Audience Building Tips and October Meeting Recap

By Linda Donaldson

Cindy Louden opened our October Zoom meeting by welcoming a prospective member visitor Marjorie Brans who joined us from Alaska. Cindy invited us all to introduce ourselves and say a little about our writing.

Sandy Carey Cody talked about her published novels. Karen Edwards spoke about her memoir stories and plans for more fiction writing. Jane Bleam, who has shared stories about her leg injury, happily reported her full recovery (after 10 months of rehab) to universal applause.

Marjorie shared that during a trip to her grandmother’s home she discovered part of her memoirs. She plans to seek the balance of those papers on another trip. Listeners all heard the pages turning and can’t wait to hear what Marjorie does with them.

I spoke of the Writers Guild founded by Dr. Anne K. Kaler and Cindy Loudon. Along with editor Susan E. Wagner they attended birth of the Pearl S. Buck Writing Center Press now proudly boasting 17 books in print. From those endeavors sprang our Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal on our blog at www.psbwriting.org.

This month’s selection for discussion was the Epilogue to the upcoming novel by John McCabe about the atomic bomb explosions in Japan and the US Army’s nuclear testing exposing US soldiers in the 1960s.

Readers were moved by his character’s decision to ditch his Power Point and speak from the heart concerning the need to detonate atomic bombs in Japan. Commenters asked for more sensory examples of how the speaker’s nervousness manifested itself, and how the non-agreeing audience telegraphed their discomfort with his expressed opinions about nuclear testing.

At 2pm Cindy welcomed Linda Wisniewski who related the genesis of her recent novel Where the Stork Flies. Linda teaches Memoir Writing classes at the Pearl S. Buck Writing Center, currently on Zoom.

Linda told how the germ of idea for her novel was planted by her genealogical research into her family tree. This endeavor brought her to an ancestor Regina, born in 1778, who had 11 children. Regina lived in a Polish village which was on land owned by a nobleman. Families farmed and kept livestock, turning over most of their harvest and keeping a portion for themselves.

As Linda began to imagine Regina’s life, she traveled on a Roads Scholars trip to Poland to research the area. She visited an outdoor museum, a “Skansen,” that recreated life in an 18th & 19th century village with houses, tools and farm animals.

As the story began to take shape, Linda knew her protagonist would need to do a lot of research, so she fashioned her as a librarian, a career Linda herself enjoyed for many years. In the book, Kat the librarian discovers an 18th century Polish woman named Regina in her kitchen! Both become distressed due to their language barrier and seek a translator.

Regina tells of praying to the Black Madonna of Czestochowa at a roadside shrine in 1825 and finding herself in 21st century Doylestown. This time portal doesn’t seem to work backwards, so the women bond together in a search for answers to the path back in time.

Linda said she found a common thread in these two women’s lives – their strength and love for children – which made writing easier. She set out to contrast the two worlds but found the real story in the modern woman’s quest for her “best self.”

Linda plans to write two more novels – a trilogy – with the same characters but from different viewpoints. This first was from Kat’s, the next will be Regina, and the last the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. Brava!

To finish our meeting Linda presented a power point entitled “Be a Bridge to Your Reader.”

Standing on a soapbox and shouting your message can leave your book one of millions in the wilderness of the internet. However, building bridges in person and online can connect you with potential readers.

Linda’s practical, easy-to-follow steps outline strategies to not only sell books, but create networks of other authors, local bookstores, media contacts and book clubs.

Identify your readers. Look for Facebook groups, podcasts, ethnic associations and clubs.

Contacts can be made even if you’re not finished and ready to publish yet. Establish a web presence, support other writers, join online groups in your subject area, start a blog and link to others.

Once your book is available – keep publishing!

  • Place articles on your book topic.
  • Ask journals, newspapers, websites and blogs for reviews.
  • Offer to write “guest blogs.”
  • Review others’ books, adding your book sales link in your reviewer’s biography.
  • Send press releases to TV, radio and newspapers.
  • Build a social media following with blogs and newsletters.
  • Maintain a Facebook author’s page
  • Build a website featuring links to book sale page

Do in person appearances

  • Book shops – offer to do readings
  • Museum gift shops – offer to do readings
  • Book fairs / festivals – offer to speak, offer to volunteer in a booth
  • Writing Conferences – offer to speak, do readings
  • Do Instagram or book blogger interviews

Consider these actions an investment in your writing career. Some things cost money, but most are just the investment of time and effort to build your audience.

Always thank readers who reach out to you. Send personal thanks, and don’t be too shy to ask for a review or recommendation.

Finally, Linda Wisniewski advises you to stay in touch with your audience via: email, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon and Goodreads!

We closed October’s meeting with a reminder that the Journal’s deadline is October 31st for your submission of a story, essay, memoir or poem on the theme of Revenge: Sought or Untaken.

Click here for our Submission Guidelines.

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.

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”

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.

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!