Are You MWAing the Right Way?
If you’re not checking your chapter website regularly, then you’re not MWAing the right way. But you're here now, so that's good.
If you’re not taking advantage of as many organization benefits as possible (see this list here), then you’re not MWAing the right way.
If you’re not going to any meetings or events, then you’re not MWAing the right way.
If you’re not going to any meetings or events because you live too far from where they are held (an issue for many chapters that, like ours, cover many states) and you’re not trying to organize your MWA events in your own area (a reading, a cocktail gathering, a brunch maybe), after contacting your chapter president and getting the all clear and maybe even some funding, then you’re not MWAing the right way.
If you’re going to meetings and sitting by yourself . . .
If you’re going to meetings and sitting with the same people every time . . .
If you’re going to meetings and not bringing a business card . . .
If you’re meeting people at meetings and not following them on social media, then you’re not MWAing the right way. (And if you’re not a social media and you want people to buy your books, what’s that about? And if you want people to buy your books and you don’t have a website, what’s that about?)
If you’re not attending as many of your fellow members’ book launches as you can, then you’re not MWAing the right way. (Why, then, should they go to your book launches?)(Support!)(We help each other to succeed.)
If you’re expecting the organization to help you become a rich and famous author, then you’re not MWAing the right way.
If you’re thinking you’ll get to meet and mingle with rich and famous authors, you might once in a while (and more likely at our holiday party). But if that’s why you joined MWA, then you’re not MWAing the right way.
If you’re thinking you’ll get to meet and mingle with rich and famous authors just so you can ask for their agents’ names and advice on your first 50 pages or a blurb for you book, and you haven’t in any way established if not a friendship then at least a cordial, professional relationship, then you’re annoying.
If you’re expecting MWA to promote every tweet, every book deal, book cover, book launch, book giveaway, book review you ever do and act like your public relations agency, then you’re not MWAing the right way. (We do what we can and in the interest of all of our members. By the way, when was the last time you retweeted us?)
BUT if you joined MWA to get advice about what to read, how to write, how to get published, how to get an agent, then you’re MWAing the right way.
If you joined MWA to learn more about the world of crime fiction, as a writer, a fan, or a journalist, then you’re MWAing the right way.
If you joined MWA because as a writer you feel so alone sometimes, and it’s nice to get out of the house and to be thinking and talking about writing and to feel that your effort is worthwhile and that you are not the only one who is struggling, then you’re MWAing the right way.
And if you joined MWA to get away from the house and from a spouse who wants you to do the dishes when all you want to do is write, write, write, then we don’t blame you.
If you joined MWA to join a community of people who care about this thing called mystery writing (and its bizarre connection to cats), if you' re looking for camaraderie, to commiserate over agents, chat about craft, kibbitz about crime fiction, then you’re MWAing the right way.
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Richie Narvaez is the award-winning author of Roachkiller and Other Stories. His fiction has appeared in Plots with Guns, Long Island Noir, Spinetingler, and more. His debut novel Hipster Death Rattle will be published in 2019.
Professor-Writer: Living the Dream?
You probably figured it out in grade school: Hey, waitaminute, Ms. Prisco only works 'til three in the afternoon. And then she's got summers off. Ain’t that swell! Teachers sure got it easy.
Then when you attended college, this idea was magnified: Say, wouldn’t it be peachy just to teach for an hour or two a day — you’d have most of the day to do nuttin’. Nuttin’ at all.
And then there are the English majors among you. You know who you are, those questioning the grammar and punctuation choices made in the previous paragraphs. You fell in love with language harder than you did your health & hygiene teacher in high school, harder than anything or anyone ever before, and your parents feared the thought of your living as a destitute poet in the East Village. (“I suppose she’ll be wearing all black all the time now,” they whispered to each other. “The Wallops’ daughter Karen just got her law degree, and she used to eat glue. What did we do wrong?”) But you couldn’t shake the bug, and when the fever broke the doctors sighingly diagnosed you with pretensions to art.
So in your head you cleverly combined the notion of teacher-life with your dreams of authorship and, lo and behold, you concluded, Well, if I want to write, what better way to feed my belly and pay for rent as well as my requisite booze habit than to become a professor? Surely, no other job will suffice. And thus the dream of professor-writer was born.
Perhaps some of you chose journalism, sharpening your craft and your ability to almost miss deadlines. Others, wielding a facility with language, may have drifted into advertising or marketing. Indeed, many successful mystery writers made his/her bones in the ad game. Dashiell Hammett. Dorothy L. Sayers. Elmore Leonard. James Patterson. Lee Child. Darrin Stephens. Don Draper. Some of you loved the lucrative environs and the corporate pressure and continue to turn out ad copy and thriller chapters in the same afternoon. But some of you balked at the stress and the endless line of launch meetings, and remembered the golden dream of academic/artist.
Whether you got there directly from grad school or via a series of meandering career paths, when you did get into the halls of knowledge and faced a room of fresh-faced first-years, you may have thought, “This is splendid. Oh, look! New chalk!” You’d teach for a few hours, you thought, then the long afternoons would lie before you like a field of guileless pages waiting for the sunshine of your brilliant words to illuminate them. But, first, there were a pile of essays to grade and lesson plans to invent. After which, sadly, you felt knackered.
That’s fine, you figured, you would work on the novel tomorrow! However, full-time academia comes with its own irksome tasks (committees, meetings, pen-shopping). If you’re part-time, well, you probably need to commute to (several) other schools to teach (#adjunctlife), but you could work on your book in your car, which very likely is also your home.
Wait! There’s still summer! Three magic months of your filling endless reams with your creative largesse. However, since enrollment is down, there are no summer classes, and you still need to eat, so you take a summer job dealing with annoying customers at Starbucks, and at least there are no essays to grade, and the murder of a customer at Starbucks would make a great premise for a mystery. Macchiato Massacre? Death Comes with Wifi?
But finally — finally! — you carve enough words and carve out enough time and complete your book, having taken a mere decade. Another decade flits by as you seek an agent and then a publisher. You share your news with your academic colleagues, but they might not be the best audience. (“What do you write?” “Crime fiction.” “Haha. No, but seriously though.” “No, really, crime fiction.” “Haha. That’s sweet. Have you done your student evaluations yet?”) But that doesn’t matter because you’ve achieved the dream, Professor Professor-Writer.
Meanwhile, while you toiled and taught, your successful lawyer friend Karen Wallop has written a dozen best-selling thrillers. And one of your creative writing students has self-published a depressing bildungsroman that is being turned into Oscar-bait. That doesn’t matter. You’re not jealous. You have your book, and maybe you learned a little something, too.
Maybe you realized it doesn’t matter what career you pick. Maybe it’s just being dogged enough, steadfast enough, perseverant enough (while wondering if those adjectives are repetitive) to finish. Or maybe it’s finding that the career of teaching is fulfilling in its own way. Maybe, just maybe, it’s finally realizing that Ms. Prisco totally deserved her summers off.
No, no, that's not it. What you really should have done is married rich.
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A professor-writer himself, Richie Narvaez is the award-winning author of Roachkiller and Other Stories. His fiction has appeared in Plots with Guns, Long Island Noir, Spinetingler, and more. His debut novel Hipster Death Rattle will be published in 2019.
What If Jack the Ripper. . .
What if Jack the Ripper were alive today? Would he use Twitter? Would he understand it?
What if Jack the Ripper were alive in the 1950s and became a cardigan-wearing crooner? Would his music be any good? Would people think all the stabbing references unromantic? Imagine the holiday specials.
What if Jack the Ripper shot JFK? Has that been done before? It sounds like it's been done before. (Does it matter if it's been done before?)
What if Jack the Ripper were alive in the 1970s and got into est? How would that go?
What if Jack the Ripper were an extraterrestrial who gets befriended by a young boy who teaches him the meaning of family? The saccharine would be the deadliest part of that story.
What if Jack the Ripper were an ex-CIA agent? Trapped on a crippled passenger-filled spaceship? Being held hostage by Soviet agents? At Christmastime? Cue the clever quips.
What if Jack the Ripper joined a grunge band? A rap group? A boy band?
What if Jack the Ripper was turned into an accountant who didn’t have the most pleasant personality, oh but what he could do to a budget?
What if Jack the Ripper became a car salesman? What would he have to do for you to leave today with the best car on the lot?
What if Jack the Ripper were reborn as an opera singer? Would he be heralded for his work in Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle? What if his heart was really in musical theater?
What if Jack the Ripper were a mystery writer? Would writing crime fiction quench his desires?
What if Jack the Ripper were a mystery writer who had to fill a blog post?
What if Jack the Ripper was a really cute and distracting puppy with big floppy ears and the most doleful eyes? Awwwww. Name him “Saucy Jack”! “He’s a cute pup,” you might say, “but the vet bills are from hell!”
What if Jack the Ripper were a cat? What if all cats are Jack the Ripper? They are, aren’t they?
What if Jack the Ripper were a modern teenager? What if all modern teenagers are Jack the Ripper? They are, aren’t they?
What if Jack the Ripper took a job as a department store clerk who enjoys his job and has pleasant relationships with everybody? Except fry cooks, for some reason.
What if Jack the Ripper took a job as a fry cook?
What if Jack the Ripper were alive today and ran for public office? Too easy? Would he more likely become a Hollywood producer?
What if Jack the Ripper were an attorney? Not much of a stretch there either. But what if Jack the Ripper sued for residuals?
What if Jack the Ripper lived in his parents’ basement but instead of going out at night or ever he just sat in front of telly all the time eating chips and talking about disemboweling this person and eviscerating that person so much that sometimes his parents feel the need to say, “Instead of just sitting there, get off your arse and do it. Just do something.” But then he still doesn’t. Although he does go on 4chan and Reddit a lot.
What if Jack the Ripper were your chiropractor? your allergist? your dentist? Too far?
What if Jack the Ripper were Hercule Poirot? What if Jack the Ripper were Miss Marple dressed as Hercule Poirot but not for Halloween?
What if Jack the Ripper were Sherlock Holmes?
What if Jack the Ripper were Sherlock Holmes’s smarter brother who is also a vampire and a werewolf?
What if Jack the Ripper were Santa Claus? And you forgot to leave him cookies. . .
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Richie Narvaez is the award-winning author of Roachkiller and Other Stories. His fiction has appeared in Plots with Guns, Sunshine Noir, Spinetingler, and more. His debut novel Hipster Death Rattle will be published in 2019.
Mug Shot: Kellye Garrett
Kellye Garrett spent eight years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the CBS drama Cold Case. Having moved back to her native New Jersey, she spends her mornings commuting to Manhattan for her job at a leading media company. Her first novel, Hollywood Homicide, was released in August of this year. It was a Library Journal Debut of the Month and described as a “winning first novel and series launch” in a starred review by Publishers Weekly.
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What are you working on currently?
I just turned in the second book of the Detective by Day series. It's called Hollywood Ending and it takes place during Awards season, which is a three-month stretch at the beginning of the year when you have the Oscars, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards. and what feels like every other major awards show known to man.
When and how do you find time to write?
I write whenever and wherever I can. I commute from New Jersey to Manhattan every day for work so I'll compose scenes while on the train and quickly jot down ideas and dialogue bits on the Notes app on my phone. When it comes to actually sitting down at my laptop, I tend to do that in the evening right before bed.
How much and what kinds of marketing do you personally do?
I'm still trying to figure this one out since this is my first book. I do blog with five other amazing authors who also write amateur detective novels at ChicksontheCase.com. I'm also very active on Twitter. In addition, I'm lucky to be part of two amazing and supportive writing communities: Pitch Wars, which is a contest that pairs established authors with unagented writers to help them revise their manuscript for an Agent Round, and ’17 Scribes, which is a group of more than 100 debut authors with adult and New Adults book out this year.
Otherwise, I try to find creative way to promote my book so people don't get tired of me. Though I'm sure some still do! I recently started an online annotated guide to my book where I share background info and tidbits about the scenes, characters, etc.
What fictional detective would you like to be and why?
Hmmm. Maybe Detective Lou Norton from Rachel Howzell Hall’s series because she’s such a strong, smart and sometimes sarcastic black woman. Although I see that type of person a lot in my family and friends, I don’t see that nearly enough in mystery novels. On the flip side, it also might be fun to be Spenser for a day, just so I could spend the day kicking ass and cooking. Though I'd probably not choose a day where he has one of his brutal workout session with Hawk.
In five words or less, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Writing is rewriting.