When Kaye invited me to be a part of her guest blogger series, I thought she had included me on the distribution by mistake. After over two years of blogging at Jen’s Book Thoughts, I’m still getting use to the wonderful community of crime fiction – its writers, its readers,…everyone.
If you don’t know me, I taught high school English for many years. When I left the classroom, I had a huge void that use to be filled by reading and discussing books with my students and colleagues. When I was teaching, I didn’t read much beyond my curriculum simply because I didn’t have time. So, when I stopped teaching, I was on a mission to find what was available and fun in the reading world. I crashed head long into Robert Crais and Linda Fairstein about that time. Can you say, “hook, line and sinker?” A discussion group for Robert Crais lead me to Michael Koryta and my very first book event. I was so excited after leaving Michael’s event that I had to talk about it. Most people around me will politely listen and be happy that I enjoy books and events, but they don’t really get it; after awhile, they’re just like, “alright Jen, enough is enough.” That was really the motivation to start Jen’s Book Thoughts, a place where I could talk to my heart’s content, and hopefully find people as excited to talk as I was.
I was going along writing about the books I was reading, people were offering up new suggestions, and I was thoroughly enjoying myself. So, I decided to try some new things on the blog. I contacted a few writers that I admired to ask if they would answer some questions for blog interviews. Those writers included Michael Koryta, Lisa Unger and Alafair Burke. They all enthusiastically said “yes.” Looking back on my questions from those interviews, I see they left a lot to be desired, but it truly meant the world to me for them to agree to give of their time. I’ve done a few more interviews since then; I think I’ve grown a little better at developing my questions, but it still leaves me on Cloud 9 whenever I ask someone I admire for an interview and they say, “sure.” And it still means the world to me that Michael, Lisa and Alafair were willing to give of their time. I mean, after all, who was I?
When Tim Hallinan contacted me to ask me to read his book THE FOURTH WATCHER, I was incredibly flattered. He was the first person to ask me to read his book. Wow! Someone really cared what I thought about their book?
In this past year, another pair of extremely special people came into my life, Jon and Ruth Jordan. These two are a part of many of your lives, so you understand how treasured my relationship is with them. They, too, took a gamble on me and invited me to submit reviews to CRIMESPREE. When the first issue to include one of my reviews came out, I forced everyone I knew to read! I still get ridiculously excited whenever I get my new issue and see my name under a review.
November brought yet another adventure; I conducted my first video interview. Tom Schreck agreed to take a chance on me with that one. Bless his heart. And my most recent jump, my live interview with Alafair Burke at a Muskego Library event. Could I possibly be more blessed?
People who know me most likely know me because of a series I started last summer called “You’ve the Right to Six Words: Six-Word Memoirs from Crime Fiction’s Greatest Writers.” The folks at Smith’s Magazine have published a few collections of people’s six-word memoirs and I had read their first book, NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS EXPECTING: SIX-WORD MEMOIRS OF WRITERS FAMOUS AND OBSCURE. I took the query to writers I was interested in hearing from and was overwhelmed by the response I received. I had originally hoped to pull out 8 or 10 weeks of posts, maybe 40 authors. More than 100 authors responded with their memoirs, and I honestly still can’t believe how well the series was received. I’m going to resurrect it for Season 2 because of its popularity with readers and writers alike.
So you’re asking, “Jen, what’s the point of all this?” October was my first Bouchercon, and if I remember nothing else, I’ll remember Jon Jordan saying, “she’s a part of the family.” The crime fiction community has become just that for me, a family. Every time I’ve ventured further with my blog, there have been amazing people along the way to stand beside me, encourage me and support me. Isn’t that what family’s about? I once heard a person say, “your friends are the family you choose.” I’ve chosen so many people in this community to be my “family” and to be chosen back is a gift beyond all others.
A question I hear regularly now is, “But Jen, what’s YOUR six-word memoir?” It would have to be:
"They welcomed me into their family."
So, to Kaye, who’s been a constant source of support, and all the other writers and readers who have contributed to my love of this genre and this community, THANK YOU, for letting me be a part.