by Paula Gail Benson
Each year, Sisters in Crime presents the Eleanor Taylor Bland grant to assist an emerging writer of color in that writer’s continuing journey.
Born in Boston on December 31, 1944, Eleanor Taylor Bland spent a good portion of her life in Chicago where her husband served in the military. Bland wrote a series of novels about Marti MacAlister, an African American police detective whose big city methods clash with those of her partner Polish-American Vik Jessenovik when she transfers from Chicago to a small town police force. The Wikipedia biography about Ms. Bland quotes Ms. Bland as saying that “the most significant contribution that [African American women writers] have made, collectively, to mystery fiction is the development of the extended family; the permanence of spouses and significant others, most of whom don’t die in the first three chapters; children who are complex, wanted and loved; and even pets.”
On Saturday, September 19, 2020, the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime was pleased to welcome the 2020 Eleanor Taylor Bland award winner, Yasmin McClinton, as a guest speaker and new member of the chapter. Readers and authors from England, Canada, New York, and California joined the chapter for the Zoom presentation. In particular, it was lovely to have Frankie Bailey in attendance. Frankie worked to establish the Eleanor Taylor Bland award when she served as President of Sisters in Crime.
Yasmin McClinton grew up in Virginia and began writing as an only child, whose companionship was from reading. She came to South Carolina as a military spouse. Following a divorce, she and her two daughters remained in Columbia to make a new start. She has since remarried and has two step-sons.
Throughout her life, she has continued to write. Her first novel was the story of four friends. Her second was a thriller based on background she learned from her parents who are immigrants. She said an agent asked why her thriller’s protagonist didn’t smile more, making her realize that agent was not the person to represent her. Our group agreed Lee Child probably did not field questions about Jack Reacher smiling more.
At the end of her presentation, Yasmin was asked what advice she would give to writers. She said to never give up, even if you feel as if you can’t go farther, try one more time. She said, that was where she was when she applied for the Bland award.
In the Sisters in Crime press release, Yasmin was quoted as saying, “Authors like Ms. Bland show me that women of color–writers of color–can be authors in any genre they want and really bridge gaps. I shared with my daughters that I won this award. My daughters have been through the hardest times of my life. And I wanted to show them that their overly protective, annoying mom has dreams from her childhood coming true, even today. And, she can be chosen for prestigious awards like the Sisters in Crime Eleanor Taylor Bland award. So, Girls, no giving up. Ever!”
Congratulations, Yasmin! We’re looking forward to reading your novels!