by Roger Zotti
As part of the Connecticut Authors Trail, twenty-one Connecticut writers are visiting twelve local libraries this summer. The series brings together a diverse group – and mystery writer Roberta Isleib, Madison, is one of them. Roberta appeared at the Preston Public Library on August 4th. The finale, featuring food writers Mark Scarborough and Bruce Weinstein, will be held at the Mohegan Sun Cabaret Theater, September 24, at 7:00 pm.
“Asking for Murder” (Berkley), Roberta’s latest novel, is about an advice columnist, she said, “whose good friend is badly beaten and left for dead.” After the police lose interest in the case, Dr. Rebecca Butterman “takes up where they left off.” Roberta said her next book will be “a stand-alone suspense novel about a real estate agent whose husband leaves her. Through a series of unpleasant coincidences, she becomes suspected of involvement in a prostitution ring.”
One reason Roberta writes is the challenge it presents. “There is so much to learn from trying things, reading what others have written, taking classes, reading books on writing, and working on getting better,” she said. Another reason is “to see the book out in the world and then to hear from readers.” Still another are her characters, “I grow very interested in and attached to them. It’s fun to work out who they are, how they got that way, and how they’ll evolve in the future.”
“Just do it” is the best advice Roberta ever received as a writer. She elaborated, “Good writing is hard and it doesn’t come with the first draft. So you must sit yourself down and hammer out the first edition, and then revise, revise, revise. And don’t be in a hurry to send it out, ever.” Annie Lamot makes the same point in “Bird by Bird,” one of the best books ever penned about writing. When you write, Annie says, “…you find out things as you go along. Then you go back and rewrite. Remember: no one is reading your first draft.” At the Preston Library, Roberta put it like this, “Your first draft is garbage. But I find revising fun. I like playing with words.”
Roberta was past president of Sisters in Crime (SinC), an organization formed by mystery writer Sara Paretsky and “some other brave women in 1986 to support women crime writers.” It began with nine members and now numbers 3,500 and according to its website, its “purpose is to promote the professional development and advancement of women crime writers to achieve equality in the industry.” (Visit www.sistersincrime.org for more information.)
Roberta’s work with SinC was, she explained, a “wonderful experience! People assume that women writers are treated equally with men. We’ve come a long way, but there’s work to do yet.” Roberta added that because writing is a solitary effort, it’s sometimes “so hard to keep positive about what I’ve written.” She has been fortunate, though, “to find a writer’s group and a group of friends in the mystery business to lean on for support and feedback.”