gillpolack (gillpolack) wrote,
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Women's History Month: Jeri Westerson

Gillian asked me to write a post about my passion. Well, I’ve got two. One is history. And the other is writing. Lucky me, I get to combine them when I write my medieval mysteries.

Publishing my novels was something that was a long time in coming. Through over a decade of hard work, perseverance, and support from a lot of women in the same boat, I finally saw the fruits of my labors.

I don’t write about women much in my novels. I always had a rather male-centric writing style, but I certainly benefitted from association with women. Specifically, Sisters in Crime. Sisters in Crime or SinC is not a group of manic nuns. Instead, it’s an international organization of women crime and mystery writers who share their woes, their stories, their successes with like-minded women on listservs and in person in chapter meetings all over the country and at various mystery fan conventions and writing conferences. It’s tough as a would be author to slog through the mire of the publishing industry. I don’t even see how it’s possible to get published in the traditional sense with an agent and big New York publisher without some sort of help. For me, that help came in this organization. Writing is a very solitary job. You sit in an office alone, writing for hours at a time with nothing but your keyboard and your imagination. And though I do enjoy this solo enterprise, you can’t succeed in a vacuum. It takes the eyes of critique partners and perhaps a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes my mail delivery was full of rejections. It’s hard to take that alone.

Twenty-five years ago, mystery author Sara Paretsky saw inequality when it came to reviews in the major publications. Mystery novels written by women were being snubbed when it came to reviews. Why the inequality? In some cases, male reviewers flat out refused to review books written by women. Are you shocked? So was she. She networked with other female mystery novelists and ended up developing Sisters in Crime.

Today, the main mission of Sisters in Crime is to “promote the professional development and advancement of women crime writers to achieve equality in the industry.” It doesn’t mean we exclude men from membership. Oh no. They are our “misters” in crime. But each year, SinC surveys various periodicals throughout the country and does the numbers. The survey shows how many men and how many women authors are reviewed. Unfortunately, the numbers are still unequal, even though more women than men write mystery novels and more women than men buy them.

I don’t mean this to be a big advertisement for Sisters in Crime, but it has been the one place where I have truly gotten some meaningful help in my long search to get published. Through the information I gleaned and the networking I did, I was able to get a handle on this difficult and challenging industry.

And what finally happened, you ask? In 2007, I sold my first book, VEIL OF LIES. Now in 2011, I am looking forward to the publication of my fifth novel. Write on!


Jeri Westerson is the author of the Crispin Guest Medieval Noir series. She is also the president of her chapter of Sisters in Crime in Orange County, California. You can read excerpts of her novels or follow the discussion guides at www.JeriWesterson.com.
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