LUCY BURDETTE: When the Malice Domestic Agatha nominations came out this year, a lot of folks noticed how many of the nominees had risen out of the Guppies organization--the Great Unpublished arm of Sisters in Crime. And we were reminded about the original steering committee for the Guppies--if you read the history on the Guppy website, you'll notice some very familiar names.
This is a story of serious persistence and how newcomers learned from each other. I thought you'd like to hear some memories from Krista Davis, who served as the first president of the steering committee. (And by the way, she's now the New York Times bestselling author of two mystery series!)
KRISTA DAVIS: I cannot tell you how very proud I am of the Guppies. We faced some
challenges in the beginning, but we worked together to overcome them. I
still remember people saying the Guppies were "the blind leading the
blind." If none of us had ever been published, how could we possibly
help each other?
Back in those days, we had an occasional live Guppy Chat. One day, I was
in the chat room we used, testing it with another woman when someone
named Kinsey logged in. OMG! Kinsey! The two of us did some frantic
messaging. Could it be Sue Grafton? Would she call herself Kinsey? Why
would she be there?
It could be anyone. It could be some old man having a
laugh. Suddenly, the other woman excused herself, saying she would be
right back. Ack! I was alone in the chat room with someone who might, or
might not, be Sue Grafton! Kinsey was very nice and asked me what I was
reading. I decided I might as well take a chance and ask her advice.
Maybe it wasn't Sue, but what did I have to lose? It wasn't as though I
would ever have another chance to talk with Sue Grafton.
So I told her about the Guppies and asked what advice she might have for
us. Her response was very simple. "Hone your craft." She said that she
saw too many people trying to write mysteries without understanding
them. That we needed to work at improving our manuscripts and learn
about the craft of mystery writing.
The next day we received confirmation from Sue's assistant that Kinsey
was indeed Sue Grafton, and she thought it was a hoot that we didn't
think it could be her. (She had logged on because she needed to contact
the other woman and was told to go there.)
Over the years, I think the Guppies have done exactly what Sue
suggested. We swapped manuscripts and started critique groups (and let
me tell you, I learned a ton from that!). We took classes and shared
helpful information. We learned about agents and queries and the crazy
publishing business. When we started, one of the most commonly asked
questions was what font to use!
Two years ago, Sue Grafton was an honoree at Malice. She happened to see
me in the hallway of the hotel and struck up a conversation. I told her
about asking her advice in the chat room. She was aghast. "Oh no! What
did I say?" I was happy to assure her that she gave us great advice.
I cannot believe that 14 years have passed. It's been quite a ride, full
of ups and downs. But when I look at the list of nominees for the
Agatha, I realize just how far we have come. Apparently, the blind can
lead the blind pretty well! If you're not published yet, don't despair.
The difference between a writer and an author really is perseverance.
The Guppies are living proof of that.