Publishing 101, or Be Prepared to Publish

By Susan E. Wagner

Before you begin to look for publishers, determine the category of your work. Not only do publishers want to see that you have some awareness of the markets, but they also categorize their own services into types and subtypes. Literary agents do the same.

The first step is understanding the differences between “literary” and “commercial” work. You can check articles like the two below if you’re unsure. They are general guidelines and some publishers are more particular than others in following the guidelines. Continue reading “Publishing 101, or Be Prepared to Publish”

Recap of March Writers Guild Meeting

By Linda Donaldson

Rarely has one Zoom meeting woven so many threads together from our shared life experiences as did the March meeting of our Writers Guild. We explored the stories and how they impacted us, while discussing the selections provided by our writers for critique.

Cindy Louden started off introductions by sharing the origins of the Writing Center at Pearl S. Buck, the brainchild of Anne Kaler and herself, two retired educators volunteering at PSB. It seemed to them that the home of a famous writer should have programs celebrating the collaboration between Buck and her editor husband, Richard Walsh.

In 2010, they began the Writing Center, which has evolved to include the Guild, workshops and classes on all forms of writing, our online blog and the biannual PSB Literary Journal. And lastly, the Writing Center Press which evolved naturally, offers assistance in self-publishing. Currently WCP can boast 17 softcover books in many genres: memoir, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plus two children’s books.

The other members in turn gave a short bio with info on any writing projects in progress. Two new members each revealed that they both served in the Peace Corps, one in Liberia and another in Ukraine.

The themes of war, nuclear bombs and fallout dominated three of the six stories: Prologue by John A. McCabe (from his new book The Girl from Japan, A Soldier’s Story), Chapter One (A Memoir) by Richard Fitzgerald, and The Mushrooms of August by Anne K. Kaler.

Loss and the effects of grief were examined in Arm in Arm in Walmart by Karen Edwards. Native American history and archaeology featured in Hidden Treasures by Jane Bleam.  Finally, a novel excerpt that meshed a film noir-style detective story with a memorable cast of quirky fantasy characters in Hard-Boiled Dragon by Bob McCrillis added much needed comic relief.

Our next Zoom meeting is Sunday, April 24th from 1-3pm (one week later than usual due to the 17th being Easter Sunday). Links are sent out in advance to all registered members of the Writers Guild. To register, contact Cindy Louden at clouden@pearlsbuck.org and give your name, address, Cell phone number and Email address. You will be called for your Credit Card information.

Follow this blog and you will receive an email notification of each post to the blog. Keep writing!

Poem by Susan E. Wagner Nominated for Rhysling Award

By Editors of the PSB Writing Center

We are excited to share the news of Susan E. Wagner’s nomination for a Rhysling Award for her poem, Pa and the Devil, which was published online by Aphelion: The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Click here for a link to the poem.

The Rhysling Award is given by the Science Fiction Poetry Association and the poems are featured in their yearly anthology. We wish Sue the best of luck!

In her announcement to her fellow Pearl S. Buck Writing Center editors, Sue said, “I never thought I’d write a science fiction/fantasy poem, let alone get nominated for an award! Thank you all for your support throughout my writing journey. It’s great to share the happy news.”

To learn more about Sue’s books and her writing coaching services, visit her website.

2022 Writers Guild Zoom Meeting Calendar

The Pearl S. Buck Writing Center’s Writers Guild will zoom meet on the 3rd Sundays monthly from March 20th through October 16th, from 1-3 pm to share and critique our writing work-in-progress.

In a friendly atmosphere, we encourage, support and challenge our adult writers to improve, whether they are experienced writers or beginners. All genres of literature are welcome from novels and short fiction to memoirs, essays and poetry by all levels of writers.

$80 Registration to cover 8 sessions is required. To register for the Writers Guild, contact Cindy Louden at clouden@pearlsbuck.org and give your Name, Address, Cell Phone number & Email address. You will be called for your Credit Card information.

March 20      1-3pm

April 24         1-3pm

May 15          1-3pm

June 26          1-3pm [Note: 4th Sun/because of Father’s Day]

July 17           1-3pm

Aug 21           1-3pm

Sept 18          1-3pm

Oct 16            1-3pm

Registered Guild members must send writings for editing consideration and distribution to lindadonaldson@verizon.net 2 weeks prior to our meetings so all attendees can read and be prepared to discuss. An online link to our Zoom meetings will be sent prior to each meeting.

Visit our blog at www.psbwritingcenter.org and become a follower – it’s free! – and you’ll receive an email notification of any new blog posts. Many past issues of our Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal – containing writing in a wide variety of genres – can also be accessed from our blog.

On behalf of all the editors, we welcome your participation and look forward to meeting you this Spring at our March 20th Zoom meeting from 1-3pm. 

Keep writing! The Writers Guild Editors:

Cynthia L. Louden – cllouden@verizon.net

Dr. Anne K. Kaler – akkaler@verizon.net

Susan E. Wagner – swagner001@gmail.com

Linda Donaldson – lindadonaldson@verizon.net

Winter 2021 ♦ Volume 6, Number 2

This Winter Issue of the Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal
includes 11 selections on the theme of Revenge – Sought or Untaken
in genres ranging from short story to memoir and poetry.

Following the introduction by Susan E. Wagner
is a table of contents with links to each selection.

Revenge

By Susan E. Wagner

The process of choosing a theme for a journal issue is entirely subjective. This time we wanted something darker and a little bit out of our comfort zone but still large enough to inspire writers. Revenge met our criteria.

Revenge is as old as humanity. It has been illustrated in ancient pictographs and told in ancient tales. Religion and civilizations are full of such stories and the resulting fall-out of acts of revenge. From Homer’s The Iliad to Stephen King’s Carrie, tales of revenge have grabbed our imaginations and seized our worst dreams. Whether it is a small or large act involving two people or two cultures, people regularly carry out acts of revenge.

While fans of Quentin Tarantino might enjoy the violent acts of revenge in his movies, scientists have discovered the far more complicated psychological responses individuals experience before, during, and after committing acts of even petty revenge. Their data suggests revenge is less sweet and more mentally disturbing. Given the complexity of individual personalities, the types, severity, and acts of vengeance are endlessly inventive, making it one of literature’s great themes. It’s no wonder that religion and ethics teach restraint, given the destructive potential of revenge. But it does make for great stories and exciting writing.

Some say that revenge is best served cold; others say that the revenger should dig two graves, one for the victim and the other for the revenger himself.  Some others see revenge as the rough justice of a troubled mind.  Some consider revenge the Eighth Deadly Sin.

Still, as writers, we hope you enjoy the diverse voices in this issue of the journal and their interpretations of Revenge.

Table of Contents – Winter 2021 Issue

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

Better Enjoyed Cold

A Short Story by Bob McCrillis

The Enchanted Forest

A Short Story by Susan E. Wagner

Either Here or There

A Poem by John McCabe

The Hitman’s Protégé  

A Memoir by Daphne Freise

 Battle for the Forgotten Isle

A Short Story by Jennifer Klepsch

A Woman’s Charms

A Short Story by Anne K. Kaler

The Breach

A Short Story by Joel Mendez

My Discovery

A Memoir by Karen Edwards

High in a Castle

A Poem by Abby Mendez

Captain Predator

A Memoir by Daphne Freise

Mateo and Perla

A Short Story by Susan E. Wagner

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.

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.

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.