Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Little Chapter That Can

by Polly Iyer

I’m always envious when I read about “The Big Sisters in Crime Chapters.” You know the ones where best-selling authors are members and crime specialists belong who actually write books. The Upstate South Carolina Chapter, on the other hand, occupies a tiny corner of the state, and we have used all our powers of imagination and perseverance to keep coming up with great guest speakers. Somehow, we manage.

We try to alternate between crime professionals and published authors. We love writers with a sense of humor. Those who tell us about their failures before achieving publication give the unpublished among us hope as we strive to connect with an agent or editor. Yeah, they can do it—well, so can we. We’re energized and empowered by their stories. One of our latest guests, A.J. Hartley, kept the group amused with his wonderful sense of British humour as he described all the things he did wrong before becoming a New York Times best-selling author.

Linda Lovely, Carla Damron and Polly Iyer
We’ve hosted a who’s-who list of mystery writers that includes Suzanne Adair, Kathleen Delaney, Carla Damron, Lynda Fitzgerald, Rick Helms, Kay Hooper, Terry Hoover, Gwen Hunter, Charlotte Hughes, Angela Knight, Vicki Lane, Jim and Joyce Lavene, Tamar Myers, Cathy Pickens, Patricia Sprinkle, J.D. Rhoades, Kathryn Wall, and past chapter president, Ellis Vidler. Many have generously visited multiple times. Some discuss their books, others the craft of writing. Chris Roerden, whose book is a master class on writing, shared her valuable knowledge, a definite learning experience. We’d love to have her back. One of our Brothers in Crime, black belt karate expert Howard Lewis, showed us his moves and held us captive. Literally. We look forward to the publication next year of another past chapter president, Linda Lovely.

Our group is supportive of the authors who visit, and we buy their books. Real paper books, with covers and everything. And they sign them. Writers are just so darn nice.

Blood splatterWe love authors, but I have to admit, we’re a bloodthirsty group. We love gore. No, really. Give us a PowerPoint presentation with dead bodies, blood spatter, and decomposition, and we’re riveted to the screen. Our guests have included medical examiners, coroners, and a prosecuting attorney who trashed the major network investigation show that covered his case because it distorted the facts. One arrogant defense attorney turned down a case because the client couldn’t pay. Hello, public defender. We’ll never have him back. Conversely, a federal public defender kept our group enthralled past the time limit, and our bookstore had to kick us out. We’ve had him twice and hope to have him again.

We’ve hosted sheriffs, P.I.s, male and female FBI agents, forensic specialists, medical examiners, cops dealing in human trafficking, fraud investigators, the first woman cop in the county, a forensic psychologist, a weapons expert, a campus security cop, and an arson inspector, among others. We’ve even had an arson-sniffing dog. All shared their experiences, took our questions—except for the dog—and taught us a thing or two we didn’t know before.

We’ve seen changes this year. Our indie bookstore closed, leaving us scrambling to find another venue. We did. It’s not the same, but we eat better because the meeting is at a restaurant. Things are happening in our little corner of the world. So I guess we’ve done okay.

For more information on the Upstate South Carolina Chapter, please contact Polly Iyer.


Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Sounds great, Polly! (I'd love to come visit sometime!)

HOw often do you meet? How far away do people come from? In New England, we try to schedule meetings at various parts of Massachusetts so it's not always a long drive for the same people.

We've had a wonderful success with meetings where we sign up to read our works in progress--2 pages or so each. That's always terrific, and very inspirational.

Our meetings are usually on Sunday--how about y'all? (Is y'all SC?)

Susan M. Boyer said...

Great blog, Polly! You guys do a great job of lining up speakers. Thanks for all you do! See you Thursday!

Your Upstate Sister

elysabeth said...

I can sort of answer your questions - as a member - we meet once a month on the fourth Thursday - so we have a meeting tomorrow. Some of our guests come about 2 hours from the area. I write children's mysteries but still enjoy hearing the professional speakers as you never know when I may actually write a mystery for the adults - lol. I actually had a chance to attend the meeting where AJ Hartley was the guest and it was funny.

I've been so busy this year that I've not had a chance to go to the meeting since we had to find a new venue, but I'm glad I get the opportunity every once in a while.

We'd love to have you come visit - but it's a long drive from Massachusetts to South Carolina - lol, but hey, come on down -

Thank you, Polly, for contributing this blog posting. Very fun - sorry won't be at the meeting tomorrow - too much going on today and tomorrow - E:)

Polly said...

Thanks, all. Elysabeth answered most of your questions, Hank. The only time we read our work is at our holiday party in November. It's usually a good time, relaxed and fun. I wish we could do that more, but there are only a few of us who would be interested, maybe half. We're getting more writers, though, and it might be something we can work in more often. We'd love to have the multi-published Ms. Ryan any time. That's a standing invitation. And to any other of our Sisters or Brothers who find themselves in the area on any fourth Thursday.

By the way, Hank, I'll be in your neck of the woods Sunday, Sept. 26th. Where's your meeting?

bj said...

Terrific blog and absolutely true. I love our Upstate chapter and the folks (brothers and sisters) I meet there.

bj said...

Good job. You have described the Upstater chaper perfectly. Who wouldn't want to join after this description?

Vicki Lane said...

As a former (and upcoming) guest, I must say this is a great group to visit!

Donnell said...

Wow, Polly, someone asked on Guppies if you and Linda looked blood thirsty. I had to go check it out then. Those sweet women I met....

But I gotta admit... and you wrote a fabulous blog. I'm jealous living so far away! Wish I could join you.

Polly said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone. Yes, we do love to mix a little fun in with our bloodthirsty temperaments. And I sure wish you were all closer and could come to our meetings. Donnell, I do think a round-tripper from Colorado might be a bit of a stretch, but you're always welcome if you're in the area. Looking forward to October and Vicki's visit. She's a great guest.

Ellis Vidler said...

Good post, Polly. We do have a great little chapter and try hard to support our guest authors. Our crime field speakers are interesting too.
Maybe, as Hank said, for our Christmas meeting we'll do more of our own readings. Then we'll hear some of your work.

Nancy Pickard said...

Polly, your chapter sounds wonderful.

You're making me think that our own little chapter needs to spread a wider net for members. We're in a big metro area, but there are lots of suburbs and little towns further out that we don't reach.

From how far away do people come to attend your meetings?

How have you attracted members from a distance?


Linda Lovely said...

Thanks for the great post, Polly. I'm one of this chapter's long-time members and drive about 1 1/4 hours to the meeting. Several of us carpool from our little town. I think recruitment happens when one out-of-town writer finds a chapter and tells other writers (and readers) what fun they're missing. Our carpooling group includes a former librarian, a woman writing a coming-of-age memoir set in Algeria during the war, a literary writer, a short-story writer working on her first novel and me.

Polly said...

Nancy, aside from Linda--a former past president--and her group, one guy drives two hours from Hickory, NC, for the meeting. Ellis and I found him at a workshop in Charlotte given by Chris Roerden, Lee Lofland, and Jeffrey Deaver. He's come ever since. My post on my Facebook page attracted another future attendee, so we get them any way we can. I also put out a press release that goes to local papers. That's brought in some new people, too. These routines were started by Linda and Ellis long before I arrived on the scene. They did a great job. I'm just following in their too-big-to-fill footsteps.

Nancy Pickard said...

Thanks, Linda and Polly. I'm wondering if some library outreach might attract a few readers and/or writers. We might put up flyers or even have an extra meeting at farflung places now and then.

We meet at I Love A Mystery in Mission, Ks. It is an adorable bookstore and they are incredibly supportive of us. They put out chairs and free coffee and tea, and they give Sisters a 10% discount the day of meetings. I think we're good for their business, too, or at least I hope we are.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, thanks, Polly! I'm teaching at the South Caroliona Writer's Workshop--is that near you?

And whoa--you're coming to Boston?Email me all the details!

And hey, Ellis! Great new blog! Love the title...

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Polly,
Somehow I missed your blog, but another somehow happened and I came over to look at the crazy without writers video and scrolled down and Voila! there you were. Very nice post.