In the fall of 2002 I took a mystery writing seminar, taught by Abigail Padgett. It was my first step toward finding my own tribe, people who wrote in the same genre. Now, at that point I had an idea for a novel, nothing more. But I wanted to try. The class was a great mixture of wonderful participants and a good teacher. Abbie had three great pieces of advice for all of us.
First, keep working on your craft. Never stop trying to be a better writer.
Second, write what resonates with you. Sure romance sells, but if you have disdain for the genre, don’t try and write it. You can stretch, and you can grow, but you need to like what you are writing.
And finally, start networking now. She mentioned conferences, and specifically mentioned Malice Domestic to three of us. “You both will fit right in there. They like what you want to write.” So two of us decided to go to Malice. It was overwhelming, but being there together made it doable. While my friend was in the postage line (to send back a box of books), she started chatting with the woman in front of her. The woman was Dana Cameron, then Vice-President of Sisters in Crime New England.
When my friend and I met again, she announced that we had to join Sisters in Crime. So we both did. In 2003 we both went to the New England Crime Bake, which was the second time it was being held. I will always remember committee member Kate Flora handing out toilet paper to the lines of women, since the bathrooms had run out. Kate Flora. I’d read her Thea Kozak series, and was a fan. And she was handing me toilet paper. I had, in fact, found my people. But little did I know that path that would set me on.
Writers are typically introverts. But going to a conference, and learning how to network, is good for you. Not just because you can move ahead professionally. You also meet people who understand what you are trying to do. They offer support. And some of them become your friend.
I am honored to be the co-chair of this year’s New England Crime Bake. I look forward to seeing Lisa and Diane there (we will take a picture), and to seeing all of my Wicked Cozy Authors.
I also look forward to meeting the next me, someone moving out of her comfort zone, and going to a writer’s conference. And to welcome her to the fold.
J.A. Hennrikus writes short stories, Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery Series, which debuts in 2015.