by Shari Randall
As I gear up for my first author panel as a novelist, I can’t keep a verse from the Talking Heads song “Once in a Lifetime” from going through my mind: “How did I get here?”
The panel will be held at the same library in Virginia where I was a children’s librarian for more than 12 years. We’ll sit in chairs in the same room where I sang “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt” for toddlers, introduced The Reptile Lady, and dressed up as Professor McGonagle for a Harry Potter birthday celebration. Talk about a crazy journey!
Fast forward to my panel. I’m thrilled that two of my favorite authors and friends will be with me, Donna Andrews and Sherry Harris.
How did I get here?
Many writers can point to the moment they started on the road to becoming a writer – a prize for an elementary school poem, a spot on the high school yearbook, a sale to a magazine.
My road started as a voracious reader in the library of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Meriden, CT. The librarian, Mrs. Macri, was an energetic lady who wasn’t much taller than her students but tried to gain a few inches on us with very high stiletto heels. How I marveled at those heels. (And how I still marvel at those who can wear them!)
One day in fourth grade, a thick book on a high shelf caught my eye. Mrs. Macri saw me looking and pulled it down for me. “Oh, you’ll like this,” she said as she put the book into my hands. She didn’t say, “Oh, that’s too old for you” or “Try something easier.” The book was The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
I didn’t just like it, dear reader. I devoured it and started trying to write my own stories.
That started my lifelong love of mysteries.
Fast forward through unfortunate high school poetry, an English degree, work at my hometown newspaper, editing for a Boston publisher, freelancing, teaching, doing a masters in library and information science, to my job in a mid-sized library in the lower level of a shopping mall in a county of almost a million people near Washington, DC.
We won! One thousand dollars with no string attached. Let me tell you, ain’t no party like a librarian party where you can buy books with somebody else’s money!
Four Sisters came to the check presentation ceremony: GM Malliet, C. Ellett Logan, Terri Bishop, and Ellen Byerrum. They told me about the local Chesapeake chapter, the Chessies, and the yearly short story anthology. Did I write? Did I know anyone who had a short story to enter?
Did I ever! Me.
The thrill of having that first short story published, and holding that book in my hands, is something I’ll never forget. I thought it would be different with this novel, but the thrill is the same with Curses, Boiled Again!
Eight years, two short stories, four novels (one published, one ready for submission, one in pieces, one in a drawer awaiting the light of day) and scores of blog posts have been part of my journey from that grant and inspirational meeting with the sisters of the Chessie Chapter.
Am I grateful? You bet. As the Sisters say, you write alone, but you’re never truly alone with sisters. My novel wouldn’t have happened without them. Thank you, always, Chessies and Sisters in Crime.
I'll send a copy of Curses, Boiled Again to one commenter - please share something that makes you feel grateful. Thank you for stopping by!
When she’s not committing murder (on the page, of course), Shari enjoys walking the beach near her house, traveling and eating the local cuisine, reading, and dancing. She’s currently trying to talk her husband into a tango class.
She's had two short stories published in the Chesapeake Crimes anthology series: "Disco Donna" in Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays and "Keep It Simple" in Chesapeake Crimes: This Job Is Murder. A third, “Pet,” will be published in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies in spring 2018. You can see what's new with her at https://us.macmillan.com/author/sharirandall and check out her mermaid obsession on Instagram @sharirandallauthor.