Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Celebrating SinC and SinC Chapters

New Palmetto Chapter of SinC
My recent involvement with other South Carolina midlands writers in starting a new Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime has led me to reflect on the organization itself and why my connections with it have been so significant. In many ways, my decision to join Sisters in Crime, urged by my friend and former national President Cathy Pickens (who, being a member of that elite group, may be addressed as Goddess) was the impetus for me becoming serious about writing.

As I’ve written previously on this blog, becoming a member of the Guppies (for Great Unpublished) online chapter gave me the opportunity to learn about short story calls, the encouragement to submit, and the interaction with a group of excellent critique partners who helped me develop and hone my skills. In addition, through the Guppy short stories critique group, I met E.B. Davis, James M. Jackson, and Gloria Alden. E.B. asked me to become a member of Writers Who Kill and later suggested that I run for the Guppy Steering Committee, on which I now proudly serve as a member-at-large, inviting new members to join the list servs and coordinating short story critique groups. I’m excited that at the end of this month, again thanks to E.B. who schedules Guppy classes, I get to present a free online mini-course on “The ABCs of Dialogue.” Every experience has taught me so much about the profession and helped me grow as a writer.

From its beginnings, Sisters in Crime has been rooted in a clear-eyed assessment of the writing business with the idea of improving conditions for all writers. The official history on the SinC website points to a conference on Women in the Mystery held at Hunter College in March 1986 as the “gestation.” Sara Paretsky’s speech about use of violence against women in mysteries started the discussion.

In October 1986, Phyllis Whitney wrote a letter to the Mystery Writers of America raising concerns that women authors were not being nominated for awards. At the 1986 Baltimore Bouchercon, Sara Paretsky called a meeting of interested women and pointed out that women mystery authors’ books were not being reviewed in a comparable percentage to those of male authors. From those events and other gatherings, the organization developed with the following mission statement: “Sisters in Crime is committed to helping women who write, review, buy, or sell crime fiction. Our ultimate goal is to become a service organization to address issues of concern to everyone involved in the mystery field.”

Margaret Maron, the third national President, began using the abbreviation SinC instead of SIC, which some people encouraged. Margaret is quoted on the SinC website: “Several women wanted SIC, as in ‘Let’s sic ‘em!’ but I knew we were less about hostility than about working together in sync, so I used SinC in all my correspondence and official letters.”

Over the years SinC has never wavered from being in sync with authors and affiliated professions by offering unconditional support for successful and emerging writers and acknowledging the importance of reviewers, book sellers, and libraries. National provides grants to libraries and encourages that they feature mystery collections including books by local authors.

Both national and the chapters have offered extraordinary craft programs at conferences and online. Writes of Passage, edited by Hank Phillippi Ryan and featuring articles by numerous respected mystery authors, is a national publication that provides insight and encouragement for every aspect of writing. It has been nominated for an Agatha this year.
Murder in the Magic City 2015
More than fifty chapters have developed across the United States and Canada. Each chapter offers opportunities for local interaction and inventiveness (consider the Derby Rotten Scoundrels Chapter based in Louisville, Kentucky). The Guppies subsidize paid courses, which are offered to members at reduced costs. Every year, the Southern Sisters Chapter in Birmingham, Alabama, presents Murder in the Magic City, a mystery conference for readers and writers. Organized by the remarkable Margaret Fenton, it features a male and female guest of honor and twenty-some authors. Sam Morton’s WWK Saturday message will tell you more about this year’s success story.

Chapters have distinguished themselves and their members by publishing short story anthologies. E.B. Davis has featured those anthologies in her series of WWK profiles. In addition, many of the stories in those anthologies have been nominated and won national mystery awards.

While SinC was organized to advance opportunities for women mystery authors, it has not been discriminatory and welcomed “brothers” or “misters” to join its membership. WWK blogging partners Warren Bull, James M. Jackson, and Sam Morton are all proud members of SinC and its chapters. In fact, Warren has served as President of the Border Crimes Chapter. As far as I know, there has been no national male President, but I’m sure one would be welcomed to the Goddess pantheon.

I’m both honored and humbled to be elected as the first President of the Palmetto Chapter. Sasscer Hill is our Vice President, Wanda Craig our Secretary/Treasurer, Riley Miller our Web Maven, and Sam Morton our Program Chair. We meet the third Saturday of each month at the Grecian Gardens restaurant in West Columbia, South Carolina. This month, we’ll hear from C. Hope Clark about the wonderful resource she has created, Already, we’ve been showered with welcomes and offers of help and support from national and our fellow chapters.
WWK blogging partners at Murder in the Magic City
Are you a member of SinC and a SinC Chapter? What’s your experience with the organization?



E. B. Davis said...

No wonder you've been busy, Paula! You must have worked very hard to get a new chapter up and running. I'm fortunate to have the Chesapeake Chapter in my area, but since the Guppies are everywhere, I'm equally glad. When I move to Hatteras in a few years, the closest chapters will be in Raleigh or Norfolk, which are several hours away. The SinC organization helps mystery writers in so many ways, I can't enumerate. Congratulations on the new chapter, and thanks for all your hard work.

Jim Jackson said...

I am a lifetime member of the national SinC and the recently formed Low Country Chapter of the Sisters in Crime, and have been member of the Guppies for many years, serving as the Webmaster for several.

Until we are at the point where neither authors nor reviewers have any need to add adjectives before the word author to describe their work, there will be much to do to create equality. Sisters in Crime has helped bring attention and some correction to the bias inherent in the largely male-dominated publishing world.

There is still much work to go.

~ Jim

Warren Bull said...

Sisters in Crime have been supportive and informative during my writing career. I just finished my year as president of the Border Crimes chapter, which has about as many published writers as readers. The programs and activities have been tremendously helpful.

Gloria Alden said...

Thanks, Paula, for blogging about this topic.

In May 2007, the year after I retired, I went to Malice Domestic not knowing anyone else there. It was there I learned about Sisters in Crime and the Guppies. I joined both then, and have learned so much since I joined them. I probably wouldn't have published anything if not for them. Also, I made several friends there that year and we still communicate through e-mails and one of them in person every year at Malice.

About five years ago a group of mystery writers in the Cleveland area and N.E. Ohio in general, got together at a restaurant to talk about mysteries and had a few speakers come in and talk to it. When Bouchercon chose Cleveland as their venue, we decided to organize as a SinC chapter. I've enjoyed the friends I've made,the support, and all the things I've learned in being a member of SinC and even more so as a Guppy.

carla said...

so glad you got our chapter started, Paula! We can always count on you to get things going. And get us in trouble.

Diane (aka Maddi) Davidson said...

Paula: I'll echo E.B. in extolling the virtues of Chessie Chapter (although I'm sure there are many other fine chapters). I feel particularly indebted to those authors who have attained a measure of success and yet devote many hours to supporting novice writers and SinC. Thank you sisters and misters for your help and encouragement.
Diane Davidson
1/2 of Maddi Davidson

Leslie Budewitz said...

Congratulations to the Palmetto chapter, and thank you, Paula, for taking on the president's role and sharing both the story of the new chapter and a little SinC history. It truly is a remarkable organization, and I'm so happy to celebrate the newest chapter!

Leslie Budewitz
Vice-president, SinC, and co-founder, the Guppies chapter

KM Rockwood said...

We owe a lot to all those generous volunteers who give so freely of their time and efforts to help all of us.

I'm a member of Guppies and a local chapter, the Chesapeake Chapter (I'm actually a few miles over the PA state border from the targeted region, but it's the closest one, and I love the meetings) and have found it very helpful and supportive.

Shari Randall said...

Congratulations, Madame President! Best wishes to your chapter! Sounds like you've got some live wires down in SC.
How do I love SinC? Let me count the ways. I belong to the Guppies and the Chesapeake Chapter, a great group of authors who could not be kinder and more giving with their time and experience. And where else can you find other people who think it's a great idea to combine lunch with a slide show of grisly crime scenes?
And as a librarian, I've appreciated SinC's putting-their-money-where-their-mouth-is support - not too many writers groups do that. Thank you, sisters and misters!

Hope Clark said...

We're honored that Paula took the reins of the Palmetto Chapter. We're all enjoying the "firsts" of creating this group to include where to meet, when to meet, who to invite to speak. It's exciting. I'm looking forward to being the first speaker this weekend. Hope you SC Sisters and Gents will come out and endorse us! The Grecian Gardens in Columbia, SC has great food.

Fran Rizer said...

Interesting and informative, Paula. I know this will be a significant chapter!

Unknown said...

With wonderful people like Paula & Sam involved, there wasn't a question in my mind that I needed to join SinC. I'm only just starting to learn from this organization, but I'm amazed at the resources and the vision of this organization!

Sasscer Hill said...

I’ve been a member of the Chessie Chapter of Sisters in Crime and the Guppies since the late 1990s. In 1994, I had a sad, rejected novel in a drawer but a strong desire to be a published mystery author. I am sure I would not have my published novels without the amazing support I received from SinC over almost two decades.

Paula, I am so thrilled you took the initiative to start this chapter. Having moved away from the DC area and the Chessie group two years ago, being involved with this new local chapter makes me feel like I’ve come home! This is a great journey we have embarked on here in South Carolina, and I hope we can make the dreams of other aspiring writers come true.

Kaye George said...

Congrats, Madame President! I could maybe live without SinC and Guppies, but I would hate to try.

Judy Penz Sheluk said...

Great post Paula! I'm a member of SinC Int'l, Toronto and Guppies. I cannot say enough good things about Guppies and the support and information I have found there. SinC Toronto has also been great, though I live about 90 minutes away and getting to the monthly meetings isn't usually possible, it's still very worthwhile to belong.
Congrats on your new chapter!

Debra H. Goldstein said...

Congrats Paula and all of the officers of the New Chapter -- for having the foresight and understanding and endurance to create a new chapter and to all members of SinC and Guppies for being there for each other. Whether answering questions, flapping fins in excitement, picking up the pieces after one "no" too speaks wonders for the diversity and support provided by everyone.

Kara Cerise said...

Congratulations, Paula! Best wishes to the Palmetto Chapter.

I can't say enough good things about SinC and Guppies. Thanks to the volunteers who give their time and knowledge to support writers.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Wow. I'm overwhelmed with all the kind words and well wishes in the comments. It truly goes to show how caring and encouraging these organizations and their members are.

I feel so incredibly fortunate to have Sasscer, Wanda, Riley, Sam, Hope, Fran, and Carla (yes, I intend to get you into trouble!)as members of our new Palmetto Chapter. How can we fail with such talented writers?

It's also wonderful to have the support of the Low Country Chapter (thanks, Jim!) and Upstate Chapter. I understand there's interest in developing another in Charleston, SC, and hope we can offer support to it.

Leslie, thank you for all your work at national.

Judy, thanks for the shout out from Canada.

Kaye, you know I'll follow you for any SinC or Guppy project you suggest.

Shari, thank you for representing both writers and libraries.

Warren, thanks for your service as chapter President. I'll be calling with lots of questions!

Gloria, KM, and Kara, you're right. The kinship and knowledge available to members is phenomenal.

Maddi, I'm glad I met you through the Chessie Chapter.

Debra, I think MMC brought us together initially.

E.B., thanks for getting me involved with such wonderful groups.

If you haven't become a member of SinC and are thinking about it, try it. I think you'll find its benefits are remarkable.

Robert Mangeot said...

Fellow Nashvillian and terrific person Jaden Terrell recruited me into SinC after she and I got to talking local writing stuff. Since then I've become a fixture at our get-togethers and last year the chapter VP. SinC provides incredible support to us as a chapter and all around the country. As an example, last year at Killer Nashville, a cast of SinC all-stars led interactive training for those just starting out. Consider me a proud Mister Sister.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Bob, I'm not surprised two great writers like yourself and Jaden are involved with SinC. We're proud to have you both with us!

Nancy G. West said...

Paula, thank you for the great post on SinC and Guppies. They're great organizations I'm proud to be part of.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Thanks, Nancy! So glad you're a "sister."

Susan O'Brien said...

I am so thankful for the SinC Chessie Chapter in my area -- and for SinC National. This is a WONDERFUL post, Paula. I wish every SinC member could read it. I can't imagine being without SinC and the opportunities to connect with other writers in supportive ways. Wishing your chapter the very best!

Paula Gail Benson said...

Thank you so much, Susan. The support means a great deal.