Mystery Women: Sisters in Crime's Michigan chapter debuts in Ann Arbor
At the 1986 "Women in the Mystery" conference, Sara Paretsky, author of the wildly successful V.I. Warshawski series, spoke out about the rising tide of misogyny in mystery books. Almost immediately, she began receiving messages from women all over the country, sharing their stories of ill-treatment. A year later at the Edgar Awards, female mystery writers formed Sisters in Crime.
The organization's mission states that it is committed to helping women who “write, review, buy, or sell crime fiction" and the "ultimate goal is to … address issues of concern to everyone involved in the mystery field.” In the 30 years since its inception, Sisters in Crime (SinC) has encouraged and supported women in the genre, but it has not had a chapter in Michigan -- until now.
A year ago, mystery writer Jan Rydzon was at a conference and met members of the national SinC group. “When I found out there was no group in Michigan, I asked how I could start one,” she says. After receiving information, Rydzon talked to friends who were mystery writers and the local chapter was born. “Sara got that first group together so women could have a support system and now we will continue that tradition here in Michigan.” Currently, Rydzon serves as president, Bobbi Blake as vice-president, Mary Dean as secretary, and Theresa Falzone as treasurer.
The kickoff for the Michigan chapter of Sisters in Crime will be Saturday, July 29, at 2:30 pm at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase, across from Aunt Agatha’s bookstore on Fourth Avenue. In addition to providing general information to prospective writers and members, there will be a "Bad Guys/Bad Gals" panel discussion about villains in mysteries. Rydzon says, “We’ll have four people on the panel: Judge Terrence P. Bronson, retired U.S. Marshall Louis Stock, author Sarah Zettel, and Pinkerton Vice President Jason Porter. A moderator will ask questions. … There will also be time for questions from participants.”
A highlight of the meeting will be presenting Sisters in Crime’s “We Love Bookstores” award to Aunt Agatha’s. Every month, the national SinC group awards $500 to a bookstore for use in marketing, promotions, or book signing events. “Aunt Agatha’s won in May and we will give them the award on behalf of the national,” Rydzon says.
Ideas for future events are plentiful, too. Rydzon says the group is looking at doing a “write-in, where we will all stay in the same place and work. ... We are hoping this will take place in Traverse City.” Since more than a few characters in mysteries find themselves behind bars, SinC also plans to organize behind-the-scenes tours of local jails or state prisons. “We’d also like to tour the FBI building in Detroit and visit a police K9 unit,” Rydzon says. A possible bigger adventure will be joining a group that does search and recoveries in Lake St. Clair.
Rydzon hopes to have many educational events, too, including talks on how to use social media as an author. And, of course, future events will also focus on the writing process and all it entails. “There will be meetings where writers can bring a page or two of her work in progress to share with the group, allowing for focused feedback and critique,” Rydzon says. "We want to bring in people at all levels.”
Patti F. Smith is a special education teacher and writer who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and cat.
Michigan's chapter of Sisters in Crime will have its debut event on Saturday, July 29, at 2:30 pm at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase, 212 S. Fourth Ave. For more information, visit michigansinc.org. You can RSVP for the gathering at Eventbrite.