Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Guest Post: The Mentoring Impact of Simple Acts of Kindness by Debra H. Goldstein

Please welcome SMFS list member Debra H. Goldstein to the blog today…

The Mentoring Impact of Simple Acts of Kindness by Debra H. Goldstein

A few months ago, I wrote a Writers Who Kill blog, “Mentors for a Reason, Season or a Lifetime,” talking about the impact people who come into our lives for an ongoing or short period of time may have. The recent death of SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and his presence at a book signing made me think more about what I, as an author and a person, learned from Mike, B.K. Stevens, and Bill Crider that will stay with me for a lifetime.

I enjoy sports, but my blood doesn’t run crimson like my husband’s nor do I share his excitement at the signed picture of Nick Saban on our den wall. Consequently, I had little to no idea what being the commissioner of the SEC entailed. All I knew was that because I enjoyed meeting and spending time with Mike Slive’s wife, it seemed natural to make plans for the four of us to go out for dinner. During that first dinner, I was impressed by Mike’s intelligence, kindness and sense of humor. As time went on, I understood the skills necessary to juggle the pressures and constant demands required to take a league mired in NCAA violation allegations and turn it into a well-watched sports powerhouse whose revenue went from $96 million to $455.8 million. I also saw how Mike interacted with his family and volunteered his time and name for charity, including the creation of the Mike Slive Foundation for Prostate Cancer Research. Mike was a busy man.

That was why, at my first book signing, I was blown away when I looked up and saw Mike waiting in line for me to autograph three copies of my book. It meant something to me that he’d taken the time to pencil my personal event onto his calendar of activities. For Mike to say no to other activities to share in the excitement of a mere acquaintance spoke volumes about the man and how he viewed his priorities. This was a man who valued people. That it was reciprocal was obvious by the standing room only crowd at Mike’s funeral, as well as the many television and print tributes to him. Mike’s willingness to support others, even when it probably wasn’t convenient, is a lesson I won’t forget.

After reading “Thea’s First Wife,” I wrote my first fan e-mail to author B.K. Stevens. In the e-mail, I expressed my awe at the story and asked if she taught internet writing classes. She didn’t, but she wrote me a detailed note of things I should read and could do. We became friends. She was one of a group of people who encouraged me to have the guts to submit my work to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen. The last time we were together, before her untimely death, was at 2017’s Malice conference when the new Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine issue provided to every attendee featured my story, “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place.” A few weeks after the conference, I received a package from Bonnie which contained several copies of the issue and a note telling me she knew I’d want extra copies because it was my first AHHM story and because, in her mind, “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place” was an award-winning story. Her words alone were award enough, but I wish she could know other writers and readers agree with her – “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place” has been named both a 2018 Agatha and Anthony nominee.

Bonnie, or B.K., was only in my life for a few years, but reading her works taught me technique. Personally, she instilled confidence in me. Both things, and the hope of emulating her willingness to help other writers, will keep her with me for a lifetime.

When I was assigned to a panel with Bill Crider, my impression was of what an unassuming guy he was. His bio said he’d been a teacher and the calm way he came across belied that fact. Thinking he was a nice Joe, I invited him to write a guest post for my personal blog, “It’s Not Always a Mystery.” He agreed. A few months before his post was scheduled, another friend called to say my blog was cited in his Ellery Queen column as one that lived up to its name – it offered thoughts on writing and general life from Debra H. Goldstein and her friends.

The week I wrote to remind him his promised piece was coming due, he responded he was appreciative of the reminder and would dash something off that day because he was going into the hospital for some testing the next day. I offered to forget his piece, but he wanted to fulfill his obligation. He sent me an excellent piece on writing, which I received while he was undergoing the tests that diagnosed his cancer. I printed the piece that week and reprinted it the week he announced that the doctors advised him the treatments were no longer working and he should enter hospice. (http://www.debrahgoldstein.com/guest-blogger-bill-crider-write-novel/ ) I can reread Bill’s lesson on writing and look at the mention in his column where, unsolicited from me, he gave my writing career a vote of confidence, but it was reading his posts about the VBKs and seeing how he handled himself during his final months that left an impact. Bill was humble, a gentle man and a gentleman. Again, an individual who came into my life for a reason, season, and a lifetime.

The writing world is filled with mentors. Some are readers, some writers. They don’t necessarily take inexperienced authors under their wings and teach particular skills, but the way they act, treat others, and live their lives leaves an impact in small and large ways that last a lifetime. I bet you, too, have had mentors make a lasting difference for you.

Debra H. Goldstein ©2018

2018 Anthony and Agatha Short Story Nominee Debra H. Goldstein is the author of Should Have Played Poker and IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. One Taste Too Many, the first book of her new Kensington Sarah Blair series will be in stores on December 18, but is available for pre-order now. For more information about Debra, check out www.DebraHGoldstein.com .


Earl Staggs said...

A touching post, Debra. It's wonderful when people at the top reach down to help others on their way up. I've seen more of this in the writing community than anywhere else.

Susan Oleksiw said...

Lovely post, Debra. Of the three, I only knew Bill, and him through FB and the wonderful VBKs. I've enjoyed his books, of course, and learning from him as a writer. Thanks for sharing these experiences.

Maryannwrites said...

Debra, thanks for the wonderful tribute to these writers. The only one I knew was Bill Crider, and I had not seen him for many years when he died. We only had a brief acquaintance at a mystery conference in Dallas, probably in the late 80's, but I was impressed with his friendliness and acceptance of a me as a new fiction writer on the scene.

BTW, I loved your short story, The Night They Burned Old Dixie, and I hope it wins the awards for which it is nominated.

M. K. Waller said...

"The writing world is filled with mentors." So right. And generous, sharing their time, their talent, and their encouragement.