Hmmmm, I'm having very mixed feelings about SFWA's announcement today about their new SFWA Middle Grade and Young Adult Writers group-within-the-group. Essentially, it's a list-serv for those who have published or who are about to publish (ie, have a contract) in the middle grade or YA markets. Back when this was first floated, I sent an e-mail to the SFWA President expressing my surprise, and asking if SFWA had ever had other offical groups-within-the-group that had additional membership requirements. I said I would have thought qualifying for the organization in general and a stated interest in the special topic would be enough, and that there could be authors who have not published or contracted such a work but who may have written one, for whom this group might be useful. I also said I'd like to know how and why the decision was made to limit the group. John Scalzi's response said he would take my comments to the board. I did not hear back again, although to be fair, the announcement today does include this addendum from John:"For now, the SFWA YA/MG list is open to SFWA members whose published credits in young adult and middle grade fiction mirror the membership requirements for SFWA. This means that not all members of SFWA will be able to be part of the list. This is an experiment on our part to offer those members of SFWA with a YA/MG focus a laboratory to discuss issues and concerns specific to their field."
However, for me that does not really provide a rationale. I don't understand how, for instance, allowing a SFWA member who has written a YA book but has not yet managed to sell it (*) to participate would be counter to the goal of offering a "laboratory to discuss issues and concerns specific to [the YA/MG] field." My hypothetical SFWA member has a great deal of interest in those issues and concerns, and having been recognized as a professional, hopefully can be relied upon to behave appropriately.
The online announcement (http://www.sfwa.org/2012/11/sfwa-middle-grade-and-young-adult-writers-membership-now-open/
) also states that "The primary purpose of this group is to create an integral community within SFWA that is comprised of MG and YA SFWA authors for mutual support and knowledge sharing, recognizing that MG and YA SFWA authors work in markets with demands that are different from adult SF/F/H. Secondarily, this group aims to provide information to the broader SFWA membership about MG and YA via educational outreach on the SFWA blog, the SFWA discussion forums, the SFWA Bulletin, and at SF/F conventions."
On the one hand, I don't want to go with my gut reaction because it's a gut reaction, which means I'm not entirely sure it's as rational as it can be, or that I've managed to find and examine all the angles. On the other hand, my reaction hasn't changed in the months since I first became aware of this. It feels to me that perhaps the board thinks there are fully qualified SFWA members who cannot be relied upon to keep the list-serve on-topic, or who would somehow dilute or pollute the discussion. It also feels slightly wrong that the organization is taking whatever minuscule (I know it costs next to nothing to run a list-serv) percentage of members' dues and applying it to a restricted activity in which not all members can partake. And I find the [paraphrased] concept of "it's OK, we'll share information with the rest of you occasionally" kind of condescending.
Thoughts? I really want to know what other people think. What angle am I not considering? I'm usually a fairly go-with-the-flow type person. I attend all the SFWA business meetings that I can. I don't constantly demand "what can SFWA do for me" -- I've always seen the value in this type of organization and have defended it to those who say SFWA is useless or irrelevant to them. But wow, I did not get much of a response to my concerns on this.[* I am not this hypothetical member. I have not written a young adult or middle grade novel. And besides, I think I could qualify for this sub-group under the affiliate membership option. So my objections here are not purely selfish.]