Showing posts with label Sisters-In-Crime. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sisters-In-Crime. Show all posts

13 June 2016

Pardon Me Boys

by Jan Grape

Okay. Don't any of you guys get upset with me, but WOO-HOO. We finally have a woman candidate running for President of these United States for the Democratic Party. Yes, I'm with her: Hillary Rodham Clinton. I'm not going to politic here except to say, It's about danged time. So forgive me Bernie Sanders supporters and that other guy that's running on the GOP ticket. Woo-Hoo it's about danged time.

Around thirty years ago there were a little group of women mystery writers, led by Best Selling author, Sara Paretsky who formed a group known as Sisters-in-Crime. Women were being portrayed in violent and sadistic ways in a number of men's books. Women were getting the short end of the stick on money, reviews, accolades, awards and the goal was to try to change that. It went over fairly well. I remember one woman writer I knew from Houston who said, Mystery writers both male and female get shafted as far as reviews and money goes. In a way she was right. But reviewers mainly  by-passed mystery novels written by women. And not just because there were the traditional or cozy, not because there were Romantic Suspense. Women mystery writers were just ignored for the most part. it was as if no one thought a woman could write a mystery/suspense/thriller as good as a man. Or that women's mystery novels were as important as a man's.

Taking an approach that monitored book reviews. Most newspapers were quick to push reviews that were more fair to women. You sort of got the idea, that it had never occurred to them. Maybe that's how many things in our patriarcial society got so heavily slanted to the male of the species. Yeah, right. We just never thought women might have a need to borrow money to buy a house or start a business or buy a car or just needed a personal loan. The world began to change during World War II.
Women went to work in jobs that traditionally were given to men. But the men were overseas fighting. As soon as the war was over and the men came home, women were laid off. Many women were not happy about it.

Women had been enjoying their new-found freedom of making enough money to support themselves and their children. Many of these women were now widowed. Or their husbands came home with injuries both physical and mental. Divorces happened. Women needed to go back to work. However they discovered a large disparity in wages. No matter how hard they tried to make things more equal in pay, nothing much was happening. Guess what? That's still how it is. Women still are fighting for equal pay for equal work. It was hugely noticeable in writers. Even though Sisters-in-Crime has made progress, it still is a man's world in publishing. Mainly because women do not have the power positions in publishing houses.

Just to mention one other tidbit. Many male mystery writers have joined Sisters-in-Crime because unless you last name is King, or Connelley or Child (not to take anything away from those guys) you're not being offered as much money as you deserve. Our Brothers-in-Crime found we were not about replacing men mystery authors and we had some good marketing ideas.  Besides Sisters have done pretty well. I don't know the membership numbers but it's in the thousands. There are local chapters all over the US and there are even many International Chapters. It's been good, but we're not finished by a long hot. This is our thirtieth year Anniversary.

Two final notes before I close. Just recently we've all seen how even some lawyers and judges feel about women and rape. As a woman, I'm sickened by the non-sentence the Stanford Swimmer, Brock Turner received by the Stanford Alum Judge for sexual assault and rape. I worry about my daughter,, granddaughters, nieces, great nieces and great grandnieces. My cousins, any female of any age in my family. Rape isn't about the twenty minutes of action that young man got. Rape isn't about sex. It's about POWER. Male dominance over female. We must fight against the rape culture of this country.

After what happened in that Orlando club last night, we must continue fighting against hate in whatever shape or form it takes. We must ban these assault weapons. I don't want to take away anyone's guns but those high magazine weapons are only made for wars and for the military to carry. Not the person trying to protect his home and family or the person who wants to hunt. The Congress of these United States need to get untangled from the Gun Manufacturers who pour money into the politicians pockets and do what is right for us.

Pardon me boys. I love you, but  WHOO-HOO. It's about danged time we have a strong female candidate for President.

13 April 2015

Helping Hands

Jan Grape by Jan Grape

Mentor - my google dictionary says :

noun
  1. a wise and trusted counselor or teacher
  2. an influential senior sponsor or supporter

As much as I'd like to say that first definition is me, I really fit the second definition better. At least once a month or so, when someone finds out that I'm a published author I hear these words.

  • "I've written a five hundred page memoir and now I need to know what to do."
  • "I'm working on a children's book. Everyone in my family think it's great. Do you think you could take a look at it and tell me what you think."
  • "I have a great idea for a thriller. If you write it we could split the money."
  • "I'm working on a mystery and would you like to look at it and let me know if it can be published.

I always try very hard to be nice to questioners… they are potential book buyers after all. So for the questioners asking about the memoir and children's books. I compliment them on their work so far.

I explain that I honestly know nothing about writing memoirs or children's books. I tell them about the Writers League of Texas, which is located in Austin. Tell them it's an International Organization and they have great information so just go to their website and see what you can find that will help you.

The person who wants you to write the book and split the money. Explain that you have a folder full of ideas and your writing schedule is currently full. Then laugh and say that writing the book is 99.5 percent of the work so that's likely what the split would be. Also tell them this is their story and they should be the one to write it. I again refer them to Writers League. Also tell them that there is an International Thrillers organization and think it would be worth it to check with that group.

To the mystery writer I try to encourage them to check into Mystery Writers of America. That they have wonderful information that can help all along the way. Again, I refer them to Writers League of Texas or Sisters-in-Crime.

If I can determine from their conversation they are serious, I might suggest they go to their library and look up books on writing a novel or writing children's or mystery/thrillers. That there is so much information available in books, e-books, or online. If they live anywhere a community college is located to check and see if there is a writing program offered.

Then there is the person you know and like and actually might want to help. This is the time when I want to "pay it forward." I had so much personal free help when I was starting out. I often felt guilty because I could never repay them.

One day I was having a conversation with my good friend, Jerimiah Healy (now deceased) and we were talking about all the help we had received along this journey to publication. And I made the statement that I could never repay these mentors.

Jerry told me about having this same conversation with none other than Mary Higgins Clark after his first book was published. Mary said you pay it forward. Jerry told me to do the same. I had already been doing that because I had learned many years ago when you find you're having some success in any field that you will be happier when you reach back and help someone climbing the ladder behind you. That was priceless advice and I've tried to keep it in mind.

I doubt that I am influential helper or mentor, but I am senior and I am a supporter of anyone who is writing, especially if they are writing mysteries.

05 May 2014

Random Thoughts On Writing


Jan Grape
RANDOM THOUGHTS ON WRITING

by Jan Grape


Random thoughts running thru my head today. Both are good subjects, I hope. The first is, do you let an idea jell or percolate in your head before you start writing? I try to do that but have certainly been guilty of not letting the idea jell long enough. And to be honest, you can also take too long to let an idea come out of your head and onto the computer screen or on to the paper.

I don't think there's a specific amount of time that one should use. No right or wrong way here. Sometimes a story demands that you sit yourself down and write while the idea is fresh on your mind or when the muse says, do it, just do it now.

It's always possible you'll have an idea, maybe make some notes so you won't forget it. Then you set it aside. Perhaps you might need to do some research on the subject. On the location or on the character's life or on some part of the idea. Somewhere your creative muse says, whoa, slow down here, we need to get this right. Or maybe you've written about half-way through and you're not exactly sure where to go. Place it on the back burner and let it percolate. Most likely it will come spilling out when you least expect it, but it will solve your problem.

Most writers I know, write both novels and short stories, but I once was editing an anthology and asked an Edgar winner if he would write a short story to be included.  He declined by saying, sorry I only have one idea a year and I need to use that for my next novel. It was a strange response but perhaps it's true.  I don't recall seeing many if any short stories from him through the years, but he does write terrific novels.

Personally I seem to do better when I have a deadline so I don't let my story or idea simmer too long. And I have on occasion had a story come pouring out and finishing a decent short story in a day.  I do try to set it aside then and jell at least a day or two then reread before I edit.  If I have the time, I think I'm mentioned before that I like to let a story sit for three or four days before I start on editing or rewriting. But each writer does things differently and each story or book demands different actions.
I do think it's a good thing to be easy going and do whatever works for you in the long run.

****

My other random thoughts are about mentoring aspiring writers. How many of you have done that? I enjoy doing it and actually do it every year for my Sisters-in-Crime local chapter. We have an event every year in May which is to honor our good friend, Barbara Burnett Smith who had a fatal accident in 2005. Barbara enjoyed mentoring and her son, W.D. Smith set up this event with our Heart of Texas Chapter. The authors who agree to participate, are sent the name of an aspiring writer. The author contacts the writer and the writer sends along 500-750 words of their work in progress. A very short synopsis is also included.

The author reads and critiques and spends as much time as the author wishes. Then on the scheduled date for the S-in-C meeting and event, the author and writer meet. The regular meeting occurs and the participants are recognized. Usually a portion of the aspiring writer's work is read. Also one author is usually chosen as being an outstanding mentor. At the end of the meeting, the mentor and mentee have a few minutes to discuss the mentees work and hopes. The author gives the aspiring writer a couple of their books and autographs them.

One major thing I enjoy about being a mentor is when I read the new writer's work, I can see myself with my early work. I can usually see where they might be going wrong and do my best to set them on the right path. However, you might find an outstanding aspiring writer and decide you want to introduce them to your editor or agent. That hasn't happened to me yet, but I've had a couple come close and hope I'll see them published soon.

I also enjoy the idea of giving back or paying it forward is really the right term. I had so many wonderful writers help me when I was getting started and I remember telling one that I'd never be able to repay him. He said, don't ever even think about it. But to pay it forward. That he'd had great help when he started and someone had told him to pay it forward. It was something that he always tried to do. And it's something I always try to do. It's such a wonderful feeling to see the growth of an aspiring writer and know that you were able to help them get to complete their goal.


Happy Spring, Happy May, and Happy Cinco de Mayo.

Like my partner in crime, Fran, always says, until we meet next time take good care of yourself.

31 March 2014

Edits and Editing

Jan Grape by Jan Grape

Okay, class. You've all heard this before but it's good to remind ourselves over and over about the joys of editing. I used to hate to edit, because it seemed so tedious but once I realized how much better reading my story or book will be with good editing, I hopped on the band wagon.

I've been reading books for an award to be given later on this year. I'm the chair of the committee and there are two other people on the committee with me. We each will read a book, not the same book at the same time, but we need to winnow the pile down and pick our nominees and our winner. In the back and forth e-mails we are sending each other, one big thing has been discussed back and forth. The need for some good editing. It not too easy to edit your own work, but I've found one thing that helps me is to put that mss in the file cabinet for at least a day or two. A week is even better and three weeks is excellent. Let the story jell. Work on something new, and take your mind totally off your work in progress (WIP).

If possible get someone to give the WPI a read for you and I don't mean your mother or brother or even your critique group. Let someone you trust that has been published read and critique for you. And it's very important if you don't have an editor at your publishing house. If it's a small press and they just don't have enough people to go around, you might consider hiring someone to edit for you. It could be that a friend who has some experience, has been published and especially in your genre will look at your book without charge. If so, that's great. Take them to lunch or at least promise them a copy of the book when it is published.

There are also a number of editing services. But like with anything, some are good and some not so good. Some may be too expensive for you. Check with organizations like Sisters-in-Crime. You don't have to be female to join. We call them Brothers-in-Crime. Check with Mystery Writers of America. Here in Texas we have a large national and international writing organization called Writers League of Texas. All will have listings of editing, critiquing services.

Several years ago before I was published I checked with the major university in my home town with the creative writing department. I found a professor who was willing to read and critique my WIP. He charge a fairly substantial fee. I didn't have much extra money at the time, but I wanted the mss to be in the best possible shape. Unfortunately, he wasn't that familiar with the mystery genre, he leaned way over to literary fiction. He wanted to know the theme of my book. The motivations of each character. He thought the dialogue was too informal. In other words, he was too much of a professor for me. And his help was no help for me.

A short time later, I attended a writing conference in Houston, with editors, agents, and a handful of published writers . All were willing to read and critique, I believe the first fifty pages of your WIP at no charge other than the conference fee. Mine was being read by a New York agent. He was fairly well known in the business. I walked into the room where I was to have a private talk with him. The first thing he said was, "I don't like your characters and I don't like your setting." I was flabbergasted and crushed. I said, "Okay, but how's my writing." "Oh your writing is fine," he said, "but I just don't care for your book." I was supposed to have a fifteen minute meeting with him and this all took about two minutes. I walked out, went straight to my room and cried.

A few minutes later, my roommate walked in and she was crying. Her critique had been by one of the semi-famous authors and what he actually done was a line edit but it was like he wanted her to change so much, she felt like he didn't like her book. He destroyed her. He gave her the full fifteen minutes but they had been quite rough. After she got over her initial shock and we looked at what he had done, we realized his line editing was very good, it's just we were still babies in the writing game and didn't understand what had been done. I, on the other hand, could find no redeeming words for my visit with the agent. I did realize later that opinions were very subjective in this writing game. I received rejections that said, the characters weren't strong enough. The next editor who read the very same mss said my characters were wonderful but the plot sucked.

Several other attendees had similar complaints and we all reported what had happened to the organizers. It was decided from that time forward, we would pay the critiquers a nominal fee. That way they didn't feel like they were working for nothing, the conference had paid their way to Houston, paid their room and meals but they obviously felt put upon. It did seem to make a difference. I think the fee might have been twenty-five dollars for a 15 minute meeting. They could schedule as many as they felt they could handle over the two day conference.

One of the neatest stories I heard during a Southwest Chapter of Mystery Writers of America was from a man who was a best selling author of True Crime and a number of fiction books and stories by the name of Clark Howard. Even some of his stories were made into movies. When he was in college in the mid-west, near Chicago, he took a creative writing class. The students were to write a story, turn it in, the teacher made copies for everyone and passed them around. The whole class was to critique the story in class. When they got to his story, the whole class ripped it to shreds. Whatever one person said, the next person piled it on. About that time the class was over and Clark said, "I didn't have the nerve to tell them I'd just sold that story for five hundred dollars. He left and never went back to that class. (I don't remember if he'd sold it to Ellery Queen or Hitchcock magazine.) I told him I would have walked back into class the next time they met and tell them he'd sold the story and then say "Neener, neener," and then walk out.

I do think it's  important to get your WIP in the best shape possible before you let anyone publish it. Most writers I know, say their first reader is their spouse. And sometimes that works very well. My late husband, Elmer, was my first reader and he caught things like the correct description of a gun. Or the way a building or house looked or was constructed. Or my description of a car or motorcycle. Anything mechanical or along those lines he was an expert. And often if a scene or a plot line made good sense. But he had no idea if the dialogue was stilted or sounded natural. He had no idea if I wrote a run-on sentence or an incomplete sentence. So I always had to have another writer read and let me know about sentence or scene structure or punctuation. I was fortunate in the early years I had a wonderful critique group. There were only four of us. Susan Rogers Cooper, Barbara Burnet Smith and Jeff Abbott. Susan had published three or four novels and I had published two or three short stories and a handful of magazine articles. But Barbara and Jeff were not published  We did help each other and Barb and Jeff were soon published.

Tell yourself the story first. Let the creative side work it's magic, write the whole mss. Of course most of us edit the previous day's work before we continue the new day.  Before long it will be finished. Then set it aside to cool off. Wait as long as you can to take the story up again and let the editor side of your brain read and edit and edit and edit. But don't forget to stop and let it go. You can keep messing around with it and in time you'll think it's got to be perfect. Once you've done some rewriting and let someone edit for you then send that WIP to your agent or editor and keep your finger crossed. Before you know it you'll be holding your book in you hands. You'll open it up and start reading and find 10 mistakes that you or someone should have caught. But that's okay, you'll get better editing on the next book.

All right, class dismissed. Stay warm if you're still in winter. April is here and warm weather is coming. I guarantee you.