|Paula Gail Benson|
Museum of the Waxhaws
Waxhaw, North Carolina
Perhaps it’s best to start with my name, Paula Gail Benson. That’s my full name and the name I use for writing. I use it to honor my parents. (It was the one name they could agree on, and they only chose for a girl because they didn’t want a boy.) The Gail is an abbreviation of a great grandmother’s Abigail. In my first dictionary, I read that Paula meant “little”and Gail meant “source of joy.” I always thought that would be a good name for a short story collection. Little Sources of Joy. What do you think? Probably not for mystery stories, unless they are funny.
I grew up in South Carolina, visiting with my mother’s family each summer in West Virginia. I’ve read, written, and acted out stories since I was little.At first, I assumed that words got into print through some kind of mystical process. I would have my parents read books over and over to me. I was fascinated to find words in public places. My mother told me that as a baby I would demand “Read” when we passed a printed sign along the highway. I adored fiction and delighted in acting out my own devised plays.
I was an only child and could hear the words in my head. When I would try to present a play with my younger cousin, I just outlined the story and figured he would have enough to go from there. I started acting it out in front of our audience of relatives and couldn’t understand why he didn’t seem to know his lines. Didn’t he recognize the story I heard in my head? (Maybe at this point the members of WWK are rethinking their invitation to me. Don’t worry. My blogging partner Carla Damron has training. See below.)As a seventh grader, I joined the newspaper staff. For my first assignment, I handed in my list of notes about the subject and was shocked when my teacher gave them back to me and told me to write the article. I thought someone else would handle that part of the process.
When I finally figured out that writing was something I could do, I started to appreciate its value more. I wrote extra credit reports about authors’ lives for my 8th grade English teacher, until she told me to please stop because I had enough points for an A for the rest of the year.Since that time, I’ve written short stories, a children’s novel, parts of a number of mystery and fantasy novels (that are still simmering), a nonfiction book about legal research, and plays and musicals. One of my great joys is writing and directing original productions for my church’s drama ministry. You’ll hear me tell about some of those experiences in future blog posts.
E.B. Davis asked me to submit a picture. The one I chose shows me in colonial garb when I participated in a program with Susan F. Craft, a dear friend who writes historical fiction (The Chamomile, a Revolutionary War historical suspense, and A Perfect Tempest, a Civil War novel), and Patti Proctor, who researches and presents living history demonstrations. (Warren Bull and K.B. Inglee, you would appreciate the work Patti puts into her performances.)
I see that most of the members of this blog are pictured with actual or potential weapons. I leave it to readers to imagine what deadly instruments a lady might hide in her bustle. (Correction: my friend Susan tells me that the bustle was a simple covering. Nefarious and other items were kept in a pocket tied around the waist and accessible through a slit in the seam of the skirt. Another possible blog topic and consideration when watching episodes of The Wild, Wild West.)
For my day job, I work as a government lawyer. Because my workload sometimes limits my writing time, I asked a good friend and critique partner to be my blogging partner here. Since I’m writing the introduction, I get to brag about her and crib liberally from her website, www.carladamron.com.
Carla Damron is truly an amazing person. A southerner born and raised in South Carolina and a gifted licensed clinical social worker and counselor, Carla has found a way to merge her careers: she uses her fiction (mysteries and mainstream) to explore social issues like mental illness and homelessness. She’s crafted three excellent mystery novels--Keeping Silent (2001, mass market 2002),Spider Blue (2005, trade paper 2006), and Death in Zooville (2010)--featuring as her protagonist Caleb Knowles, a social worker with “a delightfully dry sense of humor” (Charlotte Observer review, 2/20/05) and a deaf sculptor brother, Sam.
Recently, Carla completed the MFA program at Queens College in Charlotte, and, in finishing the course requirements, wrote a mainstream novel that attracted an agent’s enthusiastic notice. Carla is the founder and stalwart contributor to our local writing group, the Inkplots. Through her leadership and guidance, the group has produced several chapbooks including Naughty and Nice, the Sweet and Savory Writings of the Inkplots (2004), Buck Naked Unitarians and Other Tales(2003), and Inkplots: Random Acts of Writing (2001). Carla’s short stories have been published in numerous venues. As one of my actor friends would say, “She’s a good ‘un!”
In closing, I would like to express my sincere thanks for this opportunity. I became a member of the Sisters in Crime Guppy Chapter in June 2012 and joined its short story critique group. Since then, I have received such good information and advice from E.B., Warren, President Kaye George, and so many others. I’m truly grateful.
Thank you for reading this post. I look forward to writing again.
Don’t be surprised if it’s in the form of a list. Just tell me I need to go back and write the article myself!