Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Traveling With Books.

(This blog entry was delayed due to...what else...my going to Malice Domestic!)

I’ve just finished most of my packing for my first Malice. I’m excited to be going and am looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones, to great panels, and especially to getting ideas for new books to read!

I always put off packing ‘til the last minute. But now the easy part is done—making sure I remembered pajamas and the toothpaste and making choices for clothes I hope will be appropriate for the weather.

The hard part is before me . . . making sure I have books to read on the road. Even knowing there will be opportunity to acquire lots of books at Malice, for me it’s important to pack a good assortment, after all one can never have too many books to choose from. And among the selection must be one or two set in or around Washington. I love fiction that transports me to another place or another time. Most of my traveling with books is done at home from my favorite comfy chair. But I especially love it when I’m able to travel to a place physically while I’m traveling to it through a book I’m reading.

This all began back in grad school when I serendipitously packed a copy of Sara Paretsky’s Killing Orders to take along to a conference in Chicago. For my first and only visit to San Francisco, my copy of The Maltese Falcon was at my side. Image my delight at discovering our hotel was just up the hill from the spot where Sam Spade’s partner, Miles Archer was shot! On our 25th anniversary, my husband and I returned to where we’d spent our honeymoon near Fontana Dam, North Carolina. We listened to Sharyn McCrumb’s Bimbos of the Death Sun in car while driving through the Smoky Mountains. We’ve gone back to the Smokies each spring since that trip; Charles Frazer’s 13 Moons is loaded into my iPod in anticipation of our visit next month.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this obsession. I’d love to hear other people’s experiences of traveling with books.

Mary Callahan Boone
Library Liaison, Sisters in Crime.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Malice Domestic, the con for the criminally genteel, begins in a few days. I'm always excited when it's time for this convention, especially so this year which is its 20th anniversary. I have no doubt the Malice organizers have many extra surprises for attendees to enjoy this special celebration. Foremost, their line-up of honored guests, Charlaine Harris, Peter Lovesey, Lindsay Davis, and Toastmaster Daniel Stashower is what has everyone talking. It's going to be great hearing them throughout the weekend.

Amidst all the fun, your Sisters In Crime board will be taking care of business, too. We'll have a board meeting, and Roberta and Judy have organized a terrific get-together on Friday for members to talk about what works in their local chapters. See Judy's blog below for details.

I'm hoping to talk with many Sisters and Brothers over the weekend. It's great to put faces to names that I know from our SinC e-list and to visit with old friends. I'm particularly interested in learning of new publications that review mysteries to add to those we now check in our Review Monitoring Project. We check local and national newspapers and magazines, so if you can recommend one you subscribe to or regularly read off the newstand, please see me at Malice or send me an email me at marysaums@hotmail.com.

Best-Mary Saums
Review Monitoring Profect Coordinator

Monday, April 14, 2008

In Praise of Editors

by Nancy Martin

My latest book (Murder Melts in Your Mouth, the 7th Blackbird Sisters Mystery) was released a month ago, and we’ve been enjoying good sales. I say “we” intentionally, because no successful book could possibly be the work of one person. In my case, there’s my critique partner, my blog sisters, my readers, my family, my agent and her various colleagues, my publisher and the house staff, and last but certainly not the least--my editor.

In my twenty-eight-year writing career I’ve had nine editors (and three agents, five publishers) so I’ve had good and not-so-good experiences. Recently, I asked a few friends what they felt about editors. We came up with a list of good qualities in the person who buys, edits and shepherds a book through the publishing process. Here’s our list in no particular order:

1. A good editor has the people skills to make an author feel smart. And clever. And writerly. Not to mention confident and talented with skills and a creative mind that needs to be nurtured, but also occasionally whipped into shape. An editor can truly build an author into a powerhouse bestseller—or break her into a muddle of melted self-esteem. But the author must stand up for herself if she’s being treated unfairly or impolitely. Don’t be a victim.
2. A good editor is a good communicator. Whether the news is good or bad, she writes or phones promptly and doesn’t pussyfoot. She gives you all the information in her power to give: print runs, sales figures, returns, remainders—the works. It’s up to the author to ask the important questions sometimes, however, so an author should educate herself to be an equal in the partnership, not a supplicant. Plus the author has to learn to take bad news like a grown-up. Otherwise, you’re just asking to be treated like a child.
3. A good editor brings creative ideas to the table. “You know how the first plot point doesn’t work? You need to come up with something else.” That’s not helpful editorial input. But brainstorming—that can be fun as well as useful for the book and the longterm author-editor relationship. On the other hand, an editor who’s a frustrated writer can spoil the book and undermine an author’s confidence. It’s the author’s job to draw out the editor’s best ideas, but stop short of taking a collaborator.
4. A good editor edits for content and clarity. Once she gets her red pencil out, she’s the last person (after your critique group or your husband or your mom or whoever else reads your manuscripts) who can honestly tell you when stuff doesn’t make sense or the theme isn’t clear or the story wanders long before a reviewer or bookseller or reader claps eyes on it. An editor who skips this step isn’t doing the author any favors, so the author must learn to accept criticism for its intended purpose—to improve the book.
5. A good editor copy-edits. I’ll never forget the moment I—a former English teacher who thought I knew my trade--opened my first copy-edited manuscript and discovered all the red marks the copy editor had inflicted on the “perfect” pages I had rewritten and revised a dozen times. What an education! A good copy editor is golden. Again, she’s one who will save you from embarrassment and frustration, because there are plenty of readers who will hunt you down like a dog to point out the smallest errors in your published book.
6. A good editor is an author’s champion “in-house.” She’s the one who pitches your book to the art department for the cover, at the editorial meetings and the marketing meetings and at sales conference. She’s your cheerleader. If your editor doesn’t throw herself behind your book to the people who will market and sell it, you’re doomed to lousy sales, disappointing sell-through and—oh, dear—possibly the end of contracts. Give her all the ammunition she needs to do her job.
7. A good editor is ruthless in her pursuit of quality. If she wants your book to be the best possible product, her determination can be contagious. You’ll work harder because she’s encouraging you to produce the best writing you can manage. Are those endless revision letters frustrating? Yes, but not as frustrating as the alternative.
8. A good editor has an appreciation for books and language. Some of my favorite conversations are with agents and editors, talking about books. I’ve learned a lot.

Naturally, most writers don’t have a choice when it comes to editors—not at the beginning of our careers. But as you get a few books under your belt and develop your skills and your business savvy, you can better participate in the process of choosing who you want to work with.

Until then, you take your chances. Out of nine editors, I’ve had only two not-so-great experiences. In both cases, I was part of the problem. Since then, I’ve had a couple of tremendous editors who have challenged me, partnered with me, bolstered me and otherwise helped me become the writer I am today. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
Nancy Martin is a Sisters In Crime Member at Large.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

The board is excited to offer a new event at Malice this year. Please join us on Friday afternoon, April 25, in the Fairfax Room on the 2nd Floor of the convention hotel, from 1:00-3:00 for our Flash Training Session and chapter meeting.

Here's the schedule:
1:00-1:15 Creating a Must-Read Chapter Newsletter: Roberta Isleib (NE Chapter), Jane Cleland (NY Chapter)

1:15-1:30 Spicing Things Up with Special Projects: Ruth McCarty (NE Chapter)1:30-1:45 Cover to Cover: Producing a Professional Anthology: Elena Santangelo/Caroline Stafford (Delaware Valley Chapter) and Beverle Graves Myers (Louisville Chapter)

1:45-2:00 Forming and Implementing a Spellbinding Speakers' Bureau: Kate Flora (NE Chapter) and Gigi Pandian (NorCal Chapter)

From 2:00-3:00 we will have an open session where we can ask questions of each other to find out what's going on in other chapters or with SinC National.

I've received some items of interest from chapter presidents including questions like:

What are other chapters doing to increase membership and raise their local profiles?

How are other chapters raising funds, or writing grants?

How can we light a fire under our chapter?

We have a great group,happy to come to meetings, but they aren't big on volunteering, and it would be great to see them more involved with supporting our local mystery authors and having more of a presence in the community.

What have other chapters experienced with having a booth at a booksellers convention?

We can discuss these questions and more...bring your enthusiasm, your concerns, and your creativity, and we'll see how we can help each other out.

We look forward to seeing you all there!

All the best,

Judy Clemens
SinC Vice President