By Edith Maxwell
I came late to mystery writing and I had never formally studied creative writing. Once I joined Sisters in Crime, mentors seemed to be everywhere. I signed up for twenty-page manuscript critiques at the New England Crime Bake conference. I joined a writers group of more experienced writers than me and worked through scenes from my work-in-progress. I attended a weekend workshop with three multi-published mystery author teachers and made some lifelong friends among several of the other unpublished aspiring authors.
I’ve never met a more supportive group of people than crime writers. Once I finished, polished, and found a publisher for my first mystery novel in 2012, I took a deep breath and asked four well-known New England authors if they would write endorsements. They all said they would, and did.
Now I have three multi-book series contracts. I have fifteen novels in print, an additional five completed and in various stages of production, and at least four more under contract. I am living my dream, and it’s time to give back, to pay the generous mentoring forward.
When a new author asks if I will write a cover blurb, I say Yes (with the caveat that I’ll endorse it only if I like it, but I’ve only had to decline two). When a member of the critique group I finally left asks if I’ll read a new draft of her short story, I say Yes. When the Crime Bake committee asks if I’ll critique one or more twenty-page manuscript samples, I say Yes. I agree to talk to library writing groups and chime in with answers in an online unpublished-writers group.
And when I was asked to serve as Vice-President of our large New England chapter of Sisters in Crime, I had to say Yes. I had left my day job to devote my time to writing fiction, and it was my turn to give back. I wouldn’t be where I am without the workshops, networking, and friends I’ve made in SINC and in our chapter. I’m now in my second year of serving as President, and in my first of two years as co-chair of Crime Bake.
Does mentoring, encouraging, giving back take a lot of time and energy? Sure. So far I’ve never missed a book deadline, though, and I want to help newer writers coming up. I think we can all find opportunities, small and large, to encourage creativity, and frankly paying it forward feels good.
Readers: Who have you mentored? How do you find ways to pay forward generosity and advice you’ve benefited from?
Agatha- and Macavity-nominated author Edith Maxwell writes the Local Foods Mysteries, the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she writes the popular Country Store Mysteries and the new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. She is president of Sisters in Crime New England and lives north of Boston with her beau and two elderly cats. She blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com and KillerCharacters.com. Read about all her personalities and her work at edithmaxwell.com, and please find her on social media – she loves to talk to readers.
In Maxwell’s latest mystery, Death Over Easy (written as Maddie Day), restaurateur Robbie Jordan is ready for the boost in business a local bluegrass festival brings to South Lick, Indiana, but the beloved event strikes a sour note. The celebration is cut short when a performer is found choked to death by a banjo string. Now all the banjo players are featured in a different kind of lineup. To clear their names, Robbie must pair up with an unexpected partner to pick at the clues and find the plucky killer before he – or she – can conduct an encore performance.