Showing posts with label Sara Paretsky. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sara Paretsky. Show all posts

19 February 2018

Why Sara Writes

Sara Paretsky
Sara Paretsky
© Steven Gross
Introducing Sara Paretsky
In 1986, I read the first V I Warshawski private eye book, Indemnity Only. I also was writing a female P.I. novel when I learned women mystery writers at Bouchercon were meeting and forming a group called Sisters In Crime. One major objective of SinC was to raise publishing and public awareness of women mystery writers. This organization was the brainchild of V I Warshawski’s author, Sara Paretsky.

In 1988, I attended my first Edgars and Bouchercon. I quickly learned Sara was passionate about women writers getting a fair shake.

In 1990, my husband and I opened a mystery bookstore in Austin. Three years later, we hosted a mystery convention, Southwest Mystery Con. A small group of Austin mystery women formed a chapter we named Heart of Texas Sisters in Crime. Through that, Sara and I became friends. I’m proud our H•O•T chapter of SinC still meets monthly. I’m proud that Sara still fights for women mystery writers. And I’m honored to introduce Sara as today’s guest writer.

Sara Paretsky and her acclaimed P I, V I Warshawski, transformed the role of women in contemporary crime fiction, beginning with the publication of her first novel, Indemnity Only, in 1982. Sisters-in-Crime, the advocacy organization she founded in 1986, has helped a new generation of crime writers and fighters to thrive.

Among other awards, Paretsky holds the Cartier Diamond Dagger, MWA's Grand Master, and Ms. Magazine's Woman of the Year. Her PhD dissertation on 19th-Century US Intellectual History was recently published by the University of Chicago Press. Her most recent novel is Fallout, Harper-Collins 2017. Visit her at SaraParetsky.com

— Jan Grape

Why I Write
by Sara Paretsky

    Years ago, when I was in my twenties, I heard an interview with the composer Aaron Copland. The interviewer asked why it had been over a decade since Copland's last completed composition. I thought the question was insensitive but Copland's answer frightened me: "Songs stopped coming to me," he said.

I wasn't a published writer at the time, but I was a lifelong writer of stories and poems. These were a private exploration of an interior landscape. My earliest memories include the stories that came to me when I was a small child. The thought that these might stop ("as if someone turned off a faucet," Copland also said) seems as terrifying to me today as it did all fifty years back.

I write because stories come to me. I love language, I love playing with words and rewriting and reworking, trying to polish, trying to explore new narrative strategies, but I write stories, not words. Many times the stories I tell in my head aren't things I ever actually put onto a page. Instead, I'm rehearsing dramas that help me understand myself, why I act the way I do, whether it's even possible for me to do things differently. Where some people turn to abstract philosophy or religion to answer such questions, for me it's narrative, it's fiction, that helps sort out moral or personal issues.

At night, I often tell myself a bedtime story- not a good activity for a chronic insomniac, by the way: the emotions become too intense for rest. When I was a child and an adolescent, the bedtime stories were versions of my wishes. They usually depicted safe and magical places. I was never a hero in my adventures; I was someone escaping into safety.

As a young adult, I imagined myself as a published writer. For many years, the story I told myself was of becoming a writer. Over a period of eight years, that imagined scenario slowly made me strong enough to try to write for publication. After V I Warshawski came into my life, my private narratives changed again. I don't lie in bed thinking about V I; I'm imagining other kinds of drama, but these often form the subtext of the V I narratives.

I'm always running three or four storylines: the private ones, and the ones I'm trying to turn into novels. I need both kinds going side by side to keep me writing.

Paretsky – Fallout
Storylines are suggested by many things- people I meet, books I'm reading, news stories I'm following- but the stories themselves come from a place whose location I don't really know. I imagine it as an aquifer, some inky underground reservoir that feeds writers and painters and musicians and anyone else doing creative work. It's a lake so deep that no one who drinks from it, not even Shakespeare, not Mozart or Archimedes, ever gets to the bottom.

There have been times when, in Copland's phrase, the faucet's been turned off; my entry to the aquifer has been shut down. No stories arrive and I panic, wondering if this is it, the last story I'll ever get, as Copland found himself with the last song. If that ever happens permanently, I don't know what I'll do.

So far, each time, the spigot has miraculously been turned on again; the stories come back, I start writing once more. Each time it happens, though, I return to work with an awareness that I've been given a gift that can vanish like a lake in a drought.

25 August 2013

The Dissidents

by Louis A. Willis

From the introduction: Certainly one of the aspects that made putting this collection together so cool for us as editors and contributors was our respective  backgrounds in activism and community organizing. The lessons we took away from those experiences were not only about the need for a incisive power analysis and being aware that goals and objectives have to be constantly readjusted, but just how indomitable are the spirits of everyday working people, be they dealing with faceless slumlords, police abuse, rights on the shop floor or simply banding together to get a stop light erected at a street corner for their kids.

I’m reading my way through the many anthologies on my bookshelves, but not in any systematic way. I usually pick an anthology based on catchiness of the title. With Send My Love And A Molotov Cocktail: Stories of Crime, Love and Rebellion, I thought about how the versatile crime and mystery genre is often used to tackle social issues. These days I read fiction for pure enjoyment not profound insights on the human condition. So, as I began reading, I had to keep an open mind and not judge the stories based on the authors’ opinions toward the social issues. I chose three stories for this post based not on the issues but on the authors. 

I chose “Bizco’s Memories” by Paco Ignacio Taibo II because I need to read more stories by foreign authors, especially those south of the border. “Bizco’s Memories” is a  framed story about how political prisoners are treated more harshly than common prisoners in Mexico. As I read, I thought about the SleuthSayer posts on narrative voice. In framed stories there are, of course, two voices. In this one, the inside voice, Bizco, an unreliable narrator, tells a story to the outside voice of how the political prisoners exacted revenge on the common prisoners who had been harassing them. Bizco doesn’t end the story but merely stops talking. I sensed another voice or style, that of the translator and editor, Andrea Gibbons.

I chose “Poster Child” to see how social novelist (as I like to refer to her) Sara Paretsky handles the abortion issue in a short story. Antiabortion activist Arnold Culver is found dead on a park bench with antiabortion fliers stuffed in his mouth. Dr. Nina Adari is the prime suspect because she was seen arguing with the dead man earlier and because he had attacked her clinic several times. Rookie detective Liz Marchek and her partner, veteran Oliver Billings, are assigned to the case. When a picture of Liz entering the abortion clinic shows up in a batch of photographs Culver took, she is ordered off the case. Ignoring the order, she pursues and solves the case. My initial reaction to story: didn’t like it because Culver comes close to being an issue instead of a believable character. However, after thinking about it for a couple of hours, I decided Paretsky avoids preaching in her own voice about the rightness or wrongness of abortion but is, nevertheless, on the side of choice. To describe how she makes her point and avoids preaching would be a spoiler.

I chose Penny Mickelbury’s “Murder...Then and Now” to get a sense of what she is about before reading her novels, which I have on my shelf among the African American writers of crime and mystery fiction. In a town in the northeast, the KKK plans to march down the main street and burn an effigy of Black Power. To express their anger, five Black students from the unnamed university plan to throw Molotov cocktails on the roof of the police station where the KKK meet. In the “Then” section, before the students can carry out their plan, two of the them are murdered and a third is charged. In the “Now” section, forty years later, a fourth student is murdered. To describe the motive and method of the murders would be a spoiler. A good story that makes its point without hitting you over the head: beware of betrayal.

I commend the authors for avoiding forcing their characters to spout their creators’ opinions on the issues.