Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Celebrating the good

Barbara here. As Tom mentioned in his Monday post, The Ladies' Killing Circle, of which I'm a member, was honoured at Scene of the Crime this past weekend with the Grant Allen Award for our contribution to the advancement of Canadian crime writing. It was a wonderful tribute and it was very touching to be singled out and acknowledged for what we have done. In the hectic life of a writer, with the constant pressure of deadlines, promos, planning book events, blogging, etc., there is often precious little time for looking back to celebrate how far we have come.

In the case of LKC, there is much to celebrate. This weekend, during our awards presentation and talk, we had a chance to take stock. We have produced seven anthologies, published stories by forty-eight different authors, received numerous award nominations and wins, and helped to launch the solo careers of many of those authors, including myself. In the process, we gave a voice to female crime writers at a time when there was little opportunity for publication, and we became the longest-running anthology series in the country. We only stopped because, thanks to LKC, most of us had gone on to publish novels and novel series, and time was limited for such a labour of love.

Today, sad to say, there appear to be very few paid markets for short stories once again. Amazon does a brisk business in free or .99-cent short stories, suggesting the stories are out there, and authors are eager to connect them with readers. Yet for me, nothing can quite compare with the thrill of a professionally published print book. Most of our anthologies are still in print, including Cottage Country Killers, which was published in 1997. Anthologies, and short stories in general, don't make much money, but in the case of LKC, it was their intangible contribution to the authors' and readers' lives that far outweighed any income. In some years, the income could have bought a cup of coffee and little else. But, for the authors, the boost in confidence, hope and belief was often enough to galvanize them to dust off or finish that manuscript.. And it offered readers a chance to savour new authors and perhaps discover a new love. A short story anthology is like a box of chocolates, a sampling of different tastes and textures, each a perfect bite-sized morsel, one for every mood and preference.

It takes a leap of faith, not to mention lots of time, to edit and publish a short story anthology, yet LKC has proved it is worth the risk. LKC started off more than twenty years ago as a group of unpublished women critiquing each others' stories. Last weekend, seven anthologies, forty-eight authors, and much laughter and hair-tearing later, they stood on the podium at the Anglican Church on Wolfe Island, being honoured for their courage, foresight and belief that lots of short stories were out there, looking for opportunity. To borrow a phrase, "build it and they will come.".

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