by Gigi Pandian
Far from being a solitary pursuit, writing wasn't something I was able to do well until I surrounded myself with other writers. Shortly after I moved to the Bay Area, everything in my life began to fall into place: wonderful friends, a great guy, an amazing job. But something was missing. Writing a book was still one of those things people say they really want to accomplish but don't actually find a way to do.
A couple of years after setting into my life in Berkeley, a woman who had recently completed her MFA in creative writing moved to my neighborhood. Emberly Nesbitt was the friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, and we discovered we were both working on novels. Em and I wrote together during my first National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and the momentum stuck. We met frequently at local cafes to motivate each other.
|NaNoWriMo with Emberly Nesbitt|
Everything snowballed from there:
It was through Em's encouragement that I sent my NaNoWriMo novel to the Malice Domestic Grants competition
, which fosters the next generation of traditional mystery writers by giving grants to promising unpublished writers. When I found out I was being awarded one of their grants for Artifact
, I attended Malice Domestic -- my very first mystery convention. It was there I met Juliet Blackwell.
|Gigi Pandian and Juliet Blackwell|
It turned out Juliet was the president of my local Sisters in Crime Northern California
chapter. Since I hadn't previously known any local mystery writers, I would never have attended a meeting without her recommendation. Juliet and I became friends, and I also found myself serving on the board doing the chapter newsletter.
|Sisters in Crime NorCal Board in 2010|
I learned about another group at that Malice Domestic convention: the Guppies Chapter of Sisters in Crime
, a chapter set up for unpublished authors to have an online community. It was there that I learned how much time and effort it takes to learn to write a good novel, how to query an agent once your work is ready, and also how to not get discouraged in this crazy business.
|Guppies Avery Aames (Daryl Wood Gerber) and Gigi Pandian.|
I continued to write with Em at cafes, attended events in the mystery writer community, and signed with an agent I love working with. It was then that Sophie Littlefield rounded up a group of writers she thought would be a good fit for a group blog.
|Juliet Blackwell, Gigi Pandian, Sophie Littlefield at Bouchercon|
Since we wrote across genres, we hadn't all met each other before. I only knew Sophie and Juliet. Yet somehow we instantly clicked. (Sophie, to this day I don't know how you did it!) We picked a blog name, then got together for a photo shoot at a local cemetery (hey, many of us are mystery writers, after all).
|Pens Fatales photo shoot in 2009|
I didn't realize at the time how much of a community the group would become. Not only for writing, but for life in general. When your friends take you wig shopping and buy you a fun wig after you've been diagnosed with breast cancer, and then throw a big dinner party, you know you've chosen wisely.
|A Pens Fatales dinner party|
|The Pens Fatales after wig shopping for Gigi|
|Last month at Left Coast Crime: Gigi Pandian, Sophie Littlefield, Juliet Blackwell |
If you're a writer, definitely surround yourself with other writers. It doesn't have to be in person. Some of my best friends and critique partners are people I primarily know online, a couple of whom I've never even met. Even if you're an introvert, having at least a few writer pals who understand will make all the difference.