New rules apply! Sisters in Crime’s Annual General Meeting – Carmel Shute (secretary) reports

Sisters in Crime held its much delayed Annual General Meeting yesterday (30 May) by Zoom. Thanks to the pandemic, it has been a long year since its last AGM – 19 months, in fact – but financial members rallied to the call for a big turnout (a quorum of 10%) to pass the new rules to modernise the association. The new rules include the use of technology and are more relevant in regard to bank accounts and such things as cheques.

The rules also involve a new form of voting that is more inclusive. As there are more state (and territory) chapters, Sisters in Crime needs to be able to involve them and enable all members to be able to make an informed choice when voting. All voting in future will be done in advance online and the results announced at the AGM.

The meeting was attended by an impressive 57 members from across Australia with another 26 tendering proxies. Once members were told how they could change the names on their Zoom squares if they didn’t reflect their correct name (mine was City of Literature due to me booking the Zoom hookup), they took matters into their own hands. Soon, we had attendances from Sara Paretsky, Ruth Rendell, Ngaio Marsh, Miss Marple, Phryne Fisher, Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, Marcia Muller and even Raymond Chandler. Who knew we were so important??

It was heartening to see so many book authors joining in, including Tanya Bretherton; Sue Bursztynski;  Lindy Cameron; Sherryl Clark; Aoife Clifford; Sandy Curtis; Caroline de Costa; Hazel Edwards; Katherine Firkin; Suzanne Frankham; Kelly Gardiner; Karina Kilmore; Katherine Kovacic; Ellie Marney; Erina Reddan; Fin J Ross; Loretta Smith and Sandi Wallace.

To entice attendance, we asked multi-Davitt Award winner, Emma Viskic, to talk to with convenor Karina Kilmore about what being a member of Sisters in Crime has meant for her. Go HERE to view this fabulous 15 minute interview.

On advice, Sisters in Crime opted for a smaller national committee of seven positions. Lindy Cameron, Lesley Gillis, Sara Hood, Karina Kilmore, Moraig Kisler, Tara Mitchell, and Carmel Shute were elected unopposed. Official positions were also elected unopposed with the following results: President: Moraig Kisler; Vice-President: Tara Mitchell; Secretary: Carmel Shute and Treasurer: Lesley Gillis.

Sisters in Crime, like much of Australia, spent most of last year in lockdown. And, like all of Australia, we have grieved for all of the lives lost or incapacitated, for all of the jobs lost, and for all of the futures truncated. But the pandemic did have a silver lining. It meant that Sisters in Crime had to go online for most of its activities and could reach a national – and in fact – an international audience.

All of the monthly events in Melbourne plus some of the events from the new NSW Chapter went online. Last year’s Law Week event has attracted 511 views. It may not compare to audiences for cat videos but it’s pretty good, we reckon.

We created a new program, Murder Mondays, shortish one-on-one author interviews. With most launches, events and festivals cancelled, this provided a wonderful opportunity for authors to discuss their craft.

Last year, we presented 27 Murder Mondays on our new YouTube channel. These included many fabulous Australian crime writers plus international stars, Sara Paretsky, the founder of Sisters in Crime, Val McDermid, Tartan Noir Queen, Ann Cleeves, creator of the Shetland and Vera series, and Kathy Reichs, author of the series featuring the forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (and the inspiration for the TV series, Bones.) Last week, Murder Mondays started again, featuring the New Zealand crime queen, Vanda Symon. They’ll now be monthly. See HERE.

The lockdown also meant that we didn’t have to spend any money to ensure Val McDermid kept her promise to present our 20th Davitt Awards. Val presented the Davitts from Scotland after a talk about her life in crime with our ambassador, Sue Turnbull, in Wollongong. All the winners were able to participate thanks to miracle of Zoom – and reveal their trophies (a new style to mark the 20th anniversary) to the world. The event was tarted up with music, frames and other graphics, thanks to the wonderful work of Kathryn Lamont, then a student at Swinburne University of Technology, our major supporter. Thanks to (then) convenor Kelly Gardiner, we were able to watch together through a Watch Party on Facebook. See HERE.

We took a similar approach with the Scarlet Stiletto Awards which were presented by actor Nadine Garner after an amusing interrogation by author, entertainer and member, Jane Clifton. It was a huge undertaking logistically as it involved all 25 shortlisted authors but it worked and people from across Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, Indonesia and France could view it. See HERE.

The pandemic meant we also put more of an effort into social media – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Two big achievements have been the establishment of a new chapter in NSW, under the leadership of Catherine du Peloux-Menagé (who is also the director of BAD Sydney Crime Festival) and a new chapter in South Australia under the leadership of Samantha Battams. These chapters have been able to hold live events though the NSW Chapter also hosted online events which you can still look at on our YouTube channel. The Queensland Chapter, under the leadership of Paula Duggan, has continued to meet monthly face-to-face and on Zoom.

Under the newly structured national committee, the Vice-President will convene a sub-committee of representatives of all states and territories with functioning chapters.

Treasurer Lesley Gillis reported that for the period 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020 reflect there was an operating income of $50,989.54 and an operating expenditure of $51,292.71, giving Sisters in Crime a modest operating loss of $303.17. This was partly related to a decrease in sponsorship and the additional costs involved in bringing a presenter from New Zealand. At 30 June 2020, Sisters in Crime had assets of $24,959.37, including cash at bank of $21,718.78. Things are looking up a bit for the 2020-2021 financial year, despite the pandemic. For details, go to: Treasurer’s Report 2019-2020; Standard Balance Sheet 2020 06 30; Profit & Loss [Accrual] 2020 06 30

We have a lot to look forward over the next year – terrific events across Australia, the 21st Davitt Awards which have an amazing 127 books in contention, and the 28th Scarlet Stiletto Awards which offer a record amount of prize money – $11,910. After the award ceremony in November, we plan to throw a party to celebrate Sisters in Crime’s 30th anniversary.

I would like to pay tribute to convenors who did not stand again or who had resigned prior to the AGM.

  • Vice-President Robyn Walton resigned earlier in the year. She is renowned for her regular, perceptive Q&As with authors and top-rate reviews as well as compering events.
  • Caz Brown, who has done such a great job in designing our event notices, trophy plaques, t-shirts, tote bags, convenors badges, and medallions to go on the shortlisted and winning Davitt books. Her output during the pandemic has been prodigious. She designed all the frames for our online events and all the graphics used for the website and social media. She didn’t stand again but we’re hoping she will continue her involvement on the design front. She has played a pivotal role in creating Sisters in Crime’s ‘look’.
  • Kelly Gardiner, who was elected in 2019, and played an outstanding role in our pandemic response. She handled the Zoom for 27 Murder Mondays and all the Melbourne online events. She thought she was signing up for four meetings but the pandemic had another agenda. Kelly resigned earlier in the year from New Zealand where she was in quarantine for a time (for love). Kelly is also an excellent compere and we were thrilled when, earlier this year, her 2014 historical novel Goddess (HarperCollins) was optioned for the screen by Deux Dames Entertainment and Black Magic for TV as a limited series. And, did I mention that Kelly is also an ace event compere? And that she served as a judge for the 2020 Davitts?
  • Pauline Meaney who has served as a Davitt judge – a very big job, even with some division of labour – and helped run events in Melbourne.

Big thanks to publishers (especially Clan Destine Press), bookshops (especially the Sun Bookshop), award sponsors, partners like Swinburne University of Technology, Sir Zelman Cowen Centre (Victoria University), the Melbourne Athenaeum Library, the wonderful team at the Rising Sun where we host live events in Melbourne and the City of Literature which has hosted scores of our Zoom hook-ups, at no cost.

Big thanks to all of Sisters in Crime’s members for sticking with us over tough times.

For the full Secretary’s Report go  to AGM Secretary’s report 30052021 – website