Elaine Flinn

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
The slings
and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
by opposing end them?

Damn, but that ole’ Will had a way with words.  And what, pray tell, is Elaine Flinn doing
here on Friday – taking J.T. Ellison’s day on Murderati?

Well, I’ll tell you. I’m here because J.T. and my terrific blog mates have asked me to
address a problem that has sprung up recently – and that is the volley of ‘slings
and arrows’ aimed at the award judges for International Thriller Writers on a
popular blog.

The target for these arrows is the judges themselves (we
were all named) and the short-list of honorees that have been designated as the
best from their respective committees. To be blunt – and have you ever known me not to be? – NO WOMEN.

No women. And why,
they fervently lament, is that? Were
the judges biased? Are they
bigots? Do the judges think women can’t
write a thriller good enough to make the short-list? If you think I’m making this up – think again. All these ‘arrows’ were shot off
clearly. But, they missed the mark. And I mean they were way off.

And let’s get one other thing out of the way – I’m not here
to disparage anyone’s right to complain – it’s a healthy human trait – and
thank God we live in a society where we can do so – and that includes
Mystery/Thrillerville. But to even
suggest any of us were gender biased, or bigots – is unfounded, insulting our
integrity, and patently childish.

But the real raison
for this post is to address the dilemma facing those asked to a serve as a judge for an award. It
goes without saying it is a daunting task. In fact, it’s much like being asked for jury duty – to sit and decided
the fate of another.

And being a judge for a literary/mystery/thriller award is
not much different. Besides the fact
that you are bombarded with books, (often several dozen to even hundreds) which
you must read and not ‘skim’ – you have your own writing to do, or maybe you’ve
got a slew of signings to travel to – or maybe (if you’re one of the lucky
ones) – a publisher paid book tour. Oh,
and then there is your family, your life, your leisure. It’s gone baby, gone. It’s gone, because you have pledged to honor
a commitment that can often make fabulous giant steps for someone-other than
yourself –and their career. Throughout
this process, you will spend much time e-mailing back and forth with your
fellow (not being sexist here) committee members. You will be discussing the merits of a certain book, wondering if
a particular book really fits into your category, telling your chair you
haven’t received a book on the monthly update, discovering a submission was
published in another country prior to the year for which you are judging. Oh, there are many more reasons for
communication – but I don’t want to bore you.

So, is it any wonder – that after months of honoring your
commitment – for being flattered to have been considered qualified, objective
and NOT gender biased to judge your peers – that it’s damn hard to find
yourself a sitting target from those who have no idea what being a judge
entails? I’m still amazed, even after
being an Edgar judge a couple of years ago – that this post is even necessary.

Guess you know now why it’s so hard to find someone who is
willing to be a judge. Who the hell
wants to spend all that time, questioning and double questioning your decision,
set aside a well written book that simply doesn’t meet the criteria set out by
your organization, wonder if you’re going to be vilified because of gender
cries, hope to hell you won’t get raked over the coals because the books you
and your committee choose won’t be popular choices?

See, here’s the thing: a book is judged by certain standards. Not that it’s a big seller, not that the author is one of your
favorites, not that the author is a friend, not that the author gave you a
blurb for one of your own books, not that the author missed out on another
award you felt he or she should have won – but BECAUSE the book meets the
standards you’ve been asked to use. Which is basically excellence of execution. In the case of ITW, it had to be a thriller. Now, that didn’t mean it couldn’t be a
medical thriller, or a legal thriller, or a P.I. thriller, or a cop
thriller. It had to THRILL.

Oh, there’s another subject I want to add – and that is –
all judges were asked to voluntarily sign a confidentiality agreement. This agreement bound us not discuss any
aspect of the judging process – communications, decisions, comments,
deliberations, disagreements – and so on. Sadly, one of the ITW judges apparently ignored that pledge, and that –
besides the gender/bigotry charges – created the firestorm that is hopefully on
the way to being extinguished.

I’m not going to offer you the percentages of books
submitted by women, or how damn hard it was to even get them in. I’m not going to tell you about the hours
Jim Rollins – our awards Chief – or the other judges, including myself, spent
tracking down editors, agents, publicists and writers to get their books
in. Gayle Lynds, ITW’s co-president,
has written a wonderful letter detailing all the specifics – and you’ll find it
on several blogs.

But do you want to know what I’m really ticked off
about? Only a small handful of posters
on that popular blog (after I offered my comments) realized the one thing they
should be complaining about – was missed. And that was the lack of ethics of the judge who broke the
confidentiality pledge and blabbed about the ultimate decisions being
‘sexist’. To me, that is more important
than whether or not a woman was short-listed or not. I mean, if your word means nothing – then what the hell are you? And guess what? They still didn’t get it.

So now I guess you’re wondering if I’ll ever be an award
judge again, huh? Especially after the
Edgar brouhaha I was involved with – and now this?

Okay – here’s my answer. YES. And it should be yours too
– if you’re ever asked.

61 thoughts on “dfg34hdb

  1. Sandra Ruttan

    Thank you for sharing your insights, Elaine. I respect the judges for standing by their honest assessment of the top books submitted, regardless of race, colour, creed or gender.

  2. Iden Ford

    Good on ya. Over the past few years, I’ve felt the mystery field has been over-awarded, thus diluting the value of an award. But I have changed my mind. I see the notice the awards lists bring to writers, and the motivation that the award lists provide as a readers guide, is valuable. But in the end, controversy sells. All this fuss about gender is bound to bring more writers of different gender and background, into the fray, over the long run. I think as long as the judging thing is a labour of love for those who get involved, and not a chore, ultimately the best will get notice. A friend of ours, who is an agent/manager for musicians, once said to us “awards are great, but in the long run, the cream in any field always rises”.

  3. JT Ellison

    Just to add one thing, I’d like to share Elaine’s very astute comment over at the Lipstick Chronicles that led to this post…

    Speaking as an individual-and not in my capacity as chief award judge for Best First Novel – or in any way in behalf of ITW, the award judges, it’s membership or it’s board, I find it sad that the broken pledge of confidentiality-by this ‘dismayed judge’-has been ignored. Not only has she spoken out of turn, she has also offered the names of authors whose books were submitted to her committee. This egregious breach leaves me to wonder why no one who has commented here – has seen fit to question or discredit her lack of ethics.

    I also find it incredulous that so many are quick to judge – and to place a label of bias on individuals whose integrity is being tossed and trashed. And all because of the vitriol of a disgruntled individual who has decided not to attend ThrillerFest simply because she is under the impression that her books would not be available for sale in the book room-not ‘hearsay – it’s on her blog)

    To clear up other misinformation (not applicable to our oath of confidentiality)-many of you might be surprised to know that only 29% of the hundreds of books submitted – were written by women. Oh, one other thing – SIX judges out of twelve are women. John Case (Best PBO) is a husband and wife duo.

    Unlike the identies of judges for the Edgar (which are not made public until they are printed in the awards program)all of our names have been on ITW’s website since the beginning – and I must admit – we all felt great pride and joy in taking part in this inagural event. How sad to see we are now the object of derision – branded with lables of bigotry and bias – and for the women judges – to be considered females unwilling to support the success of other females – is really beyond the pale.

  4. anne frasier

    elaine, you keep saying this:

    “And that was the lack of ethics of the judge who ‘ broke the confidentiality pledge’ and blabbed about the ultimate decisions being ‘sexist’.

    i would like to know WHO you’re talking about, exactly WHAT was said, WHERE you got your information.

    if you are going to post this kind of harmful statement about the ITW contest and its judges, you’d better damn well be able to back it up.

  5. Naomi


    I think Elaine was referring to the initial post that quoted a “dismayed” judge a couple of times. In fact, I had e-mailed Elaine that day, asking if she had been that judge. I quickly received a response, “Absolutely not!”

    Well, I’m off to a family reunion in strawberry country now. Have fun, everyone, and play safe.

  6. Pari

    Elaine,Thanks for clarifying further the work the judges did. I read Gayle’s letter, too and appreciated its candor and details.

    Many years ago, I had to put together a committee for a public relations award for a big women’s event. I worked hard to make sure the committee was ethnically/culturally mixed — far more than requested by the those that had asked me in the first place.

    We read all the submissions blind and didn’t discuss them one iota. Using specific criteria we scored each one. Then, I asked my committee members to send me their top three candidates with the scores. I added them up and there was a clear winner.

    When the award was announced, I got several emails from people about racial bias in the selection.

    I guess the moral of the story is that people will find bias — or something to object to — no matter what.

    I am dismayed that no women were on the ITW list — just like it saddens me that few “cozies” ever make it onto the Edgar lists. But I’ll never sling an arrow at the judges . . .

  7. Elaine

    Anne: I’m amazed by the questions in your post. My responses to your several emails last night addressed your questions. And please, you very well know what was said, and where. If you’re still unclear – might I suggest you contact the original poster and query her?

    I’ve ‘harmed the ITW contest and it’s judges?’ That doesn’t even deserve an answer.

    I think the ‘dismayed judge’ who wrote the following on that blog – and I quote – is the guilty party.

    “Maybe the judges, when faced with trying to figure out just what a thriller was, were too quick to rely on the dick-lit cliches that have always dominated the genre – car chases, boy-banter, phallic guns and exploding stuff. Maybe instead of narrowing their focus, they should have been broadening it to reflect the rich diversity of what is called a thriller.”

    Methinks THAT was trashing the ITW judges in no uncertain terms. ‘Dick-lit?’ ‘Phallic guns?’ You wanna talk about gender bias?

  8. JA Konrath

    I’ve ‘harmed the ITW contest and it’s judges?’ That doesn’t even deserve an answer.

    It not only deserves an answer, it deserves an apology.

    You were wrong. There was no sexism at all in judging the ITW awards. And even if the above quote implies sexism, you had no excuse for hopping on that and posting your diatribe without a single shred of evidence or facts to back it up.

    You called people names, and insulted an organization of 400 writers, both men and women. You sounded a false alarm, and attacked without probably cause.

    You were wrong, and you should have the ovaries to own up to it.

  9. Ali


    I have kept my comments out of the public domain UNTIL NOW, due to being one of the ITW Judges who has been publicly accused with my colleagues at ITW of sexism and bigotry by a stranger.

    But I wish to say something in my defense and that of my colleagues at ITW who work with integrity and passion.

    If this stranger had wished to have done a little checking of facts before making accusations, perhaps they would have discovered the following details [which are all in the public domain and very easy to find] and I quote –

    “Ali is an associate member of the International Thriller Writers Association and an associate member of the Crime Writers Association (CWA) of Great Britain as well as a [male] member of the UK ‘Mystery Women’ group who promote the work of female crime / mystery / thriller writers.”

    Full Bio is available :-


    I would like to add that as I come from an ethnic minority [non-white / Asian], and very proud to be British [IMHO – The home of the golden age thriller] – I have fought prejudice and bigotry [in all its ugly forms] throughout my life, and will continue to do so with my last breath. That is why these allegations are particularly hurtful to me.

    I was honoured to be asked to be one of the judges for the inaugural ITW awards, [and being a non-American and a non-white judge, surely this should indicate ITW’s International and un-prejudiced ethos]. Despite the hard work involved in the judging process, I firmly believe in the ITW and its goals to help thriller writers internationally.

    So how has this public humiliation by a stranger affected me as literary judge because you all know I feel privileged to work with you and your team at DP on the Barry Awards, as well as The CWA on the Daggers?

    My response to the stranger who accused me and my colleagues at ITW of Sexism and Bigotry?

    If the ITW want me to sit again?

    I say ‘Bring It On!’ – I refuse to be intimidated by anyone – I hate bullying and bigots, and will fight them with my dying breath.

    I love Thriller Novels and enthusing people to read them, and I am a person of integrity.

    I am looking forward to attending Thrillerfest and let’s allow this unpleasantness to pass with our dignity in place.

    Ali Karim

    Also my Editor Mike Stotter at http://www.shotsmag.co.uk will be issuing a formal statement on my behalf tonight together with Gayle Lynds’ letter at our website, which you will see is heavily populated by Female writers in interviews, reviews and articles.

    This is a photograph [link] with me and Lizzie Hayes of The Mystery Women Group who I work with.


    If you want to get involved and support women mystery writers details are at :-


  10. Elaine

    Uh, Joe? That was me – Elaine FLINN that responded to Anne’s post. Not the ‘other one’! I realize this might be confusing-so I thought I should clear the air.

    My thanks, Joe – for your support!

  11. Elaine

    And Ali?Thank you so much – I know how hard it’s been not to address our accusers, but there comes a point when it’s time to stand up and be counted. And, Ali – I’ll stand with you and the other judges (with one exception) anytime, anyplace and anywhere.

    Elaine Flinn(I think I’d better sign my posts from now own!)

  12. Naomi


    Elaine Flinn is known around here parts as the Evil E, so you can also use that moniker to avoid confusion.

    Okay, now I’m really leaving.

  13. Elaine

    And – thank you J.T., Noami and Pari for your terrific support and comments. I’m gratified to see there are ‘women writers’ who ‘got it’-but then, I wouldn’t be on this blog with these wonderful gals if not.

    Elaine Flinn

  14. Beatrice Brooks

    Well…hot buttons have certainly been pushed, eh? And now that my own knickers are in a bit of a twist — and my eyes blurry from reading the dozens of posts regarding book designations and various Awards — I’ll be blogging my thoughts [right here on Murderati] from a somewhat different perspective this coming Tuesday. The fur might fly and the slings and arrows [great analogy, Elaine] might sting, but I think I’ll chance it.

    In any case, Elaine, I want to laud you for saying what you had to say without breaking the confidentiality of the pledge you agreed to honour. Good job, lady!

    Having never judged the Edgars [or the RITAs, for that matter], but having judged the Arthur Ellis Awards [I’d fall off my chair in a dead faint if a “cosy” ever short-listed there, too, Pari] I think I can contribute a viable opinion.

    But I don’t want to respond to a blog, any blog, with thoughts that are as long as a blog.

    So, I’ll see y’all next Tuesday,Deni

  15. Editor From Hell

    I just ran across a disgusting display of hormones on a blog called The Lipstick Chronicles. Said blog is a perfect example of why, while I may have to read blogs, I seldom post on them.

    While that doubtless smacks of snobbery – I’m old and allowed.

    Having said that – and knowing Ms. Flinn is one of the maligned judges – I thought I would cross post my comments here. To my delight – I discovered Ms. Flinn’s well written post above.

    Well done.

    I would love to tell you things such as this didn’t happen in ‘the old days’ but that would be a lie. I did have hopes for the future however.

    Perhaps I’m just getting too old for this afterall. What the f*** ever happened to being ladies and gentlemen? “Dick-lit”? Is this person 12??

    Ah well – good luck to you Ms. Flinn, and to all the other judges (with one exception of course), and thank you for your ethics, honor and integrity.

    I doubt I’ll be posting to anymore of these things.

    And now to my previous post on “The Lipstick Chronicles” (and that’s NOT sexist??)

    Well – this has been an interesting, and sad discussion.

    Before I launch into an further commentary, a few points for the record:- Yes, I’m a woman.-No, I’m neither a judge nor member of ITW.-I’m also old enough to remember when women were not taken nearly as seriously, as writers of any genre, as they are now. And let me tell you something – those women of decades passed not only faced far greater prejudice than most, if not all, of today’s women writers, they could also write circles around many of the biggest names in the business now. That was as much a reflection of the difference in qualityof education as anything.

    But I digress…

    Ms. Viets – perhaps before you posted your assumptions, which are precisely what they are – you should have read the submission guidelines. But – since you apparently were either to busy to look them up, or too securely wrapped in the comfort and rightness of your convictions and conjecture to be bothered with such mundane things as facts, here they are:

    (from the ITW site – toward the bottom of the page … http://www.thrillerwriters.org/awards.html)

    “Rules of Eligibility for Printed Work

    All novels published in the English language by a commercial publisher within the 2005 calendar year are eligible for the respective categories listed above. ITW maintains a list of recognized traditional commercial publishers on its website. Any publisher or author may fill out ITW’s “Publisher Questionnaire,” seeking admission to the list. Generally, to be a commercial publisher on ITW’s list, the publishing house must be a print publisher, pay advances and issue royalty statements, edit books, create covers, neither solicit nor accept financial payments from its authors, never copyright an author’s title under the publisher’s name, and never expect or ask authors to buy a certain number of copies of the author’s books.

    ITW will solicit publishers for eligible work, but ultimately it will be the responsibility of each author who would like to be considered for an award category to contact his publisher and ensure copies reach each judge in that category. Publishers are requested to submit a title to only the most appropriate category of judging: Paperback novels are limited to the paperback judges, first novels to the first novel judges, etc.

    For a list of addresses to each category, please refer your publisher to the ITW Award Chair, James Rollins, at RollinsJP@aol.com

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but that’s pretty clear; to wit: If you don’t submit your work, it won’t be considered.

    What I found a happy surprise is, with the mountain of books undoubtedly submitted, these judges would take further time to actively solicit publishers for additional works as well.

    And you have the audacity to accuse any of them of gender bias? Or any bias, for that matter?

    However – as titilating as a rehash of the women are better than men/men are better than women arguments always are (inject sarcasm here in case you missed that) – I am utterly flabergasted so many of you do not find it far more troublesome that a judge broke her/his oath of confidentiality, and so egregiously.

    I sincerly hope ITW removes this person from future judging. If this person cannot be trusted to keep his/her word, here, then honor, ethics, integrity are seemingly not a priority, and should disqualify this person from future judgements. Impartiality, in anything, requires these attributes.

    And to the poster who proclaimed such things are abstract concepts – I suggest your education is woefully incomplete and you should endeavor to correct that as soon as possible.

    To the ITW judges – whether I, or anyone else, agree with your decisions, is frankly irrelevant. The only thing that is relevant is that you continue – and I’ve no doubt you will – to fulfill your duties as judges to the best of your abilities – and with the highest regard for honor, ethics and integrity. If you don’t – then the writing community will be the poorer for it.

  16. Louise Ure

    Elaine, thank you for posting what so many of us, your fellow judges, have been feeling.

    As I wrote to both you and Jim Rollins earlier in the week, the strangest part of this whole controversy was that I didn’t even realize my panel (Best Paperback Original Thriller) had nominated only male authors until I read it in Elaine V’s post. Here, all this time, I’d thought we were selecting the best PBO Thrillers published in 2005!

  17. Elaine

    Oh, Louise!Beautifully said! What a pity your logic is lost on so many. One of the sad things to erupt from this insanity – is how those decrying gender bias – are guilty of doing exactly the same thing – but they can’t see beyond their narrow vision to recognize they’ve just set all that has been fought for – back a step.

    Thank you for adding your thoughts – but then, I’ve always known you to be fair-minded.

    Elaine Flinn

  18. Carstairs38


    Personally, I was unaware that any judge had broken confedintiality agreements before I saw your post. By the time I did, my response would have been way below what you originally said. Just want you to know that I am outraged about that and think you have every right to be as well.

    Not everyone who reads Lipstick doesn’t get it.


  19. Elaine


    Thanks very much. And – my apology for lumping ‘everyone’ at Lipstick as ‘not getting it’. Happily, there have lately been some posts from those who did! I hope you realize I was referring to certain individuals who continue to feel ‘gender bias’ is more important than ethics. And I’m in error by not making that clear. You, obviously did ‘get it’ – and for that, I’m thrilled. Oh, by all means – go ahead and ‘get down’ over there if you wish – what the hell, right?

  20. anne frasier

    the thing that people area missing here because it’s veiled, is that elaine flinn is accusing me, a fellow judge, of being the disgruntled judge. when i emailed her to ask for an explanation as to why i was her target, she had no answer, but did admit that myself and one other judge were her only suspects. i am not the disgruntled judge as flinn has accused me of being, and i seriously doubt that there is such a person. well, there are probably several disgruntled judges right now. i find it shocking that everyone has taken viet’s comments as truth, repeated those comments, elaborated on them, and even found someone to hang them on. i am proud of ITW, I’m proud to have been a judge, and and I’m particularly proud of my judging team.

  21. Elaine

    And-lest I forget – thanks to Sandra & Iden for their comments!

    I’ve been inundated with support emails today and I’m dancin’ as fast as I can.

    My sincere thanks to you all!

  22. angie

    Am I missing something here? Other than E. Viet’s claims about a “disgruntled judge,” is there any evidence that a judge violated his/her confidentiality agreement? And if so, why isn’t it being addressed by ITW instead of here? I am concerned that allegations of unethical behavior by an ITW judge have been leveled with nothing more (that I’m aware of, at least) than statements posted in TLC. As E. Viet has already showed she isn’t keen on gathering her facts before making assessments, I have a hard time buying this part of the hoo-ha. Do you know something that I don’t? Because this isn’t making a lot of sense to me, and it seems to be dragging on a controversy that should have been resolved by now.

  23. anne frasier

    flinn said: “And please, you very well know what was said, and where.”

    this is only one of flinn’s not-so-veiled accusations and defamatory attacks.

    this implies that i know what the fuck she’s talking about. i haven’t a clue. i don’t even know this woman, but suddenly i’ve become her scapegoat.

  24. Elaine

    Anne: Whoa, okay? I NEVER named you, nor did I ever say that you and one other judge were ‘my suspects’. I’m not conducting an investigation, okay? You are not my ‘scapegoat’. I was replying to your email and I said I personally knew those I who I felt had not been the errant judge, so that left you and one other person whom I did not ‘know’on a personal level.

    Look, let’s sort this out right now. I’ve gone to great lengths to talk about integrity and honor and honesty. So, okay-I’ve never been known to not put my money where my mouth is – You say you’re not the judge who spoke out of turn? Okay, then, I’ll take your word for it, and apologize.

    And, Anne? Just so we keep the record clear-I’ve done this on my own – I’ve not been asked to, nor has anyone suggested I do this. I don’t feel intimidated by your continuing posts or your insinuations that I ‘veil accusations’ – or I have ‘defamed you’. If I’ve misunderstood the situation, then I’m a big enough girl to admit to it.

    As far as ‘defaming’ goes – you’re doing what you’ve accused me of doing. So – think about it, okay?

    Elaine Flinn

  25. anne frasier

    Flinn said:

    “I also find it incredulous that so many are quick to judge – and to place a label of bias on individuals whose integrity is being tossed and trashed. And all because of the vitriol of a disgruntled individual who has decided not to attend ThrillerFest simply because she is under the impression that her books would not be available for sale in the book room-not ‘hearsay – it’s on her blog)”

    she’s talking about me. wouldn’t be apparent to a lot of people, but apparent to a few who know the circumstances.

    let’s make this perfectly clear: i am not the disgruntled judge in Elaine Veit’s post. I don’t know Elaine Viet’s. I never spoke these words:

    One ITW judge was “dismayed” over the absence of women authors on the nominee list, but wonders “if the problem wasn’t sexism so much as the definition – or lack of it – of a thriller.”.

    The dismayed judge said, “Maybe the judges, when faced with trying to figure out just what a thriller was, were too quick to rely on the dick-lit cliches that have always dominated the genre – car chases, boy-banter, phallic guns and exploding stuff. Maybe instead of narrowing their focus, they should have been broadening it to reflect the rich diversity of what is called a thriller today.”

  26. Elaine

    Anne: If you’ll read further up the posts, you will see where I did offer the full quote of what the original poster said -“The dismayed judge, et.”

    If you’re bent on continuing this-go ahead, but I’ve said all I’m gonna – so don’t expect a further reply.

    You got your ‘apology’-or did you fail to read that completely as well?

    In fact, if you’re so determined to keep this going, then why don’t you email Elaine Viets and ask her who the judge was?

    Elaine Flinn

  27. Elaine

    Beatrice: Thanks so much for your thoughts, and your compliments! Sorry to be late-been busy with an angry lady.

    Editor from Hell: All I can say is – wow! You seem to be well versed in the book biz, and your comments are most appreciated.

    Elaine Flinn

  28. B.G. Ritts

    Sometimes it’s just human nature to want to blame something or someone when ‘our’ sense of universe-in-alignment isn’t met. The Internet certainly gives these objections a fertile ground in which to be planted.

    From my standpoint as a woman, it’s too bad that there were not any women short-listed for the awards. However, after reading Lynds, Flinn, Karim, et al, it appears to me that the judges did their job well and that that old ‘law-of-averages’ thingy just took a decidedly male-leaning partiality this year.

  29. Jon Jordan


    The last few days haveben very exciting haven’t they?

    Can’t we all just get along?

    Come on everybody, group hug!

  30. Andrea Maloney

    Well said Elaine. I for one, and yes I’m a woman, do not feel the judges were biased and to suggest it without a shred of evidence is just ridiculous. So all men were nominated…well heck maybe they just wrote the best thrillers. Maybe they should be looking into the judge who broke their confidentiality agreement instead.

  31. Elaine

    BG Ritts: My thanks! Your voice of wisdom is so damn refreshing!

    Jon: I’m easy to get along with – just ask Sam Hill & Guyot! We hug all the time. You can join in if you’d like.

    Andrea: Again, many thanks for ‘getting it’

  32. toni L.P. Kelner

    I’m a little dismayed by how vitriolic this whole issue has been, but since I posted on The Lipstick Chronicles, I thought it only fair to post here, too. (Even though it’s my first visit. Nifty site!)

    On the other blog, I posted some statistics my husband Steve (a Ph.D. psychologist with experience with such) put together, using the data that all 15 nominated books are by men and that 29% of the books sumitted were by women. I won’t re-post the numbers here, but the conclusion is that it’s very odd for this to have happened. So I said there–and say here–that there may be some phenomena at work. I don’t know what, but I think it’s worthwhile to discuss what–if anything–is going on. Maybe it is just a statistical oddity. As someone said, the chances of winning the Irish Sweepstakes are astronomical, but somebody wins ever year.

    But I cannot state strongly this strongly enough: I DO NOT think the judges were purposely discounting books written by women.

  33. Allison Brennan

    I have stayed out of this debate, but I have oodles of respect for Elaine and I think her post is right on the money. Who in the world wants to judge and be raked over the coals and accused of this and that?

    I judged the RITAs this year for RWA. Judges are confidential and we’re not allowed to discuss anything. I’m sure it goes on, but I adhered to the rules. I judged one book that was fantastic and I thought for sure it would final. It didn’t. It should have in my not-so-humble opinion, but judging is very subjective. Does that mean that the books that DID final were unworthy? No. It means that the competition was stiff.

    My whole problem in all this is that when/if my book is entered in the ITW contest, or the RITAs, or anything, I want it to be judged on the quality of the book. Period. I don’t want a “slot” because I’m a female author.

    Yes, I think it’s odd that not one female writer was nominated, but I don’t think it’s worth all this fuss. Frankly, the nomination list was posted months ago and I don’t understand why it’s now just becoming controversial.

    And, other than the judges getting dissed, I think the one thing that no one is talking about is the writers who DID final. Their accomplishment is now being diminished, as if they are somehow not worthy of finaling. That’s sad. They should be happy and proud of their nomination, not be made to feel that they “got it” at the expense of others and that it was somehow “not fair.”

  34. Lisa

    The reason it was posted now was to undermine ITW’s ThrillerFest. There are no coinsidences. But it anyone at that other blog thinks anyone at Thrillerfest will be talking about them, they’re delusional.

  35. Elaine

    Hello, Toni-and welcome.

    Nothing is ‘going’on. It just so happend that the judges simply chose the best books available. I know that’s hard for some to believe, but it’s true.

    There is no ‘phenomena’ or ‘oddity’ about it at all. There is only the reality. Life can’t always be explained by statistics.

    I’m perplexed by how difficult it has been for some to accept the fact that a book written by a woman – at this particular time – didn’t make the cut. Did it ever occur to ‘them’ that there just wasn’t one this time that fit the ‘thriller’ mode to be short-listed?

    Rather than accept this, they seem bent on blaming it on a conspiracy – of judges being biased or bigoted. Do they really think the six women judges would have stood for that? Can they really believe we might have been overwhelmed by our male counterparts?? Oh, please! The women on all the committees are not what you’d call wallflowers! That line of thinking is an insult to us – and equally rude and demeaning to the fine men with whom we worked.

    Of course ‘we didn’t purposely discount books written by women!’

    Oh, and as some poster on Lipstick claimed -we women ITW members are not simply ‘handmaidens’ to the males at ITW. We won’t be serving beer and pretzles in the bar either. I especially got a laugh out of that one!

    But I thank you, Toni – for dropping by, and for offering your thoughts. I hope I’ve been able to shed a clearer light on this for you.

    And please do stop by again – we’d love to have you here at Murderati.

  36. Toni L.P. Kelner

    Thanks, Elaine, but it seems I was not clear. When I said “something is going on” I meant that from a societal perspective–I wasn’t implying conspiracies, handmaidens, bigotry, none of that stuff.

    And I think it is a phenomenon. Even if the phenomenon is nothing more than a statistical oddity, that’s still a phenomenon. If it was a really bad year for the women whose books were submitted, that’s a phenomenon. If it was an outstanding year for the men whose books were submitted, that’s a phenomenon. If thrillers are read and written more by men, the way romances are read and written more by women, that’s a phenomenon.

    It’s not a judgemental or derogatory word for me, I swear.

    I’ve judged for few awards myself, and it is hard work. I’ve been nominated for awards, and I would have hated for anything to detract from those nominations. So I’m not about to say anything derogatory about your judges or the slate of nominees.

  37. Jon Jordan


    You keep talking about statistics.They mean nothing here. It’s judging a book, not counting a population. Raw numbers can’t tell you which books were better, if they could, a computer program would be set up and we wouldn’t need judges.

    It’s like going to an art museum with ten people, everybody will like different pieces of art. The whole thing is subjective and based on personal opinions. I’ve never agreed on a top 100 list for anything, all time great movies, 100 best guitar players, etc.

    I think the judges worked hard and did a great job. The books that were nominated are all good books and deserving.

  38. Steve Kelner

    Toni pointed me to this blog to respond to the “statistics” comments. I posted a lengthy explanatory note on Lipstick Chronicles, which I won’t repeat here, but I thought I ought to respond to Elaine and Jon’s remarks.

    All the chi-square did is indicate how unlikely it was that this result came about by random chance. Answer: 1.3%, assuming all else was equal. Therefore, it is very unlikely that this 15-0 score was accidental. But that says nothing about causes — just that we might consider looking for some!

    Statistics can certainly be applied to personal opinions — when looked at collectively. You look for patterns across people, and when there are either enough people or a strong enough relationship, it becomes statistically significant — thought not necessarily meaningful, which is a different issue. This is standard operating procedure for social scientists like myself. If you are going to claim that it is absolutely subjective, then you might as well give up on awards entirely. Sure, I don’t agree with top 100 lists, either, but do I agree with 80-90? The assumption is that if you ask enough people, you will get real overlap, which means something. To put it a more conventional way: “Fifty million Elvis fans can’t be wrong!” Maybe you hate Elvis, but he can still get on the top 40 even posthumously, because he is popular.

    Don’t misunderstand me — I have every sympathy for the judges, and I think the ITW made a significant AND meaningful effort here, given the mix of judges. All I would say is that we should ask, in calm tones, why it turned out this way, and is it just a fluke, or is there a pattern that we should try to address?

  39. Elaine

    Thank you, Jon.

    I’m beginning to feel like a broken record – but for some bizarre reason – many either can’t or won’t accept the fact that it was the books! Pure and simple! THE BOOKS!

    To continue to look for ‘patterns’, or conspiracies, or gender bias is nuts.

    And isn’t it strange that those who are claiming ‘gender bias’ are guilty of the same thing? Aren’t they – in essence – male bashing?

  40. Elaine

    Thank you, Steve – for dropping by and offering your thoughts.

    Yes – let’s just say it was a ‘fluke’,shall we? Maybe next year all the short-listed writers might be all women.

    Now, wouldn’t that be fluke as well?

    Alas-typepad doesn’t print the grin sign, so please consider it next to my last comment!

  41. Elaine

    To Allison and Lisa:

    Many thanks for ‘getting it’!

    And yes-think of the authors caught up in this incredibly insane and unwarrented brouhaha! How humiliating it must be for them to think the great joy they have in being short-listed – is being maligned all over the net. Unfortunately, they are as much the ‘victim’s’ in this as the judges.

    As for the ‘other blog’ thinking they might be the top of conversation at TFest – they might be! But I doubt it will be favorable -particularly by the female members who the poster termed ‘handmaidens to the male members serving beer & pretzles in the bar’.

  42. B.G. Ritts

    Well, here I go again. Without having done any statistical calculations, I have two improbable instances to cite. The first is the win by the Pittsburgh Steelers of Super Bowl XL. Anyone who is interested in sports will admit that at the beginning of the playoffs, their chance of winning it all was not very good.

    Now, for the second example, I go back to the Pittsburgh Pirates winning the 1960 World Series. (Yes, I’m originally from Pittsburgh.) They hadn’t been in a Series for 33 years and the Yankees had been in eight out of the last ten. The Pirates were out hit 91 to 60. They were outscored 55 to 27. Bill Mazeroski hit 2 home runs that series, one in game one, and the second is known to most sport fans — winning the series in game 7. Maz, during his career, averaged a home run per 56 at bats. (By way of comparison, Babe Ruth hit a homer a bit more often than once every 12 at bats.) In 1960, Maz had a homer for every 49 at bats. He was only at bat 25 times during the series and he had hit that homer in game one. He WAS NOT DUE — but he hit the series winning homer anyway.

    Statistics and averages are wonderful to calculate, discuss, masticate, whatever — but they don’t tell the whole story of life. Stuff happens in opposition to all reason. This year a statistically improbable selection of all men was chosen for the first ITW awards. It happens folks. Flukes abound — especially when you’re not looking for them to.

  43. Carstairs38

    Ms. Flinn said, “And isn’t it strange that those who are claiming ‘gender bias’ are guilty of the same thing? Aren’t they – in essence – male bashing?”

    There has definitely been some male bashing happening over this whole issue. And it’s not the first time by some of the participants.


  44. Elaine

    One other ‘sad note’ to all of this is that I know the ladies (except for one) on The Lipstick – and have always admired them personally, as well as their work.

    As some of you might remember, Elaine Viets was a wonderful guest and great sport at On The Bubble back in April when we first began Murderati. While we’re not close friends, she and I have always had a lovely relationship, and I wanted to offer another timely venue for her new book release.

    I hope they – the ladies at Lipstick – and their frequent posters -can take a big deep breath, put their emotions aside, and think clearly and without any bias at all – so that that we may all be able to resume the cordial atmosphere we (all inclusive!) once had.

    I’d hate to see this as a ‘line drawn in the sand’-with divided camps, and continuing animosty. That would indeed be a sad day for Mystery/Thrillerville.

  45. Elaine

    I missed thanking Ali Karim for his wonderful contribution to this debacle.

    Alas-notices of posts go to the person designated (in this case J.T.) for each day-and I’m so sorry I missed Ali’s post.

    Ali Karim, for those of you who may not know him, is a kind and very fair man, and a very respected reviewer. And I know how hurtful this indignity must have been to a man who has given so much time and effort to promoting fine writers everywhere.

    My apologies, Ali – for not thanking you sooner!

  46. Ali

    No Apology need Elaine [F],

    The points you raised were very important.

    It would have been a pity if the ‘bullying tactics’ by a stranger [on a blog]against a fledgling and young organisation [such as ITW] put people off getting involved as judges etc. Especially as accusing judges without checking facts remarkably shoddy for a ‘journo’.

    Look forward to Thrillerfest next week, gotta pack, and will leave Kevlar second-chance at home.



    PS Thanks for the kind words, you made me blush which is near impossible being a man of colour!


  47. Iden Ford

    I can’t let some comments go that I read on Val Mcdermid’schat forum, which I responded to with these comments:” Addressed to the person who made the comments thatimply there was an agenda. It’s like saying there was aconspiracy, etc to purposely exclude women from this award,even if it were a quiet conspiracy. You need a consensus tocreate a conspiracy, and you need collaborators. In the end,pressure usually leads to leaks and the truth will out. Comeon, some of you write crime fiction, I think, now look at themotivation here. Somebody would have to gather all thejudges together and agree that these awards were going toexclude women. How ridiculous is that?”

  48. mary saums

    Ali – Sorry this has been all been so upsetting for you. You’re known for your integrity in reviewing and as being a heckuva nice guy. Carry on, dude, and have a great time at Thrillerfest.

    Elaine – I’m happy to see that you and the other ITW ladies are so spirited. I won’t worry so much about you all now. 😉 When ITW formed, I admit I did worry that the women joining were setting themselves up for heartbreak, particularly those who also write non-thrillers. Gender-bashing is nothing compared to cozy-bashing. 🙂 Glad nobody is going to pick on you and get away with it.

    I wish that blogs had been around several years ago, and that all those who have had such excellent contributions to this discussion had been able to do the same when Otto Penzler attacked cozy writers in his NY Sun articles. It hurt. It hurt worse when ITW posted one of them, mostly about ITW but also containing rude dismissals of the cozy genre, on its website homepage when it first went up. I felt like ITW was stomping down on me, when I had done nothing but support the group and many individual members by attending their signings and buying their books.

    Was posting Mr Penzler’s article part of an ITW conspiracy to bust nice little ladies into their places from the organization’s onset? No, of course not, but someone or several someones at ITW did think Mr Penzler’s rudeness and lack of professionalism was perfectly okay, that putting us down somehow made ITW look superior. Did I cry and then stop supporting thriller writers? No, because when Mr Morrell heard some were upset about the article and wondered if this was ITW’s attitude toward cozy writers as well, he was kind, diplomatic, concerned and he took immediate action. The offending paragraphs were edited within a day or two. I am now a confirmed David Morrell fan. 🙂 Still, I will never forget that the article was used in the first place, and will always wonder if it was in fact a purposeful dig agreed upon by several in charge of steering ITW.

    I expect there will be other years like this one, when no women are nominated due to the percentage (OMG, numbers again)of male writers in this genre. Malice awards are similar, since those writers are mostly women. I’m sure at least one female will get an ITW award nomination next year, Cornelia Read. So maybe in a few years everyone will laugh about that one time no women were nominated and everybody got upset. 🙂

    It’s a shame that the board members are ineligible for awards. If the awards process is completely unbiased, there should be no problem with allowing their books for consideration. Maybe that will be changed one day. I hope so. It doesn’t seem right that those who work hardest should be automatically ineligible.

  49. Elaine

    Iden: ‘How ridiculous’ indeed! I think you pretty much said it all. So now they’re talking about it on Val’s forum as well? Who next, I wonder!

  50. Elaine

    Hi, Mary! Great to have you drop in at Murderati.

    You know, I’m sure that it was just an accident that the entire Penzler thing was posted. The site was new, everyone was in a hurry to get it up – and well, things happen. I know Gayle and David would never consciously demean any genre. Nor is there any discrimination towards cozy writers at ITW. I mean, hell – they let me in! That’s gotta tell you they are certainly inclusive.

    I’m very proud to be a member, as I am proud to be a member of MWA. One encompases mystery, the other thrillers. As a died-in-the-wool thriller fan, and having just completed a suspense standalone, it seemed a natural expansion for me. And-many of the members, gals and guys-are not all thriller writers. So, give ITW a try, and I’ll look forward to seeing you there next year.

  51. mary saums

    Thanks, Elaine. I’ve been reading everyone’s blogs here but just haven’t posted. I wanted to go to Thrillerfest this year for the workshops. Those sound like they’re going to be great. Next time, I’ll be putting the convention on the schedule early so I won’t have a conflict. Oh boy, you’re doing a suspense book! Fantastic news. A funny thing happened re: your books the other day. I logged into Amazon, and you know how they try to lure you with pop-up books similar to your previous orders. Well, the three that popped up were Aboriginal Religions in Australia, a guide to information resources on Ethnic museums and libraries, and your book Tagged For Murder. Haha! Do they know me or what? 🙂 Just thought you’d be happy they are promoting you across the boards. 🙂

  52. toni L.P. Kelner

    Regarding the Penzler comments about cozies–

    As a cozy writer myself, I exchanged several e-mails about that issue with David Morrell, and he got the link to those comments removed in no time. I couldn’t have asked for anybody to be more responsive, or more polite. (Frankly, he was probably more polite than I was–I was pretty upset about it.) Others in ITW also voiced their concern.

    What could have been a black eye for ITW turned out to be a chance for the organization to show its quality. I have talked up the ITW ever since.



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