A couple of things struck me–fortunately neither a blunt object nor a stiletto–at the SheKilda Australian Women’s Crime Convention in Melbourne last weekend.
So many women, including distinguished and established writers, talked about their fears and doubts when it came to writing. Many owed the Sisters in Crime Australia for giving them the confidence and encouragement to persevere. Multi-award winning author Cate Kennedy sent a message to SheKilda from Iowa thanking the Sisters in Crime for ‘inspiration and confidence’. International bestseller and celebrity Tara Moss said the encouragement of winning a Scarlet Stiletto Award ‘changed the course of my life’.
(Tara made this comment as she launched The Second Cut, a collection of prize winning stories from the Scarlet Stiletto Awards. I wrote the introduction, in which I refer to the Sisters in Crime as ‘the midwives of my crime writing career’).
Kathryn Fox, author of five international bestsellers published in over 30 countries, told convention delegates ‘the doubt never goes away’, adding that’s why writers festivals like SheKilda are so important because you can be around other writers who ‘get you’.
Another recurring theme of SheKilda was the power of writing what you know and feel passionate about. South African author Margie Orford set the tone in her opening address when she spoke of her transition from journalism to crime fiction in an attempt to ‘make each body count’. Nicole Watson channelled her anger toward the government and legal profession based on her own experience as a lawyer working on Native Title claims into her novel The Boundary. YA Erskine and PM Newton turned their burn out as police into fiction. Katherine Howell and Kathryn Fox bring medical backgrounds to their writing. PD Martin took qualifications in criminology and psychology and invented a criminal profiler. And in the judges report at the Davitt Awards, Tanya King Carmichael said with respect to the winners, ‘nothing beats first-hand experience’.
For the historical crime fiction writers, what informed their fiction was not necessarily a previous career–though Sulari Gentill admitted to making her hero Roland Sinclair a painter because she paints–but a passion. Sulari, Kerry Greenwood, Felicity Pulman, Carolyn Morwood and Judith Rodriguez conveyed this on a panel chaired by Meg Vann about writing crime in historical settings. Said Carolyn Morwood, ‘If you’re amazed and fascinated by a period of history, it comes to life on the page.’
And LA Larkin said ‘Don’t listen to people who say you can’t do what you love.’
The other thing that struck me was the number of women who reported visiting a beautiful place and imagining a dead body there. Malla Nunn, LA Larkin, Lindy Cameron said it. I might even have admitted it, too.
My other special SheKilda moment comes from The Hand that Rocks the Cradle: Mixing Motherhood and Murder panel, with Tara Moss as participating chair, Leigh Redhead, Amanda Wrangles, Kylie Fox and me. Actually, there were many special moments on that panel but the one that stays with me is Amanda–on her first ever panel–talking about the separation between her crime writing and her kids. The writing, she said, was about ‘the dark’. ‘The kids are about the light.’
And thus the world balances itself.
Kudos to the Sisters in Crime Australia for a fabulous SheKilda convention. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another 10 years for the next one.
And congratulations to the winners of the 2011 Davitt Awards
Best True Crime Book: Colleen Egan, Murderer No More (Allen & Unwin)
Best Children’s / Young Adult Book: Penny Matthews, A Girl Like Me (Penguin Books Australia)
Highly commended: Randa Abdel Fattah, Noah’s Law: Crime, Punishment & Paper Jams (PanMacmillan)
Best Adult Novel: Katherine Howell, Cold Justice (PanMacmillan)
Highly commended: Leigh Redhead, Thrill City
Readers’ Choice Award: P M Newton, The Old School