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Women in Horror Month Guest Blog - Lisa Morton

Today is Day 1 of my Women in Horror Month guest blog series, and my first guest is the President of the Horror Writers Association, Lisa Morton! Lisa is a six-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author and screenwriter and is a leading international expert on all things Halloween. 

Women in Horror Month
Guest Blog by Lisa Morton

A few years ago, I found myself in a comfortable bar, taking a break from a busy convention with three other female writers. We were all friends, having known each other or worked together for a while. I’d read work from them, and knew how talented all three were. But why weren’t they all better known?

All three cited the same number one problem: they were afraid to submit their work.

I was frankly astonished, because I’ve never had that problem. But I kept talking to my female peers and listening to their chats and reading their blogs, and it soon became apparent that I was somewhat unique, because this was mentioned a lot
(Photo by Ellen Datlow)

Yes, I know that fear of submission is a problem for some male writers, too, but I can truthfully say I’ve never seen a single male writer name that immediately when asked about problems with writing.
I do believe there are certain cultural conditionings that affect women writers, and their male comrades frequently are so unfamiliar with these issues that they (like me) may find them hard to grasp, but trust me – they exist. Things like being trained to hold back and let men advance first. Like being polite, or quiet. Like not revealing just how smart you might really be.

Is this a particular problem in the horror genre? Some of our stats don’t look good. For example, over the last dozen or so years of the Bram Stoker Awards®, less than 20% of the nominees in the Novel category have been female. Last year, zero of the nominees were female, so it’s not a trend that’s improving. 

As President of the Horror Writers Association (HWA), this concerns me (as do other problems of diversity, including representation of writers of color and LGBTQ authors in our membership and our awards). How do we increase these numbers without resorting to some sort of (dreaded) quota system or gender-specific awards?

I think part of the answer is that we need to look past HWA and its awards to the wider world of publishing. Editors routinely report low numbers of women submitting to their horror-themed novel lines and anthologies; female horror authors sometimes whisper about publishers trying to steer them into paranormal romance or urban fantasy when they’ve delivered a horror novel. Other authors steer themselves into those categories, worried about the horror genre’s public perception as the blood-and-guts category. 

There are things HWA can do, and has been doing for a while. First we can work to change that widespread misconception of the genre as little more than tortureporn. We can do this by having a presence at large-scale trade shows like BookExpo and book festivals like the L.A. Times Festival of Books. We can let the public see that we’re surprisingly friendly and love to talk about good writing. We can promote our awards, which offer up some of the best writing the genre has to offer.
Ghosts: A Haunted History
(click here to visit Amazon page)

Next, we can help newer female writers by offering mentorships and scholarships. By the time you read this, HWA’s Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship for female horror authors will be open to applications
(; this wonderful fund provides the winning applicant with $2,500 to use toward furthering her education as a writer. Our Mentorship Program can pair a new writer with an established pro (and I wish we could pair women with women, but unfortunately we don’t have enough female mentors to go around).

We can provide a friendly, safe atmosphere for networking, business opportunities, and education at our yearly StokerCon
( ).

Most recently, we created the Diverse Works Inclusion Committee, which will serve to expand knowledge about new works of horror by women writers, writers of color, and LGBTQ writers. We hope this will make HWA’s voting members more aware of works that might be worthy of awards consideration, and thus expand the reach of the Bram Stoker Awards.

Our Publisher’s Liaison can work with more publishers to get more diverse works made available to our juries and our members for awards consideration.

And lastly, we can make sure that we are always listening and making ourselves available to listen to great ideas and suggestions on how we can continue to improve.

Because we’re always stronger when we work together, if you’re not currently a member of HWA, I do hope you’ll consider joining ( I’m available at , but please forgive me if you drop me a line and don’t hear back immediately – I might be busy working on more ways to make HWA diverse, inclusive, and supportive.


Cemetery Dance Select
(click here to visit Amazon page)

Lisa Morton is a screenwriter, author of non-fiction books, award-winning prose writer, and Halloween expert whose work was described by the American Library Association’s Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror as “consistently dark, unsettling, and frightening”.  Her most recent releases include Ghosts: A Haunted History and the short story collection Cemetery Dance Select: Lisa Morton. She currently serves as President of the Horror Writers Association, and can be found online at

"Her work is consistently dark, unsettling, and frightening"
-American Library Association's READERS' ADVISORY GUIDE TO HORROR


  1. Great article, Lisa.

    As many know, I'm like Lisa. I submit my work and get published. I also have asked other lady horror writers about their experiences because I too hear concerns about discrimination in the field. And then once I dig, I discover that many of these ladies never even submitted in the first place. It's frustrating because we can't help the ladies raise their profile if they don't help themselves through taking that very first step, submitting their work to publishers.

    Ladies, please, write and submit. And if you aren't writing and submitting, please don't pile on the genre with comments about how it's a male-dominated industry unless you've personally experienced some kind of issue.

    And if you have an issue of any kind in the horror field, please report it to a member of the HWA such as Lisa, who is the current president, or even myself, as Ontario Chapter Head of the HWA. We want to hear your stories and we want to help level the playing field but we can't help if we don't know your situation.

    Thank you for spotlighting this issue, Lisa!


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