About four months after I moved back to Virginia from New York, I spoke on a mystery panel in Richmond with Emyl Jenkins, Donna Andrews and Andy Straka. It was so much fun to be with mystery writers again! I had not attended a Sisters in Crime or Mystery Writers of America meeting since moving south. It was difficult for me to get from Charlottesville, Va. to Washington, D.C. on a regular basis (2 ½ hours away), where the nearest chapters were located.
At the end of the presentation, a retired librarian, Nancy Newins, came up to the stage. “Why isn’t there a Sisters in Crime central Virginia chapter?” she asked. I didn’t have a good answer, but it sounded like a good idea to start one. I missed having a community of other writers, and I knew there were many mystery writers and readers in central Virginia.
Nancy and I started to plan an exploratory meeting in April 2010 to see if there was enough interest in the area. I pitched it at the Virginia Festival of the Book (before a panel I moderated) and talked it up to all the aspiring and published mystery writers I met. We sent notices to the Sisters in Crime/Chesapeake chapter, the Mystery Writers of America Mid-Atlantic chapter and to James River Writers. We eventually assembled a group of interested people at the Tuckahoe Public Library.
At our first meeting, in April 2010, we collected email addresses and explained the history and mission of Sisters in Crime to the group. No one there was currently a member of SinC/national. There were a quite a few pre-published writers attending who wanted a critique group. Mary Theobold organized one with the interested writers and they began to meet regularly at the library. I was asked to be president at the meeting and Nancy Newins volunteered to be the secretary until we held elections. We were off and running.
Nancy created a Google group to share announcements and information, and organized a programming committee with Heather Weidner. Our first event was a trip to the Department of Forensic Science in Richmond in July. I couldn’t attend, but the nine members who did said it was a fascinating field trip.
In September, author Ellen Byerrum and I gave a presentation at the Tuckahoe library on writing a series. In November, Dr. Evan Nelson gave a talk about his job as a forensic psychologist on many high profile cases. All of our events have been well attended and enthusiasm for the chapter has been growing. I’ve been impressed by the energy and great ideas.
At our November meeting, we voted on our bylaws (we were able to borrow a template from other chapters, and then a committee hammered out the finer points) and plan to hold our first election and collect dues in February.
We’re about to become an official chapter. Our new plans include creating a website, planning more events in 2011 and finding more ways to spread the word locally about our events.
In February, author Donna Andrews will be speaking to our chapter; we have a workshop with Chris Roerden scheduled for April.
It’s been exciting and rewarding to introduce local mystery lovers and writers to Sisters in Crime. I’m delighted to now have a group that’s closer to my home. Starting a chapter has not been easy, and it would never have happened without the dedicated volunteers and writers in my area with a desire to see it happen.
[Editor's note: The hard work of the members of the Central Virginia chapter-to-be has encouraged some D.C. area members of the SinC/Chesapeake chapter to think about traveling to central Virginia on a regular basis to attend the new chapter's meetings.]
Photo of the Richmond, Va. skyline, courtesy of the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Photo of Meredith Cole (left) and Ellen Byerrum (right) at the Tuckahoe library, courtesy of E. Byerrum.
Meredith Cole is the author of Posed for Murder and Dead in the Water. She teaches writing at the University of Virginia. Her website is www.culturecurrent.com/cole.