In 2007 the Friends of the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Maine and the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime (www.sincne.org) formed a partnership to provide a mystery writers’ series for the library’s readers. In 2010, the Friends were contacted by Kate Flora, a familiar speaker at the Curtis Memorial Library, and coordinator of the crime writing blog, Maine Crime Writers, (mainecrimewriters.com) to ask if her group could join the mystery authors partnership. As a result of these two collaborations, a very successful relationship was formed, resulting in our annual mystery series at the library.
Each year in February, the Friends contact Leslie Wheeler, the Speaker’s Bureau coordinator for sisters in Crime and Kate Flora, of the Maine Crime Writers’ group, with available dates. Leslie and Kate then find mystery authors new to the Curtis audience, or favorite authors with new books. Curtis Memorial then provides the setting and mystery readers flock to the library.
The mystery author series takes place in September and October in the Morrell Meeting Room at the library. Gulf of Maine provides the books for purchase and author signing. Bohemian Coffee House provides incredible refreshments, including, in the words of organizer Carol Briggs, “cookies to die for.”
Authors have no set formula concerning the subjects of their talks. Talks could include how to plot a story or how writers go about building their characters. Talks could include the solitary life of the writer, something about their personal lives, such as writing in pajamas, or how they do their research. The audience may ask questions during the talk or wait until the end to ask their questions, but one of the highlights will always been the time after the formal talk when readers get to chat informally with favorite authors, or meet new writers, and get their books signed.
The speakers may be familiar authors like Tess Gerritsen or Julia Spencer-Fleming, or Paul Doiron, or newcomers in the mystery field like Barbara Ross or Vicki Doudera. With Leslie and Kate both helping to organize the events, we get to meet new Maine authors as well as writers from all over New England.
Here’s a quote from Leslie Wheeler:
The series at the Curtis is a great opportunity for NE mystery writers. As I was looking back over old e-mails, found several from authors, who having done an event at the Curtis one year had such a good experience that they were eager to come back again. I was so glad to have the opportunity to speak at the library myself in 2010, and meet you in person. Everything was handled so well—a large, literate audience who asked good questions, the event filmed by a local TV station, and a generous fee—what more could an author want? These are all things I mention when I post the opportunity on my Speakers Bureau distribution list.
Actually, Leslie was mistaken about the event being filmed by a local TV station. The evenings are filmed by Curtis Memorial librarian Paul Dostie. The video is made available to the local TV station. A copy is added to the library collection. And a copy is given to the presenting author.
Since we began this series, it has become so well known in the writing community that Leslie and Kate are now approached by authors wanting to be a part of the program. It is rewarding to know that the Curtis Library, New England Sisters in Crime, and Maine Crime Writers are giving mystery authors such an appealing opportunity to spend an evening with their readers.
Kate Flora: And, we hope, an opportunity for readers to meet the diverse range of crime writers we have here in Maine and elsewhere in New England. I asked Carol Briggs, who organizes this, why the Curtis Library decided to do a mystery series?
Why mysteries? I think the fact that my area in the library is the mysteries had a lot to do with the selection but I also think we have a large group of mystery readers who have very varied tastes. From a Sarah Graves to Steig Larssen to Robert Parker and even a Kate Flora. They know what they like and will request purchasing THEIR authors books. Of course the fact that I love mysteries is a plus all round.
The readers really love the programs. What’s not to love, they get to hear an author talk about books and writing, ask them questions, meet them afterwards, and also get an autographed copy of one of the authors books. It’s a win win for the audience and the writer.