CNN Copy Editor and Novelist Urges Writers to Interview Their Characters

By Linda Donaldson

Our Writing Center’s most recent Zoom webinar on Feb. 17 was “How to Write a Novel” by John DeDakis. This two-hour session examined ways to structure, pace and revitalize your manuscript.

To gain more insights into your fictional characters, the author suggested “interviewing” them. A 15-minute writing exercise, using this technique, led to some interesting new takeaways by the webinar’s participants.

For example, DeDakis demonstrated how to identify key scenes and then create an arc that leads from plot pivot points to a climax.

For authors with nearly completed works, DeDakis shared editing advice. He also revealed how to polish your book before seeking an agent by incorporating comments from “beta” readers.

For those already published, DeDakis listed resources for promoting novels, including social media marketing.

Writing coach, and award-winning author, John DeDakis is a former CNN Senior Copy Editor for the Emmy and Peabody-Award winning news program “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.He is the author of four mystery/suspense novels — Fast Track, Bluff, Troubled Water, and Bullet in the Chamber. The books provide a behind-the-scenes look at real-world journalism. In addition to book signings and readings, DeDakis travels nationally to speak on the topic “From Journalist to Novelist: (Or How I Learned to Start Making it Up).” DeDakis can serve as a one-on-one writing coach, leader of a day-long workshop for aspiring writers, or as editor of book-length manuscripts. Contact him through www.johndedakis.com.

Craft Webinar Recap

By Linda Donaldson

The Writing Center was privileged to host Kathryn Craft in her Zoom webinar, “Honing Your Hook” on February 4, 2021. Over 20 participants were treated to the author’s tips on grabbing the attention of their prospective readers.

Just as every craftsperson needs properly sharpened tools, the aptly named Craft outlined the ways that writers can “hook” their readers with opening paragraphs that raise compelling questions, represent unique perspectives or show escalating intrigue. Continue reading “Craft Webinar Recap”

Rummage

by Robert Moulthrop

“The church is having a rummage sale.” That would be my grandmother, who would follow up with “Here, have a rummage through this box of stuff and see what we can take over.” So, rummage was both a thing to do, and the thing itself. Dig through the box and find something unwanted that was something that would turn out to be something someone else wanted. And invariably would come the moment when she said, “No, not that. I want to keep that. Reminds me of the time when…” The time when she went to the beach with her sister, or when my grandfather took her on a date, or when my mother was born. Rummage as treasure.

Such a great word: Rummage rummage rummage rummage. Do you have any rummage today? I bet you do. I found some of my own, and it’s been an exciting internal journey.

What better time than our current pandemic quarantine to have a bit of a rummage through one’s writerly past? A sweet and thoughtful look through the scraps of old ideas, pieces begun and abandoned, thought fragments, prompts. Early on, when I tried to write something every day, I wanted always to have something to write, no excuses. So I made an “Idea” file. But then there was my journal; and the scraps of paper napkins; and the diligently started notebooks (abandoned for a torn off corner of a paper tablecloth). Not to mention (dating myself) old newspaper clippings. I’ve never before had a problem with what to write, but now, without the social interactions, with friends reduced to pixels, and with mere existence taking up lots of head space, I need a prompt or two, need something that’s not “news” or “information” or “sensation.” At a time like this, I need my past.

And now there’s time. And the file on my computer (journal; ideas) and the paper file on my desk (ideas, and actual titles of things), and I’m able to look at pieces of my past, shards from some unique piece of work that only barely got started. And I can be my own beady editorial eye and see that, YES, I see what I was trying to do and YES, it looks like it would be both fun and worthwhile to get out my writer’s scalpel and see whether these four paragraphs contain enough of the germ of an idea for a story. Or not. I happened on a few words written yonks ago, three paragraphs based on neighbors when I was a child. Hmmmm. And I cut and pasted, began a dive, worked it over a couple of days, and came up with 1,800 words that seemed to be a story. And it’s now out for a few editors at a few journals, whose judgment I await.

There’s a clear joy in looking at one’s past writing self and thinking, “not bad,” or at least “not cringe-worthy.” Because there will be enough of that, too. There’s also the wonder of “I remember, but I don’t remember writing this. But it’s there, so I guess I did.” And there’s that writer’s joy when you can “Save As,” with the story title, and the word “Final.” With full knowledge that it is. For the moment.


Robert Moulthrop, a playwright and fiction writer, has presented writing workshops at our Pearl S. Buck Writing Center.  His short fiction has been published in Tahoma Literary Review, Reed, Berkeley Fiction Review, Confrontation, and many other journals and magazines. His plays have won awards for writing and performance at the New York International Fringe Festival; received festival production by Short + Sweet Sydney, The Gallery Players, and NYU; and received developmental readings with theaters throughout the United States. He lives and works in New York City.

PSB Writing Center Deadlines Approach

Just a reminder to send in your submissions to our Winter 2020-21 issue of the Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal by February 15, 2021. Click here for our submission guidelines.

Our Writers Guild meetings in 2021 will be virtual Zoom meetings. Beginning on March 21, 2021 at 1:30-3:30pm, our eight monthly meetings (held on the third Sundays of each month from March through October) will cost $80 for all eight meetings: March 21st, April 18th, May 16th, June 20th, July 18th, August 15th, September 19th, & October 17th.

The Guild welcomes all genres of literature, from novels and short fiction to memoirs, essays and poetry by all levels of writers. Registered Guild members must send writings for editing consideration and distribution to lindadonaldson@verizon.net  two weeks prior to our meetings so attendees can read and be prepared to discuss. To register, please follow the Registration instructions below.

The Writing Center’s “HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL” webinar is February 17th from 11am – 1pm and offers a practical process from the mere germ of an idea all the way through the creative process, with an eye on getting a finished book into the hands of potential fans. Novelist and writing coach John DeDakis is a former editor on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” and is the author of five mystery-suspense novels. More about him at: www.johndedakis.com. $50. Registration required.

Our 3-step Registration Process for All of our Zoom Classes:

  1. Please send Cindy Louden your complete street address/zip, preferred Email address and your cell phone number to clouden@pearlsbuck.org.
  2. Cindy with then forward your info to our PSB Volunteer Association President, Nancy McElwee.
  3. Nancy will call you to ask for your credit card info to complete the transaction and send you a receipt. Payment by check or money order can also be arranged with Nancy.

Truth – Tell It Slant

By Linda Donaldson

A slippery concept “slanted truth,” the theme for our upcoming issue of the PSB Literary Journal.

I’ll admit, “a little white lie” was the first thing that came to my mind – those polite statements that omit our real feelings or opinions. Off-the-cuff edits of the real story, deflecting the presumed judgment of listeners or readers.

Then I began reading the submissions and saw more subtlety.

  • The unfolding of truth that occurs over decades.
  • Slanted truth read between-the-lines of spoken dialogue in thoughts unexpressed.
  • Realizations woven together by parallel experiences in different generations.
  • Memories as seen through the prism of circumstances not perceived at the time.

Your editors are extending our Journal deadline for the Winter 2020-21 issue until February 15, 2021.

Send us your submissions. Click here for our guidelines.

Keep Writing!

Writing Center Announces 2021 Programs

By Cynthia L. Louden

The Pearl S. Buck Writing Center began in 2010 under the title of Writing at a Writer’s House.  Our purpose is to respectfully continue the successful writing partnership and networking of Pearl S. Buck and her husband, Richard Walsh. Public information about the center is available at www.pearlsbuck.org/writingcenter. Interest quickly grew into the many activities offered by the Writing Center today. The PSB Writing Center has served approximately 500 people through its workshops and published 17 books through its WCP/Writing Center Press, continuing the writing legacy of Pearl S. Buck, with writers writing at a Writer’s House.

Are you an aspiring or an already-published writer?  Do you know someone who is?  Do you have a manuscript or an idea for a novel or story?  Then sign up for the writing events at the Pearl S. Buck Writing Center!  Mark your February & March calendars to attend a Zoom Writing webinar and “write at a writer’s house” or Zoom Discuss Pearl’s novels and short stories. Continue reading “Writing Center Announces 2021 Programs”

Book Cover Design Tips

By Linda Donaldson

Five seconds! That’s how long a buyer spends evaluating your book’s cover, so your choice of images and text are critical. Here are ways to win that brief encounter.

Images

Too much text and competing images can deter the reader. Even crowding covers with two separate images can be confusing.

Online covers are shown in thumbnail size, so pare back the elements you include, and consider what your design’s title and author name look like when greatly reduced.

Print books can enjoy extra “sales” space on their back covers – where readers spend about an extra 15 seconds. Ebooks only display front covers. Continue reading “Book Cover Design Tips”

Journal Deadline Extension

By Susan E. Wagner

Roy H. Williams, in The Monday Morning Memo of February 11, 2019, writes how Margaret Atwood believes the story might have opened, “It was dark inside the wolf.” Williams goes on to analyze this in his piece, without telling us the title of the story she is speaking about.

It’s a good example of “tell it slant,” a story told in a different way, that slowly reveals truth.

The image of being inside the wolf, slowly gives us the who and why. In this case, the truth is a grandmother gets eaten, Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.

This year’s reporting on COVID-19 has probably been examined for truth more than any reporting ever has in this country. Truth is told in different angles in different ways, that will eventually end with something as close to the truth as we can get. We see the story slanted, though the ending is unknown.

Whether you prefer memoir, fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, we want your slant on some aspect of truth that inspires you, worries you, frightens you, or pleases you. This has been a year unlike any other in many ways and we are nearly at the end of it, the year, if not the story. Take a look back. See if there’s a truth you can give us in any form.

We are accepting submissions to our Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal, Vol. 5 No. 2 Winter 2020-21 until January 15, 2021. We would like to see yours.

Click here for our submission guidelines.

Theme for PSB Literary Journal Winter 2020 Issue Announced

By Anne K. Kaler

Tell all the Truth but Tell it Slant

by Emily Dickenson

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant –
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind –

When I reread Dickinson’s poem below, my interest ground to a halt at her image of slanting truth.

Truth, I was told and taught, was to be “true” or it is not Truth. How dare she, a poet of great worth, suggest that anyone lie about a fact by relating it from any angle but a “true” perspective!  How bold of her to suggest that any artist or story-teller would chose to alter the reader’s view of the sacred Truth.  What nerve she had to encourage non-truth telling to her willing listeners!

(I found my ire forced me to use exclamation points in righteous indignation!) Continue reading “Theme for PSB Literary Journal Winter 2020 Issue Announced”

2020 Guild Meetings Cancelled

Our Writers Guild meetings have been cancelled for the balance of 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. We will not be holding in person meetings. We hope to resume our regularly monthly March through October sessions in 2021.

Registered members may send writings for editing consideration and distribution to psbwriting@verizon.net for our editors.

Your editors are planning now to announce a new theme and submission deadline for the Fall 2020 issue of our Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal. Watch for a post with details soon.

Keep Writing!