Monday, October 18, 2010

On Grace

JAN: While Rhys and Hank were on their way to Bouchercon (Hank collecting yet another award, this time the Macavity for her short story "On the House"), I was at the Bloomberg Tower in New York at a reading for the anthology: I'm Going to College Not You by Jennifer Delahunty.

When I learned that I was one of TEN contributors who would read that night, I was worried. Several of the friends I invited didn't have children and I figured they'd fall asleep listening to excerpts from TEN essays about the parental insanity that ensues when sending kids off to college. I imagined an ENDLESS night -- the kind that keeps you eyeing the door -- because no matter how much you tell people to keep it short, it's human nature is to keep going on and on.

Boy was I wrong.

The reading lasted exactly one hour. Every single author was brief, funny and gracious. But perhaps the most gracious of all was Jane Hamilton. For those of you who don't know her, she's one of Oprah's favorite authors, a winner of numerous awards (like Hank) and she wrote -- among other New York Times bestsellers, Map of the World, The Book of Ruth, my favorite, The Short History of a Prince and the more recent Laura Rider's Masterpiece. Frankly, I was star struck. When it was her turn to read her essay, she got up, made a few self deprecating remarks, praised Jennifer Delahunty and her other friends from Carelton -- where they all went to college together, and sat down.

It was clearly done to support the author, while giving up her time to other essayists -- so the program would move swiftly. It was ego-less and classy. It was one of the most thought-provoking acts in a night that provoked a lot of thoughts.

So I'm wondering, guys, what's the most gracious act you've witnessed recently?? What bit of human nature has reminded you that humans can be pretty cool, after all?

HALLIE: I know this sounds weird, but to me the most generous thing an established author can do is read a newly published author’s book. I still remember the first time I met Lee Child was at a conference, who knows where, and he bought my book (!) which at the time I thought was completely amazing. I was bowled over when he emailed to say he’d actually read it (icing on the cake: he enjoyed it). Lee does this over and over for new authors, giving them a leg up, and it really is an incredibly gracious and generous gift.

JAN: I don't think that sounds weird at all. I think that's pretty amazing.

ROBERTA: That's pretty exciting Jan--I would have been starstruck too! I think there's a lot of graciousness in the mystery writing business. I've been struck with how it permeates Sisters in Crime. Maybe it's the way the organization was set up--to promote women crime writers, not any individual writer, but writers and unpublished writers as a group. those founding members had an amazing idea and it's carried through over the years. More experienced writers really do have a sense of duty about passing on the support they received when they were new.

RHYS: I'm just back from sensory overload of four days of convention, but I witnessed gracious acts all the time--established writers listening patiently as new writers talked about their first books, or when fans stumbled shyly through words of praise. I think we are an especially caring community. And of course Hank was gracious and modest as ever when she accepted her Anthony award for best short story (yes, her third award for this story!)

JAN: Welcome back Rhys. Anyone else have any stories of grace?? Come back tomorrow for True Crime Tuesday -- a scenario that could find its way into anyone of our thrillers!


  1. Writers are the best, even non-fiction writers. In 1993, when I was writing my first book (non-fiction), an acquaintance, who later became a dear friend, took it upon herself to introduce me to several different editors in her field. This woman at the time had nearly a dozen titles to her credit, and she really did not know whether my book was any good or not, she just knew my writing from corresponding online.

    To make a long story short, none of the editors could figure out where to put my book, which was very different from the others in that genre, so I finally decided to self-publish. My mentor gave me her blessing, and asked if she could buy the first book out of the box. That still makes me want to weep.

    I hand sold about 2/3 of the more than 10,000 copies that have sold, and it's still being bought, and mostly at the same original price, #19.95.

    Kudos to Hank, who totally deserved the award for On the House.

  2. What a lovely story, Karen - Well, you have to tell us the title of the book and your name...

    And can you believe it, Hank won THREE times for her story! Agatha, Macavity, Anthony - sounds like a Trifecta. How lovely!

  3. I know! It's so amazing for Hank. And on her birthday weekend, too.

    The name of the book is Sew Up a Storm: All the Way to the Bank!, and is a collection of case histories of 100 owners of sewing businesses. I did 130 interviews for the book, which took about 300+ hours of phone time.

    The very best part about this story is that once SUAS was published and selling like mad, Betterway Books asked me to write a related title for them, How to Start Making Money with Your Sewing, for a series they had on selling crafts. Sales eventually petered out (they did nothing to promote it), so rights reverted to me, and I reissued it in .pdf format, maybe 8 years ago or so. Since then I've sold as many in electronic format as the publisher sold in hard copy, and it, too, is still selling.

    Karen Maslowski

  4. Congratulations, Karen! I love that story. All of the Jungle Red blog sisters can vouch for the power of self promotion - though it can be exhausting.

  5. Karen,
    That is just a terrific story. Thanks for sharing it here!


  6. Every blurb I've ever gotten. Just so nice of another writer to agree to do this. . .

  7. As a yet unpublished who is new to the blogging scene, I've been blown away by the support all the writers I follow offer each other, published and unpublished. Several published authors have reached out to me with advice and support, including following and commenting on my own fledgling blog. It's fantastic to see.

  8. Welcome Linda,
    It's great to hear about the support you've been getting.

    Hey Rose,
    I agree, there's nothing worse than having to ask for a blurb -- and nothing nicer than when someone agrees!!

  9. What wonderful stories!
    I just returned from BoucherCon and was again blown away by the generosity and kindness of fellow writers. It seems that no matter how accomplished an author gets, they never forget how it feels to be a debut author. My first novel comes out next May and I am on a steep learning curve. I received so much advice and words of encouragement I could nearly have flown home without a plane.

    Not to mention how inspiring Hank is. Hank - I am not only in awe of your growing multitude of awards but your incredible poise and graciousness!