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.

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.

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”

Writers Guild & Webinar News

By Linda Donaldson

We welcomed a dozen members and our editors to our March 21st Writers Guild Zoom meeting. It was heartwarming to “see” each other for the first time in months. We had six writers’ selections to discuss.

First, a short story by John McCabe, “Virus Days with a Six-Year-Old” about the sweet interaction between generations. Some suggested that John’s initial paragraphs, that “set the stage” of the time and circumstances, should not be at the beginning. Everyone enjoyed the mystery of the toothpaste.

Next came a poignant, very frank expression of grief and coping, “A Place of In-Between” by David Werrett. Members all had a deep and emotional reaction to the raw sense of loss that David expressed. We agreed that the story might be a good one to share with family or friends experiencing loss. Continue reading “Writers Guild & Webinar News”

Winter 2020-21 ♦ Volume 5, Number 2

Winter 2020-21 ♦ Volume 5, Number 2

This Winter Issue of the Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal
includes 20 selections on the theme of Truth – Tell It Slant
in genres ranging from short story, memoir, poetry and flash fiction.

Following the introduction by Anne K. Kaler
is a table of contents with links to each selection.

Truth – Tell It Slant

By Anne K. Kaler, Ph.D.

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 —

– Emily Dickinson

A succinct phrase of poetry often holds more power than the longest prose piece.

Such is the case with the first line of Emily Dickinson’s poem above. The second phrase “to tell it slant” sounds as if the poet is suggesting that the writer deceive the reader/listener. However, the poet goes on to explain at length just what she meant by this seemingly immoral advice.

Look at the strength in her first line with repetition of sounds of the letter “t”.  The first “t” of “tell” forces you to open your mouth enough to show your teeth with lips spread, your tongue tight against your front teeth.  The change of position from the dull sound of “the” causes you to put your tongue out and then back into an arched position against your palate and up into the Truth sound. The second half of the line “but tell it slant” repeats the beat with “tell it” it and that effort produces the hissing sound “slant” followed by the broad “ant”, a sharp hard ending.

And that’s just the first line.

What is so enticing in Dickinson’s poem is her sly use of the word “slant” which is a term in poetry for a rhyme that is not a “true” rhyme.  When a poet “forces” a word to fit the poem’s meter or beat but does not replicate the exact sound of the first word, that rhyme is called a “slant” rhyme. For example, a “cat-rat” end rhyme is fine but a “cat-sad” end rhyme is not a true rhyme. Notice that this poet’s other end rhymes are correct “lies-surprise” and “kind-blind.”

That’s what our Journal is all about, isn’t it? Our writers try to tell the Truth as they perceive it – as a flawed, painful, embarrassing, hopeful, hurtful, or human action. Any Truth which writers use is automatically filtered through their own experiences and thereby is changed by the author’s particular perspective or slant.

Isn’t this true of all artists?  What they create comes ultimately from their personal observation of the world around them, narrowed by their “slant” or position or perspective.

This “filtering” of Truth is the strength of the artist who sees and hears and feels a somewhat different world from writers. Take musicians, for example, who seem to hear sounds and combinations of sounds which fail to attract our ears. Sometimes their music stems from the activity of work around them — sea chanties reflect the rhythmic beat sailors need to move heavy loads in rhythm. Musicians perform their art by touching on our emotions with sounds that stir memories as the physical sounds which arouse our auditory sense.  Often those musical notes are based on the sounds of nature, such as songs of birds or the patterns of whale songs, the breaking of waves on an ocean beach and the crack of icicles breaking in the wind, or the crooning of a mother’s lullaby or even the beat of the human heart.

Sound and silence and the time between are the essence of music and of poetry.  Dickinson’s verse is modelled on the most ancient of poetic structures – the “fourteener” which is an iambic line of fourteen sounds in a seven or eight-beat first line and a six-beat second line.  Sounds difficult to understand? This “fourteener” is the basis of early songs such as “Mary had a little lamb/whose fleece was white as snow// And everywhere that Mary went/ the lamb was sure to go.”

So it is with those of us who are writers. We try our best to capture human emotions with words, many words. In doing so, we learn to be alert to non-Truth, priding ourselves on our ability to detect falsehoods and deceptions. Yet, while we might disguise our deeper, hidden Truths from our readers, our critics often pry those hidden Truths from our biographies and storylines to bring them into the bright light of Truth.

What is it about Truth that frightens us all or, more correctly, what about Truth is dangerous to us all.  Take the example of the myth of Semele, the human lover of Zeus, Chief of the Gods, when she begs to see him in all his wonder.  He tries to talk her out of it but she insists.  When he does appear to her in his glory, she is incinerated by the strength and heat of his power.

That’s the poet’s point.  Mankind cannot withstand the strength of Truth but we must learn it “gradually.” Truth’s “superb surprise” is superior to mankind’s ability to conceive of pure Truth.  In the poet’s consideration, Truth is so powerful a force that it would “dazzle” us with the brilliance of its light and would leave us “blind”.

So, she suggests that writers water down the basic Truths inherent in everyone’s life by telling it “slant” or at an angle.  In essence, all writers transform their own hard-earned Truths (good and bad alike) into something made of fragile words so that another human being can catch a glimpse of the brilliant strength of Truth, “or every man be blind.”

So, as you read through our Journal, remember that, while we are all considered artists/writers, we are all separate human beings with our brains stuffed with memories just waiting to burst forth into print. May our readings help us to realize the wonderful “slanted” approach each of us uses to avoid the ultimate Truth, “the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth.”

Table of Contents – Winter 2020-21 Issue

(Click title to read selection.
Author’s biography at end of contribution)

My Soul is Local

A Poem by Paul Teese

How the outdoor world feeds the soul.

 Golden Arches

Flash Fiction by Susan E. Wagner

A mother describes the troubled life of her addict son,
and life in the aftermath of his death.

Needs Must

A Short Story by Robert Moulthorp

Monologue, then dialogue of a woman
telling her boyfriend their relationship is over.

 Day 38

A Memoir by Karen Edwards

Running on a prayer during her mother’s final days.

 Naïve

A Poem by David Werrett

The writer’s beliefs may seem naïve,
but he avers that they are true.

My Friend Alex

A Memoir by John A. McCabe

Memories of a bold-spirited friend,
cut down during the Vietnam War.

Sideways

A Poem by Rebecca L. Manoogian

How the degrees of “slant” in the sunshine
affects mood and outlook.

 The Slant

A Short Story by Joel Mendez

A spy considers the many faces of truth he must show
as he starts his new career and complicated life.
This is a standalone short story based on
the author’s upcoming first novel, “The Casualties.”

 Doggie Straits

A Poem by Jennifer Klepsch

A pet injury, twisted truth, and whose story to believe?

 Lydwyna the Spinster and the Scar

A Short Story by Anne K. Kaler

The magic that transforms two people’s troubles by exchanging them.

How to Get a Covid Vaccine

A Short Story by Linda C. Wisniewski

Steps that tell a “what if” scenario
of someone trying to “jump the line.”

Sea Glass

A Memoir by Doreen Frick

Repurposing skills in life – car repairing
or turning sea glass into jewelry.

I Call Myself a Writer

A Poem by Karen Edwards

Reasons why the author calls herself a writer.

Why Am I Doing This?

A Memoir by Scott Ocamb

Trusting a friend’s directions leads to precisely
where this motorcyclist doesn’t want to go.

Waves

A Short Story by Bob McCrillis

A grandfather discusses the meaning of
watching waves with his granddaughter.

Fulfilling My Dream to Help People In Need

A Memoir by Chandra Misra

Finally realizing the dream of a career in medicine later in life.

Dead Animal

A Memoir by Scott Ocamb

A fearless mother helps her terrified third-grader
handle the corpse of an animal in a gentle way.

Why Did You Do It?
A Memoir by David Werrett
A widower examines the connections he experiences with his late wife.

Perfect Life

A Short Story by Kelly O’Hara

A phone call from school interrupts a writer
from her cozy routine to deal with her son’s illness.

Rain

A Poem by Susan E. Wagner

The lifegiving properties of rain affect
plants, animals and human souls.

Foundations of World Building for All Genres

A Pearl S. Buck Writing Center Zoom Webinar
with Donna Galanti
Saturday, April 17th from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m.

All stories happen somewhere. Whether you write fantasy, dystopian, science fiction, or even about the “real world,” world building is key to creating a meaningful story.

With several science fiction and fantasy books under her belt for adults and children, Donna shares methods of world building that any writer can apply. From the smallest details to the rules of its universe, discover the way a considered approach to world building can govern the hearts of your characters and help drive your story.

Topics include: elements of world building, using world building to support conflict and tension, world building questions and resources, seven main areas that serve as the foundation for your worldand what to avoid in building your world. Donna also shares real-book examples to supplement her topics.

$25 registration fee required. (see registration info below)

Donna Galanti is the author of the middle grade adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road, which the Midwest Book Review called, “A heart-pounding thrill ride full of unexpected twists and turns from start to finish.” She’s also the author of the follow up, Joshua and the Arrow Realm, the popular Unicorn Island series, and the bestselling paranormal suspense Element Trilogy for adults.

Donna is also a writing contest judge at nycmidnight.com, regularly presents as a guest author at schools, and teaches writers through her online Udemy courses. Visit her at donnagalanti.com

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

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

Building Your Audience and Your Platform

A Pearl S. Buck Writing Center Zoom Webinar
with Pamela Varkony
Tuesday, April 13th from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

You are a writer; you have beautiful words you want to send into the universe. First you have to get published. In today’s world, most agents and publishers will insist you have a platform before they consider representing you.

In this webinar we will guide you through the steps you need to take to start building that platform now in advance of contacting an agent or self-publishing your book.

The framework of building a successful author’s platform begins with a website and a blog. If you don’t have one, you don’t exist.

Next, don’t overlook the obvious: Write! Write! Write! Publish! Publish! Publish!

There are thousands of outlets for guest blog posts, journals, both in print and online, and ezines covering every topic under the sun.

At the core of all author platforms is your presence on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram can make or break a book launch.

This class will provide you with action items and resources designed to build your reputation and name recognition.

Registration fee of $25 required. (see registration info below)

Pamela Varkony is a dynamic speaker who has inspired audiences from America to Australia to Afghanistan through her passion for improving the lives of others. Her insights on life, leadership, politics, and the human condition are read and heard across four continents.

From 2012 to 2014 she served as a gubernatorial appointee to the Pennsylvania State Commission for Women. In 2017 Pam was named a Pearl S. Buck International Woman of Influence. An author, freelance columnist and commentator, her stories cover subjects from business ethics to the status of women in the third world.

Pam has contributed stories to National Public Radio for regional and national broadcasts, and hosted her own radio program on Voice America Network. She is the co-author of a history of Upper Bucks County, Pennsylvania: “Our Lost Tohickon Valley,” a portrait of the early 20th century, now in its third printing. Pam is also a contributing writer and poet to the anthology “Songs of Ourselves…America’s Interior Landscape.”

Her columns and features have appeared in major U.S. newspapers and magazines. Her poetry has been published in the New York Times. In 2008, the Pennsylvania Women’s Press Association recognized her with an “Excellence in Journalism” award for her editorial writing.

Visit her at www.pamelavarkony.com

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

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