If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

February Interviews

2/5 Heather Weidner, Glitter, Glam, and Contraband
2/12 Rhys Bowen, Above The Bay of Angels
2/19 Elizabeth Penney, Hems & Homicide
2/26 Annette Dashofy, Under The Radar

Saturday Guest Bloggers:
2/1 Valerie Burns
2/8 Jeannette de Beauvoir
2/15 Kathryn Lane

WWK Bloggers: 2/22 Kait Carson, 1/28 & 1/29 Special Interviews with Agatha Nominees by Paula Gail Benson


WWK is proud of our four Agatha nominees. Kaye George for Best Short Story--not her first time to be nominated, Connie Berry and Grace Topping for Best First Mystery Novel (wish they weren't having to compete against each other), and Annette Dashofy for Best Contemporary Novel--her fifth nomination!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Look for Kaye George and Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Kaye's story is "Life and Death on the Road" and Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Kaye George's first novel in the Vintage Sweets mystery series, Revenge is Sweet, will be released on March 10th. Look for the interview here on March 11.

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, will be released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here on April 29th.

Don't miss Shari Randall's "The Queen of Christmas" available on at Amazon. Shari's holiday story for WWK was too long so she published it for our enjoyment. It's available for 99 cents or on Kindle Unlimited for free!

KM Rockwood's "The Society" and "To Die A Free Man; the Story of Joseph Bowers" are included in the BOULD Awards Anthology, which was released on November 19. KM won second place with a cash prize for "The Society." Congratulations, KM! Kaye George's "Meeting on the Funicular" is also in this anthology, which can be bought for 99 cents on Kindle until November 30.

Paula Gail Benson's story "Wisest, Swiftest, Kindest" appears in Love in the Lowcountry an anthology by the Lowcountry Romance Writers available 11/5 in e-book and print format on Amazon. The anthology includes fourteen stories all based in Charleston, South Carolina.

Kaye George's "Grist for the Mill" was published in A Murder of Crows anthology, edited by Sandra Murphy on October 9th.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p


Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Education of a Teacher (Including Dirty Books and Pointed Looks) by Susan Van Kirk

An early teaching picture

In March I’ll be leaving my small town in downstate Illinois to go to the Left Coast Crime conference in San Diego. I’m currently a hybrid author with five books and a novella to my name since 2010. This is not what I had planned for my retirement years, and “planned” is the key word. A planner all my life, I morphed into my current situation through a series of unplanned incidents that led me to this mystery-writing retirement gig.

Life often throws surprises at people who are planners. That would be me. My writing is guided by outlines, and my deadlines are accompanied by check-off lists. Me—the planner. Teaching English full time and raising three kids involved in everything—that really turned me into a planner. Survival mode.

Then I turned fifty.

You know how people sometimes talk about watershed moments in history? Well, that was the watershed moment in my life. Fifty was a liberating age. I did something very unplanned. My last child left home for college, and I decided to try something I’d wanted to do for the last 29 years of living with other people—I spent three summers going to graduate school at the University of Illinois. I know that doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but for me it was the first time I’d been on my own in almost three decades. Just a little scary.

That degree allowed me to teach at the college level, and I left my high school teaching job after thirty-four years. I will always love and feel passionate about the teaching I did at both institutions. After ten years at the local college, another deadline was looming: retirement. Unlike many people who aren’t sure what they’ll do in retirement, I knew. That came about because of a series of unplanned events. Did I mention I am a planner?

First, came Cliffs Notes. After I received my master’s degree, I decided to take it for a ride and see if any book companies would hire me to be a consultant. One answered: a little company begun in Nebraska that wrote Cliffs Notes. I hesitated since I’d spent my career telling my students not to use these; but when the Cliffs Notes folks told me what they would pay me, I was astounded. After all, I was used to a schoolteacher’s salary. This would help me pay for my children’s college fees. I’d be able to use my literary knowledge and research books that I loved. But more importantly, this freelance job taught me to use computer software to collaborate with multiple editors. This would turn out to be a valuable learning experience.  

Second, came a college conversation. One of my students told me I should write a story I had told in an education class about why I found teaching such a passionate job. The story involved my high school teaching, a friend who had died in Viet Nam, and a class reunion. I wasn’t a writer. One day I decided to take his advice and put the story down on paper. After I sent it in to Teacher magazine, I received an email in two days saying they wanted to publish my story. I was dumbfounded.

That’s when the magical, unplanned, craziness began. I heard from people all over the country about how this story had affected their lives. Many were teachers, of course. Others were former students—I’d taught about 4,000 by then—who had heard me read the story on the magazine’s website. It was a humbling experience, but a very exciting one also. I was hooked.

And third, I decided to write a creative nonfiction book about my three decades of teaching. This book would contain fifteen stories about students who had gone through my high school classes. Some of those stories are hard to believe, but all are true. They bring laughter, tears, and surprise, but they describe what really happens in a classroom when you teach teenagers, and many of these stories have a universal quality. One involved a book challenge to a Kurt Vonnegut book, and the letter I received from Vonnegut is framed and hanging in my living room. The title of the book is The Education of a Teacher (Including Dirty Books and Pointed Looks). At the time I didn’t know anything about the publishing business, so I self-published it. Over ten years it’s sold thousands of copies.

And that is why I decided to write mysteries when I retired. I’ve spent ten years now learning about the business of publishing, and I am writing the books I love to read: mysteries. My hidden passion for reading, combined with a learned skill—writing—has led me to the perfect retirement job. And a big bonus: my grandchildren give me words to use in each of my mysteries, and some day they’ll even be old enough to read them.


Kait said...

I love this. It may look like an unplanned path, but I see a clear, straight, line! Well done, Susan.

Susan said...

Thanks, Kait. You may be absolutely right, but at the time it didn't seem like it was a planned, linear plot! Despite the sometimes anxiety-producing ups and downs, I think I am settling in to a life of crime. That seems very peculiar for a schoolteacher.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

No, your inclination for crime lurked inside you for years. Congratulations on a new career!

Susan said...

Ha, ha. I'll have to think about that possibility!

KM Rockwood said...

What an inspiring story. I'm sure your success as a teacher had something to do with your ability to inspire your students.

I'm sure you've heard that "luck" comes when preparation meets opportunity.

Shari Randall said...

So inspiring! It's fun to see how all your life experiences led to your mystery-writing retirement gig. I'm intrigued by your Cliffs Notes gig. I'd heard they were inspired by a slacker student named Cliff. I hope you'll be able to shed some light on this urban legend?

Warren Bull said...

Looking backward there always seems to be a path invisible in the present.

Susan said...

Well, thank you all for your comments. I did love teaching, KM. I'll get back to you on the CN questions, Shari. And thank you, Warren. I think you are absolutely right. Wish I could see that path early.

Grace Topping said...

Whatever it took you to start you writing was a good thing. I remember meeting you at Malice after your first book came out. Look at all you’ve accomplished since then. Congratulations.

Susan said...

Thank you, Grace. We did meet at Malice and I remember that clearly. You are always so encouraging and kind. And look, you have one book out and another one on the way. Yay!