Saturday, February 14, 2015

Be Aware Who's In the Room!

This is my favorite anecdote from my career so far.

There used to be a small writers conference called Bare Bones. The San Diego Sisters in Crime put it on and it was in a church camp in the hills of Julian, CA. The site has since burned down in one of the forest fires.

I was pretty distraught when I walked in to register.My friend J.A. (Judy) Jance was talking to someone and she motioned me over. She wanted to know why I looked so upset.

I told her that a week ago, I'd sent two of the narc detectives I worked with to go check out a chemical drop from a meth lab at one of the Indian rancherios. I was getting phone calls that children were playing in the river where the chemicals were seeping. On the way to the site, another call came from dispatch that a man was chasing his parents around with an ax. My detectives were the closest in the area and they responded. One of the detectives shot and killed the man.

"Today's the day he's coming back to work and I feel I should be there, not here," I explained to Judy. "They said it was a good shoot but what's a good shoot to a young Mormon kid?"

"Honey, sit with us and talk," said her companion.

I really didn't glance at the woman, but I declined. She insisted, patting the seat emphatically. I finally turned to look at her.

"You're Sue Grafton," I exclaimed.

"Yes, I am. Now honey, just sit right down and tell me all about it."

The rest of the conference she kept me close. She wanted to come and visit my narcotics team, but that's not allowed. Not even if you are the #1 female crime writer in the world.  


Charles Gramlich said...

Pretty fascinating. Disturbing as well regarding the real events of the piece.

Liane Spicer said...

Wow, Sunny. That's a great story--and yes, disturbing re the real crime backdrop. You must have SO much to write about.

john M. Daniel said...

What a fine chance meeting! I'm sure you and Sue got a lot out of talking to each other. Both of you are gracious and entertaining.

john M. Daniel said...

What a fine chance meeting! I'm sure you and Sue got a lot out of talking to each other. Both of you are gracious and entertaining.

Linda Thorne said...

I remember you mentioning getting some mentoring from Sue Grafton years and years ago. How neat to read this article about a specific meeting with J.A. Jance there too. I was already a Sue Grafton fan when I met you (about a decade ago), but you put me onto J.A. Jance and I love her J.P. Beaumount series.

James R. Callan said...

Great post, Sunny, and a wonderful experience. But most important is your advice -- notice who is in the room. Too often, we are either so wrapped up in our thoughts or in our friend that we don't see anything else. I am frequently guilty of that. Of course, I might look directly at David Baldacci and not know who he is.

Sunny Frazier said...

What I didn't say (because it sounds like bragging) is that both Judy and Sue asked me to autograph a story in Murderous Intent magazine that had just one first prize. They wanted MY autograph! I can die happy.

Jim, I now study the faces of the authors attending conferences well before I go. I even make cheat cards with info. I walked up to one author and said "How's your dog Brutus doing?" Freaked him out a little. Totally worth doing my homework.

Knowledge is power.

Linda Thorne said...

Sunny, some of the great authors admit to not being able to write a good short story. Maybe they really wanted that autograph. I've always been amazed how you can put a short story together. Any I've published, I've spent a ridiculous amount of time on. The one time I saw J.A. Jance (Judy to you) speak, she talked about personally answering each e-mail and trying to remember each fan. Hank Phillippi Ryan is doing that now. I got an e-mail yesterday telling me how excited she was that she was up for the Agatha award this year. It looked like it was just to me but could've been to a thousand other people in reality. I replied and told her I hoped she got it. This morning, I had a reply to my reply thanking me and telling me about the awful weather in Boston (where she lives). I know this isn't about me being some important person (I only met her once), but it's a great marketing approach and totally "classy" of her to be personal with her fans. Even if, in reality, they are promoting themselves, I truly believe people like Judy Jance, Sue Grafton, and Hank Phillippi Ryan, truly like people and love having people like them.

KeVin K. said...

The only authors I've met who didn't pay it forward, or lend a steadying hand to someone coming up the path behind them, couldn't write, either.

That a writer as good as Grafton is that gracious in life is another testament to the validity of that rule.