If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

October Interviews
10/2 Debra H. Goldstein, Two Bites To Many
10/10 Connie Berry, A Legacy of Murder
10/17 Lida Sideris, Double Murder or Nothing
10/23 Toni L. P. Kelner writing as Leigh Perry, The Skeleton Stuffs A Stocking
10/30 Jennifer David Hesse, Autumn Alibi

Saturday Guest Bloggers:
10/5 Ang Pompano
10/12 Eyes of Texas Anthology Writers
10/19 Neil Plakcy

WWK Bloggers: 10/26 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Lyrical Press will publish Kaye George's Vintage Sweets mystery series. The first book, Revenge Is Sweet, will be released in March. Look for the interview here on 3/11.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology was released on June 18th.

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files.

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Writing

Photo by Cindy Kubovic for the Aiken Standard

On Thursday before the Fourth of July weekend, I was invited to speak about writing short stories with a group of 4th and 5th graders in the Summer of the Space Challenges camp at North Aiken Elementary School. The school is in the town of Aiken, South Carolina, about an hour from where I live in Columbia.

When I last mentioned Aiken to someone not from South Carolina, he asked me if it were named after singer/politician and second place American Idol contestant Clay Aiken. Actually, Clay is a resident of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Photo by Cindy Kubovic
I received the invitation indirectly through dear friends and booksellers, Fran and Don Bush, who have operated Booklovers Bookstore in the area and online for many years. Fran often works with the local schools to encourage reading. Ms. Delorise Childs, who was conducting the summer program, asked Fran if she knew of an author who might be willing to speak with the students. When Fran asked me for candidates, I volunteered.

My teaching experience has been with adults, so in preparation, I revisited two online articles by noted children’s book writers I found last summer when doing the short story series:
Photo by Cindy Kubovic

“Writing with Writers: Mystery Writing” with Joan Lowery Nixon (1927-2003, an American journalist and author for children and young adults) http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/mystery/read.htm

“How to Write a Mini-Mystery” by Penny Warner (Agatha Award winner for best children’s mystery and Macavity Award winner for best first mystery) http://www.fictionteachers.com/fictionclass/mystery.html
Photo by Cindy Kubovic
These articles provided some excellent guidelines and ideas about how to focus the class.

I used a modification of two exercises I've used in my adult class: writing a six-word-story (to show how words may be used to evoke a picture or feeling) and writing a six-sentence-story (to show the basics of story structure: (1) character, (2) desire, (3) action, (4) conflict, (5) climax, and (6) resolution). I used the familiar tale of Cinderella as an example for a six-sentence-story.

After I talked with the children about what makes up a story, I asked them to write their own. Then, those who volunteered read their stories for the class. Many of the young writers followed the Cinderella model, but what I found intriguing was that they did not hesitate to incorporate features of their own lives into the familiar tale, so that Cinderella and her family took on features and pets their families had.
Photo by Cindy Kubovic
We also read a book that one of the children brought to the class. I had forgotten how lovely it is to have a room full of people riveted to words being read aloud. The whole experience was a true delight for me. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to participate and for the pictures taken by Cindy Kubovic, who covered the event for the local paper, the Aiken Standard. Following their time with me, the children enjoyed a cookout and got to visit with members of the fire department and see a fire truck. The teachers sent the children home with goody bags, containing bookmarks from me.
Photo by Cindy Kubovic

Following the class, Fran and Don Bush were kind enough to give me a wonderful tour. The city of Aiken, South Carolina, was founded in 1835 and named after William Aiken, the President of the South Carolina Railroad. Railroads are still a recognizable feature of the city and have figured in the history of the area. The tracks run behind the elegant Willcox Hotel, and rumor has it that when he traveled to Hot Springs, Georgia, for treatment, Franklin Delano Roosevelt used an entrance at the back of the hotel to have clandestine meetings with Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, his mistress, who had married and lived in the Aiken community.
Willcox Hotel

Tracks behind Willcox Hotel
In 2005, in nearby Graniteville, a Norfolk Southern train collided with a parked train, rupturing a car carrying liquid chlorine and creating a poisonous cloud that resulted in nine deaths, two hundred fifty injuries, and more than five thousand persons displaced from their homes for a week.

Rear Entrance to Banksia
Front Entrance to Banksia
Aiken flourished as a health resort and community where the wealthy built winter cottages. Banksia, a former cottage that transitioned to a boarding house for workers at the Savannah River Plant and the first location for the University of South Carolina at Aiken, now serves as the historical society museum. The exhibits on view there provide a treasure trove of information about the city. The Vanderbilts and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were visitors to Banksia during its cottage days.

During the 1930s and 1940s, Fred Astaire and his family resided in Aiken, and he supposedly practiced dance moves on the steps of the Post Office building.
Former Post Office where Fred Astaire danced on steps

Fran and Don took me to Hopelands Gardens and Rye Patch, formerly residences of the wealthy that have been donated to the city as public parks. We also toured the facilities for thoroughbred racing and polo matches. Aiken is predominantly an equestrian city, with many dirt roads intersecting main avenues to accommodate riders.
Equestrian Statuary

In addition to being excellent tour guides, booksellers, and hosts, Fran and Don are animal lovers who take in many stray or abandoned dogs and cats needing shelter. It was a true joy to meet one of their latest acquisitions. Originally known as “Tiny Mite,” he now has taken on the name “Mr. Underfoot” and become a true bookstore kitten.

Visiting Aiken for the holiday was a wonderful experience. I learned a lot from teaching and listening to the stories the children shared with me. I also discovered that it spurs writing to go to new locations and immerse yourself in unique history and culture. Aiken’s quiet streets, lovely antique stores and shops, excellent cuisine, and bountiful features to explore make it a perfect get away for writers and travelers. I hope you’ll have the opportunity to see it sometime.

Fran and Don Bush

"Tiny Mite," now "Mr. Underfoot." Photo by Fran Bush
 What places have you visited that helped invigorate your writing?

Fourth of July Fireworks, Village at Woodside, Aiken, SC

More Equestrian Statuary



Warren Bull said...

Great work with the students. I believe I am the most notable author to write about Manhattan. Kansas, that is. I wrote a short story for a contest that required a Manhattan, KS setting. The story introduced me to a family who have been hanging around in my head ever since. The family inspired my novel, HEARTLAND. They have been in several more short stories. I hope they never leave.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Thanks, Warren. It was a true joy. I hope your family from Manhattan, Kansas, lets you chronicle them for many more adventures.

Gloria Alden said...

Paula, that sounds like a wonderful town to visit, and how lucky you were to have someone who lives there to show you all the sights.

One of the things I miss most about teaching is reading chapter books to my students and also reading what they wrote; journals, stories, poems, etc.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Wonderful, Paula--heartwarming all the way.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Paula,

I loved working with children as well. Elementary school children are the most appreciative. Glad you had such an inspiring experience!

Anonymous said...

I see the look of your precious Mother, who was a dedicated school teacher, when looking at those pictures. The students were fortunate to have you share with them the love of writing that you have.

Shari Randall said...

What a wonderful time you had, Paula! I think I need to book a trip south! Those post office steps - I can just see Astaire on them.
How cool that you shared your knowledge of writing with the young people. With all the emphasis on testing, students do not get enough time working on truly important things, such as expressing themselves clearly with good writing. You've done them a world of good.

KM Rockwood said...

What fun! And I'm sure you inspired a lot of people.

I like Mr. Underfoot. We have a cat named Jack the Tripper, who performs the same function in our house.

Kara Cerise said...

What a great experience, Paula. It must be very rewarding to inspire young writers.

Aiken sounds like a great place to visit. I can "see" Fred Astaire practicing dance moves on the stairs.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Gloria, I wish I had your excellent experience to bring to the classroom.

Terrie, thanks for stopping by!

Jacqueline, don't you find with children that you learn as much as you teach?

Shari, come South anytime!

KM, I love your cat's name--Jack the Tripper!

Kara, thanks. Aiken has seen so much history. It's fascinating to discover who has lived there and the events that have occurred in it and close by.

E. B. Davis said...

Loved hearing about your adventure, Paula. It isn't surprising to me that the children incorporated their lives into the short stories they created because writing what you know is natural. My place of inspiration--the beach, of course. My comments on your blog come late because yesterday turned into a top ten beach day. My apologies, but I hope you understand.

Paula Gail Benson said...

E.B., top ten beach days must never be wasted! Hope you were able to take full advantage!

Kaye George said...

I love the pictures of you. And thanks for the tour of Aiken! Very nice write up. I enjoyed every word.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Many thanks, Kaye!