I always love to get the word out about the Sisters in Crime Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award, so today, I’ve asked Valerie Burns and Julie Hennrikus to share some information about it. Valerie is the Grants and Award Liaison for Sisters in Crime and Julie is the Executive Director.
Valerie, who is Eleanor Taylor Bland? Eleanor Taylor Bland was a Black crime fiction writer. She was born in Massachusetts in 1944 but later moved to Illinois. She is best known for creating the police detective, Marti McAlister. As a Black woman writing Bland was not only a pioneer in the field of crime fiction, but she was also a role model and a trailblazer. There weren’t a lot of stories that featured a black female police detective in her day, and sadly there still aren’t. When she died in 2010, she was one of the most prolific Black writers in the mystery genre, writing over 14 novels, several short stories, and editing an anthology.
Julie, how did the award come about? Eleanor Taylor Bland was not only a prolific writer, as Valerie talked about. She was also an important member of the crime writing community, supporting and mentoring other writers throughout her career. In this article about the award, Sujata Massey mentions meeting Eleanor Taylor Bland at Malice Domestic: “I remember Eleanor inviting me to join a few other writers of color for lunch—basically, all five of us were the entire nonwhite camp at the conference. She thought it was so important to support each other.”
When she passed in 2010, she left a huge void in the community. Sisters in Crime decided to honor her legacy, and its many facets, but creating the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award for emerging writers.
Valerie, who is eligible for the award? The Eleanor Taylor Bland Award is open to any emerging crime fiction writers of color. Since this award is targeted to “emerging” authors, it is limited to authors who have limited publishing experience, limited to 10 (ten) or fewer pieces of short fiction (excluding poetry), and/or up to two self or traditionally published books. There are no citizenship requirements, but submissions must be in English.
Julie, what does the winner get? The winner gets $2000 which is intended to help them further their writing journey. They can use the award for conferences, workshops, or however they’d like. Additionally, winning an award like the Eleanor Taylor Bland award can help a writer when they query agents and editors.
Valerie, how has the award impacted the lives of the winners? Writing can be a solitary endeavor and most writers at the beginning of their careers, often receive a lot of rejections, which can be discouraging. Winning an award of this type, especially an award with a financial prize, helps build confidence and encourages writers to keep writing. Two of the previous winners, Mia P. Manansala (2018 ) and Yasmin Angoe McClinton (2020) have gone on to achieve publishing success with their debut novels. (The complete list of past winners is here.)
Here is more about the award from the Sisters in Crime website. Click here for more details.
Requirements For Application
- An unpublished work of crime fiction. This may be a short story or first chapter(s) of a manuscript in-progress, 2,500 to 5,000 words.
- A resume or biographical statement.
- A cover letter that gives a sense of the applicant as an emerging writer in the genre and briefly states how the grant money would be used. No prior writing or publishing experience is required, but the applicant should include any relevant studies or experience.
- Submission note: as this award is intended for emerging writers, previous publishing experience is limited to 10 (ten) or fewer pieces of short fiction (excluding poetry) and/or up to 2 (two) self or traditionally published books.
- We accept English language submissions, with no citizenship requirements.
- The submissions period for 2022 is February 1 – March 31.
V.M. (Valerie) Burns was born and raised in the Midwestern United States. She currently resides in the warmer region of the country with her two poodles, Kenzie and Chloe. Valerie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dog Writers of America, Crime Writers of Color, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. Valerie is also a mentor in the Writing Popular Fiction MFA program at Seton Hill University. She is the author of the Mystery Bookshop Mystery series, Dog Club Mystery series, and the RJ Franklin Mystery series. In August 2022, her newest series, Baker Street Mysteries will be released. Readers can visit her website at vmburns.com.
Julie Hennrikus is a Wicked Author. She’s also had a career in arts administration, and is thrilled to be working with Sisters in Crime, an organization that has played an important role in her writing life. She hosts the Sisters in Crime Writers’ Podcast. Yasmin Angoe, Mia Manansala and Robert Justice are three guests who mentioned the Eleanor Taylor Bland award and what it meant to their career.