Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Special Family by Jen Forbus

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.


Patricia said...

When Jon and Ruth say that...they mean it...Jon was the person that "showed me the ropes" about Bouchercons in 2001 and I have been hooked ever since...My love of mysteries took me online first in about 1998 when the net was still pretty young and found a mystery readers group that Jon and several others who share the same interests were hangin' out in....I am so glad that I joined in as it has lead to new authors and many many books...but most of all it has lead me to an incredible bunch of people who always make you feel like family!

Vicki Lane said...

What a nice post! I keep hearing about the 'mystery community' but I think you're closer to the mark -- it's a big sprawling family with batty aunts and loony cousins and the occasional grumpy in-law but still a family. And you and Kaye must be the aunts who know and keep track of everybody -- the aunts everyone wants to visit because they're so much fun!

Meredith Cole said...

Aww, Jen--what a great post! The members of the mystery community are some of the most generous and kind people I've ever met. And it's so terrific to have two of classiest ladies I know in the same place. Someday I really will meet you both in person...

Anonymous said...

How wonderful for Kaye to feature you, Jen, here on her blog. You're both wonderful and I truly enjoy everything you guys have to say. And, I'm just amazed at all you've managed to do in just the last couple of years Jen! Love it all. Congrats on such a success. It's not at all surprising that authors come out of the woodwork when you make your inquiries! :-)

Lesa said...

And, it's a great family to belong to, isn't it, Jen? You're right. These friends are the family we choose. I've just been so lucky to have this family, my actual family, and my library family. What a support network. We should all be so lucky! (And, if we're part of the mystery community, we are that lucky.) Hugs to one of my favorite "sisters," Jen.

le0pard13 said...

Great post, Jen. Thanks go to you and Kaye for this.

Jen Forbus said...

Thanks everyone for stopping by and for the beautiful comments! I wish I could take a picture of how much my heart swells.

Patricia, there simply aren't words for Jon and Ruth. It's that warm fuzzy feeling whenever you talk to them. They rule this family! :-)

Thanks Vicki! I love all the batty aunts and loony cousins. Life wouldn't be nearly as much fun without them.

Yes Meredith, we WILL meet up in person one of these days! We WILL!

Kay, I so look forward to our virtual visits. It's a joy to spend time with you! And thank you for the congrats, but it wouldn't ever happen without wonderful friends like you!

My Lesa! My mentor and friend and "sister." I am so, so blessed. This is an amazing family and I'm so thrilled to be a part of it with you!

Michael, like Jon and Ruth, there simply are not words. I adore you and you've been the most wonderful friend a person could ever hope to have. I can't wait to see you next month!

Thank you all for being part of this great family!

Christine said...

Love the memoir, Jen! You certainly paid it forward when I started hangin' out at Jen's Book Thoughts. My heartfelt thanks and I'm really looking forward to seeing you in L.A. next month! :-D

Beth Groundwater said...

And thank YOU, Jen, for welcoming us into your life and onto your blog. You've become a very essential part of the "mystery family" now, so I hope you plan to stick around for a looong time!

Patti L said...

I had two occasions where I knew that that I was EXACTLY where I was supposed to be. When I found DorothyL online in 1997, and when I attended my first mystery convention in 1998, Magna Cum Murder. I knew that mystery booksellers, authors and fellow fans were my people, and that I was home. Terrific post, Jen, and thanks for giving Jen a turn today, Kaye. Love to you both!

Tom said...

I know exactly how you feel having been welcomed into the same family.

It's incredible

Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

You have no idea, Jen, how cool it is to know you. Your enthusiasm is contagious. We are the one who are honored.

Naomi Johnson said...

You've written a perfect 6-worder, Jen. You speak for many of us out here on the fringes of the crime fic community.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Well, you've managed to make me cry, y'all!!!

It is indeed a big sprawling family, as Vicki says. I too adore the batty aunts, loony cousins and occasional grumpy in-law, and might fall into any of those categories at some point in time.

Jen - I love you, sweetie - thanks for stopping by and I hope you'll do it often.

And the rest of you? Love you too! Hugs!

Jen Forbus said...

You all are making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside! Thanks everyone! :) Thanks Kaye!

Clea Simon said...

what a lovely story! This is my surrogate family, and I'm so glad it's yours now, too, warts (or grumps) and all.