by John Grant
One of the great thing about e-mail is that the person you're
corresponding with can't tell whether or not you're a
I hadn't fully appreciated the great benefits of this until a
few days ago. It came about like this . . .
All over the internet there are whether you write
science fiction or history textbooks, pornography or auto
maintenance manuals professional writers' societies that
you can join. I stress the word "you" here, because I'd
discovered over several frustrating days that every single last
one of those damned writers' societies has pettifogging
qualifications they insist upon before you can actually sign
The most obnoxious of these qualifications is that, to become
a fully paid-up member, you must have some money.
The end, so far as I was concerned, came with
www.deadasadoornailwriters.com. The positive side of this
association was that there was no subscription fee. The negative
side was that, in order to join, you had to be dead and
preferably for several hundred years. Before I noticed this
weasel qualification in the small print I'd had dreams of chewing
the fat in chatrooms with illustrious DaaDWA members like Geoff
Chaucer and Billie Shakespeare (hadn't realized he'd died
must have been recently and I missed it) and Jack Milton and Mick
Cervantes and Chuck Dickens and all the others.
I looked at the window and thought about qualifying for
membership, but decided that, while I prize my art as a writer
above everything, I don't prize it quite that much.
Besides, it'd be embarrassing to know the headlines would read
FAMOUS EG COLUMNIST SPRAINS ANKLE JUMPING EIGHT FEET DOWN
ONTO ROOF OF NEIGHBORING STRIP JOINT.
Still, dammit, I did want to join a professional
writers' society. I am, after all, the consummate professional
well, I would be if EG ever paid me.
I decided to phone up a friend and ask for some advice. I take
pride in the fact that, unlike disorganized people, I don't
clutter up my private address book with all sorts of unnecessary
phone numbers belonging to people you met once at a party and
hopefully will never meet again you know, the kind of
people who, when you phone them up, say things like "Oh, it's
you. You're the dirtbag who drunkenly crept up behind me and got
his hand inextricably wedged in the back of my brassiere while I
was being introduced to George W. Bush, then upchucked banana
daiquiri all over my hookah. How the hell did you get this
number? Fuck off, pervert!" and hang up on you. So it didn't take
me long to decide that the best person to call was my good friend
"Oh, it's you, dirtbag," he said from the igloo somewhere in
Alaska where I finally tracked him down. "I can't speak long
because the Feds are monitoring this line in hopes of tracing my
"Good of you to speak to me," I said.
"It's only because I don't wear a brassiere," he said.
I explained my problem.
He thought for a moment, then said: "There's one last
possibility I know of . . ."
"It's the Rottweiler Writers' Association. Membership is
"It's for Rottweilers?" I asked incredulously.
"I didn't know Rottweilers could write," I said.
"Exactly," said Dave, beginning to sound as if the Alaskan
cold were getting to him. "That's why two-thirds of the
bestseller lists are filled up with books by Rottweilers. Look,
dirtbag, I can't stand here chattering all night," either he or
his teeth added. "I'da been gone already, tell you the truth, but
I was having a pee against this here tree when the temperature
suddenly dropped forty degrees."
"Oh, right. You got a URL for this . . . er . . . Rottweiler
"Use yahoo or lycos. Here's Myrtle with the ice-axe. Gotta go.
Oh, one moment. She says she wants to speak to you."
There was a fumbling as he handed over the phone to this
Myrtle, whoever she was, and then I heard her voice on the
"Oh, it's you," she said. "You're the dirtbag who drunkenly
crept up behind me and got his hand inextricably wedged in the
back of my brassiere while I was being introduced to George W.
Bush, then upchucked banana daiquiri all over my hookah. How the
hell did you get this number? Fuck off, pervert!"
She hung up.
Thanks to the magic of user-friendly AOL, it took me only an
hour and a half and three computer crashes before I was typing my
search in on my favorite search engine, www.dirtbag.com I
prefer it because of the excitement of their monthly Super
Giveaway Lottery!!! whereby they give a million dollars and a
pair of Britney Spears's underpants to someone who has the
specially selected attribute of not being me.
And there was the URL! www.ripyerthroatout.com. I
clicked excitedly, then muttered a few cheerful cusswords as AOL
crashed yet again.
By the following morning I was looking at the website I
sought. I scanned the small print of the membership
1 All members must be
Well, that was OK as I said at the start, here was the
great advantage of communicating solely by e-mail.
2 All members must be professional
That was OK as well, with the proviso mentioned earlier.
3 Except members of the elected RWA
Administrative Board, who it is recognized will have no time
for writing because they will be constantly having secret
discussions about how best to screw the ordinary members.
Any ordinary members who dissent from this course of action,
or who demand that said discussions be public, will be
expelled from this Association or have their throats ripped
out, or both.
4 Everything you read on the RWA site,
dirtbag, is TOP SECRET, BY ORDER OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE
BOARD. This is necessary because of 9/11.
Well, this was pretty acceptable as well. I mean, if it's
supposed to be good enough for Congress and the Senate it should
be good enough for me, right?
I began flitting about the site, taking a look at some of the
regular features and benefits I would enjoy as a member, like
annual conventions which would be totally free unless I went to
them; details of the free elections of new Administrative Board
members and the candidates we had to vote for; and a page or two
about the Administrative Board's new transparency policy (which
appeared to be that the Board was allowed to tell transparent
lies and you got thrown out or dismembered if you didn't believe
There were also some handy writing tips, such as which editors
to sleep with if you wanted to get published. As a consummate
professional writer I was a trifle shocked by this, which seemed
to me somehow corrupt. "I don't care if I never get
published if it means having an editor who'll go to bed with just
anybody," I thought as I jotted down the names and
And finally there was the site's Works In Progress By RWA
Members Section. This was by far the largest area of the site
so large, in fact, that even if I'd not been using AOL's
browser it'd have taken about twenty minutes for the index to
load. "There must be a million books in here," I thought,
settling myself for a good few hours of free reading.
When finally the index page had loaded, I discovered to my
chagrin that all the works in progress were evidently legal
thrillers a la John Grisham and that the RWA
members really had to do something about their titles. I mean,
would you buy the new David Baldacci if it was called
Spoonsleydale vs Bunwacket or Bankspargle vs Prin and
Brivotski or Parker-Stubbins vs Mintdiaper? In
point of fact, I wouldn't buy the new David Baldacci whatever its
title, but that's not the issue: all the titles were
dryasdust-seeming like that!
Still, as they say: the best thing to do with any organization
is to reform from within. I clicked for the registration page
and, after only a dozen or two 404 messages from AOL, found a
form that I could fill in. I did have a moment's twinge of the
ol' conscience as I solemnly declared that I was indeed a
Rottweiler I reminded myself to spray a few fire hydrants
and maul a few toddlers the next time I went out to the post
office so that my declaration would be almost true
but the rest of the form was a breeze, or would have been if it
hadn't been for the distraction of the animated popup that kept
appearing showing a leg being humped.
At the end of it I clicked the SUBMIT button, and lounged back
in my chair filled with the satisfaction of a job well done.
I'll say something about the Rottweiler Writers' Association
their response time is fast.
Hardly a second can have gone by before a message from them
came up on my screen.
Oh, it's you. You're the dirtbag who drunkenly
crept up behind me and got his hand inextricably wedged in
the back of my brassiere while I was being introduced to
George W. Bush, then upchucked banana daiquiri all over my
hookah. How the hell did you get this e-address? Fuck off,