Wicked Wednesday–How Did We Meet?

On Wicked Wednesdays, we will all chime in on the question on the week. Feel free to join the conversation in the comment section!

How did you all meet?

Malice, Sisters, and Seascape

Sherry: In the spring of 2005 as I headed to my seat at the Malice Domestic banquet I hoped there would be an agent at my table. There wasn’t but I sat by Julie Hennrikus, which started a cycle of events I couldn’t have imagined. Julie lives near Boston, and my family was moving to Hanscom Air Force Base, fifteen miles from Boston, that summer. In minutes I had Julie’s email, information about the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and Crime Bake, a mystery writers conference.

In the fall I joined the chapter and attended Crime Bake. Julie introduced me to so many fabulous, talented, inspiring women. New England started to feel like home. A few years later, I signed up for the Seascape Writers Retreat run by Hallie EphronRoberta Islieb, and SW Hubbard. One of the other attendees wanted to carpool. We met in a mall parking lot and I was relieved to recognize Edith Maxwell from SincNE meetings. I tried not to be too obvious as I sent a text to my family saying Edith didn’t appear to be an ax murderer. We happily yakked all the way to Connecticut.

Part of our subgroup at Seascape 2009: Edith second from left, with Liz and Sherry second and first from right, respectively.

The days were crammed with learning but the nights were a sleepover for adults. Liz, Barb, Edith and I, along with a few others, we stayed up late talking, sharing wine and laughing. The second night we convinced Liz to stay over. Long after our more sensible retreat attendees had headed to bed we were creeping around the halls looking for a rollaway. My apologies to anyone we woke dragging the rollaway back to our room. Nothing like things that go bump in the night at a mystery writers’ event.

In the summer of 2010, after I moved back to Northern Virginia, I started hearing about Jessie Crockett. I finally met her at Crime Bake last fall. Her energy is contagious or maybe it was the vitamin B12 she sprayed in our mouths.

Barb, Edith, Jessie and Liz all have the same agent, John Talbot. And they went out of their way to make sure Julie and I met him at Crime Bake last year. Barb ran into a room, grabbed me, and half dragged me into a hall where she’d spotted John. Then when he was free she actually shoved me in the back so I stumbled in front of him before anyone else could snag him.

We’ve critiqued each others manuscripts, met for dinners, had coffee and wine, shared rooms at conferences, and Jessie has generously opened her beach house for writers’ weekends. Not meeting an agent that night at Malice is one of the best things that ever happened to me. There is more to this story but that will be saved for another time.

Barb: Julie gets around! In the fall of 2006 when I went to the New England Crime Bake I had a secret. My story, “Winter Rental” was receiving an honorable mention for the Al Blanchard Award. I sat across from a woman whose name tag said we were from the same town. We starting chatting, and when the Blanchard honorable mentions were called, both of us stood up. Same town, both short story writers. A relationship was cemented, and now Julie’s succeeded me as President of Sisters in Crime New England.

At the New England Crime Bake in 2011, Jessie was the one who had a secret. Our first novels had come out in the same month in 2010. When we got into the elevator, positively drooping at the end of the first day, I asked her what was new. “It isn’t announced, but I think I just sold a series to a major publisher,” Jessie said. “That’s the best news I’ve heard all day!” I responded, because it was.

As to the debauchery with the rest of you at Seascape—the less said, the better!

Edith here: I think I met Barb before any of the other Wicked Cozy authors. We were at a SINC New England workshop on revision with Elizabeth Lyon about six years ago. It was one of my first meetings and I knew almost nobody. During the introductions, Barb said she’d just been offered a contract for The Death of an Ambitious Woman. Wow, I thought. She’s made the big time! Sherry hosted a fabulous workshop at the Air Force base the next year that featured the female base security commander, who told a bunch of mystery writers about fighting crime in an insular military community. But, as Sherry said, we didn’t really get to know each other until we drove in my Prius to Seascape. She’s a crack editor and writes mystery with one of those funny voices you can’t put down.

Crime Bake 2009
Singing our song about Agatha Christie

I met Liz at Seascape as Sherry describes, and became immersed in the intriguing darker, non-cozy she was working on then. I hope she publishes it eventually, too. Jessie I first met at a potluck in Portsmouth before a Sisters in Crime event. She wore a rakish cap and impressed me with her self assurance and her published first novel, Live Free or Die. Julie and I bonded at a Crime Bake banquet table where we, with Sherry and the rest of the table, came up with lyrics to a song lauding Agatha Christie, and then performed it with great aplomb! Julie’s short stories are wicked awesome.

Liz: Some things are just meant to be. I wasn’t even planning on attending Seascape the year I met Barb, Sherry and Edith (and one other amazing friend and fellow writer from Australia, Christine Hillman Keyes). I was minding my budget. I’d gone to Seascape the prior year and had a wonderful time, but thought I just wasn’t going to make it that year. But Roberta Isleib sent me an email a couple of weeks before the event and told me she had one spot left, and would I like to go? Something told me to say yes, so I signed up as a commuter and packed my manuscript.

The Seascape class of 2009. The front row includes Edith in the turquoise shirt, Liz in red, and Christine from Australia on the far right. Further back are Barb to the left of Liz’s head and Sherry popping up just to the left of Barb’s head!

Well, as soon as I ended up in their group I knew I’d made the right choice. We became instant friends, and all of them were such great writers! Sherry’s novel-in-progress about a gemologist drew me in immediately. Like Edith said, I was impressed with how far along Barb was in her career, and her calm, sensible approach to everything. And Edith was a trip from the get-go! We also have a six-degrees-of-separation connection too – she once worked with one of my oldest friends, and the two have since reconnected through our friendship on social media. How cool is that?

But what really solidified the bond was the horrible road construction on I-95 that weekend. Since I was commuting, I headed home on Friday night. What should’ve taken 40 minutes took two and a half hours. So the next day, I brought an extra outfit and hoped someone would let me crash. My new friends didn’t let me down. As Sherry mentioned, we stayed up way too late and drank wine and exchanged stories. Then we needed to find a bed. Although if I recall, Sherry, I ended up sleeping on some mattress thing on the floor, right? Either way, it was one of my favorite weekends ever.

I met Julie officially later at Crime Bake (the best conference around for mystery writers, in my opinion!). We hit it off immediately – she’s got amazing energy and always has positive things to say and inspirational tips on how to look at life. And Jessie I met (finally!) once we realized we were all represented by John Talbot. Another instant connection, and her weekend writing retreats are something I’m always looking forward to. I’m wicked glad I can share this journey with all of you girls!

Jessie: I remember starting to recognize Barb and Julie and Edith from attending the New England Crime Bake for several years. All three of those ladies seemed so much like the “It Girls” from high school, only nice. They knew all the panelists and all the Sisters in Crime New England board members, often serving on the board themselves.

I was thrilled when Barb and I sat at the same table for something at the Crime Bake and I was able to compare notes with her about releasing our first books at the same time. Barb always radiates competence and authority.  Just by having something in common with her on the publishing front made me feel like I was actually becoming a professional.

I am not sure when I really met Julie since she makes you feel instantly like you aren’t strangers. She is one of those rare individuals who leaves you with the sense she was truly listening when you spoke to her. She also has great taste in sweaters. I’m a knitter and I love sitting somewhere at an event where I can get a good long look at what she’s wearing. I’m not sure I am always getting as much as I should out of the speakers because I end up spending considerable time pondering how to reconstruct her knitwear!

Edith and I both attended a Sisters in Crime meeting in Portsmouth, NH in 2010. Edith was so friendly and easy to talk to and she let me try her netbook computer. It was the first time I had seen one up close and trying it opened up all sorts of ideas about how portable my writing could be. Thank you, Edith! Edith was also the inspiration for the writing retreat already mentioned by others. She posted on her blog about a wonderfully productive retreat she had recently undertaken. By this time, Edith, Barb, Liz and I all had contracts for mystery series and shared an agent. I asked Edith if she would be interested in another retreat up at my beach house. She readily agreed and we invited Barb and Liz to join us.

I met Liz a few weeks later at a seminar given by Donald Maass on Writing the Breakout Novel. Funky and irreverent, funny and enthusiastic, she was the perfect fourth for the retreat quartet. You get the sense from her that she might just be up for anything. In addition to her other qualities she has great taste in coffee and generously offers to share her supply with fellow writers in need of a fix.

Sherry was the last one I got to know but certainly was worth the wait. She has the biggest, most welcoming smile and I felt like I had known her just as long as I had all the others within just a few moments. We met at the 2012 New England Crime Bake and it was so nice to finally put a face to the woman Barb, Edith and Liz all kept mentioning so fondly. Sherry is the one who first got the idea of this blog and without her we would all still probably be Wicked and most likely Cozy but we wouldn’t be Wicked Cozy. Thanks, Sherry.

Julie here: I love going last on this post. For me, it all comes back to Sisters in Crime and Malice. Many years ago I met a woman named Regina Roberts in a mystery writing class. She personified outgoing, and I did not. We decided to go to Malice Domestic that year, and try to network. While standing in a line, Regina met Dana Cameron, who was then the VP of Sisters in Crime New England. Regina found me and said “we need to join this group.” And so we did. Two years later I went to Malice with my mother—Regina had lost her battle with breast cancer. That is when I met Sherry, who was a gift—she has the best personality, and is one of the nicest women I know. The short story I won Honorable Mention for when I met Barb? It was inspired by Regina (long story). As a fundamentally shy person who goes through life faking it, I am amazed by Edith and her energy and Edith and Julie at Crime Bakeenthusiasm, and remember sitting with her at Crime Bake and writing a song in homage to Agatha Christie. I was a Jessie Crockett fan before we officially met—she had published her first novel, and was rocking the marketing of it. And Liz? We sat together at a Crime Bake and just laughed. We six are a great team, and I am really looking forward to this blog. It is going to be a wicked good time.