Mindful Journaling Helps Process 2020

By Linda Donaldson

Jude Walsh, author and creativity coach, gave a PSB Writing Center Zoom workshop on “Journaling the Pandemic and Its Aftermath” on Tuesday, June 1st that showcased both her writing and coaching skills. Jude guided us through strategies to go beyond simply noting current events, to processing the resulting emotions and challenges.

To counter the overwhelming stress that creates mental and physical symptoms, mindful journaling can calm and clear the mind, release pent up feelings and negative thoughts, rather than simply recording experiences. Continue reading “Mindful Journaling Helps Process 2020”

May Writers Guild Meeting Recap

By Linda Donaldson

Our May 16th Guild Zoom meeting featured nine diverse selections.

Karen Edwards wrote of differing ways of coping with grief on Mother’s Day. Readers praised her descriptions and insights. Many said it reflected their own experiences.

His daydream’s conscription of reality gives the selection from David Werrett special poignancy, emphasizing the compelling desire in us to hold on to good, happy memories.

Barbara Seras gave us the beginning of a longer story about an engaging young girl whose family has newly moved and are visited by local ladies. The father’s exchange about religion with these women made readers eager to hear more of this family’s experiences with faith.

The latest version of her cat adoption story by Jane Bleam was interspersed with the cat’s comments. The cat’s reactions intrigued the readers who encouraged Jane to write the whole story from Kitty-Kitty’s point of view.

Joan Mariotti sparked lots of comments with her story’s unusual title The Ziggelboim. The sweet and imaginative story about finding one’s purpose was unanimously lauded as a sure-to-be successful children’s book.

Introducing a newly minted couple as characters, John McCabe wove a long distance romantic story by telling it from both points of view. We all wanted a different ending, so John satisfied us later that day with a revised and less unresolved conclusion.

Melissa Triol painted a severe scene of WWI battleground trench warfare. Then she followed it with a graphic depiction of the treatment of a German man by a group of British men after the war. Readers marveled at the realistic portrayal from the same author that wrote of the elegant patrician Eglantine.

We missed Megan Monforte at our meeting, but reading her long excerpt was a privilege. The excruciating loss of dignity the title character experiences, as she attempts to navigate life after brain surgery, is powerfully written. I’m sure we all are eagerly awaiting the rest of this woman’s journey.

Daphne Freise was also unable to attend, but her memoir excerpt was electrifying. After describing her father Ivan Fail’s role as a prison guard, she introduces one of the most frightening villains to inhabit the prison system as his antagonist. Talk about suspense!

Be sure to mark your calendar for our June 20th Zoom meeting of the Writers Guild from 1-3pm. Send your files to lindadonaldson@verizon.net  by June 10th and remember to add your email address for comments.

Writing to Heal with John DeDakis

Writing to Heal with John DeDakis
Pearl S. Buck Writing Center Zoom webinar
Monday, July 12, from 7 to 9 p.m.

All of us have — or will — experience the loss of a loved one.  In my case, in addition to the expected deaths of grandparents and parents, I’ve witnessed a car-train collision that killed three people, lost my sister to suicide, and endured the death of my youngest son because of an accidental heroin overdose.

Even though death is a part of life, it need not be crippling or debilitating. In this session, we’ll look at strategies — including journaling and writing — to help you move forward, through, and beyond the pain and into a future that can once again be filled with hope — and even joy.

$50 registration fee (A Zoom link will be sent to registrants prior to webinar.)

To register or for more information, please contact Cindy Louden at 267-421-6203 or clouden@pearlsbuck.org.


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.

Some Thoughts on Revenge

By Linda Donaldson

Your editors have chosen “Revenge – Sought or Untaken” as the theme for the Summer 2021 issue of our Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal. It is a rich topic that sparked a little etymological research for me.

“Revenge” has many evocative synonyms such as vendetta, payback, karma, or comeuppance. It has been described as sweet or a dish best served cold. Colorful phrases such as even the score or out of spite come to mind. Plus, a new one for me, revengineering, the act of orchestrating a revenge plot! Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Revenge”

April Guild Meeting Discussion Featured Seven Selections

By Linda Donaldson

As members joined our Zoom meeting this past Sunday, several discussed the previous day’s PSB webinar about World Building by Donna Galanti.

Bob McCrillis shared that he uses Excel spreadsheets to sort scenes, plot arcs and characters to organize his work in progress. Other methods shared were cutting up, rearranging and taping segments of a manuscript, or laying out pages of sections on a large table.

Our first story, “Vincent” by Joan Mariotti, started with the frightening discovery of a body. Then we were taken back in time to the killer and his victim meeting in college for the first time. Joan really paints her characters vividly and has a great ear for dialogue. Readers noted flashbacks call for careful tense editing.

Continue reading “April Guild Meeting Discussion Featured Seven Selections”

Writers Guild & Webinar News

By Linda Donaldson

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

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

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

Winter 2020-21 ♦ Volume 5, Number 2

Winter 2020-21 ♦ Volume 5, Number 2

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

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

Truth – Tell It Slant

By Anne K. Kaler, Ph.D.

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

– Emily Dickinson

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

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

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

And that’s just the first line.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Table of Contents – Winter 2020-21 Issue

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

My Soul is Local

A Poem by Paul Teese

How the outdoor world feeds the soul.

 Golden Arches

Flash Fiction by Susan E. Wagner

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

Needs Must

A Short Story by Robert Moulthorp

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

 Day 38

A Memoir by Karen Edwards

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

 Naïve

A Poem by David Werrett

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

My Friend Alex

A Memoir by John A. McCabe

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

Sideways

A Poem by Rebecca L. Manoogian

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

 The Slant

A Short Story by Joel Mendez

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

 Doggie Straits

A Poem by Jennifer Klepsch

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

 Lydwyna the Spinster and the Scar

A Short Story by Anne K. Kaler

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

How to Get a Covid Vaccine

A Short Story by Linda C. Wisniewski

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

Sea Glass

A Memoir by Doreen Frick

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

I Call Myself a Writer

A Poem by Karen Edwards

Reasons why the author calls herself a writer.

Why Am I Doing This?

A Memoir by Scott Ocamb

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

Waves

A Short Story by Bob McCrillis

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

Fulfilling My Dream to Help People In Need

A Memoir by Chandra Misra

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

Dead Animal

A Memoir by Scott Ocamb

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

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

Perfect Life

A Short Story by Kelly O’Hara

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

Rain

A Poem by Susan E. Wagner

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

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.

 

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.