Your Success as a Female Author of SF & F

Your Success as a female author has challenges. One of them is to find mentors who inspire you no matter where you are in your career path. In my last two Monday posts, I shared the names of many women writers who have been very successful writing fiction. (If you missed them read “Who Does Your Greatest Success Look Like” and “Are You Aiming for Their Writing Success?”) The field of science fiction and fantasy novels has been dominated by men for a very long time. Being a female author of SF & F (science fiction and fantasy) increases the difficulty of reaching success. Yet, more and more women authors are entering the field. And many of them are flourishing. Let’s take a brief look and see if you can find a mentor or two. Perhaps you’ll find some inspiration to carry you through NANOWRIMO and the rest of your career.

Image of a person on top of the mountain, helping another climb up to the top  Your road to success as a female author of SF & F is bumpy Find inspirational mentors in this post
Find the mentors who can show you the way up to success

The Best-Selling Science Fiction by Women

The best-selling books by female author of SF & F is difficult to determine. Methods of collecting that information are so variable as to make the data useless. Turning to Ranker again, I looked up the 100 best science fiction authors. The complete list is here.

Winnowing that list down to only females yielded 38 authors. Amongst them are one or two authors you can emulate. You can read about their methods and path to success and adapt them to what you need. 

Silhouette image of two women pushing human-sized puzzle pieces together, A mentor, a successful female author of SF & F can help you put the pieces together
A mentor, a successful female author of SF & F can help you put the pieces together

The Top Female Authors of S & SF

Different measuring sticks will yield different results. But these women qualify as accomplished authors whom you can use as a role model or mentor-from-afar.

  1. Ursula K. Le Guin 
  2. Andre Norton
  3. Mary Shelley 
  4. CJ Cherryh
  5. Anne McCaffery
  6. Octavia Butler
  7. Margaret Atwood
  8. Connie Willis
  9. Lois McMaster Bujold
  10. Marion Zimmer Bradley
  11. Tanith Lee
  12. James Tiptree, Jr. AKA Alice B Sheldon
  13. Nancy Kress
  14. Julian May
  15. Sheri S. Tepper
  16. Judith Merril
  17. Kate Wilhelm
  18. Joanna Russ
  19. Nnedi Okorafor
  20. Pat Cadigan
  21. Doris Lessing
  22. Barbara Hambly
  23. Catherine Asaro
  24. Jo Walton
  25. Karen Traviss
  26. Madeleine L’Engle
  27. Kathleen Ann Goonan
  28. Nalo Hopkinson
  29. Joan D. Vinge
  30. Ann Leckie
  31. Margaret Weis
  32. Maureen F. McHugh
  33. Diana Wynne Jones
  34. Shirley Jackson
  35. Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  36. Suzanne Collins
  37. Tanya Huff
  38. Zenna Henderson

The Short List

Isn’t it sad that out of 100 authors only 38 are female? Is there a successful female author of SF & F you’d add to the list? Did you say your name? If you didn’t, read the list above again. Read the works of several of those authors. Then choose one or two as your inspiration. Aim to be on the short list.

I hope you found a female author of SF & F or two whose careers or methods will help you. In my next post, I’ll share some tips and writing processes of some of these authors.  I think you’ll find their methods and words will inspire you during NANOWRIMO and the months to come.

Empower Yourself

Sometimes mentors fall into your life. You didn’t know you needed one, but a mentor arrived at the right time. However, sometimes you must empower yourself. Take control. Search out the mentors you need.

We all need mentors from time to time. Often we need different mentors for different phases of our growth. While it’s easier today to find women’s voices and women mentors, it’s not always easy to empower yourself.

Unlearn First

Image of neurons intersperse with thoughts and feelings you may need to unlearn to empower yourself.

The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn. We are filled with the popular wisdom of several centuries just past, and we are terrified to give it up.

Gloria Steinem, American activist

Unlearning isn’t easy. Often, without even knowing it, we cling to ideas, beliefs, and misbeliefs. Those closely held thoughts often are the result of events you could not control. Empower yourself by taking your power back from the events you couldn’t control.

What You Can Control

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.

Maya Angelou

As a child, you have no control over what happens. Sometimes someone has smashed and beaten and reduced you and your child’s sense of self. That abuse can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or metaphorical. It can be unintentional. Too often, it is intentional. I pray that by empowering women, the empowered can nurture the damaged. And one day we can unlearn those ugly behaviors. One day no child will endure any kind of abuse.

Risk Blossoming

Word cloud in a silhouette of a woman indicating the positive attributes. Empower yourself and blossom.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

Anaïs Nin

Personally, I held myself and my misbeliefs of how powerless I was in a tightly closed bud until it the pain emerged in nightmares. The difficulty of the first unclenching of those delicate petals was intense.

The full blossoming took time and courage and setbacks. Eventually I learned the basics and then more and more. I continue to learn from the women around me. Sometimes I learn I agree with them. Other times I learn how I disagree with them. Agree or disagree, we can all learn from women like those quoted in this post.

Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me.

– Arianna Huffington

Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.

Julia Child

I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.

Marissa Mayer

Be Brave for One Step

Yes, those “I’m not sure I can do this” moments that you push through are powerful. Some people are able to push through from beginning to end. If you can do this, brava! But you don’t have to be brave enough to do it all at once. Be brave enough to take the next step.

Learn to recognize and appreciate what you did. Then be brave enough to take the next step. You can do it. Empower yourself.

7 People Who Changed My Writing Life

In this month of Thanksgiving, I have reflected on some of the things for which I am thankful. Today, I recognize the seven people who changed my writing life.

Candle and words of gratitude

These people were generous with their time, their knowledge, and their encouragement. I hope this chronological list expresses at least a small portion of my gratitude for their gifts to me.

1. Madeline L’Engle.

Shortly after it won the 1963 Newberry award, I read A Wrinkle in Time. I fell in love with Meg, the witches, and their world. Fast forward to the early 80’s. I was an aspiring writer and the mom of a three-year-old. I had the opportunity to go to a writer’s conference out-of-state. Ms. L’Engle was a presenter at that conference. I submitted one of my manuscripts for her critique.

The appointed hour came and I was sick with nervousness. Ms. L’Engle was gracious, and kind, and talked about my manuscript for thirty minutes. She told me I should expand my story into a novel. What a shining moment! I thought my heart would explode! I hope Ms. L’Engle knew how grateful I was for her encouragement.

2. Warren Norwood.

Warren Norwood is the second of the seven people who changed my writing life. I met Warren at ConQuest, our local science fiction convention. He had published at least a dozen novels and I was in awe of him. He attended a post-convention party at my home. Amidst the chaos of the party, Warren discovered my author’s copy of my first published short story.

Warren sat on my sofa, in the middle of party noises and shenanigans, and he read my seven-hundred-word children’s story. He closed the little magazine and said, “This woman can write.” He didn’t know I was sitting behind him. I don’t think he knew me at all, but his words thrilled me.

Warren became a dear friend. I would learn that he had earned a Purple Heart, among other medals, in Viet Nam, that he loved music, and that he was a generous teacher. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2005 after a long illness. I miss him.

3. Rob Chilson.

You’ve seen his name on this blog before. Rob is another author I met at the local science fiction convention. He invited me to be part of a writers’ group that met in his home. Later, he and I collaborated on a story idea. He taught me how to develop an idea into a story. He and I often joke that since I worked with him I’ve never been able to write a 700-word short story again. (It’s true!) Our novellas, The White Box and The White Hope, appeared in Analog Science Fiction Science Fact Magazine. Rob continues to be generous with his time and knowledge and hosts a writers’ group in his home. While I am not able to attend as I once did, I’m grateful that he continues to encourage and guide me.

4. My husband.

Five years after a contentious divorce, I thought I’d never get married again. Then I met my forever husband (he changed more than my writing life *grin*). My husband’s belief in my writing has far exceeded my own. Shortly after we married he insisted that I take a year off my paying job to write full-time. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the skills to be successful at that time. Fortunately, his faith in me didn’t waiver. His encouragement and belief have brought me back to myself each time life has derailed my writing career. I’d love him for many other reasons, even if he didn’t believe in the writer me, but he does. His belief and support mean the world to me.

5. Holly Lisle

I’ve never met Holly Lisle. I don’t even remember how I first heard of her. Her Writer Crash Test videos on youtube hooked me. Soon after that, I enrolled in her How to Rewrite Your Novel course. That course teaches story deconstruction. It made me a better, stronger writer.

6. Margie Lawson

I first heard of Margie Lawson on Facebook. Friends praised her awesome editing techniques. The more I read about her techniques, the more I needed to know. I bought Margie’s lecture packets (available on her website). The information in those packets strengthened my stories sentence-by-sentence.

Her Immersion Master Class was life-changing. Her encouragement, her ability to help you see your own words in a different way, is pure platinum and gold and filled with gems. It pays dividends long after the class is over.

7. William F Wu

Bill is an author, a friend, and a mentor whom I also met at my local convention. A former roommate of Rob Chilson, Bill, was a co-founder of the writers’ group held in their home. It wasn’t until after Bill moved to California that he and I entered into a true mentor-student relationship. With Bill’s guidance, I’ve finally melded all that I’ve learned into a set of skills and a new level of understanding. His comments and critiques are kind, and thoughtful, and enlightening. My debut novel, My Soul To Keep, would not be what it is without his help.

These seven people represent pivotal moments in my life for which I am eternally grateful. Thank you.

There have been many more people who have, and are, helping and encouraging me. You know who you are. I thank you with all my heart.


And so ends my gratitude posts for this month of Thanksgiving. For the seven people who changed my writing life, there is no end to my gratitude. And I need to say that these aren’t the only people who have changed my writing life. There are many, many more. You know who you are. Thank you.

I hope you found this interesting and, perhaps, inspiring. See you next time!

Gratitude image from johnhain on Pixabay