Suggestions for what to provide for this:

  • A resource for non-members on how to apply to publishers for novels or anthologies.
  • Regular blog posts on writing topics.
  • Video lectures that can be recorded on a manner of topics.
  • Tiered membership that can offer various additional bonuses - e.g. ability to utilise guild advertising channels.

One of the big points of debate in the telegram chat was who arranges this. Personally, I believe that there needs to be a structure put in place by the guild officers, who can put forward a cohesive plan in place. Members can then be offered incentives to help contribute to the content. If dues are being collected, and the video lectures for example are paid content, then a payment structure can also be put in place to fund this new content, and provide additional bonuses for the content creators.

I do think this is a discussion that needs to be had - not just by the members, but by the guild leadership as well. One can’t exist without the other, and as things stand, I fear the guild is stagnant and not really providing any benefits to anyone other than a social venue.

There is a huge amount of potential within the guild. I would love to see the guild reach that potential.

These conversations happen sometimes. There are good ideas and bad ideas, but usually there are more good ideas than bad ones. The FWG has a lot of smart, thoughtful people, you know? So these conversations happen and there’s all this passion and you can almost touch that bright vision of what the guild could be, if only [insert notion here]!

Then comes the question, “Will you help implement it?” And that passion evaporates real quick. I know that sounds cynical, but that is exactly what happens. No one wants that to be the case, God knows I don’t. But this is where we are.

Ideas are great, but without the drive to make them real, they’re just soap bubbles. As writers, I’m sure we all know what it is to have someone say, “I have ideas!” as if they were each fully formed works, readily realized by anyone with a keyboard and a Saturday evening free.

Of course I do not mean by any of this that there shouldn’t be such conversations. To the contrary, we should be pleased that people care enough to have them at all. That is cause for hope. But it will take more than talk to reverse this long decline.

Guild elections are just around the corner, but we are always happy to accept volunteers in the meantime.

I don’t know how much I personally will be able to contribute - I know I’m not much of an outright leader, and I would be clueless in how to implement some of the ideas, but I would be very happy to be involved in helping to develop a plan.

Also, the guild needs to decide if it cares about running an award, because I’m having trouble convincing myself to commit to the time/energy/financial costs of actually opening the Coyotls to nominations this year. And right now, there isn’t actually anything that makes the Coyotls happen other than me, which is kind of a problem.

We are always open to any help people can provide. As it stands, the guild administration is a skeleton crew.

I would absolutely be happy to discuss things with the guild leadership in private, to perhaps help offer advice and direction, as well as what assistance I can do to make this happen.

We can arrange a poll on that issue if you want, although I expect you would run into the same sort of problems I was talking about earlier (i.e., everyone wants thing but no one wants to help with thing). If you have any ideas for splitting the workload or financing or what have you, feel free to draft a proposal and submit it to me.

Apart from that, if this burden is such that it is adversely affecting your quality of life, then I do not believe it would be unreasonable to put the awards on hiatus or even discontinue them altogether. There is not much in this world worth sacrificing one’s health and well-being.

Alright. It’s late and I am running on fumes, so let’s talk on this more on telegram once I’ve had some sleep.

Sounds great! You have my contact details - feel free to message me anytime.

From my experience on how much of an uphill battle this all is, I’d like to say that suggestions are great, but if you’re going to give them, there’s one thing we used to say a lot in my day job:

“Don’t give me problems, give me solutions.”

This boils down to if you’re going to suggest a thing, please be ready to suggest a way a thing can happen, and not just expect others to do the work for you. The FWG is a volunteer organization that legally doesn’t even exist. If there are no/too few volunteers, there are no solutions to be had.

With that, I’ll go back to my hole out of the way, nursing the wounds from helping in such a place that will never heal.

I’ve been in office on a national dog breed club for about ten years now, and we have exactly the same problems the guild and probably any volunteer organization has. Lots of input and not a lot of hands up when it comes time to take office/charge. (we have to beg bribe and barter to get officers in place each term)
While I, too, have suggestion, I too am swamped by “other life” to the point of hindering actually running for an office, though I can say that I love this guild and I’ll stand up and help on committees, tasks whatever we think of if it means keeping it going. With that in mind I have a few items of input (or course ! ) and I’d like to say that even though these discussions are frustrating because of past inactivity, they are a sign that people care and want to help. Sometimes they just don’t know how. Sometimes you have to say, hey, this is a project that’s happening and I need you you and you to get on it. (bribe, beg and barter)…

1 If we made the officer terms two years instead of one we’d give more time for action and spend less time in the long run scrambling to fill positions.
2. I heartily believe we should at least support the Coyotls financially by funding the awards (and doing whatever specific tasks Mary asks of us) I have ideas on how to do that in a point below.
3. I think we need to charge dues… very small dues, like 5.00 a year. so the Guild has some regular income. That’s super cheap, like coffee money for a day for a whole year’s membership but it would help with things like funding the awards.
4. Value for money, if we charge dues, we’d need to do something small for our members. Maybe something free even, like a Guild Member web badge they can put on their sites. exclusive to members. This would be as easy as modifying our logo to say: member. Or sending a laminated membership card (just once the year they sign up. so dues would eventually become profit.or a badge or con badge ribbon… something. Additionally since we have a members only section of the forums and the forums are not very active, why not add a members only section to the Slack and a members only telegram loop? if that’s where they are, then put the benefit there.

I’m willing to be a workhorse if not an officer… and I’m on the fence there. I love the Guild. Love all you amazing writers, and maybe I could pull off Secretary, but probably not if its still tied to treasurer. We all have life crazies, I know, but if we need worker bees, people to delegate tasks too, then I think we might have them, but we might need to actually tell them, hey, I need this done, can you do it? Or hey, this is a thing I need you to do, step on in here an do it. Sometimes the only thing holding people back is not knowing how to stand up and say please use me as a resource.

I hope we can make this work.

Additional response to the first series of points,
A fellow writer and I put on a regular class at conventions and writer’s group meetings on how to write and submit to short markets (most of the advice works for novels too) and I think we have it recorded. I might be able to get his permission and share the video as a reference for those learning how to submit. Or modify it as a lecture specifically on that. I think he’d be in, and I’m willing. Or maybe even just share our powerpoint as a reference. If this is a thing folks are really looking to have, I can probably make that one happen fairly easily.
We already have the material and could just tweak it to include subbing novels.

Alright, I’m going to put together a blog entry intended to be posted to the website this coming Monday. It will include the following:

-Proposed introduction of two new positions within the FWG and a general request for volunteers
-Renewed call for guest blog posts and/or other member-generated informative content
-A section discussing the Coyotls (info to be determined by whatever Ryffnah has to say)
-Mention of the upcoming guild elections
-A link to this thread and encouragement of further engagement

As always, it will be run by the other guild officers before posting. Other topics may be considered for either this or a future blog post; feel free to contact me with suggestions.

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I look forward to it! I think the guild has kind of been holding itself back for a while on what it could do, partly I believe out of not wanting to appear too “elitist”. I think big changes are needed, and I’m certainly willing to throw my name in the hat for helping to make it happen.

I don’t think I’ve been accepted as a member, but I can help where needed. Just let me know so I can think about it and plan ahead. That sounds kind of ambitious, but I think it’s great to get excitement behind writing, especially for newer writers who may seem discouraged and more veteran writers who might be hitting a snag in their progress.

One of the things mentioned in the telegram conversation (went back and waded through 400 messages and stickers to read it) was voluntary dues. It made me think of something simple and fast we could do to possibly boost donations.
Can we draft an email that automatically sends to the membership every Jan 1?
Have it say,
Thank you for your continued membership and support. At this time we ask that you please consider a small donation in lieu of dues to assist with the functioning of the guild…
or some thing like that.
automated and easy and just a reminder that the guild exists through its members support.

I think arranging such an automated email could be done simply enough. It’s not a bad idea and it couldn’t hurt to try, but I believe I will put it to the floor for discussion in the aforementioned blog post.

We can speak on Telegram or Twitter. [edit] or Slack.

@FrancesP did a good job of summing up my thoughts as well. I’m in a number of organizations. I don’t think I can help lead here, but I can definitely perform tasks.

I wonder if it would be beneficial to have an idea discussion where those who have ideas and suggestions can declare what they’re willing to do, and what help they need?

I’m really feeling lucky this got posted in the slack so I could find it. I’m gonna try and mention a few things and hope they help. Before I get to that a little context. I’ve ran a few other kinds of organisations before so have some experience in marketing groups as well as running volunteer organisations.

I’ve got a LOT of time on my hands, I’m disabled and have a lot of time at home that could really use filling up. If there’s a need for a volunteer force to update these things I can be a one girl wrecking crew, send me some sort of message and I’ll be on it. With that out of the way…

  • I didn’t realize the Telegram group even existed.

Publicity for things available for the groups need to be improved. A more active presence on Twitter, perhaps even simply scheduling some tweets every week, could be a huge deal. Making sure we’re connected with authors and publishers, building a brand base where people will actually be checking in can help give the guild leverage and popularity. I’m certain there’s furry writers out there that don’t even know the guild exists. It takes big efforts to change that.

In general having a google form where authors could submit when they got books coming out, stories, etc so we can singal boost those active in the guild could help as well. Even organizing something with the Furry Book Review we could help make sure new writers have a review out for a new book day one so they got something on amazon and everywhere else. It’d be a huge perk of joining the group.

Prominently displaying links to the slack and telegram groups right on the site would also be a huge boon, people like me won’t know these things even exist to utilize otherwise. I understand crummy people will come in to try and troll sometimes, but it’s possible to set up tools to make that a pain for them.

TBH I’d also give up slack and move to Discord. No point staying in the past, TONS of furs have Telegram and Discord is incredibly popular and has a plethora of moderation tools. Not to mention you can offer swag to people on Discord. Special color names for folks who’ve confirmed to have beta read a lot of stories, for publishers, editors, etc. Heck even specific chats for some of those people with access provided by their volunteer work for the guild and its members.

Heck in general I doubt most people think they can join the slack or telegram, if they know it’s out there, unless they’re already members. That alone hurts efforts to get more people interested.

  • The website is out of date, making it feel unhelpful. The guild needs a facelift and update

Not in all things, but certainly some. The Convention Books page for writing opportunities has information from 2016. Things like that make the guild look as though it is inactive. I get people are busy 100% but there for sure needs to be someone dedicated to keeping the writing opportunities up on the site. Perhaps a google form for publishers to get us the info for them too. People established in furry publishing would certainly offer if asked nicely.

For conventions themselves, I’ve got some connections with staff in big cons. I might be able to reach out to keep them giving us info for any of their books that publish stories too.

In general, the website needs a huge boost. It feels old and clunky. I know that also takes a lot of work and who would volunteer is a valid concern but it still needs doing. If the site looks active, exciting, vibrant, it’s gonna make people think it’s worth joining!

Imagine if whenever a new publishing opportunity was posted there was a blog post on the main page, not only discussing the details, but linking to a discord where a chat specifically to help people writing those stories was? People see the information, know there’s tools to help, beta readers ready, and potential veterans offering advice. They will be eager to jump in

Also this is gonna sound ironic as I type this on a forum, but people don’t use forums anymore. You want feedback? Pop up a google form or something in the chatrooms. It sucks but that’s part of why I think a general update to the guild to modernize could be helpful. Gotta accept the realities of stuff changing and embrace them to keep folks coming in.

  • Why am I in the guild?

It’s a good question, and I’m seeing great suggestions on how to make things better than a social group. When looking at the submissions and open markets… Why don’t we try and encourage submissions more? I like the idea of the Coffee House chats there are, but it would be easy to post things up as writing prompts and have everyone working on them getting together, sharing, beta reading, and submitting. The group itself driving more and better submissions to publishers making them more excited to work with us.

  • We need the Coyotl Awards, but something more.

I like the idea of the Coyotl Awads. It’s TOTALLY reasonable that it’s overly stressful if you’re forced to do all the work @Ryffnah that you wouldn’t want to do them. I get that deeply, it’s unfair. Something like the Coyotls I think is helpful to smaller writers in the guild to get their stories in front of folks and get a little recognition when it comes to short stories and the like.

On top of this though there needs to be a yearly Furry Writer’s Guild anthology. Maybe a singular writing topic that’s up all year, put out into book form. With print on demand services places like Amazon offer, it’s totally doable to do this at minimal costs while using any profits the book can get to help with the awards. This alone would make joining the guild worth it, a serious chance at having a story published each year and help of everyone around you to see it happen. Of course to be in it you gotta be a member of the guild.

Heck this provides more than just things for the writers in terms of opportunities. We can get people editing credits on these stories, people can learn about formatting for publishing/ebooks/etc. It not only helps us but can be an amazing resource for people to learn so they could self publish or open up doors for themselves in the future.

The awards and an anthology would help keep the guild relevant and in the public’s conscious a bit more. Kinda goes alongside that marketing stuff from earlier.

  • Money needs to come in.

Donations are awesome and I love the idea of voluntary dues and said dues giving some special perks. TBH I’d also be down for seeing people able to join the guild purely by paying dues if they haven’t been published yet.

With web hosting, awards, all of that, some sort of crowd funding could be done each year. I’m certain members might be willing to offer stories of various lengths to folks willing to donate and help the guild. Not to mention those could be collected into an ebook for sale, once again potentially bringing in a little more revenue for the guild. We set a goal for a budget that needs to be met to function, and find a way to raise those funds.

Perks should be there too though for folks that volunteer their time as money. If someone is beta reading like 10 stories a month for members they deserve some awesome stuff. They’re making it so people want to even be in the guild for its social aspects.

WHEW I felt like I said a lot. You bet I’m gonna be throwing my name in for elections incoming and I hope I can contribute more than ideas in the future. Like I said, I got a lot of time on my hands. Shove me at the problems and I’ll help!