|Alafair Burke with Janice Reuther|
|Me with Burke, Gross, Margolin and Phillippi Ryan|
We totally hit the jackpot with Hank Phillippi Ryan, whom we spoke with both during the cocktail hour and over dinner. Phillippi Ryan is an investigative reporter with Boston's NBC affiliate. She has won 30 EMMYs and 12 Edward R. Murrow Awards for her journalism. So it comes as no surprise that she has attacked the world of fiction with both vigor and focus.
In addition to working as a journalist and penning six works of crime fiction, Hank (we are now on a first name basis) was the President of Sisters in Crime in 2013 and is on the board of the Mystery Writers of America. Janice and I talked with her about the two organizations. Hank told us that when Sisters in Crime was organized in 1987, its objective was to bring attention and provide support to women who write, review, buy or sell crime fiction. Its founders had noticed a distinct lack of female nominations for mystery writer awards, likely due to the lack of reviews of crime novels written by women. Over time, the landscape has changed, and the organization's mission statement was revised accordingly. It now reads: "To promote the ongoing advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers." (As an FYI for all you thriller readers out there, membership is not limited to women, and readers are welcome to join.)
By way of contrast, Mystery Writers of America's motto is "Crime doesn't pay... enough." Hank said that MWA is "union-esque" in some ways as it strives to level the (financial) playing field between literary fiction and mysteries. The MWA sponsors the Edgar Awards each year (named, of course, after Edgar Allen Poe). Having an Edgar Award on your resume is a true badge of honor for writers of mystery, crime, suspense and intrigue. Hank has been involved in reviewing the books nominated for the Awards, and it sounds like a fun--but herculean--task.
It was a great evening, and I was amazed that we couldn't purchase books written by the authors we were chatting up even if we had wanted to. In fact, as you can probably tell, there was a lot of talk about writing and the literary industry without specifics about the books written by the talented authors with whom we had the chance to spend time. It was quite a unique experience, and I will definitely attend the event in the future. In the meantime, I am looking forward to this year's Book Expo, where I hope to see my new author friends again.