I have long been aware that an author doesn't do it alone. Before I put my first Emily story on paper, I asked dozens of people about this that and the other. First there were the librarians at the Cambridge, Massachusetts Library, the interpreters at Plimouth Plantation, and the guides at the Longfellow House and the Old Manse.
These were the people who told me one way or another that I could write a story that people would like to read. I'm sure not one of them remembers me. Maybe because I didn't tell them I wanted to be an author.
There were the creators of Star Trek and Wild Wild West, who opened the world of fan fiction. Many writers start with fan fiction though most don't admit it. I long believed that I could never create an interesting character on my own. It was some time before I took the bull by the horns and came up with Emily and the others who lived in her boarding house. I am not convinced I made them up entirely. I am not going to tell you who I think the models were, since none of those people recognize themselves. OK, so some have been dead for a century or so, and probably wouldn’t care.
My family gets top billing. My mother's love for cozy mysteries made me wonder if I could write one for her. My husband was my first reader and a great critic in the best sense of the word. My daughter began to write her own brand of delight. Somehow I felt I had to keep up. So in her own way she is my most persistent encouragement. Look for her work under the name Elizabeth Inglee-Richards. No one in my family ever said, even once, I should be doing the dishes instead of writing.
I am always encouraging people to contact sources of information. I wanted someone to use a polo mallet for a weapon, but I didn't know much about polo. I had been to some games, talked to the people holding the strings of ponies. Each player needs six horses. I knew some of the rules. But I needed to know what went on in the stable, since that is where the murder was to take place. I looked up the local polo club on the internet and sent them an email. I got back a lovely response and suggestion for reading. Unfortunately, I was never able to make the story work, so it remains unfinished. I feel a tad guilty about that.
When I had my cast of characters, a setting and a complete novel, lacking a plot, and a few other essentials, I decide it was time to meet other writers. I signed up for a writers’ conference. I was going by myself, so I vowed, before I got on the train, that I would be as outgoing as I could be, given that I, like most writers, am an introvert. I can get up and show off if I need to, but I can’t keep it up for long and I find it exhausting. I met some great writers and every one of them made it easy for me.
I took my first Emily novel to a critique group in fear and trembling. It helped that the person who ran it was the father of my daughter’s best friend. I had never shown it to anyone except my husband. I didn’t know how critique groups worked, and I wasn’t sure what would happen. What did happen was that the group taught me how to write. I was with them for years. Since then I have been in two more groups. The members of the one I am with now are all mystery writers. It is a great help to be with people who understand your genre.
Since I write mostly short stories I don’t get the chance to have acknowledgments at the front of my work. So I am taking this opportunity to share my thanks.
Though I have not named names, I thank everyone mentioned here, and those not mentioned, from the bottom of my heart. I would never be a writer without you.
Some advice. If you are a beginning writer, seek out the people who can help you. If you are more experienced, find someone you can help. You may find your name in someone’s acknowledgements. If you are a reader, find some authors to talk to.
I guess I had better go do the dishes now.