Welcome! Like the book of the same name, this blog is an eclectic collection of Sherlockian scribblings based on more than a half-century of reading Sherlock Holmes. Please add your own thoughts. You can also follow me on Twitter @DanAndriacco and on my Facebook fan page at Dan Andriacco Mysteries. You might also be interested in my Amazon Author Page. My books are also available at Barnes & Noble and in all main electronic formats including Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBooks for the iPad.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Scintillating Jacquelynn Bost Morris

Jacquelynn Bost Morris, center, with dear friends Regina Stinson and Steven Doyle

In June 2012, I attended my first Sherlockian conference in more than 20 years, A Scintillation of Scions. I didn't really want to go because my wife couldn't attend -- she was recovering from knee surgery. But I was practically badgered into it by a series of inviting e-mails from Jacquelynn Bost Morris, who I did not then know. How could I not go when I was clearly so wanted? And I was so glad that I did! The event was so well run and so much fun. This June will mark my third Scintillation. Who is this woman Jacquelynn Bost Morris, BSI, its creator and organizer ? Let's find out.   

When and how did you become acquainted with Mr. Sherlock Holmes?

As a child I practically lived at my neighborhood and school libraries. I would always check out the maximum number of books allowed; one time a librarian asked, “Honey, are you sure you can read all of these books?” I was, and I did. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I met Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson, but I believe it was around age 10. In my teen and early adult years I took an extended hiatus until we were reintroduced many years later by Jeremy Brett.

What is your favorite canonical Sherlock Holmes story and why?

There’s a special place in my heart for “The Abbey Grange.” Personal history connects me – to a certain degree – with Mary Brackenstall’s experience, and when Holmes says to Watson, “…had we approached the case ‘de novo’…” he spoke of starting anew, beginning again. The Canon was my ‘de novo’ – Holmes came back into my life when I was ready to begin again. When I was invited to join ASH (The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes) in 2010 I chose for my investiture name, ‘de novo.’

What have been your interactions with the Sherlockian community over the years?

In 1995 I joined AOL, which at that time was the Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr of its day. There were communities for everything from gardening to motorcycles to literature, and having my interest in Holmes regenerated through watching Brett’s Granada series I looked for a Sherlock Holmes community to discuss the stories. I found it in the Mystery Fiction Forum, where I also met many mystery authors who have become personal friends. One of the authors I came to know there is SJ Rozan, who received her investiture the same night as I did, as well as Jan Burke, who received hers in 2013.

In AOL’s Mystery Fiction Forum I found the Sherlock Holmes chat, where I met and became close friends with Regina Stinson (BSI, “a little Ribston Pippin”). Regina lives in Michigan and I live in Maryland; it’s doubtful our paths would have crossed had we not become initially acquainted on AOL. When Regina was invited to her first BSI Dinner in 2005 she asked me to join her in New York; we’ve attended the weekend’s festivities together every year since then. By Regina’s example and through her encouragement I became more involved in the Sherlockian community. I owe her a great deal; in fact, it was through Regina that I found out there was an international community of Holmes fans and scion societies. I had thought my interest was rather an uncommon one. Imagine my delight when I discovered there was a world (and a history) of kindred spirits!

When and how did you come to create A Scintillation of Scions?

I’ve attended different Sherlock Holmes events over the years in many parts of the country. Each has had its own character and focus – each has been wonderful in its own way, but none of them occurred on the east coast. On a long car trip with my husband in early 2008 I thought of the people I knew from all of the events, and how many of those people didn’t even know each other. I thought of the many scion societies in the Maryland/DC/Pennsylvania area, and how most of their members only went to their own meetings. The idea came to me – A Sherlockian family reunion! I chose an event date at the end of August and with a shoestring budget, my local scion society, Watson’s Tin Box, and I put together the first Scintillation of Scions.

Tell us a little about how it has grown over the years.

This year, 2014, is our seventh annual Scintillation. We have grown to the point where we have to turn people away. I’ve kept registration at 100 attendees; beyond that we would lose the intimacy which is the spirit of the Scintillation. Currently (March 9, 2014) we are at about 76. With just under three months to go we will have to close registration shortly! I have always had at my side fellow Tin Boxer, Debbie Clark, who not only came up with the name of A Scintillation of Scions using “scintillation” as a collective noun, but who has handled the registrations from the start. (Find registration details at www.scintillation.org.) Likewise, Beth Austin, also from the Tin Box, has handled audio-visual details at every Scintillation. Without those two brilliant women I could never have taken the event this far.

We have benefited greatly from the newer Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts, which have become such an integral part of the Scintillation by being attendees as well as speakers. We’ve had Kristina Manente and Lyndsay Faye from The Baker Street Babes as speakers, in addition to June Matics from Sherlock DC. We’ve also had Brandon Perlow from New Paradigm Studios (Watson and Holmes comic books) both as a speaker and as a vendor. The organizers for 221B Con have attended, and Sherlock NYC.  There is no real age or gender divide. We all love Holmes and Watson in all their incarnations.

The Scintillation sponsors The Baker Street Babes podcasts, and we have sponsored Always1895.net and 221B Con. Though each of these does quite well on their own, it is in the spirit of the Scintillation that we take care of our Sherlockian family.

What are your hopes for its future?

I would like to see the Scintillation become the sparking plug to encourage other Sherlockian groups around the U.S. to welcome the newer fandom. I’ve heard that several already do this, but others seem more insular and are, I believe, missing the point. Watson’s Tin Box has spearheaded this philosophy by its annual Sherlock Holmes Essay Contest for seventh grade students. In addition, the group welcomes younger fans to join us in having fun at our meetings. As my friend, Beth Austin, likes to say, “we take the Canon seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously.” (And sometimes, we don’t even take the Canon seriously!)

You were invested as a Baker Street Irregular at the BSI dinner this year. What has that meant to you?

I am still in happy shock over having received an investiture. I think I’ve looked at my certificate and shilling about a hundred times in the past two months, and I am amazed all over again each time I see it.

Becoming a BSI was never my goal. It should never be anyone’s goal. I have played the game for the game’s own sake, and have delighted in every minute of it. I can’t imagine why anyone would have their Sherlockian experience any other way. What a delightful diversion we all share! Having fun with that is what makes it so special to me.

My first invitation to the BSI Dinner was just last year (2013). Seeing that envelope with its distinctive return address in the mail took my breath away, and I couldn’t even open it at first! Attending the dinner last year I felt like I had finally gotten to sit at the big kids’ table; I spent the entire evening in total awe. It was a wonderful experience. This year my invitation came via email (most appreciated, but with less drama!) and I was looking forward to seeing what the dinner was like when I wasn’t in awe the entire time. Regina Stinson and I room together each year for BSI Weekend, and before this year’s dinner she gently reminded me that most people are invited for many years before receiving an investiture. She wanted to be sure I enjoyed the evening and didn’t ruin it by having unrealized expectations.

Whatever planets need to align, incantations said, die cast, or caldrons stirred in order to determine who receives an investiture any given year, somehow on my second BSI Dinner I received the investiture of “The Lion’s Mane.” And I couldn’t be more honored, more humbled, more thrilled, or more grateful.

What’s the significance of your investiture name?

Again, I believe it involves some form of magical Sherlockian sorcery. Names are chosen by the Wiggins (Mike Whelan) for reasons of his own. To be given the name of a Canonical story, instead of that of a character or particular phrase, is quite wonderful (though it bears equal honor with any other investiture name). I understand the investiture name previously belonged to someone who passed away; I hope to do justice to the legacy.

One non-Sherlockian question: What genres and particular writers do you like to read outside the Holmes universe?

I know I will leave out the name of someone I adore, so I apologize in advance to anyone I’ve neglected to mention. I primarily read nonfiction (history and biographies), historical fiction, and mysteries. Among my favorite writers are: Dan Andriacco (of course!), Donna Andrews, Deborah Blum, Robin Burcell, Jan Burke, Dana Cameron, Robert Crais, Lyndsay Faye, Toni L.P. Kelner, Maria Konnikova, Dennis Lehane (Lehane bought me a G&T at Eyecon ’99 in St. Louis – plus, his work is brilliant), Laura Lippman, PJ Parrish, SJ Rozan, Michael Sims, Amy Stewart, Marcia Talley, Elaine Viets, and Joseph Wallace.

What question have I not asked you that you would like to answer?

You might ask what have I written that might be of some interest to Sherlockians. I have been published in the Watson’s Tin Box annual publication, Irene’s Cabinet, several times. I’m also in The Serpentine Muse – “The Case of the Missing Misogynist.” and I wrote part of a chapter in the BSI Manuscript Series, The Wrong Passage, where I prove the type of poison Anna Coram ingested.

Though this is not an answer to any question, I would like to add one more thing. Since I approached my life ‘de novo’ through Sherlock Holmes, I have never been happier. Some of the “best and wisest” people I have ever known have come into my life through our shared interest in the great detective and his devoted friend. Holmes and Watson symbolize true friendship to me, and I have been blessed to experience that in the nearly 20 years since I first knew there were kindred spirits out there. My advice to anyone just now entering the Sherlockian community would be: Make friends. Encourage others. Play the game. Have fun.

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