Charity Solicitations Policy

I’ve been getting a fair number of requests for charity donations recently, in the form of signed books and other considerations, so I’m going to post this now so people can refer to it later:

I am a big proponent of charity and charitable giving but I typically restrict my involvement in charitable giving into two categories:

1. Initiatives I begin and oversee myself (including auctions, pledge drives, etc);

2. Initiatives that people I know well directly oversee or play an active role in (Child’s Play, Worldbuilders and Con or Bust are examples of these).

The reason I tend to restrict my involvement to these two categories is simple: I don’t typically engage with charities I don’t know about, I don’t have a huge amount of time to research, and thus I prefer to focus on charitable initiatives I already know about and/or have someone I know and trust vouching for. Likewise, I have a limited amount of material to give away for charitable purposes, and I am legendarily scatterbrained when it comes to fulfillment.

For those reasons, if you solicit me for goods/participation for your charitable event, if I do not know you and/or your charity well the answer is very likely to be no. Indeed, assume that the answer is “no,” unless you hear otherwise from me, within a couple of days. This is entirely due to me, and not you; please don’t take it personally (although if you do take it personally, I’m not sure how you think that will convince me to want to have anything else to do with you).

If you are determined to get something from me for your charitable event/fund drive, the simplest way to do this is to come up to me during a public appearance and have me sign whatever thing it is that you want me to sign during the appropriate time of the appearance (for example, during the signing period would be fine). I typically have no problem signing whatever you might have for me then (although please don’t over do it — respect any signing limits we impose at the particular event).

Please be aware that if I sign something for your intended charity in this manner, it does not imply an endorsement of your particular charity. It means I signed something you put in front of me, which you then donated to the charity of your choice.

I recognize that this all sounds a little harsh but please recognize I do get a fairly high number of solicitations for signed books/objects, autographs and personal involvement in various charitable initiatives. I could not accommodate all of them in any event, even if I had the time to vet them all and decide which ones I am interested in supporting. Also — and please understand this is not meant to cast doubt on your request– I have been solicited before by people who claim to be doing something for charity who have then turned out to be scammers of some sort or another. This has made me doubly careful of who I am seen associating with, charity-wise. This is even the case with people who claim to be supporting a charity I have on my own personal “support” list; if I don’t know you, I don’t know that the money accrued from the donation I provide will go where you say you will. Again, this is about me, not you.


My Endorsement for SFWA President: Steven Gould

Photo by Ellen Datlow

As most of you know by now, I am stepping down as president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America at the end of my term, which concludes on June 30. On July 1, the organization will have a new president. Steven Gould has announced that he is running for the position. This makes me happy, and I fully and unreservedly endorse him for president of SFWA.

Steven brings to the position an impressive depth of knowledge of the field and of the genre. He’s been writing science fiction professionally since 1980, when his first story, “The Touch of Their Eyes” was published by Analog. His first novel Jumper was published in 1992; his most recent, Impulse, was published last month. His work has been nominated for Hugo and Nebulas, posted in the New York Times bestseller list, and has been adapted into film. He’s been in the field, and been notable in the field, long enough to develop an understanding of where the genre has been as a professional area, and is active in it now so he’s aware of the challenges that face writers publishing right now.

Nor is he a stranger to emerging areas of publishing or the concerns of newer writers. Steven understands the emergence of the self-published electronic market because he participates in it himself with his backlist. Steven teaches at the Viable Paradise writing workshop and has been the teacher of numerous writers who have gone on to publish and make a name in the genre, and to become SFWA members, including several Hugo and Nebula nominees.

If Steven becomes president, this will not be his first time on the SFWA board; he served as its South/Central Regional Director in the 80s. He knows the organization, knows its membership, and knows the challenges that each face moving forward.

All of the above are reasons why Steve Gould looks like a fine SFWA president candidate on paper: He’s got the knowledge base, he’s got the experience, he’s got the publishing bona fides. However, the accomplishments on paper are only half of the story. There’s the other factor to consider: The human factor — how a potential candidate works with and relates to not only the other members of the SFWA board but with the membership in general.

In this regard I can also unreservedly recommend Steve. This is because I’ve known Steve both as a friend and a colleague for the better part of a decade — we both taught at Viable Paradise, and during that time and after I have been able to observe him up close to see how he handles other people.

The answer is: Admirably. To begin, Steve is a fine colleague. He’s encouraging and supportive; he takes time to understand people and how they work, and then works to complement their set of skills. He’s measured and patient, and prefers consensus over confrontation — I’ve seen him work with people of all sorts of personalities and find common ground with them. This is extraordinarily important for working with the board of SFWA, which has a full range of temperaments on it, and with the membership at large.

Finally, Steve is very simply a person I trust: Trust to listen to any member of SFWA, hear his or her concerns without prejudice or assumption, and to make decisions and actions, in concert with the rest of the SFWA board, that reflect our organization’s mission and the needs of our members.

He’s a grown-up, in short. He understands people, sees the value in diverse opinion, background and perspective, and will, I am confident, put the needs of the organization first — and do the work so that the organization’s needs are addressed.

Steve Gould is my friend, but this is not why I’m endorsing him. I’m endorsing him because I have been president, and I know the set of skills that one needs to succeed in the position. Simply put, Steve has them. He is the right person for the job. He has my vote, and if you are SFWA member, I hope that you will give him your vote as well.

The Big Idea: Emma Newman

It’s ironic that authors can write entire books — but sometimes stumble in a short explanation of what’s going on in those books. Emma Newman knows this, particularly in reference to her newest novel, Between Two Thorns. Does she find a way to persevere regardless? Let’s find out, shall we?


I have a confession to make; I’ve been struggling to write this post for over a week. I wrote and abandoned three drafts because they sounded like academic lectures on the subject of the Split Worlds. I experimented with having characters from the book describing Aquae Sulis, the secret magical reflection of modern day Bath, and whilst it was fun it didn’t feel right.

It’s always been difficult for me to talk about my own work – something I think many fellow authors experience. That awful moment in any project when I have to come up with the pithy one-sentence summary always sends me into a fit of hand flapping and a sudden inability to describe anything about my book. It’s always too big to fit into one sentence. I get there in the end, but it’s hard.

I looked over previous Big Idea posts and realised why I was finding my own so difficult: Between Two Thorns – and the entire Split Worlds series – did not spring from one spark of inspiration. There was no light bulb moment or conversation or thought that popped into my head that launched me into writing this book.

It sneaked up on me instead. At first it disguised itself as a short story about a shopkeeper and a woman returning one of his products; a faerie trapped in a bell jar. The woman thinks it’s a frivolous gadget sent by her husband abroad, with no idea that she’s in possession of a real faerie which could destroy her life. The shopkeeper, feeling merciful, sends her away with a fruit cake recipe after casting a memory loss charm on her.

The idea took root and before long it was a weekly flash-fiction serial. I wrote for several months until it dawned upon me that what I was really doing was building a world for a series of novels. I developed a role-playing game and chucked my husband into it so I could explore it with a GM’s brain. It enabled me to flesh out the world, figure out the metaphysics and get a feel for the characters and the social mechanics of Nether society.

Thinking about it, a particularly big idea did hit at that point, but if I told you, it would spoil the entire series. Brilliant. So I’m keeping quiet about that one.

When I look back on the three books I’ve written set in the Split Worlds – and the fifty short stories set there too – I can happily say there are several big ideas. There are the Split Worlds themselves and how people deal with strict social systems kept isolated from the usual forces of change. There’s the pressure to conform to family expectations and the dubious privilege of being favoured by immortal beings. There’s the Fae and faeries as frightening forces of nature rather than cute. There are beautiful prisons – constructed by others and those of our own making.

Saying that any one of those was the starting point would be a lie. These themes emerged from the characters and the worlds they live in. So even though there wasn’t one that kicked it all off, I’m happy to say there are a plenty of big ideas in Between Two Thorns. I hope you enjoy exploring them as much as I did.


Between Two Thorns: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read stories set in the “split worlds” universe. Visit the author’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.