Monday, December 5, 2011

Aiding and Abetting

By Julie Tollefson

One of the things I value about members of Sisters in Crime is their willingness to aid and abet -- not in a criminal way, but in many generous and unselfish ways that help others build careers.

As a beginning fiction writer, the best career decision I’ve made was to join Sisters in Crime and its Border Crimes and Guppies chapters. The opportunities to grow as a writer and the camaraderie of the members are outstanding.

The monthly meetings of the Border Crimes chapter, which draws members from both the Kansas and Missouri sides of the Kansas City area, feature a programming mix that serves the interests of both writers and readers. In the past year, we’ve had visiting authors and book signings, as well as discussions with a homicide detective, a financial crimes investigator and experts in the psychology of anger. If that’s not enough, the chapter offers something special the second Saturday of every month, when the fabulous Nancy Pickard leads a book dissection workshop for writers to explore the techniques and skills of mystery writing. So many benefits for the low, low price of SinC membership!

Not long ago, I read a post on the Escaping Mediocrity blog describing crabs trapped in a bucket dragging each other down every time one tried to climb out. The author of the piece, Sarah Robinson, imagined a different scenario in which helpful crabs came to the rescue of their trapped brethren, aiding their escape from captivity. She suggested that in our lives and careers, we should look for the helpful crabs, the individuals who have successfully traveled a path similar to the one we are on and who are willing to lend us a hand on our journey.

“Because they’ve tasted freedom and they know your struggle, they are putting energy into aiding and abetting your escape. I believe that for those of us determined to get out of the bucket, such a group exists,” she wrote. (Read the entire post here).

Without a doubt, Sisters in Crime is such a group.

William W. Warner borrowed the name of his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Beautiful Swimmers, from the translation of the Atlantic blue crab’s scientific name, Callinectes sapidus. (Callinectes = beautiful swimmer, sapidus = tasty.) The name also aptly describes the helpful members of Sisters in Crime. The established writers who willingly mentor others. The Sisters who commiserate and offer advice when the business of publishing seems overwhelming. The authors who volunteer information and guidance, swimming alongside colleagues through the challenges and joys of bringing a book to market. The result is a strong community that aids and abets all members in pursuit of their goals.

Sisters in Crime is a special group, and I feel unbelievably fortunate to be a member. I’ll wager every member has at least one story of a Sister (or Mister) who has gone above and beyond to lend a helping hand. Let’s show what great people belong to this organization. Give a shout out in the comments section to the good crabs, the beautiful swimmers, you’ve met through Sisters in Crime.

Julie Tollefson spends her days overseeing communications for an academic research center and her nights writing fiction. She can be found online at

Photo by David Gnojek.


Lisa Harkrader said...

Great post, Julie, and you're absolutely right about SinC, the Border Crimes chapter, and the fabulous Nancy Pickard. Every month, when I attend the Border Crimes meeting and the book dissection group, I feel like such a lucky duck—I can't believe how fortunate I am to have these things in my life. I also feel lucky that we get to meet in that wonderful bookstore, I Love a Mystery.

Polly said...

I've been very lucky. I joined the Greenville, SC chapter of Sisters in Crime and met Ellis Vidler and Linda Lovely who taught me, a total novice, more about writing than I could have imagined. Other than the stories I had rattling around in my brain, I knew NOTHING about the technical aspects of writing. The Internet chapter of SinC taught me more, and I'm still learning. I'll be eternally grateful to them and all the Sisters for their generosity.

Julie Tollefson said...

Thank you, Lisa! I'm so sorry I couldn't attend Saturday's meeting. And I agree that we're extra fortunate to meet at I Love a Mystery!

Polly, I still have so much to learn, too, and I'm so glad Sisters are here for us!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Great and truthful post, Julie! Nancy Pickard and Sally Goldenbaum of our Border Crimes chapter have both been hugely helpful to me, including blurbing my forthcoming book when they were both under deadlines in their own work. SinC offers fabulous resources on just about every topic a beginning author needs. Thanks to all of you!

Sandra Parshall said...

I would probably still be unpublished if Judy Clemens hadn't encouraged me to send The Heat of the Moon to her publisher, Poisoned Pen Press. And I wouldn't know Judy if we weren't both Sisters. I've found SinC to be a constant source of information and encouragement for both aspiring writers and published authors.

Julie Tollefson said...

Sandy-You're one of the Sisters I've learned so much from, thanks to your generosity in sharing on the SinC and Guppies lists. Thank you!

Linda-I can't wait to read your book when it comes out!

Warren Bull said...

Border Crimes has been very helpful to my career too. I really missed the group when I spent four months in New Zealand now I am back and loving it.