The Medli Award and the Mystery behind a Good Novel

Friday, October 7, 2016

Susan Statham portrait

Written by Susan Statham (BA ’92)

In early April of this year I received the inaugural Medli Award for my second mystery novel “True Image” – a story that brings together a portrait artist and an autistic child to solve a murder. The Medli is unique because it asks, not for a multi-edited and completed work of fiction but requests the first one hundred pages of a work in progress. Seven judges within the literary professions and five ‘avid’ readers then chose the manuscript most likely to succeed in captivating a reader. The Medli Award includes a comprehensive manuscript evaluation and mentoring with author Gail Anderson-Dargatz whose books have been short listed for the Giller.


The Painter's Craft novel
When I moved from the city to a small Ontario village I had what Virginia Woolf says are the basic requirements of any woman wanting to write fiction - money and a room of my own. I also had an idea, sparked by one piece of information from a painting class – cobalt violet is the most poisonous hue in your paint box. But if my villain wanted to murder my victim with his own paint how would he do it? Thus began years of investigation, reading and writing. Constructing a mystery novel is similar to hiding coins in a birthday cake. Bringing together the ingredients of the cake is like combining the important ingredients of character, story and plot. Developing and adding each clue is like wrapping and hiding each coin.


Does every fiction author need an agent? Ten years ago I would have said yes but none of those I approached with my first mystery novel needed me. A few years went by while I wrote short stories, edited an anthology and continued rewriting the novel. Finally, a chance meeting resulted in a recommendation and “The Painter’s Craft” was accepted for publication with one of my paintings chosen for the cover.

It takes many skills to write a book and most academic institutions provide most of them but the University of Waterloo is better than most. Before attending UWaterloo, I studied both fine and commercial art, graduated from college and took multiple courses at two universities. This experience helped me appreciate UWaterloo’s philosophy of education – teach students what they need to know, then test them on that knowledge. It’s genius in its simplicity and comprehensive in its application.

I have two consuming interests, the literary arts and the visual arts. In direct relationship to the academic success I achieved at UWaterloo, I gained the necessary self-confidence which then motivated my actions in achieving great rewards in both of these disciplines.

Visit Statham’s site to learn more about her novel, gallery, and editing services.