With a five-year-old boy in the house, I think a lot about superheroes. In the last twenty years, it seems like we have been severely lacking in national heroes. So it was with great relief that many of us welcomed Obama and celebrated the landing of Sully on the Hudson River. At last—real life heroes! Not someone we could only read about book, assassinated before they’d had a chance to grow old and even wiser.
Lucky for me, I had heroes and mentors all around me throughout my life. My grandmother Margery was an amazing woman. She was a great athlete and runner (her dad was an Olympic runner and coach), but couldn’t compete past high school. She learned to ski when she was in her fifties, and competed in senior tennis tournaments into her seventies. When her kids were in school, she went back to work as a gym teacher and counselor, eventually ending up as a high school principal. And she set out after retirement to travel around the world (taking a job as a travel agent)–and she did! Her energy and enthusiasm for life were a big inspiration for me, and she was always one of my greatest cheerleaders.
As a film director, I liked many of the crew people I worked with, but I didn’t feel like I had any mentors in the business. Not ones that were women, anyway. The business was competitive, and no one seemed to have time to nurture anyone’s career. So when I started writing a novel, I assumed the publishing business would be the same. But I was wrong.
I had the great good luck to join an organization called Sisters in Crime while writing my first manuscript. The first event of the year was a regional tea, so I set off to a brownstone near Prospect Park in Brooklyn. I asked if anyone set up writing groups, and lucked into one that was just forming with three other Brooklyn mystery writers. One of them was Marilyn Wallace. Despite battling breast cancer the year I knew her, she was incredibly generous with her time, energy and comments. She was already published, and it was a great education for me to watch her write a draft of her next book and talk about her relationship with her editor. She gave me great advice, and encouraged me to “go for it” when I came up with the plot of my book.
One of the big thrills for me about getting published was being able to dedicate the book to two women, Margery and Marilyn, who were big influences in my life. Unfortunately they both passed away before I could show them my book, Posed for Murder, finished and published. But like true mentors, they would have been extremely proud.