How Did the Chicks Meet?

It’s no doubt obvious to anyone who reads this blog just how much fun the Chicks have together. But that begs the question: How exactly did the Chicks meet? What brought us together into one fun, fearless flock?

Lisa Q. Mathews

CotC Word balloons

This is going to sound very sappy, but at this moment I’m having a hard time remembering exactly how we all met. It honestly feels as if we’ve known each other forever (in a GOOD way!) — but at the same time we are always learning new things about our fellow Chick-ettes. I do recall that I saw a fantastic article El had written as an ode to dive bars, and I think Marla had mentioned something funny about them, too, on the Gups (Sister in Crime’s Great Unpublished group) board. I thought, these are MY kind of friends–and we all have to meet! And Kellye lived in the NY area, but had worked in TV in CA like El, and she was hilarious (not to mention super-talented)! All four of us were getting started in the mystery world at the same time, and I got to witness Kellye’s meet-cute with her agent (El’s editor and I were wing-persons at CrimeBake). And then, of course, we all met Cynthia and Vickie, and immediately knew they were kindred spirits, and Leslie was simply irresistible when we all hung out at Left Coast Crime in Reno. Then, wouldn’t you know it, we met Kathy Valenti and Becky Clark and twisted their wings (just a little) so they’d agree to be Free-Range Chicks. (Phew! I’m breathless.) Love you all, mean it!

 Ellen Byron


I met Lisa through a Guppy sub-group — I can’t remember which one, maybe she can — and we just hit it off. We started getting in touch outside the group and became e-pals. Not long after that, Lisa and her husband Rich came to L.A. for a convention and we all got to meet in person. Because it was Sunday, all the restaurants were packed, so we wound up at a raw food place that served one of the worst meals any of us had ever eaten. Boy, did that bond us!

When Lisa, Marla, and Kellye joined forces to create Chicks, they very kindly invited me along for the ride. I finally met them at Malice. (That’s right, M? Or did we first meet at a Left Coast?) Subsequently, I met Cynthia and Vickie at Malice, too. Malice Domestic — the gift that keeps on giving! Except that the California Crime Writers Conference also gave — that’s where I met Leslie, our newest chickadee. As to our free rangers, Becky and Kathy, Becky and I connected at Left Coast Phoenix. I still felt rather new to the scene and was honored when she pulled me aside for an interview. (Only when I saw it did I realize my shirt was too tight and displayed some horrifying rolls of fat.) I got to meet the lovely Kathy at — you guessed it — Malice.

Our whole flock has managed to connect at one Malice and one Left Coast… and you’d think we’d known each other forever and seen each other just yesterday. Mystery BFFs who are there for each other during the highs and lows and gossip and laughs. That’s the best gift of all.

Vickie Fee


At my first Malice Domestic (2016),  two of the first people I met were Lisa and Ellen. I had interacted with all the Chicks online and was a fan, but tried to play it cool (as if that’s even possible for me)! It very well could be that I eventually became a Chick because Ellen was hungry when we met! You may not know this about Ellen, and I didn’t at the time, but when Ellen’s blood sugar level drops she needs to eat right away. We were introduced and maybe two minutes later Ellen said, “We’re going to dinner, would you like to join us?” I started saying, “If you’re sure I’m not imposing…” and we headed straight to the hotel restaurant. We had a lovely dinner and chatted as if we’d known each other for ages. I had a wonderful and slightly strange first meeting with Marla. She stopped by the table during dessert and, recognizing each other from photos, we exclaimed simultaneously, “Marla Cooper/Vickie Fee!” The three of them (Kellye, unfortunately, couldn’t make it that year) let me hang out with them during Malice, or at least they didn’t call hotel security when I kept stalking them. I got to know Cynthia when we were hatched together as new Chicks. (We now have a special/scary twins connection!) I FINALLY got to meet Kellye in person at Malice the next year. And I practiced my cool act on our darling Free-Range Chicks, Kathy and Becky, in Reno at Left Coast Crime. Feel so lucky to count this fab group of authors as friends!

Marla Cooper

CotC Marla Cooper

I vividly remember sitting next to Ellen at a Left Coast Crime panel in Monterey, because she asked a really memorable question about forensics relating to a real-life family mystery. I met Lisa through the Guppy boards and we started emailing, then we finally got to meet in person in Portland the night before Left Coast Crime started. By the time I met Kellye, Cynthia, and Vickie at Malice Domestic, I recognized each of them the second I saw them from their Facebook pictures — and I vividly remember the first time I laid eyes on each one of them. (Kellye on the escalator; Vickie in the hotel restaurant; and Cynthia in the bar). I met Leslie because we agreed to serenade readers together at an author event — once again at Left Coast Crime. So we met up for breakfast (macadamia nut pancakes) then practiced La Vie en Rose in her backyard… in Hawaii! I played ukulele and she sang in French. (Now that’s a memorable first meeting!) It’s amazing how you can be friends with someone before you even meet in person, and I feel so lucky that I know this flock of amazing ladies!

Cynthia Kuhn


Really had to think about this because it seems like we’ve known each other for centuries, like Lisa said!

  • Ellen — as table-mates at my first Malice Domestic conference
  • Marla, Kellye, and Lisa — as members of Sisters in Crime Guppies who bonded during NaNoWriMo
  • Vickie — as newbie Chicks, class of 2017
  • Leslie — as fellow authors at Malice Domestic
  • Becky — as officers of the Colorado chapter of Sisters in Crime
  • Kathy — as table-mates at Malice and authors in the Hen House

Making this list, I am feeling so keenly how very lucky and honored I am to know you (also how much attending conferences and belonging to professional writing organizations have made a difference). And I knew instantly that you were my people because we were laughing together…which we’ve never stopped doing, thankfully. Cherish you all.  xoxo

Leslie Karst

Leslie graphic

This post will be much too long if I talk about how I met ALL the Chicks, so I’m going to limit myself to telling you how I met my first Chick, which ended up hatching me as a fledgling Chick several years later.

I’d just signed a publishing contract for the first of my Sally Solari mysteries when I saw on the Sisters in Crime listserv that a gal named Ellen Byron had a book about to be released by the very same publisher — Crooked Lane Books. Feeling nervous and ill-informed about the road ahead as a newbie author, I wrote her an email: Would she be willing to chat sometime and give me advice about what to expect over the coming year?

“I’d be happy to talk,” came the reply. “But I’m pretty busy for the next few days, as I’m attending The California Crime Writers Conference in LA.”

“No way. I’m in LA right now to attend that same conference!” I responded.

We met for drinks the next day at the hotel, and it felt like reconnecting with an old friend. And not only did Ellen give me invaluable advice, but three years later she invited me to become a fellow Chick. That may very well be the best email I ever sent.

Readers: Do you have any fun or interesting “how we met” stories you’d like to share in the comments?

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35 thoughts on “How Did the Chicks Meet?

  1. So now my feathery head is spinning. How did we all meet again? (Just kidding.) Now we have to do a meet-cute with our readers (if not in person, online!)

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Hmmmm, how we met stories? I got a million of them!
    I go to as many malice’s as I can, since I live in the area. That’s where I hook up with my peeps. That where my TBR pile turns into 3 feet tall. And I realize even very famous authors like Sue Grafton and Mary Higgins Clark are gracious as hell and not stuck up.
    in 2018 I met two of the chicks at Malice. How? Sit down and let me tell you a story.
    Picture it, Bethesda Maryland. Spring 2018. I showed up at Malice early, because I was a photographer. I am in the hospitality room, talking to Ellen Byerrum, who had given me these horrendous ideas for my makeup.
    In walks Ellen Byron, squealing because she recognizes me. We hug, take pictures, chat a few… “I’m on my way to some meeting” she says, and I give her a chick pen.
    As I walked to the hotel room, zoning, this beautiful woman said “Tammy?” I turned and there was Kellye. “Of course I know you!” She looked different from the pictures I’d seen, but gut feeling told me who it was. Again, hugs, chick pen giving, chatting, blah, blah blah. “Talk later, I’m on my way to a meeting…” she said.
    Of course I think neither chick knew what I look like before because my profiles usually aren’t a picture of me. But I posted my costume that morning on facebook. So they recognized me because they were stalking me on facebook! 😂
    I did see Leslie as well, but I don’t think I introduced myself because I was taking pictures at her panel.
    I can’t wait to meet the rest of you someday!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Memories…

    Lisa was like the first person to reach out to me after I nervously introduced myself on the Guppies board. I think she mentioned Ellen and Marla in that first email and she was interested in starting a blog. And yes, we first physically met at Crime Bake and she was an amazing woman.

    I definitely first saw Ellen in her hotel room at Malice. I do remember seeing Marla on the escalator.

    I heard about Vickie, Cynthia and Leslie before I met them. I’m pretty sure I first spoke with Vickie at the SinC Malice breakfast and she had on her Guppies boa. I know I saw Cynthia when I first walked into Malice and was trying to find check-in.

    I think I actually first met Leslie in person at LCC this past year but I do remember Marla telling us about the ukulele singing and was jealous I wasn’t there,

    I remember the first time I saw Tammy because she had a camera and was dressed very appropriately for Malice. (And she had that camera every time I saw her! One point she told me she hadn’t eaten all day because she was too busy taking pics.)

    I first met Kathy at LCC earlier this year too. She was my “Did they really nominate us for an award???” buddy.

    I know I met Becky at a Midnight Ink lunch. Probably at Malice. I remember she had put excerpts of her book in the gift bags and I was like “how smart!”

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Kellye, I think the first time we really “talked” was at that wine bar near the Malice hotel where we had dinner. Lisa and Ellen–and maybe Vickie too?–were there, and then afterwards we went in search of a place to have a drink and found that credit card on the sidewalk. We decided to combine all our sleuthing smarts to try to contact the owner. Which didn’t work, so we tried calling the bank. Which didn’t work, either. So we ended up just destroying the card. Should-a called Kinsey Milhone to help…

      Liked by 4 people

    1. I remember meeting you at Malice, Mark! You came up right before the signing and you said you’d bought my book, and I was relieved to know that I would not have to sit there at the table by myself!

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Mark, I remember meeting you at Malice, too! You and Kellye and I were chatting, inexplicably standing just outside the doorway to the big room as people were squeezing past us. LOL — next time, let’s sit down somewhere. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Same here, Mark! You came to the panel I was on (maybe my first ever?) and then had me sign my book, which was thrilling! And then we ended up on the same Metro car on the way to the airport after the convention was over and got to know each other better. Good fun!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ha ha! YES! I had brought them in my carry-on, which I regretted when TSA spent a loooooooooong time looking at my bag through the x-ray machine. “These 500 hypodermic needle-looking things? They’re pens! Honest!”

        Liked by 3 people

  4. What fun stories! I have yet to meet any of the Chicks in person, although I did see Kellye running by at Bouchercon during the Noir at the Bar event. She looked busy so I didn’t talk to her then, figuring I would surely see her again before the conference was over. Well, that didn’t happen. In fact, in hindsight I grossly overestimated how often I would randomly “run into” people I wanted to meet. It didn’t help that I was commuting from about an hour away and missed out on the morning events. Live and learn!

    Liked by 2 people

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