Maybe five or six years ago, writer Laura Resnick had a swell idea: why not establish a listserve for women who wrote science fiction and fantasy? Not exactly a professional organization, but a place where we could exchange ideas, ask for advice, swap gossip a little, announce our triumphs and complain as necessary. I joined the SFF-FW list shortly after it was formed; it now has Idunnamany women on it, and it has been a nice community to be part of. Last year, when Andre Norton was declining, a discussion began about how important she had been to many of the writers on the list; out of the discussion the idea arose of letting her know how important she had been, giving her an award or a gift or something from her peers--women writing science fiction and fantasy. Why stop there, we thought? In the end, SFF-FW gave Betty Ballantine, Madeleine L'Engle, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. Le Guin, Kate Wilhelm, Joanna Russ, and Andre Norton the "Roots in Writing" award: a plaque, and a tree or planting of their choice, meant to signify that these women were all, in some way, the roots from which our membership had grown. We all thought this was a one-time thing, and then this year we somehow found ourselves doing this again--but a little more modestly, with one recipient, Jane Yolen.
Elsewhere on the web I've seen a comment to the effect that SFF-FW is a "self-proclaimed and unknown group." Well, yes. Most groups are self-proclaimed, and we have not been much interested in being known beyond our membership. But if anyone out there is wondering who these people are and what the Roots in Writing award is, well, this is it.