Stepping Toward A Dream

Live Your Dream image with resume, pen, person jumping with joy, four leaf clover, and horseshoeFor three days this week, as part of my day job, I helped oversee over 400 actors who came in to do a monologue or sing for 41 different organizations. The organizations included theater companies, casting agents, tour companies, educational theater companies, and playwrights. As I checked each person in, collected their headshots, directed them to the green room, and answered several dozen questions over and over again, I could not help but cheer them on. They were putting themselves out there, trying to take a step towards living their dream and being hired to act. It also made me think of my time standing in lines to pitch agents and editors, hoping to make a connection to move me forward to living my dream of being a published author. Over the years, I’ve come to realize a few truths that make these journeys easier, so I thought I’d share them here.

Preparation is key. Know your monologue or song. In the case of a writing, know your pitch. Be ready to deliver it. Get there with enough time to get mentally prepared if possible, but know it in your bones.

Do your best, and understand that your best isn’t always great. When I asked folks how they did, if they felt good about their audition, they glowed. If it didn’t land, or they went up on a line, they were unhappy that they blew that moment. But it was just that, a moment, and they needed to let it go. I remember meeting agents, and the conversation went well. Other meetings did not go as well. All you can do it your best, and move on.

Give folks what they ask for, otherwise you may get taken out of the running. If people didn’t staple their headshots correctly, or didn’t have easily accessible contact information, their headshot got returned by a lot of folks. When you are seeing dozens of people, you need ways to sort through the pile, and not following directions is one way to do that. When you are submitting a query, read what folks want, and follow those guidelines. Don’t improvise, or give them what you think they need. Sometimes following directions is the first test.

Know that sometimes it isn’t you, it’s just that it isn’t a good fit. For writers, it could mean that the agent you are pitching doesn’t think they can find a home for your work. Or an editor may not need your genre for their catalog. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a good writer. It means you haven’t found the right fit.

Attitude is everything. For actors who go into an audition, you never know who is checking you in. Those folks will be asked about how you were in the waiting room. For writers, remember that writing is solitary, but getting published is a community effort. Disappointment is part of the business. How you handle that disappointment becomes part of your reputation.

Practice radical gratitude. Being grateful for opportunities makes the artistic journey much easier. If you are only grateful when you get what you want, you are going to have a tough ride. An actor I know (who works a lot) told me that she considered auditioning her job, so she loved it. Getting a gig was her vacation. Being an artist isn’t easy. But how lucky are we to be called to the artistic journey? For that, I am grateful.

Do you know what else I am grateful for, dear readers? Opportunities to meet you in person! I have two coming up in the next few days.

On Sunday, April 15 Barbara Ross, Edith Maxwell, and Leigh Perry/Toni Kelner and I will be doing a talk back after a performance of Miss Holmes at the Greater Boston Stage Company. I’m very excited about my two worlds (theater and writing) colliding at this event, and am also looking forward to seeing the show!

On Wednesday, April 18 I am going to be at the Westwood Library with Hank Phillippi Ryan, Elizabeth Elo, and Stephanie Gayle doing a talk about plotting in different genres. More information is here.

In the comments, let me know what you’ve discovered on your journey so far. Tips that you wish you could give your younger self. . .

30 Is A Great Age

sinc30Two organizations I am deeply involved with are celebrating 30 years of service to their communities. Sisters in Crime is kicking off their 30th birthday this weekend, at Bouchercon. Today I went to their SinC Into Great Writing session, a wonderful workshop on writing diverse characters. The workshop is a follow-up to the the release of the 2016 Publishing Summit report, the Report for Change. This report is one example of the great work the organization does. It was founded 30 years ago to support women crime writers, and has lived up to and beyond its mission.

30th-party-instagram-postOn Tuesday, September 27, StageSource will celebrate 30 years of serving the New England theater community. StageSource is an arts service organization with both organizational and artist members. The tagline is Your Theater Connection, which it truly is. There will be a party which both honors the founders, and celebrates new voices in the community. I’ve been fortunate to be the executive director of StageSource for the past five years.

Thirty years. Two organizations that are about being of service, and making their communities stronger. Both organizations depend on tiny staffs, strong boards, and a lot of volunteers. Neither organization rests on its laurels. Instead they continue to work on ways to better serve their communities.

These organizations are important in my life, and I look forward to celebrating their 30th years. While I know I will have a lot of great memories from Bouchercon, kicking it off with Sisters in Crime will be a highlight.

How about you, dear readers? What organizations are you part of that have helped create change?

Wearing My Hats

HatsI wear a lot of different professional hats. I write, as you all know. I run StageSource, a service organization for the New England theater community. I teach arts management classes at Emerson College. In addition to all three of those things, I am an arts advocate, board member of Sisters in Crime national, and Sisters in Crime New England, and I blog here and at Live To Write/Write To Live.

I am not alone in my multiple hat wearing career. Most people juggle, and add a personal life to the mix. Family, friends, and relationships all are different hats as well. Early in this new year I’ve been thinking about my hats, and what it takes to wear them all. Or, more precisely, how to wear them better in 2016. We’re only two weeks into the new year–there’s still time for me to figure this out. Important hat thoughts so far:

All of my hats are not the same size, type, or fit. That means, when I put on one hat, I need to become the person who wears that hat. Example–I am teaching a new class at Emerson this spring. School started this week, and I had to get my syllabus together, and do the plan for the first class. I’d taken last semester off from teaching, so I needed to pull out the right hat, dust it off, and put it on. Be in charge, have a game plan, and set goals for each class. It’s showtime, and I’m there to teach.

Being a writer is actually several hats. The act of writing is one thing, the social aspect of being an author is another. My writing hat is quiet, introspective, and not really fit for public life. My author hat comes with a smile, a pen, and bookmarks.

You can’t really wear more than one hat at a time and look good. This past weekend I worked at the ALA booth for Sisters in Crime New England. I brought bookmarks, but it became clear right away that I was wearing my Sisters in Crime hat at the conference. I could work in the “hey, I have a series”, but the purpose of the day was to talk about the awesome programs Sisters in Crime and our New England chapter have for libraries. When I am wearing my StageSource hat, my author hat is put away. I don’t hide it, but it also doesn’t fit at work.

Sometimes you need to clean out your closet, or at least put stuff away. You can spread yourself too thin. I don’t know that I am ready to toss hats, but I do know that before I put on another one, something needs to be put away. I am trying to be much better about goal setting and scheduling time in 2016. There are seven days a week, and 24 hours a day. Hats don’t add more time.

I love that I wear a number of different hats. It suits me, and my personality. That said, 2016 goal is to wear them a little better, and more mindfully.

How about you, dear readers? How do you juggle your hat collection?


Deep Breath

Keep Calm and Cozy OnI’m finding it tough to keep up with everything these days. Some things are terrible, like the terror attacks across the globe that are doing their job–making us all afraid. Some things are wonderful–finishing and submitting Clock and Dagger, the release of Just Killing Time, co-chairing the New England Crime Bake, StageSource nights, and the impending arrival of my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. Combined with the rest of life, it is just a lot. Time for a deep breath, and for thinking about what I do. Am I adding to the chaos, or contributing to the peace? How can I tip my life from one to the other?

Being a cozy writer is a balancing act that has similar challenges. We all write murder mysteries. Chaos. But we write cozies, where order is restored, characters drive the story, and readers can take a vacation of sorts. As I plot book #3, I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and writing during this time in our shared history. So I’ve been taking a deep breath, and trying to add more balance to this book–more order, less chaos. More puzzle, less death. More solutions, less uncertainty. By the time I get to edits I may reconsider, but right now I am weary, and need a tonic. Going back to Orchard, and restoring order, is filling that need.

I wanted to share this video with all of you. As writers, empathy for our characters is also a required skill. Being empathetic is exhausting, but needed now more than ever.

Keep calm and cozy on my friends.

One Wicked Year

Today the Wicked Cozy Authors celebrate one year of blogging, and what a year it’s been.i-And-Streamers-At-A-Party Each of us is telling you about another’s accomplishments, plus the occasional low point we’ve managed to get through. We have much to celebrate!

Edith: My conference roomie Liz Mugavero launched Kneading to Die, which was nominated for an Agatha award for Best First Novel (results to be announced May 3)! She turned in and celebrated the launch of A Biscuit, a Casket, and also turned in book three, Icing on the Corpse, (today!) despite a few struggles. She started a really cool new day job last June, too. She received good feedback from an agent on a thriller she’d written before the Pawsitively Organic Gourmet Pet Food series, and will be doing revisions this summer to see if she can find a home for it. [Edith: LizShaggyI’ve read a few scenes from it and loved it, so fingers crossed, Liz!] She spoke on panels at Bouchercon, New England Crime Bake, and at a bunch of other library and Sister in Crime NE events (many with Shaggy the adorable schnoodle). And she survived the year! That’s a high, for sure.

Liz: Highs and lows are a part of life, right? Barb Ross had some incredible highs this year, from launching Clammed Up to great acclaim – it’s nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice, Best Book of 2013–Amateur Sleuth, as well as an Agatha award for Best Contemporary Novel! – to turning in Boiled Over, coming May 6. The same day as the audiobook of Clammed Up, in fact. barbandviolaShe also celebrated the release of Best New England Crime Stories: Stone Cold (with co-editors Mark Ammons, Katherine Fast and Leslie Wheeler) in November, co-chaired the New England Crime Bake (Liz: which was fabulous!) and spoke on an also fabulous food panel at Bouchercon. And let’s not forget her short story success: her story “Bread Baby,” which appeared in Best New England Crime Stories: Stone Cold, was nominated for an Agatha for Best Short Story. (Liz: Is this an accomplished lady, or what?). Personal highs? Aside from making lots of new friends in the world of traditional mysteries, Barb became a grandmother for the first time to the fabulous Viola. Unfortunately, Barb also lost her mom during this time period. And all our hearts ache for her loss. As she so eloquently says, it’s the alpha and omega of life. But still so tough.

Jessie: We all have Sherry to thank for starting this blog in the first place. I guess that’s no real surprise since Sherry is one of those people who just has a genius for getting people together and making them feel great about the experience. When we first started this blog Sherry had signed a contract to write the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series but wasn’t able to announce her news publicly. She was hard at work writing the first book, Tagged for Death and turned it in on November 14. Now she’s working on the second in the series. Sherry traveled quite a bit this year too. She returned to New England  and joined the other Wickeds for two different writing retreats in Old Orchard Beach and she attended Crime Bake in Dedham, MA. Her wanderings took her to the other coast as well, where she appeared on the IMG_3472Deadly New Voices panel at her first Left Coast Crime conference, something she describes as “a fabulous, fun experience”. She also says “One of the best things about this year was building this blog with these amazing women and getting to know them all in the process”.  I’d say we are all lucky to know Sherry too!

Sherry: I had to pop in here and say while I may have had the idea for the blog, there wouldn’t be one without the rest of you. I’d still be thinking about it. You all jumped in, got it going and taught me how to blog.

Julie: A year ago (was it only a year?) Edith made the leap to full time writer. So much has happened since then. Her first Local Foods mystery (A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die) came out to positive reviews, including being on the Edible Boston recommended summer reading list. ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part was finished on time, and is coming out on May 27, already getting rave reviews. She just submitted book #3, Farmed and Dangerous, to her editor.


Edith in San Franciso at Borderlands Books, with her author-uncle’s sweetie, a cousin and his wife, a former coworker, and an exchange-student friend from Brazil, 1970!

Edith traveled–a lot. She was on panels at Malice Domestic, California Crime Writers Conference, Bouchercon, the New England Crime Bake, and Left Coast Crime on top of many bookstore and library appearances. Not one to rest on her writing laurels, Edith also had her historical mystery short story “Breaking the Silence” published in Level Best’s  Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, and the story won an Honorable Mention in the Al Blanchard Short Crime Fiction contest. Tace Baker, Edith’s alter ego, finished Bluffing is Murder, which will be released in late fall this year by Barking Rain Press. AND she worked on another book which is close to her heart. All of this while real life happened, including a dear friend passing away. Me and Julie Crime Bake 2013

Sherry: Getting to interview Julie was special for me since she is the first of the Wickeds I met — read about that in my networking post. Julie’s big writing news this year is that she became a new woman! Julianne Holmes will be making her debut in 2015, writing the Clock Shop Mystery Series for Berkley Prime Crime. This year, Julie is writing the book, which is due in September. There will likely be blog posts about that. She also started her second one-year term as Sisters in Crime New England president (from now on they will be two year terms), and joined the national board of Sisters in Crime. And this year she is really excited to be the co-chair of the New England Crime Bake. Her other lives (as the Executive Director of StageSource, and an adjunct faculty member at Emerson College) also kept her busy.

Jessie Crockett holding DRIZZLED TO DEATH! How thrilling is that?

Jessie Crockett holding DRIZZLED TO DEATH! How thrilling is that?

Barb: So many wonderful things have happened for Jessie since last May 1. She released Drizzled with Death which went on to become a national bestseller. She turned the second manuscript in her Sugar Grove series, Maple Mayhem on time despite kids being home for summer break as the deadline loomed. She sold the German rights to her first mystery, Live Free or Die, which will be releasing in Germany in time for Christmas this year. Jessie attended Bouchercon for the first time along with all the other Wickeds except Sherry, who attended on a stick. She had a wonderful time back in November serving as a panelist at Crime Bake for the first time.  (Barb: Jessie’s too modest tell you she’s the hostess with the mostest who hosts the Wicked annual retreat, so I will. She’s an amazing host and organizer who makes the retreat the highlight of the Wicked calendar.) Jessie’s met a lot of new booksellers, librarians and readers over the past year at book events and other sorts of talks. She especially enjoyed being a presenter at the New Hampshire Writers’ Day Conference. Even with all that fun in mind, she says creating and maintaining this blog with the Wickeds has been the most enjoyable experience of the year. Sheila Connolly

We are very lucky to have two wicked awesome monthly columnists. Sheila Connolly joined us in July and her column appears on the first Monday of each month. Sheila has three ongoing and very successful series, plus several recent standalone novels. What’s next, Sheila?


Kim and Julie

Kim and Julie

Kim Gray started writing The Detective’s Daughter column in January. You can find it on the third Tuesday each month. In it she shares her stories of growing up with her father, a detective in Baltimore City. Kim won the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers for her novel Ghost of a Chance.

So we’re all thrilled and challenged by our year together. Delighted to have found a support group, and delighted for each others’ successes. Part of the thrill has been getting to know you, our cherished readers. Please keep stopping by and let us know what kinds of posts you’d like to see in the future. Be well, and keep reading!