Over at the Wicked Cozy blog today I’m taking about gratitude and I hope you’ll go check it out because it ties in directly with this blog post - Finding Your Tribe.
I had a different blog post written and it was not going well. Then we got the news that Sue Grafton died and it allowed my thoughts to coalesce. It is because of Sue Grafton (and Sara Paretsky and Carolyn Hart and Sue Horowitz) I have a tribe to find. You may recognize most of those names except the last one – that’ll change by the end of this piece.
Sue Grafton’s books sat on my mother’s nightstand. I don’t recall having a conversation with her about them but I do remember stealing them. Kinsey Milhone wasn’t quite Nancy Drew but she was my next step. In my world, where I was still sure I was going to be an FBI agent when I grew up, Kinsey Milhone – a single, professional private investigator kept me aloft and planning when I became very ill as a young teen and my only adventures were vicarious and on the pages of a book.
Sara Paretsky is the matriarch of Sisters in Crime. In March 1986, she spoke about the growing trend of graphic violence against women in fiction and women responded. She was the originator of the #metoo movement for women in fiction, specifically mystery fiction, more than 30 years ago. What began with those remarks quickly snowballed into the beginning of Sisters in Crime … the beginning of having a tribe to find.
Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand sat on the shelf of Crown Books, my local bookstore. It was not faced because back then they didn’t waste space like that on shelves. I’m not sure what category I had overrun and ended up in mystery, likely horror as Anne Rice was all the rage then, but I picked up the book with it’s delicious, spit-in-your-eye title – Death on Demand – and its bleeding book cover art and fell down the well of mystery fiction again like I had the decade before when handed a bankers box full of Nancy Drews.
Sue Horowitz is the lovely friend who worked at the Former Dreaded Day Job with me and who gently harangued me until I agreed to attend Malice Domestic with her. Both experienced in the art of extreme bibliophilia, we used to have serious discussions on creative arrangement of titles to optimize bookshelf space and the pain of giving books away when there was no more room. We whiled many a lunch hour away on the happy conversation that most book lovers can engage in. And we both had an affinity for mysteries of the traditional persuasion. Three years straight she cajoled and used all off her persuasive powers to entice me to the magical traditional mystery conference. I don’t know that she used the word ‘magical’ but I definitely do. Magical because it’s where I found my tribe even if I didn’t realize it for a stubbornly long time.
When we’re little, most children have very little trouble putting themselves out there and making new friends. I was not like most children and was acutely uncomfortable trying to find friends. I was a weird kid who liked books too much and had too many opinions, essentially a smaller, blonder version of who I am now. But the traits that made me a weird kid make me a great member of the Mystery Kids (trademark Matthew Clemens) tribe I found at Malice.
If you’ve got some obscure knowledge about household cleaning supplies used as murder weapons, ten people want to have lunch with you and talk about it. You have a stack of books about 19th century serial killers? ME TOO! Cozy and traditional rule at Malice but there’s room for all – got a little paranormal thrown in, cool; your protagonist is a professional sleuth, awesome; you’ve got fantasy elements, time travel, pets that solve crimes, vikings, aliens, sentient skeletons (hi, Toni) … it’s all good. Everyone is welcome at the table. Sisters in Crime even has Misters in Crime.
It’s a tribe that opens its arms to new members, people who reach out to embrace; it is a space place to land for so many people who haven’t found that before. And no matter where we are, no matter where we live, no matter where we roam; we have a family that goes with us, a tribe in which we all belong. And that has made all the difference – to quote Robert Frost about the road less travelled.
If it weren’t for those four women (and, of course, countless other people) I would never have found my tribe. I’d never have written my own books if it weren’t for those four women. I wouldn’t be who I am without those four women. They have made all the difference.
(You can find Aimee's Wicked Cozy blog here.)