Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I'm thrilled to be a part of it.

By R.J. Harlick

Why do you thinking the crime writing community is so mutually supportive? Other groups of writers aren’t always like this.

It is a very supportive community, isn’t it? Not only the writers, but the fans too. And I’m thrilled and honoured to be a part of it.

Before I’d even published my first mystery, I was invited to become a part of this thriving community through the joining of Capital Crime Writers, a local Ottawa crime writing association. It had been started by a group of aspiring writers known locally as the Ladies Killing Circle, as a way to mutually help each other along the path to publication. To aid members with their research, experts in the various fields related to crime solving were invited to speak at monthly meetings. I was asked  to join one of several critiquing groups within the association, which proved a lifesaver in helping me improve my manuscript sufficiently to catch the eye of a publisher.  

I even found my publisher through this association. A couple of members had finally achieved that seemingly impossible goal of publication.  At one of the launches I found myself talking to the publisher and decided now was as good a time as any to mention my manuscript and the rest is history.  These two authors by the way are Mary Jane Maffini and Barbara Fradkin, who both have gone on to become highly acclaimed and well-established mystery writers.

This mutual support has continued. Since those early days, Ottawa has become a hotbed of crime writing with a good dozen well regarded published crime writers, including Rick Mofina, Brenda Chapman and CB Forrest. We attend each others launches, buy each others books and generally hang out together exchanging writing stories and publisher woes.

But as we well know the crime writing community is much broader than the local communities. It includes the nationally based crime writing associations, CWC in Canada, MWA in the U.S. and CWA in Britain.  And I mustn’t forget the mystery conferences, which I love going to, particularly those that take place in exciting locations like Hawaii, Santa Fe and the like.

I’m not sure I can come up with any reasons for this mutual support amongst mystery authors. Perhaps we get rid of all our antipathy and jealousies by killing each other off in our books, so that we can afford to be nice to each other. Or it could be that crime writers are naturally nice and caring people….yeah right. 

I suspect though it is in part because we have all gone down the long, hard road to publication, so are quite ready to help other writers along this path. Though this could apply to any writer, I think we stay within our own community because we speak the same language, have the same writing issues and are dealing with the same pool of publishers. 

Writing, as we all know too well, is a lonely business.  We spend much of our time by ourselves plunking away at our computers, lost in the world of our characters.  When we finally come up for air to seek other company we naturally gravitate towards our own kind, other crime writers. And since we are immersed in the nefarious world of murder and all its gory trappings, maybe we just want to do something positive like helping each other.

Since I have little experience with writers from other genres, I am not sure if this mutual support is only a crime writer thing.  But I recently attended a writers’ conference in Calgary, When Words Collide, that was multi-genre. I noticed the same degree of camaraderie amongst the sci-fi writers, the fantasy writers and the romance writers. So perhaps it isn’t unique to the crime writing community.


Catriona McPherson said...

Never forgetting Sisters in Crime (Misters welcome) . . .

Meredith Cole said...

SinC and MWA are both wonderful--and are where I met all my friends and mentors when I was starting out. I haven't been to any romance or sci-fi conventions--but I hope folks in other genres are equally supportive. Writers definitely need community!

RJ Harlick said...

Thanks, Catriona, for reminding me about Sisters in Crime. Sadly it does not have as big a presence in Canada as it does in the U.S.

Susan C Shea said...

Sounds as though Catriona will have to visit Ottowa this year! (She is the new national prez.)

RJ Harlick said...

How wonderful! Congratulations Catriona. Does that mean you will become prez of SINC?