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 2:30 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.

 

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.

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”

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”

Summer 2020 ♦ Volume 5, Number 1

This Summer Issue of the Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal includes
24 selections on the theme of Vision in genres ranging from
short story, memoir, poetry and a sci-fi novel excerpt.
Following the introduction by Anne K. Kaler is a
table of contents with links to each selection.

VISION or vision – DREAM or reality?

by Anne K. Kaler

Somewhere in my past life, I saw a picture (or dreamed it) of three young women walking down a narrow sidewalk several generations ago. The picture, when it floats back into my memory, is trapped in the black and white and grey of early photography, suggesting a coal-mining town in the early 1900’s. Perhaps that is because of the fashions they are wearing, long dresses down over ankles and hats heavily brimmed with veils and bird feathers. When I peer more closely, I realize that they are sisters, probably on the way to church or to a social event or perhaps just taking a Sunday afternoon stroll.

The woman in the back ground is the tallest of all, full-bosomed and corseted, erect, proud, and in charge. The second figure is much smaller, more frail in her twisted body, but leaning outward protectively toward the middle figure who is, I note, a girl and not really a woman as yet. Much younger than the other two, the girl exemplifies the impatience of youthful energy by darting out ahead of the others.

This trio of women test our theme in the Journal – “VISION or visions” as a topic for consideration, even while the two words are apparent opposites.

As I said, this picture has been transfigured in my life into a guide to common sense and spiritual guidance. I am not sure that this is a vision or a VISION. I do know that it has helped me find strength when I needed it. Perhaps it is the birds’ wings on their silly hats or the outstretched arms of the forward-leaning young girl that make me think they may represent angels or winged messengers, rendering me comfort and light onto the right path. Let me explain from my own view of how VISION/vision theme works into my life as a writer.

The tallest and oldest woman is my Aunt Nonnie, a woman of business and travel and two marriages, a woman who worked and supported her father and sisters during the depression, a woman of strength who survived the Second World War in London. I think of her as my familiar image of Faith.

The second sister, my Aunt Katherine, was born with twisted spine, a giving spirit, and love for all humanity. She gave up her job to nurse her father until he died, married an older man who gave her two children, and left her a widow. At the age of fifty, she supported those children by working in the post office. She was loved everyone who knew her. To me, she was Charity personified.

The youngest sister, my mother Mary Gertrude, claimed that she was “flapper” during the Twenties. When she realized her sisters had been supporting her during the years after her mother’s early death, my mom quit school and went to work for the telephone company until she married my father. She is my vision of Hope.

Having relating my own guiding vision, what does our theme really suggest? Using the five phrases below, let’s see how they can relate to your own special interpretations of vision quests. Remember that term of vision quest because, isn’t that what we writers do? We capture and imprison our vision/VISION into words for the rest of us to see, enjoy, and learn from because each of us needs other kinds of vision/VISION to be a good writer.

And that’s why writing in all of its forms is so important to the human nature. The ancient art of telling stories around the fire preserved some sense of continuity and purpose to most civilizations. But each person in every generation settled for one of the VISIONS/visions. Those who chose the VISION called it a Vision Quest. The Native American sent the young men out of the tribe on a vision quest as an initiation into manhood. The medieval knights were sent out on similar vision quests to find and help the helpless to justice. The lonely stranger of western lore always rides off into the sunset, having righted wrongs. The detective shows which we watch so often the vigilante trying to right wrongs in society. Called “knights errant” or heroes, they are the basis of many series of novels of “lone rangers” or “rootless wanderers” or “transient heroes.” Selfless, they serve no master except justice. See John McDonald’s Travis Magee or Lee Child’s Jack Reacher as examples.

Each of us has a vision quest yet how often does our society mock it. When we are young, we believe so strongly that, when our parents or teachers say that that our particular goal or vision is outside of our reach, we believe them. Look how language of “seeing” itself ignores the VISION for a simpler reality. Our elders insist that we are “closing our eyes” to the needs of reality in favor of an “impossible dream.” To me, this is where Faith must sustain us on our quest.

To me, “seeing beyond the horizon” is possessing the virtue of Hope and Hope is based on our knowledge of the natural world – if we wait long enough the spring will finally come with new growth. Charity is, in a sense, how we pass the time and “earn” the right to what is actually beyond the horizon.

Once again, language can dissuade us from our vision quest. “You are not seeing straight” is a distorted or twisted vision. How easily we are misled by this form of vision or illusion. Celebrities come to mind. How can we idolize the illusion of talent, wealth, knowledge, prestige, and power which are only smoke-and-mirrors to hide common human weakness? Here’s where we fail to see clearly and may abandon all trust in visions.

So strong is the need to “see” that drama itself provides the visible/audible experience to “see” a VISION by using our physical vision to convince us. For example, remember that, in the very nature of drama, tragedy is a personal learning experience for the hero while comedy ends in a celebration of new life as in a marriage and the promise of children. Having the trust that the new generation will solve problems takes us back to both Hope and Faith, both of which are time-related. We must wait for them. That is reality. As writers, our vision/Vision quest itself takes us out of time.

That’s why literature creates a spectrum of types which stretch between Reality and Romance with individual genres lining up between the two ends.

In all arts, both VISION and vision intermingle. Indeed, both may exist at the same time and place in a character. Take Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics for Nellie in South Pacific. When the bemused nurse questions herself, she sings of being a “cock-eyed optimist . . . I’m stuck like a dope with a thing called hope.” Or look how the lyricists of Man of La Mancha when the delusional Don Quixote sings of pursuing “the impossible dream.” Is his vision quest real? Probably not, given his time period, his age, and his mental health. Again, look at the mixture of VISION and vision that character represents. Again, look at HOPE lunging forward, pulling FAITH and Charity with her, into the future.

So enjoy the VISIONS and visions which appear in this issue of our Journal.

ADDENDUM

And then came Covid-19 as a game-changer. Our lives have become more precious as they grew more problematic and perilous – our vision quests set aside in the search for survival.

As writers, however, we should value the stay-home order. Theoretically, this plague forced solitude on us. We had time, precious time, free to write of our vision quest journey. Yes, of course, we had time finally to connect with family, to spend days at our social media sources, to reach out to others who might sympathize with our goals.

Or did we fret because our writing time seem to slip away, distracted by our social obligations, the frightening daily death counts, the news on television and in the newspapers. Did we nap frequently, saying that we were just “catching up” with ourselves? Did we ignore the virtue of HOPE in the pursuit of survival?

If you did, it is time to take another long look at those three guiding virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity for your answer. Your attempts at writing, however fruitful or feeble, served to strengthen your beliefs, to give you assurance for future success, and to enrich the world around you with your gifts of time devoted to charity. You survived to follow your vision/VISION quest, just as your editors survived to produce this Journal. So forgive yourself for your very human failings and start writing again.

Mea culpa and welcome to the human race.

“Human beauty requires of us an intense response.
We want to own the beautiful: we want to possess it.
We wish that it would somehow rub off on us, simply by being in its Presence.”

           from Alexander McCall Smith’s La’s Orchestra Saves the World


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

Vision

A Memoir by Laura Jane Michie-Bleam

The Fabric of Life

A Memoir by Rebecca L. Manoogian

Orenda

A Memoir by David Werrett

Growing Pains

A Memoir by Kelly O’Hara

My Life Changes

A Memoir by Scott Ocamb

Wish You Were Here

A Memoir by Chandra Misra

Mom’s Bed

A Memoir by Karen Edwards

When Vision Fails

A Poem by Paul Teese

Fulfillment

A Short Story by Archana Kokroo

Shells

A Memoir by Chandra Misra

The Wanderers

A Short Story by Paul Teese

Lydwyna the Spinster
and the Shawl

A Short Story by Anne K. Kaler

Child’s Vision

A Memoir by Fred W. Donaldson

Distant Shores

A Short Story by Michele Malinchak

Through a Cat’s Eye

A Poem by David Werrett

The Overstayer

A Memoir by Daphne Freise

Like a Silent Spectre

A Poem by Meredith Betz

The Life I Didn’t Realize I Lived

A Memoir by Doreen Frick

Vision Obscured

A Poem by Linda Donaldson

The Buddy System

A Short Story by Thomas Small

Letter to My 14-Year-Old Self

A Memoir by Daphne Freise

Baby Tulip Poplar Tree

A Poem by Anne K. Kaler

Sideways

A Poem by Rebecca L. Manoogian

The Casualties

A Novel Excerpt by Joel Mendez