What I'm reading: Fireside, by Susan Wiggs
Despite all the wonderful speakers, panels and writer camaraderie, this year's SleuthFest had one missing piece. Author Barbara Parker. Her cancer had recurred, and she was spending her final days in a hospice, surrounded by family.
She was one of the first authors I met at my very first conference, and I was impressed by her workshop on crafting a mystery. I'd never read anything of hers, so I began with her first book in the "Suspicion" series. Even though I thought I'd created my 'perfect hero' in my first attempt at writing a novel, her Anthony had my Randy beat.
When I attended my first SleuthFest, I submitted my first chapter for her workshop, one in which she would take five authors' work, and discuss and critique them. She didn't accept it for the workshop, but she returned my pages with, "let's discuss this" written on the bottom.
I hung around after the final session, and over lunch (I paid, of course), she proceeded to tell me that I had writing talent, but needed to learn how to structure a story. It took two more tries before she accepted my work for one of the 'hot seats.' Barbara never pulled her punches. I recall being glad she'd rejected my first attempt when she told one of the authors there was nothing wrong with his writing that a good pair of scissors couldn't fix.
But she always had time to talk to beginners, treating them as though it would only be a matter of minutes before they were published. I showed her the first pages of the mystery short story I was trying to write, and her eyes opened wide. "You have really gotten better!" she said. She asked me to send her the whole thing, and after she finished, she told me to call her. We discussed it for almost an hour (I think she would have gone on, but her cell phone battery was fading.).
Barbara Parker passed away last Saturday. The tributes pouring onto the Florida MWA chapter loop all say the same thing. She shared. She never let you feel there was an "I'm published. You're not" attitude. She will be sorely missed.
And, although I can't pretend that my qualifications come close to hers, in the spirit of sharing, I will send anyone who requests it a copy of my Dialogue Basics handout from the SleuthFest 2009 panel. All you have to do is send an email to the address on the sidebar requesting it. It'll be a PDF file .
Tomorrow, my guest will be Jennifer Johnson, who's talking about one of my favorite things. Food. Please come back.