by Libby Hellmann
Over the weekend the Chicagoland Sisters in Crime chapter sponsored a one-day conference in Schaumburg, a Chicago suburb. It was a lovely event, and the hard work Annie Chernow and librarian Susan Gibberman invested was appreciated. Any time they let us out of our cages to interact with people, it’s a plus.
As authors, we were treated to lunch and during the meal a group of us sat together. Normally we talk gossip and shop: who’s publishing, the future of publishing houses, bookstores, the impact of e-books, or the Biscottes they serve on Northwest Airlines. This time, though, it was different, and it’s one of the reasons I love being part of the mystery community.
I don’t think I’m talking out of school to say that Outfiteer Laura Caldwell brought up a plot problem with the mss she’s currently writing. As she described it, suddenly all of us started brainstorming possible solutions. One of us came up with one idea, someone else had another, and finally, someone else (OK, it was Joe Konrath) came up with an idea that we all said, “Yes. That will work!” Laura said, “OMG, I never thought of that!” Problem solved.
That emboldened me, and I described a problem I was having in my mss. Before I'd even finished, people were firing suggestions. I was reminded that my protagonist has to be active, not passive, and that the motivation for murder has to be carefully crafted. You know that moment when someone gives you an idea, and you know unquestionably that it’s the right one? Well, that happened, and I found a way around my problem.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been rescued by other authors. A few years ago Michael Dymmoch, Barb D’Amato, and I were driving to Indianapolis for an event. At the time I was going through a divorce and my best friend was dying of cancer. Not surprisingly, perhaps, I’d written myself into a corner. They spent nearly the entire drive helping conceptualize my way out of the abyss.
There are other times I recall, as well: driving cross-country with Cara Black brainstorming plots, riding around the Midwest doing the same with Kent Krueger, phone conversations with Joe Konrath or Sean Chercover.
What other community can you think of in which your competitors take the time and effort to make sure you produce the best product you can? I can’t think of any. That’s why I love this community. And will always depend on the kindness of mystery writers.