September Guild Meeting Recap

By Linda Donaldson

Cindy Louden, our Zoom moderator welcomed published author Sandra Carey Cody to our September Writers Guild meeting. She has been a presenter at Pearl S. Buck Writing Center’s workshops. Visit her at her website http://www.sandracareycody.com/home.html to learn more about her writings.

Our first discussion was about Show Me the Way by Karen Edwards. Readers pointed out Karen’s ability to find just the perfect phrase to paint her characters’ traits, and her innermost feelings. Suggestions included noting tense changes, adding more dialogue, and expanding interaction between brothers. Continue reading “September Guild Meeting Recap”

August Writers Guild Meeting Recap

By Linda Donaldson

Eight authors’ selections were sent for comments this month at our Zoom meeting. Anne Kaler reminded us that as members of The Writers Guild we all provide a valuable sounding board for each other’s stories and writing techniques. We support and encourage and benefit from the critiques of our writing colleagues. Continue reading “August Writers Guild Meeting Recap”

Writers Guild July Meeting Recap

By Linda Donaldson

We had only 5 selections to review, but discussion was lively and easily filled our two-hour Zoom meeting.

First up was a novel excerpt from Bob McCrillis from a Western romance set in Kansas in 1866. His chapter about the pursuit of kidnappers who abducted a young woman, featured a marshal and a widowed female rancher on their trail. The readers loved the dialogue and the unspoken sexual tension between the two protagonists. Bob’s “scene” as he described it was almost like a screenplay, and many felt they could “envision” the action. Setting descriptions were detailed, but some wished for more info on the characters’ sequence of movements. Continue reading “Writers Guild July Meeting Recap”

Writers Guild June Zoom Meeting Recap

By Linda Donaldson

Three of our eight authors of our June selections had other commitments on Father’s Day. We discussed the five selections and will send our comments via email to the three not present.

Joan Mariotti offered an early chapter in her novel about Vincent, a serial killer. The story starts with John, Vincent’s father at his first days at college. He is poor with no lodging, so he begins his studies and work internship while sleeping in his car. Luckily his professor offers him a place to live in exchange for fixing up her older home. Everyone knowing Joan’s overall theme was looking for horror behind every detail. We were relieved this early story doesn’t involve Vincent yet. Joan’s attention to detail in descriptions was noted, her adept handling of the professor’s colloquial clipped English dialogue, and the seamless way she introduced each new character.

Barbara Seras explained the theme of examining faith that she portrayed in both her original version of Rolling the Beads last month and her updated version was deliberately not denominationally specific. Barbara thought treating the story as a parable would make it more easily accepted by readers. Suggestions included adding more detail, even clearly identifying the women visitors as nuns, would make the story just as meaningful. Barbara’s depiction of the narrator’s longing and regret were palpable. The mother’s character could be expanded, and perhaps the narrator in the later story identified as the girl from earlier vs. the younger visitor. Also, questions arose over whether John was still living at the end of the story.

Adding even more color was the suggestion for Betty’s Trip to the City by Jane Bleam. A sweet and endearing tale of a young sister’s excitement over seeing her college-aged sister come home for Christmas ends with a rescue from near death in a moving car. Readers suggested adding even more sensory information and feelings to her story, perhaps adding food smells, Christmas tree odor, details of the tree angel heirloom and her terror during the car incident.

Melissa Triol fills in what has happened to Eglantine in Paris after locating her beloved’s grave, and then meeting Bernhard again. Readers were captivated by the seamless way through dialogue and setting the scenes Melissa explains what has happened to Eglantine in the meanwhile. The story examines where she is emotionally, when she is brought together with the man who will change her life.

A gentle interaction between adult siblings occurs in Kent’s East by Karen Edwards. In dialogue and a subtle explanation of family dynamics, she sets the stage for a slow unfolding of a now single sister, visiting home after her divorce, interacting with her brother about where she went the night before. Karen built the story to the last line with humor and finesse. Readers wanted more clues to story’s time setting.

David Werrett in Energy Fields gave a profound explanation of staying attuned and sensing responses to our departed loved ones intuitively. His piece ends on a hopeful note of anticipation that one’s physical life may adapt to make room for someone else in the future.

Painting a mesmerizing picture of the contrast of sheer, bleak poverty and staggering wealth, Daphne Freise introduces an unforgettable character in The Perfect Broken Boy. After reading a paragraph, you’ll never get the image of the tiny beggar out of your mind, or the bystanders calmly ignoring him as they transact their trading in gold and jewelry. The sensory details are compelling and the story gripping.

Megan Monforte rewrote her Arizona story with a smoother flow. This newer version alternates sections that occur in the present with those happening on the day her husband died. The suspense builds until the end when all becomes clear. A triumph of the examination of guilt and remorse.

Writers please note, the deadline for our Summer 2021 Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal has been extended to September 30th, 2021. The theme is “Revenge – Sought or Untaken,” so sharpen your writing instruments and put your own twist on this universal theme. Click here for our Submission Guidelines.

Mindful Journaling Helps Process 2020

By Linda Donaldson

Jude Walsh, author and creativity coach, gave a PSB Writing Center Zoom workshop on “Journaling the Pandemic and Its Aftermath” on Tuesday, June 1st that showcased both her writing and coaching skills. Jude guided us through strategies to go beyond simply noting current events, to processing the resulting emotions and challenges.

To counter the overwhelming stress that creates mental and physical symptoms, mindful journaling can calm and clear the mind, release pent up feelings and negative thoughts, rather than simply recording experiences. Continue reading “Mindful Journaling Helps Process 2020”

May Writers Guild Meeting Recap

By Linda Donaldson

Our May 16th Guild Zoom meeting featured nine diverse selections.

Karen Edwards wrote of differing ways of coping with grief on Mother’s Day. Readers praised her descriptions and insights. Many said it reflected their own experiences.

His daydream’s conscription of reality gives the selection from David Werrett special poignancy, emphasizing the compelling desire in us to hold on to good, happy memories.

Barbara Seras gave us the beginning of a longer story about an engaging young girl whose family has newly moved and are visited by local ladies. The father’s exchange about religion with these women made readers eager to hear more of this family’s experiences with faith.

The latest version of her cat adoption story by Jane Bleam was interspersed with the cat’s comments. The cat’s reactions intrigued the readers who encouraged Jane to write the whole story from Kitty-Kitty’s point of view.

Joan Mariotti sparked lots of comments with her story’s unusual title The Ziggelboim. The sweet and imaginative story about finding one’s purpose was unanimously lauded as a sure-to-be successful children’s book.

Introducing a newly minted couple as characters, John McCabe wove a long distance romantic story by telling it from both points of view. We all wanted a different ending, so John satisfied us later that day with a revised and less unresolved conclusion.

Melissa Triol painted a severe scene of WWI battleground trench warfare. Then she followed it with a graphic depiction of the treatment of a German man by a group of British men after the war. Readers marveled at the realistic portrayal from the same author that wrote of the elegant patrician Eglantine.

We missed Megan Monforte at our meeting, but reading her long excerpt was a privilege. The excruciating loss of dignity the title character experiences, as she attempts to navigate life after brain surgery, is powerfully written. I’m sure we all are eagerly awaiting the rest of this woman’s journey.

Daphne Freise was also unable to attend, but her memoir excerpt was electrifying. After describing her father Ivan Fail’s role as a prison guard, she introduces one of the most frightening villains to inhabit the prison system as his antagonist. Talk about suspense!

Be sure to mark your calendar for our June 20th Zoom meeting of the Writers Guild from 1-3pm. Send your files to lindadonaldson@verizon.net  by June 10th and remember to add your email address for comments.

Bringing Your Middle Grade Characters to Life

A PSB Writing Center Zoom Webinar with Karen Pokras
 Tuesday, August 17 from 1pm to 2:30 pm 

Every story comes down to your main character. This webinar will cover developing the middle grade character for readers up to age 13 in a context of more than just writing dialogue and narrative. It encompasses idea generation, finding your character’s voice, using character to develop plot, writing dialogue and narrative, and developing relationships between sub-characters. Brainstorming exercises will be part of this class.

$25 registration fee. To register or for more information, please contact Cindy Louden at 267-421-6203 or clouden@pearlsbuck.org.


Karen Pokras is a daisy lover, cat wrangler, and occasional baker. She has been writing for children for over ten years, winning several indie literary awards for her middle grade works.

Karen has appeared numerous times as a panel speaker for Philadelphia Stories’ annual Push to Publish conference on topics related to marketing and writing for children and has spoken at various other workshops for children and writers in the Philadelphia area. Karen is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is a writing contest judge at NYC Midnight.

Karen’s newest middle grade story, The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler (Lerner/Kar-Ben) hits the shelves in November. For more information, visit karenpokras.com.

Writing to Heal with John DeDakis

Writing to Heal with John DeDakis
Pearl S. Buck Writing Center Zoom webinar
Monday, July 12, from 7 to 9 p.m.

All of us have — or will — experience the loss of a loved one.  In my case, in addition to the expected deaths of grandparents and parents, I’ve witnessed a car-train collision that killed three people, lost my sister to suicide, and endured the death of my youngest son because of an accidental heroin overdose.

Even though death is a part of life, it need not be crippling or debilitating. In this session, we’ll look at strategies — including journaling and writing — to help you move forward, through, and beyond the pain and into a future that can once again be filled with hope — and even joy.

$50 registration fee (A Zoom link will be sent to registrants prior to webinar.)

To register or for more information, please contact Cindy Louden at 267-421-6203 or clouden@pearlsbuck.org.


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.

Some Thoughts on Revenge

By Linda Donaldson

Your editors have chosen “Revenge – Sought or Untaken” as the theme for the Summer 2021 issue of our Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal. It is a rich topic that sparked a little etymological research for me.

“Revenge” has many evocative synonyms such as vendetta, payback, karma, or comeuppance. It has been described as sweet or a dish best served cold. Colorful phrases such as even the score or out of spite come to mind. Plus, a new one for me, revengineering, the act of orchestrating a revenge plot! Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Revenge”

April Guild Meeting Discussion Featured Seven Selections

By Linda Donaldson

As members joined our Zoom meeting this past Sunday, several discussed the previous day’s PSB webinar about World Building by Donna Galanti.

Bob McCrillis shared that he uses Excel spreadsheets to sort scenes, plot arcs and characters to organize his work in progress. Other methods shared were cutting up, rearranging and taping segments of a manuscript, or laying out pages of sections on a large table.

Our first story, “Vincent” by Joan Mariotti, started with the frightening discovery of a body. Then we were taken back in time to the killer and his victim meeting in college for the first time. Joan really paints her characters vividly and has a great ear for dialogue. Readers noted flashbacks call for careful tense editing.

Continue reading “April Guild Meeting Discussion Featured Seven Selections”