In addition to being the founder and leader of our group, Tracey S. Phillips is the author of Best Kept Secrets, and writes romantic suspense under the pseudonym Karissa Knight. You can find out more about her here, see her books here and read her last post here.
Birds are Messengers
I recall a summer day, not too long ago, when I was standing on my deck breathing the fresh Wisconsin summer air and watching the breeze flutter leaves in the canopy of maple trees overhead. And in the midst of this peaceful reverie, the distinctive chirt-chirtle of hummingbirds caught my attention. The familiar sound of hummingbird wings purred nearby and I looked at the red hummingbird feeder hanging a few feet away as two red-breasted hummingbirds buzzed before me.
They stopped mid-air, their helicopter wings a blur to my eye, and they inspected me—much the same way I examined them. Then to my astonishment, one went to the feeder and the other landed right on my shoulder.
I held my breath watching the female dip her long nose into the sugar-water and I could see out the corner of my eye, the male rested in place on the red shoulder strap of my shirt. I didn’t move a muscle. I didn’t breathe. The moment stretched on while the female ate her fill. The leaves rustled overhead, and a car drove past the house. The longer they remained, one on my shoulder and one feeding, the more comfortable I became. I whispered my husband’s name hoping that from inside the house, he might witness my fortunate blessing. “Michael, look!”
And as quickly as they had come, they flew away.
What Kind of Bird Are You?
This morning I recalled those hummingbirds while thinking about this wonderful group of writers that I belong to. Maybe you’ve heard of them: Blackbird Writers. And the question occurred to me, what kind of bird am I?
This question has occupied my thoughts because recently I learned that the term blackbird can be construed as derogatory in some circles. You can’t imagine how this news disheartened me. Perhaps you have no idea that I founded Blackbird Writers with no intent to harm anyone. When a mere word—a type of bird for that matter—becomes a representation of hate and prejudice it fills me with sadness. I am discouraged and embarrassed.
I never dreamed of causing sadness in others. For more than a year, I poured every ounce of my love and devotion into this organization. Blackbird Writers flocked together because we see the power of unification. We see possibilities, not hate. Blackbird Writers came together to help each other and learn together. Members of this group support each other and help each other navigate the publishing industry. Our birds help market and promote our fellow authors’ works.
Though I’ve been silent witness, I must now use my voice. Here and now, I want to right any wrongful perception of our group of mystery writers. In the context of Jim Crow, I see the hate that people give. I see the racism that our culture has grown to accept as “normal.” As an author, as someone who has the opportunity and platform to speak, I will say loud and strong, the hate is wrong. It is not welcome here or anywhere.
Our name reflects our brand. Blackbird Writers is simply a group of like-minded writers, mystery, thriller, and suspense authors who have nested together under this brand. We are birds of a mystery feather. We are authors who are open to the discussion of race and inclusion. We truly want to understand what needs to be done for the betterment of humanity and we are willing to do the work.
First and foremost, here, a blackbird is simply a blackbird.
Icteridae, the species, are New World blackbirds. They are red-winged blackbirds and orange orioles. They are brown-headed cow-birds or shiny, shimmery grackles. Just as the yellow throated meadowlark is a common sub-species of blackbird, so too is the yellow-rumped cacique. The male chestnut hooded blackbird has a red-brown face and neck, while his female counterpart is golden grey.
The best website I’ve found to view the multitude of colors exhibited by the common Icteridae, is The Cornell Labs, All About Birds site. Here, you’ll see the full colorful glory of the common blackbird.
For centuries, blackbirds have had spiritual connotations. They represent mystery and magic. In some cultures, they are seen as a good omen. In others, they carry unwelcome news. These birds are often associated with an ability to cross between worlds. Writers—in a sense—also have this ability as we navigate between fiction and reality.
When I came up with the name for Blackbird Writers, I imagined a flock of unique individuals. Mystery writers and psychological suspense authors. Cozy authors and thriller writers. I imagined a nest where we could all be a family. In this place, we would thrive and support each other. We could share the births of new releases and the sorrows of rejection. Above all, I imagined that together, we could soar through the pantheon of the publishing world.
Like the Icteridae, Blackbird Writers is laced with our unique colors. Christine DeSmet’s sweet fudge-shop cozies live beside Avanti Centrae’s exotic thrillers. Anne Louise Bannon’s historical mysteries nest near Saralyn Richard’s modern-day Detective Parrot mysteries. Sheila Lowe’s Claudia Rose forensic suspense flies beside Sherrill Joseph’s team of preteen mystery sleuths. And in the Blackbird nest, I feel like I’m home with my feathered friends.
I Want You to Feel At Home
This summer, two Grackles came to my birdfeeder. They invited their siblings, another pair. And within a week, the entire extended family arrived. They shared the feeder with the finches and wrens. They fly beside the cardinals and the jays. Even the hummingbirds come to play. There is no prejudice, only cooperation and love for the others. That kindness and respect is always welcome in my home and in the Blackbird Writers’ nest.
As I look outside the window, it’s cloudy, hazy even, as it generally is in the state of Washington. But there on the lawn, a big flock of blackbirds move in unison. They peck at the lawn, then burst into flight to a nearby tree. They ask me to join them. As I ask you.
Blackbird Writers are my family and my flock. I’m so proud to be a Blackbird and to fly with these authors. Join our flock. There’s a mystery in our nest for everyone.
What kind of bird are you?