We often obsess over youthful achievement in our society, but I think it's more important to recognize what a person accomplishes over the long haul. Not everyone has the opportunity to publish in their twenties, for example, and some choose motherhood first or the responsibilities of working and paying off student loans before they feel they can follow their dreams. This is especially true for women, who even today more often have to make the choice to put their creative endeavors on the back burner.
To recognize outstanding women over 40, I've created the Granny Grace Award.
My first "Granny" recipient is fellow mystery writer Karen Musser Nortman. She's the author of a clever series of campground mysteries that deliver murder and mayhem along with helpful camping tips. The Frannie Shoemaker series is at Book No. 4 and counting, and Nortman received an indieBRAG medallion for all four. Book No. 2, The Blue Coyote, was a finalist in the Chanticleer 2013 CLUE awards.
I reviewed Book No. 1, Bats and Bones, here. It's a must-read for anyone who loves to camp, especially if you're interested in "glamping," or glamor camping. For those of us who enjoy learning new skills best when they're wrapped around a compelling story line, this is the perfect book. And mystery fiends will enjoy the well-crafted whodunit.
Frannie Shoemaker is a great heroine. Neither detective nor cop, she nonetheless has a mind for motive and can't help being drawn into solving whatever case presents itself to her on the hiking trail.
And Karen hasn't stopped there: Her recent endeavor is a time-travel novel.
The most amazing thing about Karen is that she launched this--her third career--entirely as an indie. Her craft, quality, and professionalism as a self-published author stand out as best-in-the-business and no doubt come from a lifetime of experience.
Her first career was as a social studies teacher, a job she held for 22 years. She says this is the hardest thing she's ever done. "I am by nature more introvert than extrovert, and those first years were a real challenge. I was very lucky that my first class was an outstanding group and not out for blood. Writing a book by contrast was a walk in the park."
For another 18 years, she was a test developer. The two of us first struck up a conversation, as a matter of fact, over a case Granny Grace pursues in Cat in the Flock, when she investigates a fraudulent ACT test. (Thankfully, my research passed Karen's muster.) But retiring from test development didn't mark the end of Karen's working life. "I knew I couldn't be done yet, because in fourth grade, I had decided to be a writer," she says.
Her lifelong dream to be a writer hitched up with her passion for camping, and a series was born. She explains:
A love of mysteries combined with our avocation of camping provided the inspiration for the Franny Shoemaker campground mysteries. My husband Butch and I originally tent camped when our children were young and switched to a travel trailer a few years back when sleeping on the ground lost its romantic adventure.
Karen has been especially pleased with how her books have reached a wider audience. She got a note from someone in Australia who heard about her books in an Australian campground, and she's built a network of friends around the U.S., fellow campers who sought her out after reading her books. She says, "One is always pleased, of course, to have friends and family read one's books, but it is uniquely gratifying to hear from complete strangers."
What's the most amazing thing that's ever happened to Karen? Her family. "Even though our children went though lots of teenaged and twenty-something turmoil, they are all now caring, responsible adults and have given us eight delightful grandchildren, four of whom are also adults," she says. "I am especially proud that they are all active volunteers in various causes."
Congratulations to Karen Musser Nortman, and happy trails to all her readers.