Growing up in Galveston, I always had something to write about: the beach, the hurricanes, the people. I always had people encouraging me to write, as well, Ball High teachers like Mari Allmond and Mary Pennington, the latter of whom required me to enter one writing contest after another. Each contest won inspired the next, fueling a lifelong passion for writing.
Somehow another career slipped into the mix, as I was graduated from Tulane University with a degree in English and a secondary teaching certificate. Becoming a writer, it seemed, could be an avocation, while teaching others to write took center stage. Another degree and a career in school administration and school improvement consulting later, I began teaching creative writing and a literature course at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).
“Write what’s in your heart, in your soul,” I advocate. “You have the unique privilege of creating a whole world, people, places, and wonderful ideas. You can make anything happen. You can change lives with your words.”
As I was getting started in the classroom at OLLI, I was struggling with a real-live problem in the form of an Old English sheepdog puppy named Nana. Full of boundless energy and strength, Nana was destroying everything in her path, leaving my husband Ed and me to wonder how to manage. Fortunately, some research-based training and some soul-searching led me to write a children’s picture book, Naughty Nana, about Nana’s madcap adventures. Told from the point of view of Puppy Nana, the book launched my career as an author. The book has reached thousands of children in five countries, and Nana’s popularity is history. (She is the first canine Galveston Tourism Ambassador, for example.)
I continued to teach. “Keep writing. Keep using new tools, practicing new skills. But the one rule is you must always have fun while you are writing.” My words left my mouth and went into my own ears, as well as those of class members.
Next, I turned my focus toward writing a mystery novel. Murder in the One Percent, my debut novel, released on February 17, 2018, by Black Opal Books. The book shows what happens when someone comes to the party with murder in his heart and poison in his pocket.
Children’s books about fluffy dogs are well within the expected parameters for women writers, but mystery novels, not so much. People who know me say things like, “I never pictured you as a mystery novelist. You just aren’t gritty enough,” or “How can you possibly understand the point of view of a male detective?”
So many women writers of detective fiction have seen success—trailblazers, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Mary Higgins Clark, Sara Paretsky, and literally hundreds more, and still it is suggested that people of the softer gender may be too emotional, too squeamish, to kill our characters or to describe violence.
Back in the classroom, I tell my students, both male and female, “Never limit yourself, and don’t let others limit you, either. As glass ceilings disappear in other professions, those in publishing will also erode. What really matters in an author’s writing is not gender, race, religion, language, size or shape. What matters is what’s in the author’s heart.”
Mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard has been a teacher who wrote on the side. Now she is a writer who teaches on the side. Her children’s picture book, NAUGHTY NANA, has reached thousands of children in five countries. MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, released in February by Black Opal Books, is her first mystery. A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, she has lived in New Orleans, St. Louis, and Chicago, and now lives in Galveston, Texas. Learn more at www.saralynrichard.com.
A powerful and rich playboy, a rare and naturally-occurring poison, a newly divorced woman with an ax to grind, and pressure from the former President of the US are just a few of the challenges facing Detective Oliver Parrott. African-American and a former college football hero making a name for himself in the criminal justice system, Parrott answers a routine call for back-up when someone dies at a country estate the morning after an elaborate birthday party. When he learns the deceased is the wealthy former Secretary of the Treasury, Preston Phillips and just about everyone at the party has a motive to kill him, Parrot realizes this will be the investigation to make—or break—his career.