Writers Guild August Meeting

By Linda Donaldson

Five Writers Guild members who attended our August meeting brought selections to share.

Jane Bleam added to her student nursing stories with a delightful story, The Inquisitive Five Year Old, about listening carefully to understand what a child really means when she speaks. Listeners wanted more details of the patient and the hospital. One suggested reading the story aloud after writing to catch awkward spots.

The next selections, two poems by Betty Esris, were both unique and thought-provoking. In her first poem, Headline, August 2, 2011: Central Park Zoo Peacock Flies the Coop, the beautiful bird attracts observers who stop to click pictures. The narrator pictures the bird flying home to the Middle East, stopping in the Horn of Africa on the way and being wistfully witnessed by a mother on a roadside during the stillbirth of a her child. Many commented on that stark contrast of beauty with suffering.

Betty’s second poem Fastback 1967 follows the story of a young man’s love for his first car and how his memory of it serves as a brief respite during a battle in Vietnam. The car as a symbol of freedom is artfully expressed.

On the transportation theme, John McCabe brought us a portion of a longer story, Biking the West Coast of Oregon, about a man claiming a vintage motorcycle in Portland left for him by a old friend for a drive down the Coast to visit him. This evocative trip down memory lane brings him up against recollections of his past relationship with a girl long ago. Listeners had a lot to say about motorcycles and how they define eras.

Ron Price shared Thirty Fingers, Thirty Toes about the birth of triplet granddaughters. Ron describes first the joy, then the gravity of not weeks, but months of care in the NICU, learning their routine and sharing contact with these tiny treasures. After his daughter was released, the hospital provided cameras in the incubator room so each child could be individually watched on any computer screen 24/7. Ron tells what that miracle was like from a grandfather’s point of view. A well-written story that would fit many markets.

Daphne Freise, whose career as a flight attendant traveling worldwide included several years in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, shared her short story The Chai Wallah. Praised for its evocative language with lots of descriptive detail, Daphne’s story about a man with expired papers who is encountered by authorities in a public market, parallels modern-day conflicts between illegal immigrants and regulations that favor employers who exploit foreign workers. We look forward to more stories!

Our monthly Writers Guild meetings (the third Sunday afternoons from March to October) are where we share and critique our writing work-in-progress. In a friendly atmosphere, we encourage, support, and challenge writers to improve whether they are experienced writers or beginners.

Join us on Sunday, September 15th from 1pm to 3pm in the Pearl S. Buck International Cultural Center (Red Barn), 520 Dublin Road, Perkasie, PA 18944.

If you haven’t become a follower on this blog, please take a moment to do so. You’ll receive notifications when any new blog is posted.

Summer 2019 ♦ Volume 4, Number 1

Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal

Secrets

Secrets – one of the first things we learn as children.

The concept of secrets starts with toddlers being shushed by parents for commenting on someone’s weight or color or disability. They get shushed again for repeating something Mommy or Daddy said. “Don’t tell, don’t say that to Daddy, Mommy, neighbors or doctors.”

As we get older, secrets become more complicated and seemingly more necessary in our lives. We even keep secrets from ourselves by refusing to discuss or cope or change. Yet, we hate secrets too. We struggle to decide which ones to keep and which ones to tell. We bemoan this universal human tendency while we embrace the need for it. We excuse the white lies and feel guilty about bigger ones. We all have secrets we don’t want others to know, private and hidden knowledge filled with power. The secrets might amaze or embarrass, betray, shock or harm. We simply don’t know.

So, what do we do?

Recently, our teenage grandson came into my kitchen just as I finished an edit on a poem. Impulsively, I asked if he’d like to read it. Being both polite and kind, he said he would. The poem describes an incident from my childhood which, through the alchemy of writing, was transformed into something new.

“Did this happen to you?” he asked. “Is it real?”

Then, we talked about prose and poetry being a release for emotions, a release for the demons we all carry or a release for secrets we can’t otherwise share. Those things can be put into words on a page where it may touch a chord in a reader. Through the alchemy of writing, I took an incident and made it new, gave it a different life in a poem. He connected to that and I saw the understanding as it began to show on his face.

Like any art, writing allows you to take a thought or emotion and create something new, something that may or may not have anything to do with the original inspiration. We mine our lives for those nuggets we find useful and transform them into art, music, prose, and poetry. My grandson understood that and likened it to his favorite movies and the stories they tell. Since he enjoys art and music, I suggested he try it himself and one day he may.

Often, writing exposes a deeper truth and the secrets that are kept there. In the act of writing, we may reveal something to ourselves, thoughts or feelings we didn’t know we had. From this, we can learn what themes our life follows and what problems occur the most. That is why writing journals is so useful and why bibliotherapy – the use of poetry or prose to explore feelings — works. We literally see ourselves in words.

Conversely, writing hides secrets in plots or images, which wait to be found by the reader.  That is why mysteries are so popular – we don’t know something, so we need clues to help us find the secret. There’s a reason Law and Order was so popular for so many years. We like knowing secrets, even those of fictional characters. It gives us satisfaction.

Biographies and memoirs reveal the secrets of someone’s life, which can be endlessly fascinating. Even self-help books reveal secrets – Learn to cook creatively! Be a better person! Learn the secret of weight loss!

We chose Secrets as a theme for this issue of the journal because there is something deeply human about them, something that brings out emotions of every sort. It is universally interesting and it inspires all kinds of writing. We have a little bit of everything in this issue, a variety well worth exploring.

So, come – visit our secrets.

Susan E. Wagner
Editor, PSB Literary Journal

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

Bike Ride

A Poem by Susan E. Wagner

A Sea of a Thousand Shalt Nots

A Memoir by Meredith Betz

A Moment

A Novel Excerpt by Melissa Triol

In the Time of

A Poem by Elizabeth Esris

Secrets – A Play in Four Scenes

A Play by David H. Werrett

The Secret of the Double Knot

A Poem by Anne K. Kaler, PSBVA

Whose Secret Is It?

A Memoir by Linda C. Wisniewski

Secrets Beyond the Windowsills

A Poem by John A. McCabe

Poetry in Brief

An Essay by Susan E. Wagner

In the Garden of the Lost and Found

A Short Story by Meredith Betz

Harry’s Hobby Shop

A Memoir by Fred W. Donaldson

Lost Generation

A Poem by Elizabeth Esris

Winter Roses

A Short Story by Paul Sullivan

Cereal Killers

A Mystery by Ann Nonymous

Ogallala Memories

A Short Story by Bob McCrillis

His Footsteps

A Poem by David H. Werrett

A Women’s Tale

A Short Story by Susan E. Wagner

Nevada’s Light Brigade: A Top Secret Clearance

A Novel Excerpt by John A. McCabe

Keeper of Secrets

A Short Story by Paul Teese

Secretes Continuum

A Memoir by Ronald Scott Price

July Guild Meeting Recap

By Linda Donaldson

Summer heat did not deter fourteen members from attending our July Guild meeting on Sunday, July 21st.  Our editor Anne K. Kaler was not able to attend, so Cindy Louden and your author soldiered on in her absence. Our guest of honor, author Paul Sullivan, was unable to join us, but Paul thinks he’ll be able to attend our August meeting.

Eight selections were shared starting with an amusing story by Jane Bleam about a prank that resulted in her getting caught smoking at eight years old. Disappointing her mother had a profound effect and Jane never smoked again. Listeners suggested starting the story with her childhood experience and then tying it to her adult reaction to medical questions.

Melissa Triol introduced a powerful chapter to her ongoing novel featuring the WWI Battle of the Somme. Vivid and frightening, her story built steadily. Comments about dialogue length during the noise of battle brought suggestions to cover the statements as unspoken thoughts.

In a complete change of tone Paul Teese brought his story of a boy’s confidences to his dog. The relationship to his beagle was pivotal to this imaginative youngster who confessed everything to him.  Everyone wanted to know the ending, and I’m happy to share that the story will be in our upcoming Journal.

Betty Esris brought a poignant poem of unspoken love and loss. Faced with the body and belongings of her recently deceased father who had fled his young family while she was a child, Betty reflects on her mixed memories of him, similar physical traits, his past military history and the final folded flag.

In his poetic introduction to his new short story collection, John McCabe describes seeing ageless children peering over windowsills of row homes along the El line. John also shared a short story about his Dad taking him fishing on Ludlum Bay. Listeners praised John’s use of evocative sights and sounds.

Bob McCrillis shared a scary dystopian story about aging out of this closed society of men and women. Suspenseful and dark, the climax yielding a new leader is unexpected and brutal. Much discussion about the audience – YA vs. New Adult – ensued.

A book introduction by Meredith Betz begins with the thread of one discovered photo and weaves itself into a memoir. Not only Meredith’s memoir, but that of an elderly immigrant from Estonia now celebrating his 101st birthday. A daunting task, but Meredith is on a quest. We applauded her way of imbuing artifacts with life.

Following on that theme, we were treated to a story by David Werrett about his acquisition of a used collectible German camera made in Dresden in 1938. Studying its features and obtaining compatible film, David begins taking black and white pictures and reflecting on what kinds of images the camera had captured during its earlier “life.”

Writers Guild News

By Linda Donaldson

Our next meeting of the Writers Guild will be Sunday, July 21st from 1 to 3pm at Pearl S. Buck’s historic home – Green Hills Farm, 520 Dublin Road, Perkasie, PA 18944. We welcome all writers to join us as we share our work for friendly discussion and critique.

The Guild is excited to welcome author Paul Sullivan and his friend Eileen Gantley to our July meeting. Though Paul hasn’t attended our meetings for awhile, he has been writing and publishing nonetheless. His new book, A Thousand Tears, is about the Great Irish Famine of 1845 to 1849. We include a link here to his publisher’s author page listing Paul’s eight novels with them. Continue reading “Writers Guild News”

Writers Guild Meeting Sunday June 16th

Our June Pearl S. Buck Writers Guild meeting will be held Sunday, June 16th from 1pm to 3pm at Green Hills Farm, 520 Dublin Road, Perkasie, PA 18944.

We invite you to join us as we share our work and discuss and comment on each other’s selections. Bring 15 copies of up to 3 pages of any prose or poetry you have written if you wish to share.

The editors of the 2019 Spring/Summer PSB Literary Journal are extending the deadline to June 30th. Guidelines for submission are available here. The theme of our next issue is Secrets.

Don’t miss out! Please become followers of this blog and receive notifications of meetings, blog posts and Journal issues. It’s free!

Writers Center Offers Evening Classes

The Writing Center is pleased to offer two evening courses, ideal for writers who are unavailable to take day classes. Both courses feature three classes held Tuesday through Thursday from 6:30 to 8:00pm in the Cultural Center (Red Barn) at Green Hills Farm, 520 Dublin Road, Perkasie, PA 18944.

The instructor for both is the celebrated writer, speaker and women’s advocate, Pam Varkony. Read a brief biography at the end of this post, and visit her website to learn more about her.

Continue reading “Writers Center Offers Evening Classes”

Pearl Buck Writers Guild Meets and Ponders

Six Guild members discussed their contributions at the April 2019 Writers Guild meeting in Pearl Buck House International Center, Bucks County, PA.

Using a story of love-remembered and the power-of-hope, John McCabe examined vivid characters and their dimensions of belief and fear of death through a sensitive story. Guild members suggested clearer name attribution to speakers in dialogue exchanges.

Melissa Triol’s latest mystery thriller revealed that her passionate, calculating heroine Eglantine was no match for her sister Prudence in the aftermath of a climactic murder scene. Plotting her cover-up, less-than-accurately named Prudence rivals any modern-day schemer in a promising page-turner. Continue reading “Pearl Buck Writers Guild Meets and Ponders”

Writers Guild March Recap, New April Date

Even though the Writers Guild met on St. Patrick’s Day this month, there were 14 of us including four new participants. After introductions, which revealed quite a diverse set of writing genres and life experiences, we began sharing excerpts and discussing them.

First Joe Vitella set a scene with two skilled and deadly men in a tense verbal exchange. The undercurrent of pent-up potential violence, as they carefully test each other out, was palpable. Great buildup of suspense. Commenters agreed a little more dialogue might balance the descriptive passages.

The metaphors that David Werrett uses in his story “Prison of Guilt” serve to expressively and visually describe the mental construct of escaping from the shame of childhood trauma. These nightly dream journeys in can be solace for a wounded psyche. David’s use of language was applauded.

Discussion digressed over substitutes for semi-colons. Anne Kaler recommended the two separate sentence technique, or the use of “em” dashes. Linda Donaldson shared the history of the terminology behind small or “en” dashes and wider “em” dashes. The names derive from the width of an “n” or “m” in metal handset type.

Melissa Triol brought a new chapter to her novel that introduced her protagonist Eglantine in her youth, living at home with her father and cross older sister. The quiet dinner with an old soldier friend of her father brings with it revelations about this friend’s complicated life and issues of race, illegitimacy and inheritance.  Anne praised Melissa’s use of symbolism.

A passage using “she” several times referring to two separate women needed some name clarification. This is a common writing problem and Bob McCrillis suggested reading one’s work aloud or using a text to voice program.

A Guild member, Kat Cerruti was accompanied by her daughter Shannon Cerruti, a local high school student.  Shannon brought a poem about a lovely, yet thorny rosebush.  The narrator loves the beauty of the bush which brings great joy in times of sadness, anger or confusion.  The bush tempts her to embrace it and even its sharpness brings comfort.

Jane Bleam, whose memoir excerpts always entertain, brought a story from her childhood school days. Many questioned exactly where she attended school and encouraged Jane to include those facts. Jane’s adventures brought smiles of recognition from some of us contemporaries who fondly remember our own school days.

Finally, Jennifer Klepsch brought an opening chapter that introduces a meeting between her new novel’s two main characters. It was full of choice details but didn’t have that “hook” of drama to get us right into the book. This beginning might just need to be “flashed back” to, giving more urgency to the book’s first chapter.

We explored stories with lots of variety. Our authors have many new ideas to pursue. We missed you!

We look forward to seeing you at our next meeting on Sunday, April 14th. (Note: We are changing the date to avoid Easter Sunday.) The Guild will meet at 1pm in the Red Barn on the grounds of Green Hills Farm, 420 Dublin Road, Perkasie, PA 18944.

Remember to bring 15 copies of any excerpt up to 4 pages you’d like to share. Also, add your email address on the copies so members can further share comments via email later.

Writers Guild Begins 2019 Season

The Pearl S. Buck Writers Guild invites authors and poets to our 2019 season on the lovely grounds of Green Hills Farm, Pearl’s historic Bucks County residence, on Sunday, March 17th.

The Guild meets 1 to 3pm on the third Sunday monthly, March through October. Writers of fiction, non-fiction, essays, memoir, poetry and short stories are encouraged to join us to share and critique their writing.

Members may bring 15 copies of their excerpts for comments. This provides a forum to gain support and feedback from other writers and editors.

The first 2019 meeting is Sunday, March 17th at the Cultural Center [Red Barn building], 520 Dublin Road, Perkasie, PA 18944. Season membership is $50 for eight meetings. Single meetings are $10.

Click here to register.

Writing Center Announces Evening Classes

The Writing Center is pleased to offer two evening courses, ideal for writers who are unavailable to take day classes. Both courses feature three classes held Tuesday through Thursday from 6:30 to 8:00pm in the Cultural Center (Red Barn) at Green Hills Farm, 520 Dublin Road, Perkasie, PA 18944.

The instructor for both is the celebrated writer, speaker and women’s advocate, Pam Varkony. Read a brief biography at the end of this post, and visit her website to learn more about her.

Be Your Own Writing Carpenter:
Building Your Audience and Your Platform
May 28, 29, and 30, 2019
(recommended for beginning writers)
$75 for three classes     Click here to register

Course Description:
You are a writer; you are a crafter of beautiful words you want to send in to 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. Even if you plan to self-publish, people have to know about you to buy your work.

In this three day course we will guide you through the steps you need to take to start building that platform 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. In today’s crowded online world, if you don’t have an online presence, 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 e-zines covering every topic under the sun.

At the core of all author platforms is your ability to build a following…a 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.

How to get readers to listen to your story is Pam Varkony’s strength. Her leadership has inspired people all over the world toward better understanding of their lives and the lives of others. Let her show you how to construct a better way to get your ideas over, using her organizational skills and management concepts.

The Truth Makes a Good Story:
Writing Literary Journalism
June 11, 12, and 13, 2019
(recommended for all writers)
$75 for three classes   Click here to register

Course Description:
Truth is a powerful storyline when writing to motivate others to care about some aspect of the human condition. Non-fiction writing is about good story-telling; story-telling that reflects the stark drama, spontaneous humor, or the often hidden minutiae of real life.

During this three-day course we will discuss the importance of doing thorough research and of being a good interviewer. We will talk about the writing style through which you weave a golden thread of understated hyperbole designed to catch the reader in your net.

In this class you will have the chance to put your experience and passions to paper, read it aloud, and have your work critiqued by your fellow writers.

Whether you are interested in editorials, commentaries, persuasive essays, grant writing, or creative non-fiction/memoir, learn to tell a “can’t put it down – can’t turn it down” story. Enlighten the reader to the world around them; persuade them to care.

Pam Varkony will show you how to make your personal stories into memorable prose. Let her show you how to construct a way to get your ideas over, using her organizational skills management and superior writing techniques.


Pamela Varkony is a non-fiction writer and a former columnist for Tribune Publishing. Her work appears in newspapers, magazines and in PBS and NPR on-air commentaries. Her poetry has been published in the New York Times.

Recognized by the Pennsylvania Women’s Press Association with an “Excellence in Journalism” award, Pamela often uses her communication skills to advocate for women’s rights and empowerment both at home and abroad. She has twice traveled to Afghanistan on a fact-finding mission and as an embedded journalist.

Pamela was named the 2017 Pearl S. Buck International Woman of Influence for her humanitarian work. She is also a recipient of the Business Council for Peace, VERA Award for her work in Afghanistan, the Chamber of Commerce Athena Award for business achievement; the American Association of University Women’s “Gateway Award” for leadership in women’s issues; a “Woman of Distinction” award from the Girl Scouts, and the Nike Award for championing women’s causes presented to her by Business & Professional Women.

Pamela was born and raised in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where she and her husband, Zsolt, maintain a summer home, along with two very spoiled cats.

Read more about Pam on her website .