Friday, September 16, 2011

Sisters in Crime: Celebrating 25 Years!

LUCY BURDETTE: I like to imagine being in the room about twenty-five years ago when nine or ten feisty women crime fiction writers got together to talk about their careers. They realized that men were drawing the majority of book reviews and that women's books weren't getting nominated for awards at the same rate men's were. And smart women, they knew that letting readers know about a book is a necessary prerequisite to selling. And so the concept of Sisters in Crime was born. (Here's a wonderful history about those early days and years.)
Today the organization has grown to 4000 plus members with chapters in most states and a smattering of other countries.

But when I was starting out writing my first mystery (as Roberta Isleib), I knew none of this. Only after I landed a contract and got published did I meet my first "sister"--Hallie Ephron. "You should join this organization," she said. "It will be good for your career." She said the same thing when I was nominated as vice-president and then president of the New England chapter, and then went on to serve on the National board and as its 21st president.

And she was right. I've learned more than I could ever describe about the nuts and bolts of writing and the publishing world from SinC. But best of all, I've made lifelong friends who support each other through the peaks and the troughs of this crazy writing life. So thanks to that first gathering of brave and thoughtful women. And here's to twenty-five more years of Sisters in Crime!

I know my other JRW sisters are members too. What are your thoughts or memories about SinC?
ROSEMARY HARRIS: glad you asked! I remember going to one of my first SINC meetings at the home of someone named Jan Brogan and the speaker didn't show up so Jan and someone named Hank Phillippi Ryan and I just took over and created a program. (I had never met either of them before but if I'm not mistaken, we were brilliant.)

I've met so many great people..too many to count. And of course there is the famous generosity of spirit SINC members share. I was honored to be asked to be president of New England SINC a few years back following in some great footsteps - including yours Lucy!

LUCY: And you did a great job, Ro! The amazing thing about the New England Sisters is the president also co-chairs the New England Crimebake conference. It's a miracle any of us stagger out of that alive. But we have so much fun!

HALLIE EPHRON: I remember that meeting, Ro. You were definitely brilliant.

I think the first "sister" I meet was Kate Flora. She's a founder of the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime and became one of SinC national's presidents. The thing I appreciate so much about the organization is the focus on promoting the work of women mystery writers (as opposed to promoting MY new book). I remember so many writers coming to meetings before they were published and staying for the long haul. Like the current chapter president and VP, Sheila Connolly and Barbara Ross.

RHYS BOWEN: I remember going to my first SinC meeting when my first mystery novel was about to be published and feeling overawed because I was in the presence of big name SinC founders Linda Grant, Sue Dunlap etc. But being made to feel instantly welcome and that I'd arrived in the right place. I've felt that way ever since.

If you're members, we'd love to hear about your experience in SinC! And here's to 25 more years! (Photos include Carolyn Hart, Joanna Carl, Margaret Maron, Mary Saums, Jim Huang, Cathy Pickens, Kathy Wall, Beth Wasson, Nancy Martin, Charlaine Harris, and an early iteration of the JRW gang--all taken at SinC events.)


  1. Looks like I'm the first to jump in here. Sisters in Crime has made all the difference to my budding writing career. I was writing mystery and had had one crime short story published before I joined, but I really didn't know squat about the industry. SINC National, the Guppies, the AgentQuest and PressQuest subgroups, and above all the New England chapter have changed my life. Really.

    I'm on the board of the NE chapter, and am on the Crime Bake committee this year (while holding down a day job and trying to finish writing my second mystery). I'm in awe of how these smart, productive, creative people still find time to volunteer and work with each other to teach and foster writers who are still coming up in the field.

    Many thanks to all of you here, and all my other Sisters out there.

    Edith Maxwell

  2. Sorry, I missed out on this. The very first sisters I knew were Barbara Shapiro and Kate Flora who started the local chapter here in Boston, but I do remember the Boston Globe writing a very favorable feature on the group even before that.

    The thing that stuck with me from the article was that I loved the name - and thought, what a cool idea.

    I think the best thing about SINC is the way it encourages new writers.

    Happy birthday SINC

  3. Edith, so glad to have you in the organization! It is chockablock with energetic and talented role models, isn't it?

    I remember Kate Flora getting a huge bouquet of flowers at Malice Domestic in honor of her work for SinC. I thought: "I'd like to be there one day!"

  4. I joined Sisters in Crime in 2010 and I love the Guppies group. My critique group did wonders for my story.

  5. I joined SinC and promptly joined the Guppies chapter. I think the first "sister" I met was Kate Flora during her presidential year in the hotel elevator at the first Crime Bake I attended, back when we all trekked up to Lowell, MA.

    Sisters in Crime has offered me encouragement, research support, career advice and - best of all - wonderful friends who don't think it's weird to shoot guns and ask pathologists questions. (Well, maybe not at the same time. :) )

  6. I was lucky enough to take a class taught by Barbara Shapiro in the early nineties. When I told her I was writing a mystery, she told me I had to join Sisters in Crime. I'm so happy that I took her advise. I've made so many wonderful friends and learned so much from Sisters and Brothers.

    I can't wait to see everyone on the 24th.

  7. Ruth, one of my favorite memories of SinC was the year we made the calendar. So much work but so much fun!

    And Rhonda, you are a great addition to SinC--always passing on useful links and tidbits and info about classes. That's the spirit!

  8. Roberta, it's one of my favorites too!

  9. I joined SinC last year after meeting a crew of wonderful women at Bouchercon. They were so nice when I sat down with them, welcoming me. (My first Bouchercon -- didn't know anyone.) I've enjoyed the meetings here in Portland.