In A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die, the first book in my Local Foods Mysterie series, a central character is Ellie Kosolski, a plucky 14-year old Girl Scout just entering high school. In the first book, she’s working on her Locavore badge — one of the newest badges– and she’s volunteering on Cam Flaherty’s organic farm. She ends up being trapped in a near-fatal situation with Cam toward the end and the two work together to forge their escape. We see her mature as the series continues but she continues being a Scout.
I’ll admit that when I read about the new Locavore badge, I just had to add Ellie to my series. But it was a natural addition for me who, like many of my author peers, grew up on Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames, strong girls who solved intriguing puzzles. When I informally surveyed a number of fellow crime fiction writers in Sisters in Crime, forty-one reported having been a Girl Scout with only two saying they hadn’t. Some who had didn’t stay in long, but many said it really formed their self-perception as a person who could do whatever she wanted.
Growing up in Southern California, I was a Brownie and then a Girl Scout from second grade all the way through senior year in high school.
It was an important part of my life. My older sisters were in scouting, too, and my mother was a leader for many of those years. She was Leader of the Year for our council in 1968 and also worked at a couple of summer camps.
My family’s summer vacation was always camping for two weeks among the giant Sequoias in Sequoia National Park, so I was accustomed to being able to live simply outdoors. But our troop did so much more than camp.
Of course, with the era I grew up in, scouting sometimes reinforced traditional roles for girls. I remember learning as a Brownie how to make a hospital corner with a bed sheet, a skill I found fascinating (and hadn’t learned at home), and we sewed our own skating skirts when we took roller skating as a group.
But we also learned about Juliette Gordon Low. We were taught to tie knots, brush and ride a horse at summer camp, sing in harmony, live with dirty knees and hiking boots, and, of course, how to become excellent little sales people when cookie and calendar time came around every year. I even studied judo with my older sister’s troop. Despite being decidedly non-militaristic as an adult, I must confess that I loved wearing a uniform and marching (wearing white gloves) in step in parades.
Being competent and self-reliant was part of the Scouting package and that identity has carried through my life to this day. We learned to work well with others, to support other females on our team, and we were led by kind, strong women. I never experienced any of the cliquish in-fighting that went on among girls in my larger world.
When I was a Senior Scout, our troop volunteered with a disabled girl who needed directed limb exercises. We put on a community pancake breakfast to raise money for some charity. We wore our camp uniforms to meetings: white blouse, green bermuda shorts, and knee socks in a time when girls couldn’t even wear pants to school. Over the blouse we had light-blue cotton jackets on which we sewed patches collected from every trip we took.
I was even a Scout during my exchange-student year in Brazil, which I left for halfway through my senior year in high school. I was completely welcomed into a local equipe de Guias Bandeirantes, a Girl Scout troop.
What about you? What childhood experiences shaped your best adult traits? Was scouting part of it?
The first book in Edith’s Local Foods Mystery series, A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die, featuring organic farmer Cam Flaherty and a colorful Locavore Club, is published by Kensington Publishing (May, 2013). Edith once owned and operated the smallest certified-organic farm in Essex County, Massachusetts, although she never encountered a body in the hoophouse.
Edith’s first completed murder mystery, Speaking of Murder, features Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau, murder on campus, and small-town Massachusetts. It was first runner up in the Linda Howard Award for Excellence contest, and is published under her pen name Tace Baker (Barking Rain Press, September 2012). Edith is a member of the Society of Friends and holds a doctorate in linguistics.
Her short stories have appeared in the Fish Nets anthology (Wildside Press, 2013), Thin Ice and Riptide by Level Best Books, the Burning Bridges anthology, the Larcom Review, and the North Shore Weekly. She is active in Sisters in Crime and MWA and is on the board of SINC New England.
Edith, a fourth-generation Californian and world traveler, has two grown sons and lives in an antique house north of Boston with her beau and their three cats. She recently left a career writing software documentation to devote herself to creating mysteries full time.