“Murder in the Library” at Brisbane Writers Festival

September 15, 2013

The word had been passed around writing circles in Brisbane. There was to be a murder in the library during the 2013 Brisbane Writers Festival. Who would witness the heinous crime?

Sisters in Crime scene 2Late in the afternoon, on the eve of the festival, after the volunteers had packed up and gone home and library use had lulled, a body appeared. By the time the festival crowds re-appeared the next morning, all that remained was the outline of where the victim had fallen, right in full public view outside the library café. Someone wanted this crime to be seen!  

Amateur detectives, Sisters in Crime Qld, had carefully numbered the clues:

  1. A blood splatter pattern next to the body
  2. A smashed watch stopped at exactly 12 o’clock
  3. A library book by Stuart Littlemore
  4. A box of fresh breath mints
  5. One lens from a pair of sunglasses
  6. A pool of blood under the victim’s hand

And so began the “Murder in the Library” festival crime writing competition. Over the next few days, the Sisters prowled the festival inviting attendees to use their imagination to deduct what crime had befallen the unfortunate victim, and to write the opening scene of their very own crime story.  Aspiring writers took notes and photographs and the entries flooded in. Sisters in Crime members, along with our special guest sister Katherine Howell, took great pleasure in reading and judging the many quality entries.

Sisters in Crime audienceThe “Murder in the Library” Spoken event was held on the final day of the festival against the stunning backdrop of the city of Brisbane and its meandering river. Moderated by fellow Sister Meg Vann, CEO of QWC, it showcased the talent of Sisters in Crime Qld members Bess Emanuel, Lea Scott and Sylvia Loader. We also took a moment to remember our own fallen Sister Liz Navratil, who was the recent victim of a tragic car accident, with a moving song from our sensational singing Sister Janelle Colquhoun.  Katherine Howell gave the fifty attendees her own brand of crime writing advice and presented the prizes to the winners.

Sisters in Crime scene 5AAnne Buist took out the prize for the adult category with her foreboding detective-style opening. As she read it out, she drew us in with its strong voice and clever use of the crime scene clues.

Now this was a frame up if ever I’d seen one: circa 1920. Watch stopped at the time of the crime? Fingerprints on the sunglasses and the victim wasn’t even wearing any? I’d bet on D.N.A. on the mint packet where our framed man had put his lips as he extricated them. Give me break. I knew the victim; and she didn’t read anything heavier than Vogue. So the real question was, if the boyfriend didn’t do it, what grudge did the killer have against Stuart Littlemore?

We later discovered that Anne hails from down south and is a member of the Melbourne chapter of Sisters in Crime. Anne has also entered the Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto awards, and has been working on a psych crime thriller. We wish her all the best in her writing journey.

The youth age categories took particular interest in the crime scene, many of whom dared to defy the ‘Crime Scene Do Not Cross’ lines to take ‘selfies’ in the body outline. We were glad to see this group so engaged and interactively involved.

Genevieve Yuong took out the 12-17 age category with her humourous story that tied into the library theme.

I never liked the librarian. Her bittersweet personality always put me on edge and her minty-fresh smile could make anyone shiver. She had a way of alluring people, making them feel safe. Her body lay disfigured, bloody and lifeless. What just happened? But I can’t worry about that now. I need to hide the body.

Sisters in Crime comp winner Under 12Orley Fenton wrote the winning entry for the Under 12’s. His story about a shoot out between double-crossing stockbrokers showed great sophistication for his age category.

We hope that this prize will encourage both of our youth category winners to pursue their writing aspirations.

It was a wonderful experience to be part of the Brisbane Writers Festival in 2013 and to be able to bring a juicy crime element to the festival experience. We thank the BWF team and hope that our involvement in the festival continues into the future.  For now, the evidence from the crime scene has been boxed up and put on the cold case shelf. Thanks to the hard-working efforts of all the Sisters involved this year that made this event an outstanding success. Maybe next year, we’ll solve the crime…

Sisters in Crime scene 3Photos: 1. The scene of the crime 2. The audience builds 3.Anne Buist reads her winning entry 4. Orley Fenton accepts his prize from Katherine Howell 5. Some of the Sisters in Crime at BWF





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