Saturday, November 20, 2010

Congratulations to Sisters in Crime Founding Mother Sara Paretsky

By Cathy Pickens, SinC President

Bouchercon 2010: Sara Paretsky checks in with volunteers from the SinC/Northern California chapter on duty in the conference hospitality suite. From left: Helen Sandoval, Sharon Owen, Chloe Winston and Sara Paretsky. Photo courtesy of Gigi Pandian.

On Thursday, the Mystery Writers of America announced that Sara Paretsky is this year’s MWA Grand Master.

According to the organization’s news release, “MWA's Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality.”

Well, Sara Paretsky has done all of that – written a significant, high-quality body of work AND made important contributions to the mystery genre.

High on the list of those contributions – particularly to anyone reading this blog – is her role as a founding mother of Sisters in Crime.

Paretsky will receive the Grand Master Award at the Edgar Awards Banquet in New York in April. MWA will mark its 65th birthday at the event, making the Grand Master honor even more special. In addition, 2011 will be the year that SinC celebrates the 25th anniversary of its founding.

In 1987, one year after providing the spark that launched Sisters in Crime, Paretsky was named Woman of the Year by MS. magazine. To all of the women crime writers who followed on the many trails she has blazed, however, she’s been the Woman of the Year for many years.

Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski novels helped open the door for women private investigators in crime fiction, and she herself has opened doors – and opened eyes – to the need for more balance in reviews, in advances and in recognition for women writing crime fiction.

In April 2007, by a quirk of fate, I attended a ceremony at Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge (owned by Kate Mattes, another SinC founding mother). At the event, Ms. P. accepted a Dove Award on behalf of Sisters in Crime, presented by the Popular Culture Association and the American Culture Association in recognition of SinC’s strong support of women crime writers.

As goddess/past president Roberta Isleib noted on her blog that week, it was exciting to be in the jammed bookstore with two founding mothers. (Kate Mattes was also in attendance.)

Did they dream in 1986 that, one day, Sisters in Crime would be more than 3,000 members strong and international in scope? I don’t know the answer to that, but I’m sure in their vision for SinC they knew that sisters would help other sisters – and brothers – along the road. (And, for me, that sisterly bond and supporting hand were the things that attracted me to Sisters in Crime not quite 20 years ago.)

Thank you, MWA, for giving SinC sisters and brothers everywhere a wonderful new opportunity to celebrate the glorious network that Sara Paretsky launched nearly 25 years ago.

And congratulations, Ms. P., your Sisters in Crime are celebrating with you – all across the globe.

Cathy Pickens, the national president of Sisters in Crime, serves on the MWA board of directors. She is the author of the award-winning Southern Fried mystery series featuring South Carolina attorney Avery Andrews. The most recent title in the series is Can’t Never Tell.


Mason Canyon said...

Congratulations Sara, that is wonderful news.

Thoughts in Progress

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Brava, Sara Paretsky! A well deserved and long overdue accolade. There's no one quite like V.I. Warshawski: the intellect, the feminism, the passion for social justice, the tenaciousness. I love the way when someone warns her off, you know the next thing she'll do is bounce right back in there. She's tough to the point of taking an occasional beating, but she's sure not one of the guys--she's one of us. :) Body Work is on my ten best list this year. Please keep 'em coming.

Barbara said...

This is great news! And high time.

(I'm also happy that my favorite local independent bookstore, Once Upon a Crime, is also being recognized; it's the meeting place of the Twin Cities SinC chapter.)

Polly said...

I remember the first time I went to a Sisters in Crime meeting. I'd never heard of the group before, but when I started writing, late in life, a friend saw the notice in the newspaper and suggested I go. I did, and it literally changed everything. I met two women who would become my critique partners and who taught me more that I didn't know I didn't know. This year I'm president of our chapter, and I can only say, thank you, Sara, and thanks to the other women who joined you on your amazing journey.

Judy Alter said...

Congratulations, Sara Paretsky, from a fellow South Sider and longtime fan of V.I. This honor is richly deserved but a tad overdue. So glad we can all rejoice with and for you.

Sandra Parshall said...

Sara is being honored for her writing, and that recognition is richly deserved. I'll always think of her in connection with Sisters in Crime, though. I have benefited enormously from my SinC membership, and I'll always be grateful to Sara and the other women who founded the organization. We take steps backward now and then, but we keep moving forward.