August Writers Guild Meeting Recap

By Linda Donaldson

Eight authors’ selections were sent for comments this month at our Zoom meeting. Anne Kaler reminded us that as members of The Writers Guild we all provide a valuable sounding board for each other’s stories and writing techniques. We support and encourage and benefit from the critiques of our writing colleagues. Continue reading “August Writers Guild Meeting Recap”

Writers Guild July Meeting Recap

By Linda Donaldson

We had only 5 selections to review, but discussion was lively and easily filled our two-hour Zoom meeting.

First up was a novel excerpt from Bob McCrillis from a Western romance set in Kansas in 1866. His chapter about the pursuit of kidnappers who abducted a young woman, featured a marshal and a widowed female rancher on their trail. The readers loved the dialogue and the unspoken sexual tension between the two protagonists. Bob’s “scene” as he described it was almost like a screenplay, and many felt they could “envision” the action. Setting descriptions were detailed, but some wished for more info on the characters’ sequence of movements. Continue reading “Writers Guild July Meeting Recap”

Writers Guild June Zoom Meeting Recap

By Linda Donaldson

Three of our eight authors of our June selections had other commitments on Father’s Day. We discussed the five selections and will send our comments via email to the three not present.

Joan Mariotti offered an early chapter in her novel about Vincent, a serial killer. The story starts with John, Vincent’s father at his first days at college. He is poor with no lodging, so he begins his studies and work internship while sleeping in his car. Luckily his professor offers him a place to live in exchange for fixing up her older home. Everyone knowing Joan’s overall theme was looking for horror behind every detail. We were relieved this early story doesn’t involve Vincent yet. Joan’s attention to detail in descriptions was noted, her adept handling of the professor’s colloquial clipped English dialogue, and the seamless way she introduced each new character.

Barbara Seras explained the theme of examining faith that she portrayed in both her original version of Rolling the Beads last month and her updated version was deliberately not denominationally specific. Barbara thought treating the story as a parable would make it more easily accepted by readers. Suggestions included adding more detail, even clearly identifying the women visitors as nuns, would make the story just as meaningful. Barbara’s depiction of the narrator’s longing and regret were palpable. The mother’s character could be expanded, and perhaps the narrator in the later story identified as the girl from earlier vs. the younger visitor. Also, questions arose over whether John was still living at the end of the story.

Adding even more color was the suggestion for Betty’s Trip to the City by Jane Bleam. A sweet and endearing tale of a young sister’s excitement over seeing her college-aged sister come home for Christmas ends with a rescue from near death in a moving car. Readers suggested adding even more sensory information and feelings to her story, perhaps adding food smells, Christmas tree odor, details of the tree angel heirloom and her terror during the car incident.

Melissa Triol fills in what has happened to Eglantine in Paris after locating her beloved’s grave, and then meeting Bernhard again. Readers were captivated by the seamless way through dialogue and setting the scenes Melissa explains what has happened to Eglantine in the meanwhile. The story examines where she is emotionally, when she is brought together with the man who will change her life.

A gentle interaction between adult siblings occurs in Kent’s East by Karen Edwards. In dialogue and a subtle explanation of family dynamics, she sets the stage for a slow unfolding of a now single sister, visiting home after her divorce, interacting with her brother about where she went the night before. Karen built the story to the last line with humor and finesse. Readers wanted more clues to story’s time setting.

David Werrett in Energy Fields gave a profound explanation of staying attuned and sensing responses to our departed loved ones intuitively. His piece ends on a hopeful note of anticipation that one’s physical life may adapt to make room for someone else in the future.

Painting a mesmerizing picture of the contrast of sheer, bleak poverty and staggering wealth, Daphne Freise introduces an unforgettable character in The Perfect Broken Boy. After reading a paragraph, you’ll never get the image of the tiny beggar out of your mind, or the bystanders calmly ignoring him as they transact their trading in gold and jewelry. The sensory details are compelling and the story gripping.

Megan Monforte rewrote her Arizona story with a smoother flow. This newer version alternates sections that occur in the present with those happening on the day her husband died. The suspense builds until the end when all becomes clear. A triumph of the examination of guilt and remorse.

Writers please note, the deadline for our Summer 2021 Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal has been extended to September 30th, 2021. The theme is “Revenge – Sought or Untaken,” so sharpen your writing instruments and put your own twist on this universal theme. Click here for our Submission Guidelines.

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.

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”

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.

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