Sunday, July 19, 2020

Celebrating Acts of Kindness - Brenda Chapman

Writing is a lonely pursuit but the community is strong and supportive. There are many unsung acts of kindness and generosity going on behind the scenes. Tell us who has mentored you in your writing career or gone above and beyond to help you get a leg up in the business.

The one constant in my writing career has been the support given to me by so many people in the industry. While I only have time and space to acknowledge a few, I'm appreciative to each and every person I've encountered along the way. I learned early on that writers and those who work in the book business are some of the most interesting, kind and generous people anywhere, often giving freely of their time to help further the career of another. It's very easy to make friends in this business and I consider myself fortunate to have made so many along the way.

Publishers: The first publisher out of Toronto to accept my middle grade mystery manuscript Running Scared was  Sylvia McConnell. Along with editor Allister Thompson, they guided me through the process to take that manuscript to publication and went on to accept three more books in the series and my first adult standalone mystery In Winter's Grip. As a team, they were kind, encouraging and available. I will always be in their debt for taking on an unpublished writer and believing in my work, allowing me space to develop and grow.

I also am most fortunate that Pat Campbell, publisher of Grass Roots Press in Edmonton, hired me to write an adult literacy series of mysteries, which became the Anna Sweet mysteries. Pat was just a delight to work for, and while we never met in person, I feel as if she became a good friend. She was always positive as was the editor Pam Robertson, who put such care into every book that I never found one typo or error in the eight-novella series!

Authors: I don't have enough space to thank all of the authors I've met over the years who have been so supportive and generous with their time and knowledge about the industry. As I wrote in my last blog post, we have a strong crime-writing community in Ottawa and I've had so much fun  travelling around the country and participating in various events with Linda Wiken, Barbara Fradkin, Robin Harlick, and Vicki Delany. Three Ottawa authors, however, have been my go-to mentors when I have questions about writing and the business: Rick Mofina, Alex Brett and Mary Jane Maffini. 

Rick Mofina and I worked together for a few years at Health Canada, even having our cubicles right next to each other. Rick is a thriller writer with a huge international following and had a great deal more experience in the industry than I. We'd occasionally take our breaks together and have what we called 'book chat' when Rick would share tips and advice. While we don't work together any longer, when we meet up at conferences, Rick always takes a few hours to meet over a drink when we carry on the book chat. He also recently read and wrote a recommendation for Bleeding Darkness, a lovely kindness since I know he's incredibly busy with his own work.

Alex Brett, my second mentor, also has generously shared her knowledge and experience in the business, but in addition, she's read early version of a couple of my manuscripts and given insightful and honest feedback that I've found invaluable. We get together over a glass of wine now and then to talk books and I always come away eager to continue writing.

Mary Jane Maffini has always been there to answer my questions and to include me in publicity opportunities. Most memorable was a road trip the two of us took to Muncie, Indiana to the Murder in Muncie conference. Mary Jane has a large U.S. following of cozy readers and I learned so much watching her in action on panels and in front of an audience. Not to mention, she has the best sense of humour, probably on the planet.

Sylvia McConnell and Mary Jane Maffini

A few other authors have also been generous with their time, advice and support over the years - Louise Penny, Gail Bowen, Jim Napier, Frank Zapiro, Anne Hillerman, Ann Cleeves, Barbara Fradkin - each has enriched my writing career with their friendship and early readings of my latest book.

Agent: Since I already had publishing contracts, I haven't had a great deal of interaction with agents. However, I thank Ann Cleeves for introducing me to her U.S. agent Moses Cardona, who took time out of one conference to meet and give some invaluable advice. He has since given me detailed feedback about a manuscript even though we do not have a professional relationship. I'm incredibly thankful to Moses for his generosity.

Book Store Owner: Jim Sherman of Perfect Books in Ottawa has been such a wonderful support since he agreed to handle one of my book launches. He's introduced my work to the director of the Ottawa International Writers Festival, which led to three appearances. His staff hand-sell my books (thank you Cortez and Michael) and I'm always energized after visiting the store.

Friends: While not in the industry, I'd be remiss in not acknowledging Katherine Hobbs and Darlene Cole. We all joined Capital Crime Writers, the local crime-writing organization, at the same time and this was the first time we met. Neither is a writer but they both love crime fiction. They became my support team, travelling with me to all my events even in the most obscure locations, and constantly giving unconditional encouragement. Katherine went with me to my first Bouchercon in Baltimore and both travelled with me to the Bloody Words conference in Victoria. British Columbia. I can't tell you how much it meant having them along and how much more enjoyable every event has been because of them.

In Victoria with Darlene Cole and Katherine Hobbs - 2010

Yup this writing community is one of the best parts about being an author. If happiness is the journey, then I'm lucky to be on this path with so many terrific people.


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Catriona McPherson said...

I love this topic and this post. It warms my heart to know. Cx

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Catriona - so nice to remember and thank everyone who's helped along the way :-)