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

 


 

Literary Journal Deadline Extended to May 29th

When we do finally return to work, visiting family and some semblance of “everyday life,” we writers will doubtless see our writing time diminish.

Take advantage of the next few weeks to submit a story or poem on the subject of Visions to our Summer 2020 issue of the Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal. We have extended our deadline to May 29th. Click here for a link to our Submission Guidelines.

Keep Writing!

Vision vs. Envision

By Linda Donaldson

To watch, observe or record visually, we all exercise our basic capacity to see. By contrast, to imagine, perceive or conjure the presence of something exhibits our capacity to envision.  Many might say that anyone with eyesight can see the world around themselves every day and even capture it in photographs.

Facebook is flooded with selfies and shared images of life’s most basic celebrations – weddings, birthdays, graduations, retirements, anniversaries, engagements, reunions. Many posts feature the antics of children or pets, and humorous cartoons and clever sayings abound. Continue reading “Vision vs. Envision”

Writing “In Place”

By Linda Donaldson

Just to let you know, the Pearl S. Buck home and facilities are still closed until further notice. Your editors hope to offer a two meeting per month schedule for the rest of this season once health guidelines allow for it. We will keep you informed through this blog.

Continue reading “Writing “In Place””

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

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”

Literary Journal Deadline Extended to July 22nd

By Linda Donaldson

Summer is brimming with activities that take us away from our writing. In the interest of including as many submissions as possible to our Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal’s Spring/Summer Vol. 4, No. 1 issue, we are extending our deadline to July 22nd. Click here for a link to our Submission Guidelines. The theme of this issue is Secrets. You know you want to tell one!

 

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!

Want to Know a Secret?

By Anne K. Kaler

“I’d tell you my secrets but then I’d have to kill you.”

                While the above may be a hackneyed phrase from a spy novel, I’ve discovered a sneaky way to reveal secrets while avoiding the “killing” part. My secret about secrets – write them out in fiction, non-fiction, and even poetry.

Take fiction, for example.  Writing your secret is easy when you can disguise it as your creative imagination or sudden insight into the nature of a character.  Who among us is going to challenge you when your writing seems to dwell on mass murders, global epidemics, or the loss of chocolate in the world?  Other writers enjoy your fantasies and think them clever.  They may even envy you without recognizing your secret any more than their readers recognize their own well-kept secrets.

Pshaw! Under every tale lies a truth which the writer has experienced or, at least, hoped to experience  –  some lesson learned the hard way, some  humiliating moment, some sly wished-for revenge.  Writers have long claimed innocence by burying the body of a secret in their story plots. Think about that.

Such disposal of secrets, however well hidden, can be excavated later by literary researchers in the biography of an author.  Non-fiction can also be a fertile burying ground for the secrets of others to be exhumed and exposed to a secret-loving audience.  It is much easier to see flaws in others than we can admit to in our own lives. Shakespeare saw this in Mark Anthony’s response to Caesar’s death –

The evil that men do lives after them;

The good is oft interred with their bones;

 – Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2

 

Because poetry lays bare the bones of human frailty, good poetry, perhaps, is the truest guide to revealing private secrets.  In its simplicity, the poetic impulse brushes aside fiction’s feeble disguises to lament the inadequacy of mere words to express the weight of secrets.

Poetry best unveils the suffering human soul.  When poetry is added to music, the intensity of emotion felt is increased.  For an example, read Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm” and then listen to it put to music.  Or read the Psalm “The Lord is my Shepherd” and then listen to a choir sing one of its musical versions.  Notice the different intensities.

Still, some secrets lie too deep in our hearts and brains ever to be shared.  Those are best recorded in journals which remain private.  Remember the fable of the man who was told a secret by his king but was forbidden to reveal it.  He had to run out into the garden, dig a hole, and shout the secret down into the earth, lest he let it slip through his lips.

Use your good judgment with your secrets in journals and diaries. Arrange to have your journals burnt upon your death.  Do not, as happened to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, have your secret poems buried with you, only to have your husband dig up your grave to retrieve them.  Too gauche and Victorian.

Spring encourages the long dormant seeds and roots to rise toward the returning sun.  Writers, like us, use the winter burial of our talents to rest and revisit our secrets.  We bring forth new growth from old seeds and roots to blossom forth.  If some of those blossoms hint at a hidden message, a secret or two, so be it.  All human creativity energizes the earth and the living creatures dependent on that energy to survive.

Now you realize that this entire blog has been a sneaky way of introducing our theme for the Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal’s Spring/Summer Issue: SECRETS.  So, now that you see your goal and a path to it, start writing so that our editors can choose the juiciest secrets for our readers to enjoy!

We welcome your entries for our literary online journal by May 31st.  Please click here for our submission guidelines.