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.

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”

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.

Guild Notes, 2019 Class Preview and BookFest

By Linda Donaldson

Cindy Louden opened our August Writers Guild meeting opened with a preview of the 2019 Writing Center’s classes with final dates to be announced.

Linda Wisniewski will offer a Beginner’s Memoir series of classes for six weeks in May and June. She will then offer Advanced Memoir classes monthly from June through October.

Pam Varkony, author, speaker and last year’s recipient of the Pearl S. Buck Woman of the Year award, will teach two classes next year: one on essays, op-eds and exposes, and the other on marketing your writing through web and social media. Pam plans to offer each of these two topics at three different times – morning, afternoon and evening – June and July.

Writers Guild meetings will be held next year at 1pm to 3pm on the third Sunday of the month from March through October. Continue reading “Guild Notes, 2019 Class Preview and BookFest”

Writers Guild Meeting Notes

Sunday, July 15 was not just another day.

Once again, the writers of Pearl Buck Writing Center gathered to share, compare and contribute in an exchange of thoughts seldom exhibited in today’s atmospheric angling over petty tiffs.

Aspiring novelists and future masters of the short story seem to magically rise above the tawdry, and so, that Sunday was no exception.

A voice reads. The group listens. Near magic in the air, but also a kind suggestion offered now and then. A visitor would have felt amazed at the exchange of constructive thoughts, never sardonic or dubious comments, were the rule of the day.

The Writers Guild members come as one each month in surroundings of bucolic nature, and perhaps that lends to the success of the session, and  its excitement for intonation, rhyme, the written, yet heard voice, always rising above mere grammar and tired technicality.

We listened as Jane Bleam told of her struggles as a new widow dealing with a rebellious child – balancing hard choices with real love. Suggestions encouraged more dialogue and clarification of the timeline.

The continuing saga of Melissa Triol’s heroine was praised for its pacing and dialogue. Listeners wanted more inclusion of setting in the scene.

On the light side, David Werrett shared a laugh-out-loud recollection of his attempts at flying in his school playground. Commenters wanted to see in print the “sounds” he used to accompany his reading of the adventure.

Jennifer Klepsch brought a chapter that showcased her feisty young heroine Jesse’s experience at an archery range, competing with her more accomplished parents. Several listeners loved Jesse’s self-reliant, yet imaginative personality.

If you are a writer, you missed much. But we missed more. We missed you.

Our next session is August 19th at 1 pm. Try to be there!

June Writers Guild Meeting Summary

By Anne K. Kaler

The June 17th meeting started at 1 pm in the upper area of the red barn. Cindy Louden (chair) and Anne Kaler (instructor) led the meeting where all seven attendees presented their writings which are summarized below.

Notice was given on several new sources for short stories and poems under the BookBaby ads. One of their downloads includes a list from Authors Publish Magazine of 180 journals who accept submissions of poetry and prose. Visit www.authorspublish.com. Continue reading “June Writers Guild Meeting Summary”

August Guild Meeting Update

By Anne K. Kaler

The PSB Writers Guild met on Sunday, August 20, 2017 with nine members present.  The next meeting will be on September 17th from 1:30pm to 3:30pm.

Cindy Louden opened with a welcome to a prospective member Joe Vitella. Continue reading “August Guild Meeting Update”

Fall 2016 ♦ Volume 1, Number 2

Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal

From Gateways to Graves

Seeing the works of Pearl S. Buck through her use of the strong symbol of gateways, our first issue of the PSB Journal centered on that theme from her best known novel The Good Earth. The theme of the second issue of the PSB Journal grew out of that natural cycle of our human existence on this planet. What starts to live must also come to death and, so, the theme became our writings on the Living Earth and the Dying Earth.

Since the Journal is an outreach to continue the awareness of Pearl S. Buck through her life, her literature, and her legacy, we found especial inspiration in two recent events which confirmed Pearl’s resurgence into the literary limelight after years of neglect. Continue reading “Fall 2016 ♦ Volume 1, Number 2”

September Writers Guild Meeting Recap

We bookworms met early in the parking lot for our tailgate book swap. Many prizes headed home with new readers, but, sadly, quite a few ended up in our trunks.

Good news, though! One carton of books related to writing were rescued – to keep on hand for a lending library at future meetings: writing techniques, grammar tips, phrase finders, root word dictionary, screenplay writing, copyright and libel rules, creating characters, writing for children & teenagers, writing science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Our meeting began with the first of seven excerpts brought for reading and discussion. Continue reading “September Writers Guild Meeting Recap”

June 2016 Guild Meeting shared 8 submissions

By Ye Olde Editor,

A sunny day at Green Hills Farm greeted the dozen members of our prolific Writers Guild, who brought eight stories to share! We even received an emailed story from a member who couldn’t attend, but wanted our feedback.

Cindy Louden and I greeted the group and told them that Anne was under the weather, and she would not attend. We reminded everyone to follow our blog, and use the link to submission guidelines for the Fall Issue of the Literary Journal.

Happily for the author, Paul Sullivan is busy promoting his book, The Irishman’s Song. Paul will appear on the radio broadcast of WBCB 1490AM on Saturday, June 25th at noon, during Bristol’s Celtic Days celebration. Tune in to enjoy! Continue reading “June 2016 Guild Meeting shared 8 submissions”