When I was first asked by the Nominating Committee if I wanted to be chapter president of the Mystery Writers of America, New York Chapter, I was sure they were mistaken. Who me? Someone who had racked up no books in print, no bestsellers, no major awards. I felt the members would look at me and ask, So when is the real president arriving?
But the then-president, Patricia King, a person of boundless charm and generosity, reminded me that awards and best-selling books were not what mattered. MWA is not some elite club for writers rubbing patched elbows; it is an educational, inspirational, inclusive organization (the last, thanks in no small part to Patricia). At our chapter, she underlined this with our unofficial motto: “We help each other to succeed.” So I saw that I could be someone who understands the struggle that many of our members were going through. (And oh how I understand the struggle.) With that — and a good amount of red wine — I was convinced to step forward.
And what a crazy, fun ride it has been. Alas this month marks my last as chapter president. Over these two years, I have been lucky enough to be associated with some wonderful developments at the chapter:
• We launched a new version of The Noose newsletter
• We launched a new website (see: this one), with bio pages for all our members and blog
full of writing advice (and occasional chapter presidential blathering—see: this blog post)
• We launched the new #MWANYWriteIn program where members met for caffeine and creativity
• We’ve had some great speakers—on mystery and music, agents and editors, diversity in crime fiction, fun with forensics
• We went to Woodlawn Cemetery, Sing Sing Correctional Facility, the Brooklyn Book Festival, the Edgar Allan Poe Festival
• We cosponsored CrimeCONN, mingled with members from PEN America, and, to show off our members, we hosted many readings, including one with the Long Island Sisters in Crime
And this was all thanks to the gallant board of directors I was lucky enough to serve with in that time: Scott Adlerberg, Mistina Bates, Laura K. Curtis, Lyndsay Faye, Joseph Goodrich, Ken Isaacson, Patricia King, Katia Lief, Jeff Markowitz, Julia Pomeroy, Suzanne Solomon, Triss Stein, Wallace Stroby, and Kenneth Wishnia.
But wait there’s more! We also had some other amazing volunteers: Bob Daniher, who organizes our library programs in Central Jersey; Juliet Fletcher and Ardi Alspach, who created our MWANYWriteIn Program; Linda M. Frank and Larry Kelter, who helped get us into the Edgar Allan Poe Festival in Riverhead; Rachel Gallagher, who shepherded the Outings; Chris Knopf, who wrangles CrimeCONN; Catherine Maiorisi and Erica Obey, former and current chair of our Mentor Program Committee; Andrew Peck, keeper of our history and sayer of the bylaws; Thelma Straw, who has helped us with ballots year after year; Clare Toohey, who ran our Programs Committee; Tricia Vanderhoof, who’s just begun organizing library events in northern Jersey; Mimi Weisbond, who runs our Library Committee; and Sheila York, our treasure of a treasurer.
I cannot thank these loverly people enough. They made my time as chapter president feel like a shared adventure.
But, most of all, I have to thank the members. I didn’t get to meet all 600+ of them, but I met a heck of a lot of them (and no doubt forgot more names than I remembered—apologies!). I chatted with many, tried to answer questions for as many as I could, made some good friends. It was because of their support, their warmth, their goodwill that I felt like I might have actually been doing something helpful — even if it was just the bad jokes in my speeches.
And this is why I say, even though we have all these programs and events, that the best resource, the best benefit of MWA is the people. Lectures about how to get published and/or get rid of bodies are, of course, important. But it’s the members themselves who have the most knowledge (or know where to get it), who can offer the best advice (and best commiseration), who can tell the best stories, who have the most to share. They are truly how we help each other to succeed.
And now the time has come for me to step back. I will miss the job, but change of personnel is always good for an organization. New ideas, new methods, new jokes. You will love the new president: Laura K. Curtis is friendly, she’s savvy, and she understands what MWA is about. I want also want to congratulate and welcome her as well as the newly elected officers to the board.
I wish all of them and all of our members the best of luck.