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

 


 

2020 Update on Guild and Writing Center Press

By Anne K. Kaler

So you thought that we were celebrating and/or napping over the holidays . . . but here is an update of our most recent accomplishments at Pearl S. Buck Writing Center.

The Writing Center Press is proud to announce the publication of two important books this November, both memoirs/autobiographies worth reading: Continue reading “2020 Update on Guild and Writing Center Press”

October Writers Guild Wrap-up

by Linda Donaldson

We began our October Writers Guild sharing correspondence from member Joel Mendez with greetings and kudos to the writers represented in our most recent Literary Journal issue. Joel, who has relocated to Singapore, is still writing and planning to submit to the next issue of the Journal, the deadline for which is November 30, 2019. The theme for that issue is Visions.

Nine selections were shared from our group of Writers Guild members at our October meeting. A wide spectrum of genres, welcome new voices and tremendous feedback from our members. Continue reading “October Writers Guild Wrap-up”

Writers Guild September Meeting Recap

By Linda Donaldson

Our September Writers Guild met on Sunday the 15th. We had eight selections to read aloud for comments. There were novel excerpts, short stories, memoirs, and an essay.

Melissa Triol shared a chapter of her novel set in France after WWI in a military graveyard. Great dialogue shows the humanity of a soldier saying farewell to a lost brother. This chapter introduces the lead characters’ first meeting. The selection of the characters’ names was praised. Discussion evolved over of whether a woman slapping a face would use her palm or the back of her hand. Continue reading “Writers Guild September Meeting Recap”

Writers Guild August Meeting

By Linda Donaldson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July Guild Meeting Recap

By Linda Donaldson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writers Guild News

By Linda Donaldson

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

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

Writers Guild March Recap, New April Date

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fall 2018 ♦ Volume 3, Number 2

Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal

 There are 20 contributions to this Fall issue of the 2018 Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal. The theme of this issue is Transformation. Submissions include essays, memoirs, poems, short stories, and an excerpt from a novel.

Our thanks to authors Dr. Anne K. Kaler, Sandra Carey Cody, David H. Werrett, Jane Bleam, Paul Teese, Joseph A. Vitella, John McCabe, Susan E. Wagner, Joel Mendez, Kat Cerruti, Meredith Betz, Linda Wisniewski, Archana Kokroo, and Bob McCrillis.

Anne K. Kaler, PhD
Professor of English Emerita
Gwynedd Mercy University

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

Transformation

An Essay by Anne K. Kaler, PSBVA

Shadows

A Short Story by Sandra Carey Cody

Sunflowers

A Poem by David H. Werrett

The Baby Squirrels

A Memoir by Jane Bleam

The Naming Project

A Short Story by Paul Teese

Jake Meets Nick Rossi

An Excerpt from a Novel
by Joseph A. Vitella

Sidewalk Sanctification

A Short Story by John McCabe

The Woman Who Bound Pain to Her Bones

A Poem by Susan E. Wagner

An Hour and Forty Minutes

A Short Story by Joel Mendez

From Walking Under Trees

A Poem by John McCabe

Father and Daughter

A Short Story by Susan E. Wagner

Mary Gertrude and the Alligator

A Short Story by Anne K. Kaler

Daddy’s Little Princess

A Memoir by Jane Bleam

A Lesson Learned

A Memoir by Kat CerRuti

White Gloves

A Memoir by Meredith Betz

Lake in the Woods

A Short Story by Linda Wisniewski

Transformations

A Short Story by Archana Kokroo

# Me Too?

A Short Story by Bob McCrillis

Swimming Lessons

A Short Story by David H. Werrett

Other People’s Shoes

A Short Story by Meredith Betz

October Guild Meeting Notes Plus Sneak Peek

By Linda Donaldson

Nearly every attendee to our October Writers Guild meeting brought writing selections to share. All told there were 11 different authors’ works read aloud, and some brought two works. Such a rich array of literary work kept us well past the two hour mark.

We welcomed a new member Archana Kokroo whose first poems proved conclusively that she has much to offer. Other member who contributed were: Melissa Triol, Jane Bleam, Dave Werrett, John McCabe, Bob McCrillis, Paul Teese, Meredith Betz, Kat Cerutti, Joe Vitella and Linda Donaldson. Continue reading “October Guild Meeting Notes Plus Sneak Peek”