Report from Left Coast Crime 2014
Left Coast Crime this year was in Monterey, California. The days of the conference were filled with panels, capped off with interviews between well-known mystery writers. The day before the conference was a writing workshop, which I didn’t attend. The conference itself was a series of panels, each with four mystery authors and a moderator, the day capped off with an interview of one author by another. Some of these were stellar, inluding Sue Grafton, Louise Penny and Cara Black.
For me, the interview with Sue Grafton was the absolute high point of the conference. She began writing when the mystery genre was low on female PI’s and, for that matter, female mystery writers. While I admit I haven’t read every one of her alphabet-based books (A is for Alibi, B is for Burglary, etc.) because they veer a bit farther into hardboiled than I usually read, the books of hers I have read have always been so well-written I wasn’t thinking about writing when I was reading them, meaning I was swept up in the story. After listening to her, I think I may pick up again–she’s gotten through W, and yes, she’s now at X. She claimed she was a bit hung-up on the letter, but if I were to hazard a guess, I think she’s teasing us a bit. (Plus, we were warned not to ask what happens after Z!)
About halfway through the interview, I was delighted to hear her talking about how “Shadow” helps her write. The interviewer, Brad Parks, intimated she’d had a difficult past, and at one point, had sought some help through therapy. During that time, she encountered the idea of Shadow.
Shadow comes from ideas based on Carl Jung’s idea that there are aspects of ourselves, both good and bad that we hide deep in our subconscious, never bringing to consciousness or light. When we work to confront shadow, our psyche can heal and we ourselves get stronger in unexpected ways: by taming demons but also by bringing out parts of ourselves which are strengths we deny. (This makes a very, very long story short–and I’ve probably ruffled some Jungian feathers by this oversimplification. Believe me, you all, I know this is an oversimplification…but back to the blog at hand.)
Now Sue Grafton never mentioned Jungian psychology by name, but spoke about how Shadow helped her. Shadow, inside her, is not only where murder is, but also holds her dark side (including dark humor). Before shadow, she was a pleaser, trying to be perfect, trying to meet every deadline, trying to please everyone. Shadow lets her eat what she termed a “death cookie”: she can’t (won’t) meet every deadline, do every interview. Shadow is not sweet.
Shadow, though, is not the voice that says your writing is stupid or you can’t do it. Shadow might tell you you are off course, but Shadow will give you the grit and the backbone to see you through, Shadow will guide you, and Shadow will give you the grit and determination to see you through, even through dark times.
As a veteran of Jungian therapy, I loved it, and Sue Grafton gave me a new Shadow-gift, showing me I have a whole new way of applying Shadow in my own life.