by Kyle Perkins
So, I sat down with the owner of “Speculative Fiction Emporium” to discuss what makes her group different from others. Most indie groups are just spammy pimping groups, and I want to find all of the groups throughout the web that are different. So, this will be a new thing that you will see on my blog periodically, and possibly weekly depending on what I dredge up. I just want to find the groups where discussion is encouraged, and artists are celebrated. There are more than enough advertising going around, I want to find the groups that help us grow as authors/artists. If you have a cool and unique group, or know someone that does, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d love to hear from you!
So what’s it like running your own group?
It is like all of my lifelong hopes and dreams have finally been realized!
Just kidding. It’s fun sometimes, frustrating sometimes, but the group isn’t too big at the moment, so it’s pretty low-stress. I’ve helped manage much larger Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members – those could be a nightmare, at times. This one isn’t bad at all. The stress is mostly self-imposed, when I get busy and can’t be super active, I feel like I am neglecting the group.
What do you think separates you from other writing communities on Facebook?
I’ve noticed with certain communities in the creative world, there is either too much blind support, or too much harsh criticism. Blind support could actually harm a budding author or artist – how else can you grow if you think you are already perfect? – but, unnecessarily harsh criticism could be just as damaging. I stress in our rules that debate, constructive criticism, that’s all fair game… but also, keep in mind that just because something isn’t exactly your cup of tea, doesn’t mean it is absolute crap… so keep it civil, and be kind. It’s hard work creating something, even more difficult putting it out there for the world to see. The elitist mentality of certain groups filled me with nothing but insecurity and doubt, and I never found the courage to participate in those forums. I decided to go ahead and give a more positive atmosphere a shot. Authors, artists, musicians… we’ll all deal with plenty of negative feedback in our lives, that’s a given since we all have different tastes. Hence the variety of genres and styles out there. One isn’t better than the other, just different. It’s possible to give critique without being a condescending douchecanoe.
Are there any fun things you have planned for the future?
I’m working with some admins to implement some cool contests and promotion opportunities for people trying to get a little more exposure, or just play around with words and stretch their literary muscles. We just started Writing Prompt Wednesdays, and we’ve been doing weekend takeovers here and there, but I am looking to possibly confine those to a specific day each week or month (Depending on interest), which I believe should offer more exposure and activity for our featured authors/artists. So, be on the lookout for more games, contests (for fun and for prizes), polls and takeovers. I’d love to work with some artists to implement some fun activities and contests for them, as well. As always, I am open to suggestion, so I’ll gladly accept ideas from members if they think of something fun for the group to do.
Is your group just another mindless pimping group?
No, though pimping is okay if we don’t have a scheduled event going on. If authors want to use the wall for some exposure for their book, right on! Anything to help. I also have albums in the photo section of the group where authors can post their page and book links so they don’t get buried on the wall. I will say, I have found that doing an actual takeover in the group, or starting an engaging discussion, or participating in the discussions makes a person more memorable to people in the community, rather than just dropping links and bailing. But, we’re all busy people, so I understand if a quick pimp post or heads up for a special is all that’s in the cards for that day.
How do you think your community can help authors?
As of now, we have a solid group of members who are wonderfully creative and encouraging. It’s a great foundation for the kind of group I want us to be. Maybe the writing prompts could help shake an author out of a bout of writer’s block? Maybe some positive feedback on an excerpt will help encourage the next JK Rowling to just keep writing? Who knows! We also have quite a few (I mean this in the most loving way possible, and I am including myself, here) nerds who may be able to assist someone with fact-checking obscure history or sciences in their writing. For our artists – the same kind of encouragement and connections, I hope. Right now, we’re primarily writers, but we do have a few artists in the group and I hope we gain many more!
What are the rules of your group, and can anyone join?
Anyone can join and participate as much or as little as they’d like! I don’t like rules, but we do need a little structure, so those are common sense – be respectful, don’t post on the wall while a takeover is underway, don’t violate Facebook TOS, try to keep posts on-topic and somehow related to speculative fiction (spec fic is a broad umbrella, so horror, scifi, fantasy, etc…). On top of that, we’re pretty loose with that last rule. If we explode and end up with too many unrelated posts, maybe we’ll have to start enforcing that one more, but so far it all stays pretty well on topic.
Are there any special benefits from being in your group?
Not in a tangible sense. As we start doing more games and giveaways, members will have first shot at those, of course. But we don’t like, give away swag bags at the door or anything. Would if I could, but who has that kind of a budget?! (Someday!!! Dreaming big, here!) But, I think being involved in a supportive, artistic community has all kinds of benefits that are difficult to quantify. So there’s always that.
How long has the group been around?
I made the group in January, so we’re still relatively young.
Is it active?
We go through spurts. Sometimes it’s been a bit quiet, but as we’ve grown and added more discussions and contests, we’ve seen more activity.
A lot of admins are hands off, and just kind of let the groups run themselves. Are you more hands on with your members?
I try to participate when I can and start discussions here and there, but I love when others do it. I don’t hover. So, I guess I’m a mixture of both. I’d rather collaborate than demand full control.
Where do you see this group in a year?
Maybe bigger, maybe with more activity, and hopefully a place where authors and artists go to hang out with like-minded people and make some connections.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Let’s see… Well, my pen name is SJ Wolford, because every variation of Samantha Smith has been used by people and companies far more famous than I am, and I wanted to avoid possible confusion when people try to look up my books (once they’re published). I’m a native Floridian, I’ve traveled all over the place but not nearly as much as I want to. I love dogs. No kids, yet, but I’m obsessed with my niece. I binge on video games from time to time. I’ve written as a hobby for as long as I can remember and I have always been a storyteller. My family loves to tease me about the scary stories I would tell around the campfire as a kid – I would get so wrapped up in my imaginary world that I would convince myself it was real, and I’d be afraid of every shadow and noise before the story was even finished! Last year I decided to finally take a crack at actually finishing a novel (I’ve likely started hundreds over the years) and I’m about 80% done with it, now. I’ve had to walk away from it a couple of times, but I keep returning and I like what I see when I do, so hopefully others like it, as well. …Whenever I actually finish it, that is.
How did this group come to be?
I touched on this a little already, but specifically, I was talking with a friend about a particular post in a group I am in, where the members kind of eviscerated this poor guy who had posted an excerpt of something he wrote. I mean, the writing was shaky, but they were just unnecessarily cruel, in my opinion. I said I had come across these kinds of posts a lot in the community, which made me afraid to ever share my work or ask for advice, even though I knew I could use it. We talked a bit and decided with all the creative types on our friends lists, maybe starting a group with a positive atmosphere had potential. I know there are others out there, but I was having trouble finding one. I’ve also noticed that there are some who sort of look down on different types of writing or art – fanfic, fan art, cosplay, certain genres, text-based roleplaying… as if those things don’t require skill or creativity or commitment. I don’t agree with that, and I wanted to make a place that people could share and be proud of their creative work, no matter if it is a hobby or a career. Dreamers change the world. I’m happy to do what I can to help facilitate those dreams. It’s not much, but it’s something.
What do you love the most about it?
I love the people we have in the group. It’s really fun to see how they answer certain questions or respond to writing prompts from varying perspectives. I’ve also been introduced to a ton of new authors that I would’ve never known about, otherwise.
Why speculative fiction?
Speculative fiction just happens to encompass the kind of writing and art that I tend to gravitate towards. I also like that it encompasses work that might not fit into one specific category, but rather a blend of several genres like fantasy-scifi or paranormal-horror. I like when stories have fantastical elements, and I love blended genres. That’s all just my own preference, but I figured if I was going to host a venue for people to share their work, I should probably be interested in it and at least a little bit familiar with it.
Advice to someone considering joining?
Join! We’d love to have you! Just please, play nice.
Want to join the group? Want to see more from Samantha?