Genesis of “The Whole She-Bang” by Janet Costello

The mystery community is an inspiration. From the monthly book clubs, to the mystery bookshops, to the myriad of periodicals and blogs supporting it, to the weekend getaway feasts of the different mystery conventions. You approach these with a positive expectation, and engage with so many generous, witty, energetic people, that, on parting you are elevated and ready to push your potential.

With Sisters in Crime, I’ve been given many additional opportunities to interact with the mystery community. SinC is a volunteer organization, formed to help women authors of crime writing to attain equality, in reviews, remuneration, shelf space and other ways, too.

As editor of the Toronto Chapter newsletter, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of interviewing our authors. A few of them have been involved in editing anthologies of mystery fiction. Another task, as the newsletter editor, involves reporting on what other SinC Chapters are doing. Quite a few have anthologies, and a couple put out more than one.

I’ve loved short mysteries all my life. Subscribed to mystery digests since I was in high school. And I know that no form of mystery fiction has been more affected by changes to the publishing industry than the short story.

I knew if our chapter did an anthology as an e-book, we’d be providing an opportunity for our authors to publish a short story. We have some established authors, and many author members outside of the Toronto area. We’d have a diverse collection, a whole shebang of mystery fiction. Then it hit me…Sisters in Crime…The Whole She-Bang. And as an e-book, sold for 99 cents, our pitch would have to be “Buy Our Bang for Your Buck!”

Immediately, we knew we wanted to use this project to help The Children’s Book Bank, a wonderful literacy organization in Toronto that provides free books and literacy support to children in low-income neighborhoods.

Our executive stepped forward and supported the idea, knowing this would mean hundreds of hours of volunteer work. We set a tight timeline, for an October 2012 release, because this would mark the twentieth anniversary of our Chapter. We also determined that a print-on-demand version would be simultaneously available.

It is a mandate of Sisters in Crime that selection for anthologies must be blind. We agree with this. And it has paid off. We’ve ended up with twenty distinct stories by established authors and by several new authors. Many stories are set in Canada, but also the US, the United Kingdom, Vietnam and an unnamed exotic locale. Our Chapter president, Helen Nelson describes the collection well, “The stories are cozy and noir, humorous and poignant, historical and current. We have amateur sleuths and professionals – cops, private detectives and even – oh, but I don’t want to include any spoilers.”

In addition to donating 50% of our profits to The Children’s Book Bank, many of our authors have donated their portion of profits, too. We’re proud to be helping this organization, with some funding, and by helping to raise their profile.

So, while October 18th is our launch date, it’s not just about publishing one book. It’s highlighting mystery short fiction, promoting established authors and introducing new ones. It’s helping the Children’s Book Bank and their efforts to create lifelong readers. It’s celebrating twenty years of Toronto Sisters in Crime. And it’s our way of giving back to the mystery community.