Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Geographically Challenged!

By Pat Remick
President of New England’s Scarlet Letters Chapter

With a Sisters In Crime chapter covering the six New England states, finding a way to stay connected is one of the biggest challenges of our “Scarlet Letters Chapter.”

Founded in 1993, our chapter has grown from about a dozen women to almost 180 women and men living in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Many of the original SinCNE members remain active in our group today.

Although most of our Sisters (and Brothers) are in Massachusetts, as are the majority of our meetings, we’re trying to broaden our geographic sweep as we work to serve both published and unpublished members with physical meetings that allow for networking and socializing, as well as online opportunities available no matter where they reside. With our northernmost member separated from our southernmost Sister by over 350 miles and 6 ½ hours of driving, sometimes cyberspace is the easiest meeting place.

On the physical side, this summer we co-sponsored an extremely well-attended “Beach Reads Recommendations” event featuring four recently published authors and myself as moderator with an independent bookstore in Portsmouth, NH, and our Connecticut Sisters hosted a crime scene expert at a library in their state. Although a three-hour drive for me, it was wonderful to join them and greet almost 30 Sisters attending along with the public.

Our Speakers Bureau, which promoted our published members at over 35 panel discussion events at libraries and bookstores last year, also brings members together with each other and the public. And our Chapter has launched a New England edition of the SinC National “We Love Libraries” lottery as we strive to strengthen connections with those who buy and sell our books.

Our Chapter serves both published and unpublished members by offering at least one half or full-day writing workshop annually, sometimes preceded by a more intimate Friday evening event especially for those who’ve booked a hotel room because they have traveled from afar to attend the Saturday class. The “Triage Your Plot” workshop by writing teacher and best-selling author Hallie Ephron in April drew members from four of our six states and the Chapter funded the workshop as a member benefit.

We also offer members at least two online craft classes annually. This year, Sylvie Kurtz talked about “How to Revise Without Getting Sick of Your Manuscript” and Mary Buckham will help us explore “the First Five Pages” in October. Our Chapter often subsidizes at least a portion of the cost.

Other 2010 events included: hosting the SinC booth at the American Library Association midwinter conference in Boston in January, a February class with Boston-based entertainment lawyer Patti Jones speaking about copyright, trademarks and other intellectual property protection; and Sisters reading their Works in Progress at a member’s home in May.

Coming up are an all-day gun workshop at a shooting range in September, a social networking class in October, co-hosting a booth at the New England Independent Booksellers Association Conference in Providence, RI; Crime Bake (see below) and our annual December holiday party.

We also publish a highly regarded newsletter at least six times a year and use our New England SINC listserv, Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch virtually. We are working on a total revamp of our Web site to supplement these efforts.

Because we are so geographically challenged, one place where we often connect with members unable to attend meetings is the New England Crime Bake for Mystery Writers and Readers held outside Boston each November, which we’ve co-sponsored with the New England Chapter of Mystery Writers of America since 2002. This year, we’re planning a “Scarlet Letters” hospitality event on the opening evening to offer members a quick tutorial on how to best do the conference, introduce them to our latest social networking efforts, and just enjoy each other’s company. The conference, which this year features Guest of Honor Charlaine Harris, also provides a healthy infusion into our treasury, allowing us to continue to expand our efforts to serve our members in our expansive region!

We hope you'll visit our web site -- and, maybe join?


PatRemick said...

Do want to add here that we are delighted to have members from outside the region -- and welcome more! As you can see, we have a lot of online options for those who cannot physically attend meetings!

Joyce said...

Hello, fellow Working Stiff!

Your chapter sounds great. Have you ever thought of having sub-chapters for those who live too far away? Or do you vary the meeting places to give everyone a chance to get to one?

Jan Brogan said...

Pretty awesome when you see it all spelled out on one page.

Susan Schreyer said...

Wonderful ideas from an active chapter! I hope we can implement some here in the NW. Thanks for the article.

Marcia Talley said...

Chessie Chapter experimented with teas and luncheons for our members in outlying places of our far-flung MD, DC, VA area. I attended one in Baltimore many years ago. Sometimes this can help you find out if you have enough members and interest to start a new chapter like the gals down in Tidewater did, or the new chapter now forming in the Richmond, VA area.

Leslie said...

Hm. It hadn't occurred to me that I could join other chapters. Pat, thank you.

PatRemick said...

Joyce -- we have had meetings in CT and NH, and will be in Rhode Island for the Independent Booksellers Conference -- and I've reached out to VT and Maine members to encourage them to set up a meeting there. We also vary our meeting places in Mass. to try to get closer to other borders. And then there's the virtual world, where we do a lot -- and hope to do more in the future with a new web site -- so it's all good!

Beth Kanell said...

I joined because of your blog posting, and my husband Dave and I are looking forward to meeting many of you at Crime Bake! Meanwhile, check out our mystery reviews at