Tag Archive for: Atlanta Chapter

Where Will Those Ruby Slippers Lead Us?

by Paula
Gail Benson


Toni L.P. Kelner and Dr. Stephen P. Kelner, Jr.
read books about and spent time in a number of writing classes where story structure and character
motivations were explained by using examples from The Wizard of Oz. One example would be Debra Dixon’s excellent
text, GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.

past weekend, at a terrific workshop about The Psychology of Writing, organized
by the Atlanta Chapter of Sisters in Crime, with Debra H. Goldstein as event coordinator,
I heard another analogy to Oz’s characters presented by Dr. Stephen P. Kelner,
Jr., husband of author Toni L. P. Kelner (the Laura Fleming and Where Are They Now? series and numerous short stories),
who also writes as Leigh Perry (the Family Skeleton series).

I have to express my admiration for Toni allowing her husband to analyze her reasons
for writing before an audience. I thought it was incredibly brave. When I
mentioned it to her, she brushed it off, saying she was used to it. Still, the
honesty with which she and Stephen approached the subject made it truly
informative for the listeners.

I think Stephen’s evaluations and theories, explained in greater detail in his
book, Motivate Your Writing!: Using
Motivational Psychology to Energize Your Writing Life
, are very insightful.
They certainly helped me to better understand my own writing motivations and characters.

suggested that there are three basic motivators:


affiliation, and


said these motivators described the goals of the characters we see in The Wizard of Oz and in the Harry Potter

The achiever wants to accomplish a
great deal. This person will do all he or she can to increase production. Like
the Scarecrow and Hermione, they are depended upon for intellect and direction.
What sometimes makes them less effective is their aim for perfection or their
need to micro-manage.

The affiliator is interested in establishing
and building relationships. Like the Tin Man and Ron, they want to be liked.
Sometimes, they can be too anxious about gaining friends or hurting feelings.

The influencer wants to leave a
legacy. This person asks, “Who will remember me?” Like the Lion and Harry,
influencers may be competitive. They may push others aside in order to be
noticed and get ahead.

Photo from etsy.com
in his studies, Stephen found that although achievement is part of writers’
goals, for most, including Toni, the primary motivator is to influence, to be
remembered. When influence is the focus, a writer needs to find a way to
measure what has been accomplished. Otherwise, the writer may get lost in being
part of a writing community rather than actually producing work. After all, it’s
wonderful to go to conferences and discuss craft with others, but that takes
time away from producing stories.

Photo from the Harry Potter movies
Toni, the answer became setting a manageable number of weekly words. She began by aiming for 600 words a day, writing 4 days, for a total of
2,400 per week and approximately 65,000 words per year (at that time the size
of most mystery novels). Once she was able to reach and maintain that goal, she increased
it to 800 words per day.

Toni and Stephen cautioned against selecting a ridiculously high goal, which would
just set a person up for failure. Also, realize that life does not always
proceed at an even pace. There may be times when, due to other obligations, a
writing goal cannot be accomplished. Be forgiving, but get back on track
and, Toni encouraged, always do your best to meet deadlines.

workshop was a terrific success and I commend everyone who was involved with it.

looking forward to reading Stephen’s Motivate
Your Writing!
and Toni’s latest as Leigh Perry, The Skeleton Paints a Picture. (Her next, The Skeleton Makes a Friend, is available for pre-order and will be
released November 6, 2018). For more about the workshop, please check out my
post tomorrow on the Writers Who Kill blog.

Meanwhile, keep on
following that Yellow Brick Road!

A Weekend in Atlanta Talking Short Stories

by Paula Gail Benson

Robert Mangeot, Fran Stewart, and PGB (Photo by Charlie Burton)

membership in Sisters in Crime has afforded me many benefits, including
information, encouragement, and camaraderie. I’m particularly grateful to have had
the opportunity to participate in a recent short story workshop sponsored by
the Atlanta Chapter and organized by its President Lisa Malice and Debra
Goldstein. The event took place at the Decatur Public Library, a marvelous
facility with well-equipped auditorium and a patio where those attending could
have lunch and talk with the presenters. It was a true privilege for me to be
on the program with three short story writers I greatly admire, Debra, Kaye
George, and Robert Mangeot.

set an ambitious goal to provide a comprehensive overview of the short story craft
and submission process. While we concentrated on mysteries, we were delighted
to have writers of literary fiction and other genres participating.

Debra Goldstein (Photo by Robert Mangeot)

got us started with a description of the short story and an extremely effective
analysis of how to develop conflict through phrasing and action. Robert brilliantly
covered setting, character, and dialogue in a single segment that incorporated the
use of Gone with the Wind to
illustrate his points. Kaye and I took on the challenge of jointly teaching plotting
strategies and discovered that our approaches and preferred structural models offered
some interesting alternatives for putting together a story.

lunch, Kaye explained how revision and editing were essential in developing a
marketable manuscript. I followed up with some exercises to get the creative
juices flowing. I’m pleased to report that the group left with almost everyone
having written a six-word story a la
Ernest Hemingway’s “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” Robert finished up the
day with a wonderful method for pursuing publication and left us all with the
inspirational question: “What is your dream?” By telling us about his own
writing journey and encouraging us to consider what we truly wished to achieve,
he sent us forth excited about the possibilities.
PGB and Kaye George (Photo by Robert Mangeot)

participants were so enthusiastic, it became infectious. We exchanged a lot of very
helpful information.

I am
particularly grateful to Lisa Malice and her husband Lou for their generous
hospitality. Kaye and I were fortunate enough to stay with them for the
weekend. Not only did we get to enjoy Lisa and Lou’s lovely home, fabulous
food, and great conversations, but also we had a terrific time practicing our
presentation and catching up.

Thank you to the
Atlanta Chapter for taking the time to focus on the short story. I appreciate
my fellow presenters so very much. I always learn from each of you and I value
our friendships. Finally, many thanks to all those who attended. May you find
the success in writing that you are seeking!