Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sisters In Crime, Part 1

Note to readers: Every now and then I'll do posts, like this one, that may interest only mystery writers/readers. The comments will carry on, as usual, though. Thanks.

Years ago, Sharyn McCrumb, who was a mystery writer at the time, made the now-famous remark that the mystery world is like a village. "Tony Hillerman is the mayor," Sharyn quipped, much to the amused agreement of the rest of us, "Mary Higgins Clark is the rich, gracious lady in the big white house on the hill, and the rest of us live in the little shacks down on The Flats."

True dat, lol. It's a village where everybody knows everybody else, or nearly. We have our own conventions, our own awards, our own magazines, chat rooms, and blogs. And scattered throughout the Mystery Village are "lodges" where mystery writers, editors, publishers, librarians, book store owners, and our BELOVED readers can meet to laugh a lot and to get down to the business of discussing our common interests. Most of those "lodges" are strictly for professionals in the field. There's the big group, Mystery Writers of America, which is the umbrella organization for all of us. There's The Private Eye Writers of America. There's the Crime Writers League, and the new International Thriller Writers, Inc., and others.

And there's Sisters In Crime, which also includes readers as members.

Devoted to promoting "women of mystery," it was the brainchild, twenty years ago, of Sara Paretsky. I was lucky enough to be one of the founding members, and I was the second president, after Sara. Two girls from Kansas, in a row. :) Over two decades, it has grown from the original 40 members to more than 3,600 members worldwide. We're not exclusive--anybody, including men, may join. (At the beginning, there was much merriment over the idea of "male members." We settled on "brothers.") The only thing we ask is that members and chapters remember that we're dedicated to supporting the work and careers of women in the mystery field. It's not just a reader's club, or a writer's group, therefore, but is aimed at a larger goal--helping women who write mysteries, which in turn keeps those books coming for the millions of people who love to read them.

But why even start such an organization devoted to women?

Because twenty years ago there was a revolution in our mystery village. What happened next was, I think, a microcosm of the women's movement in general. I'll talk about that revolution next Thursday in Part 2.

Photo: Ex-presidents of Sisters In Crime, looking silly in our 20th Anniversary Party caps. From left: Margaret Maron, me, Carolyn G. Hart, Joanna Carl (aka Eve Sandstrom).


Family Man said...

Morning Nancy.

Sisters In Crime sounds like a great organization.

I'm getting ready to get some stuff done around here today. Hope you have a good one.

Nancy P said...

G'Thursday, visible friends and lurking friends!

I'm taking the day off to accompany a friend while she looks for a new place to live for her unemployed, mentally ill, chemo-taking brother-in-law. I figured she could use the moral support. It won't be dreary, though, have no fear. With one of us doing it, it might be sad and depressing. With two of us on the job, we'll probably get hilarious a few times. She has tons of experience with Kansas City social services, so she'll know what she's doing. I'm just along for the ride. Okay, and research.

Then I'm off to a free ballet at the art gallery tonight!

This is an amazingly Outside World kind of day for the likes of me.

How's your world, in and out?

Nancy P said...

Family man, you poked your head in and said howdy while I was off writing my own comment! I hope your stuff-doing goes well and quickly.

Kelly McCullough said...

Mornin' FM, Nancy (BTW:
that's still as strange as calling Indy, Jen)

I just wanted to note that much of this post applies to fantasy and sci-fi as well. Substitute Broad Universe for Sisters in Crime and note that WisCon is our feminist SF convention and it maps even better. WisCon is far and away my favorite of all conventions.

Nancy P said...

Kelly, I had no idea. I am SO glad for that info, thank you very much. You wouldn't happen to know one or two of the movers-and-shakers names, would you? I'd love to be able to talk to them. We're maybe in the process of evolving, and it would be good to learn from other groups.

I adore "Broad Universe." Big Grin.

Family Man said...

That's very kind of your friend and you to look for the new place.

The nearest I've ever been to the ballet is watching a documentary on Rudolf Nureyev on the education channel last night. Down on the farm the closest we came to high stepping is watching where we put our feet while walking in the cow pasture. :)

Enjoy yourself.

Family Man said...

Hi Kelly.

I know what you mean the Nancy/kansas and Jen/Indy thing. :)

katiebird said...

I've been a fan of Mystery fiction my entire life (I read my first Agatha Christie book when I was 10. For a cosy writer, she's pretty scary for a 10 year old!)

But, I was REALLY reading mysteries when The Sister's In Crime organization got going.

It was exciting just to read about it and those exciting women mystery authors during those early years of the organization.

And when Nancy would come to the library (where I worked) the whole place would hum: "Nancy's here!" And they probably still do....

Nancy P said...

Katiebird, a humming library! (blush)

Fam man and far, I'm still not entirely used to seeing "Nancy" instead of "kansas," either, lol. Ditto Jen and Indylib.

Okay, I'm off for a while. See you later, agitators.

AndiF said...

Nancy, in case Kelly doesn't get back to you for a bit, here's a link to the Broad Universe website. And here's a link to Wiscon.

Kelly McCullough said...

Andi, Thanks for linking those for me.

Nancy, I've got an email out to see if I can't track down the appropriate people for you-as with mystery it's a very small world. The last time I checked it was something like 2,000 professionals. Oh, and I missed Fem-SF on that initial list.

Jen said...

I hope you're having a productive (or, at least, entertaining) day with your friend and her important task.

Heh, it always felt weird to me that y'all called me Indy, and if I'd had any idea how strongly people were going to identify me with my netonym I'd have been more careful while choosing it. That said, I'm 98% sure that if I ever meet Nancy offline the first words out of my mouth are going to be an overly excited, "Hey, Kansas!"

Kelly McCullough said...

Nancy, I've got a couple of email contact points for you. If you drop me a note at kelly at (my full name) kellymccullough dot com I'll get you more info.

Nancy P said...

Kelly, many thanks. I'll e you.

"Hey, IndyLib!"

Maria Lima said...

Nancy - there's so much to be said for our brilliant, inclusive community.

If it weren't for SinC, I wouldn't be where I am today.

I love the photo and am once again reminded how very lucky I am to count each and every one of you as a friend.

Nanette said...

That's funny. I have a couple of Sisters in Crime um... books of short stories, that I've had for years. I *think* I have the first one - you know those people who may have piles of books everywhere but they always seem to be able to put their hands on the one they want, with no trouble? Well, yes... only half of that is me.

I know I have the fifth one though... but I didn't realize there was an entire organization behind all of it. That's really interesting, I'll look forward to hearing about the revolution that happened (and the next one!).

Nancy P said...

Hey, Maria, if we can count you among our achievements, we can rest happy. Truly. (((Maria)))

Nanette! Always lovely to see you. Those anthologies were conceived and edited by a dear friend of mine, Marilyn Wallace, who died last year. They weren't actually part of the organization, but many in Sinc contributed to them.

Kimberly Frost said...

Loved this post. Looking forward to Thursday.