“Sisters in Crime and ‘A Currency of Generosity’” (by Leslie Budewitz)

It’s been several years since Leslie Budewitz’s fiction has appeared in EQMM. In the intervening time she’s had stories published elsewhere, including in our sister magazine, AHMM, and she has two novel-length series running.  She tells EQMM that she “blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in the Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries and the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana.” Leslie has also written nonfiction in the genre; she is a practicing lawyer and her book Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure was a critical success, winning an Agatha Award in 2011. In fact, Leslie is the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. She has recently taken on yet another role in the mystery field as president of Sisters in Crime—the subject of today’s post. If, after reading her tribute to this ground-breaking organization you’d like to learn how to join, visit www.SistersinCrime.org.—Janet Hutchings

Writers new to the mystery community are often amazed at the generosity they experience, unable to explain how people who kill on the page give so much so readily to other writers, no matter their level of craft and accomplishment. Nowhere have I seen this more than in Sisters in Crime. Since becoming president of SinC in October 2015, it’s been an almost daily experience, and I think I finally know why.

This observation from Amy Wheeler, Executive Director of Hedgebrook, the amazing writing community in western Washington, nails it: “Here’s the beautiful thing about creating a currency of generosity as a community’s economy: Everybody who receives wants to give back.”

“A currency of generosity.” That’s it. That’s what Sisters in Crime has been to me since the day I first read about the organization and sent in my dues, nearly twenty years ago.

That’s the spirit that led SinC to start a new campaign this spring, We Love Short Stories. It’s a sibling to our long-running program, We Love Libraries, which every month gives a library a $1,000 grant to buy books, and our year-old baby, We Love Bookstores, which every month gives an independent bookstore a $250 grant for promotion.

Many SinC members, including me, got our first publishing credits with short mysteries. They remain a tremendous avenue for new writers to break in; for published authors, they provide an opportunity to tell stories that would not support a novel or to hold reader interest between books. Other authors simply prefer the form. They’re fun to write, and fun to read.

Starting this month, InSinC Quarterly is publishing articles on the craft of writing short stories, finding markets, promotion, and creating anthologies. We’re interviewing short story publishers and editors, starting with the best—Ellery Queen’s Janet Hutchings.

We also believe that writing well in a form requires reading it. SinC members now receive healthy discounts to Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock, Mystery Scene, and the Strand. Other publishers are stepping up to join the program. Thanks to Deborah Lacy, Debra H. Goldstein, and Art Taylor for doing the hard work.

That spirit of generosity was celebrated in May when Sisters in Crime received MWA’s Raven Award, given for “outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.” Nearly thirty years ago, our founding mothers, led by Sara Paretsky, envisioned an organization that would advocate for women crime writers. Over the years, we’ve monitored the number of reviews given books by women, and helped prompt a notable increase, reaching parity in many publications. We’ve advocated for better placement on panels and in the leadership of other organizations. We’ve worked late into the night, sharing shameless tips for self-promotion and advice on breaking and entering. Sisters—including many brothers—have worked together to form chapters, giving members support and opportunities for education and promotion. We’ve created one of the best regular publications for writers, regardless of genre, in InSinC, and a multiple-award winning anthology of inspiration and advice, Writes of Passage.

Malice 2016: The Raven Award.

MWA’s The Raven Award.

MWA 2016: Leslie Budewitz with Catriona McPherson and Sara Paretsky (L to R)

The Edgars 2016: Leslie Budewitz with Catriona McPherson and Sara Paretsky (L to R)

We have, as our mission statement says, promoted “the advancement, recognition, and professional development of women crime writers.”

Our vision is even broader: “To be the voice of excellence and diversity in crime fiction.” Many writers face additional obstacles to publication because they are writers of color, are LGBTQ, or have disabilities. The 2017 edition of our annual Publishing Summit report, to be published later this summer, will look at those obstacles, advise the mystery community on possible changes, and note the changes we’ve begun in our own house. Our annual SinC into Great Writing Workshop will focus on the craft aspects of working with the amazing diversity in our world, in setting, plot, character, and dialogue. “Writing Our Differences—Doing Diversity Right,” with keynote speaker, Walter Mosley, will be held September 14, 2016, in New Orleans, the day before Bouchercon begins.

Not all SinC members are writers. We welcome readers. I can almost guarantee that anyone who walks into a chapter meeting and identifies herself as “just a reader” will instantly be the most popular person in the room! Seriously, brothers can be Sisters, and so can readers.

It’s an old maxim that you get what you give. Never before joining SinC—and nowhere since—have I been part of a community that so made me want to contribute, as thanks for what I’ve received. And every project I’ve been involved with has given me back even more than I’ve put in.

It’s that “currency of generosity,” and it multiplies with every act of kindness to another writer, no matter how small the act, no matter who the writer is or where they are on their own writing journey.

It’s the spirit of Sisters in Crime. And we’d love to share it with you.

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10 Responses to “Sisters in Crime and ‘A Currency of Generosity’” (by Leslie Budewitz)

  1. Stands and applauds! Well said, Leslie. And I’ll say what you won’t–that you keep contributing generously, yourself!

  2. THAT generosity, I’ve experienced it! Pass it on.

  3. catrionamcpherson says:

    Beautifully put, madam president.

  4. Art Taylor says:

    Great post here! Thanks for all you do and all Sisters in Crime has done!

  5. Anne says:

    A generous member of the Chesapeake
    Chapter of SinC leaned across the table
    at a luncheon meeting and inquired, “What do you write, dear?” I replied,
    “Overdue slips” and explained that I ran
    the school library and enjoyed reading
    traditional mysteries. Unfortunately, the
    20-25 years since it happened have drawn a veil over both her face and
    name, but I remember her kindness.

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