Sunday, 11 November 2007

Phyllis Smallman - remember that name!

Brilliant sun, high 6 celcius

Amazing day. Light crust on the pond, as though spiders spun ice. It's breathtaking.

I have wonderful news. Phyllis Smallman, who won last year's Arthur Ellis award for Best Unpublished Mystery - given out by the Crime Writers of Canada - is going to be published! As a direct result of winning this award. It's stunning news and I couldn't be happier for Phyllis. I was one of the judges for the award, along with Marian Misters, who runs Sleuth of Baker Street books in Toronto and the remarkable Maureen Jennings - perhaps the foremost mystery writer in the country.

We had 96 entries and really struggled over the shortlist. So we came up with both a shortlist and a list of 'Honourable Mentions'. It was agonizing. Especially since we knew how important it was for all the writers. How many hopes were riding on this contest.

Our shortlist then went to another set of judges - all professional editors - and they chose Phyllis. The award was 250 dollars. But the biggest award was that McArthur and Company - my publishers in Canada - would read the winning manuscript and have the right of first refusal.

No guarantees.

Well, Phyllis blew them all away!

I happen to know that - like me - Phyllis had sent this fantastic manuscript to editors and agents for years, without success. No reflection on them - they're busy and stressed - and certainly no reflection on her fantastic book. It's just another example of how frustrating (!!!!) it is and how heartbreaking it is, to be a writer these days trying to break in.

Phyllis needed what I needed - to win a contest. And she did.

Michael and I are beyond thrilled for her. For Kim McArthur and the others at McArthur and Company - a fantastic Canadian publisher - and certainly for the Crime Writers of Canada.

Now there's a great group of people. Amazing, creative writers, who also reach out and help other writers. Like me. Like Phyllis.

The information and guidelines on the 2008 Arthur Ellis Awards, including Best Unpublished - have just gone up on the CWC website.

If you're an unpublished crime writer with a finished manuscript, I beg you, go to their site.

Also check out Crime Writers Association in Britain and their Debut Dagger (the one that launched my career) - as well as Malice Domestic in the US. St Martin's Minotaur (my US publisher) has a Best Unpublished Award there - as well as the Mystery Writers of America.

I count my blessings everyday - and it takes a while. But one thing I'm always grateful for is to be a mystery writer, and to find myself in such an inclusive, supportive, enthusiastic community. Lucky us.

And congratulations Phyllis Smallman!!!! Her book is called Marguerita Nights and I'll tell you more as the date gets closer. Might even ask Phyllis to say something on this blog.

Well, I've gone on and on. By the way - I had a wonderful time on the live on-line chat yesterday. What a tool (the internet - not me - though...)

Speak tomorrow.

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