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Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award Winner 2014
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Sisters in Crime is pleased to announce the winner of the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award for 2014 -- Maria Kelson.


 Maria Kelson comes to crime fiction from the worlds of poetry and freelance writing. Her two collections of poetry published by University of Arizona Press (as Maria Melendez) were honorable mentions in the 2007 and 2010 Latino Book Awards, and her first collection was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Award. Her feature essays have appeared in Ms. magazine, Sojourns, and elsewhere. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and is a National Novel Writing Month participant. The mystery manuscript she submitted for the Eleanor Taylor Bland award combines elements of feminist fiction and noir, and is set in contemporary Humboldt County in Northern California. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she teaches literature and writing at Pueblo Community College in Pueblo, Colorado. She can be found on twitter at @MKelsonAuthor.

Questions and Answers with Maria Kelson

Q: How did you hear about the grant?

I teach full-time at Pueblo Community College, and had just started back on contract after a very rich summer of writing. I received a voicemail from Dr. Crawford while I was on my way to an administrative meeting. I have never walked into an administrative meeting with a bigger grin!

Q: How did you feel when you were told that your entry was selected?

Like Lucha Corpi and Linda Rodriguez, I come to crime writing from having written poetry. Which means I'm solid with description, and feel like I'm balancing on a wet log rolling in a river when it comes to tension and dialogue. The award made me think: hey, I can keep riding this thing! I'm still on it! Of the many specifics Dr. Crawford kindly shared with me when we spoke about the judges' responses, what stayed with me the most was that she said, "We can't wait to read the rest of it!" I have been working on this manuscript since late 2011, and have, during most of that time, been accompanied by that familiar writerly anxiety: is-this-adding-up-to-anything? Receiving the award lifted the burden of that anxiety, and I'm so grateful to the judges and committee members for being that voice answering out of the darkness, saying: yes, this is worth something, keep going.

Q: What do you plan to do with the grant?

Since the grant is meant to support career development activities, I'll be using the award to attend Sleuthfest in Florida this coming February. I am a member of Mystery Writers of America, and have had my eye on this conference, sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, for a couple of years. They draw a great line-up of editors and agents, and offer a full slate of panels and craft sessions. I'm excited to use the conference date as a deadline for having a polished draft ready to pitch. I would also like to put out feelers at both Bouchercon (which I was already planning on attending) and Sleuthfest to learn if there is interest in fundraising to continue this award. I would love to play some role in helping other crime writers of color feel as buoyed as I have felt by this vote of confidence.


About Eleanor Taylor Bland

Eleanor Taylor Bland was a pioneer in crime fiction. Dead Time, published In 1992 and first in a 13-book series, introduced African American police detective Marti MacAlister, a widowed mother who lived and worked in a Chicago suburb that closely resembled Bland's adopted hometown of Waukegan. Each title in the series highlighted social problems of the time. Bland also published several works of short crime fiction and edited a collection titled Shades of Black: Crime and Mystery Stories by African-American Authors (2004). When she passed away in 2010, she was one of the most prolific African American authors in the genre. With Marti MacAlister, Bland created an enduring and much beloved heroine who went against the grain of perpetuated stereotypes related to African American women in much of U.S. popular culture.
Although Bland focused primarily in her work on stories about African American characters and their lives, bringing both complexities and comforts of familiarity to her readership, she also included in-depth interactions with other kinds of characters that reflect the broad spectrum of identities that is U.S. society. Bland saw crime fiction as an especially accessible literary vehicle for bringing into the genre characters that before her work had been peripheral to or simply missing from the genre. She understood that crime fiction could continue over time broadening its appeal to new reading audiences by opening its doors to the kinds of characters, societal situations and perspectives, and potential for creativity that authors of color would bring.


Additional details about the rules and selection process are described on the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color award announcement.

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