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”

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.

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”

Summer 2019 ♦ Volume 4, Number 1

Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal

Secrets

Secrets – one of the first things we learn as children.

The concept of secrets starts with toddlers being shushed by parents for commenting on someone’s weight or color or disability. They get shushed again for repeating something Mommy or Daddy said. “Don’t tell, don’t say that to Daddy, Mommy, neighbors or doctors.”

As we get older, secrets become more complicated and seemingly more necessary in our lives. We even keep secrets from ourselves by refusing to discuss or cope or change. Yet, we hate secrets too. We struggle to decide which ones to keep and which ones to tell. We bemoan this universal human tendency while we embrace the need for it. We excuse the white lies and feel guilty about bigger ones. We all have secrets we don’t want others to know, private and hidden knowledge filled with power. The secrets might amaze or embarrass, betray, shock or harm. We simply don’t know.

So, what do we do?

Recently, our teenage grandson came into my kitchen just as I finished an edit on a poem. Impulsively, I asked if he’d like to read it. Being both polite and kind, he said he would. The poem describes an incident from my childhood which, through the alchemy of writing, was transformed into something new.

“Did this happen to you?” he asked. “Is it real?”

Then, we talked about prose and poetry being a release for emotions, a release for the demons we all carry or a release for secrets we can’t otherwise share. Those things can be put into words on a page where it may touch a chord in a reader. Through the alchemy of writing, I took an incident and made it new, gave it a different life in a poem. He connected to that and I saw the understanding as it began to show on his face.

Like any art, writing allows you to take a thought or emotion and create something new, something that may or may not have anything to do with the original inspiration. We mine our lives for those nuggets we find useful and transform them into art, music, prose, and poetry. My grandson understood that and likened it to his favorite movies and the stories they tell. Since he enjoys art and music, I suggested he try it himself and one day he may.

Often, writing exposes a deeper truth and the secrets that are kept there. In the act of writing, we may reveal something to ourselves, thoughts or feelings we didn’t know we had. From this, we can learn what themes our life follows and what problems occur the most. That is why writing journals is so useful and why bibliotherapy – the use of poetry or prose to explore feelings — works. We literally see ourselves in words.

Conversely, writing hides secrets in plots or images, which wait to be found by the reader.  That is why mysteries are so popular – we don’t know something, so we need clues to help us find the secret. There’s a reason Law and Order was so popular for so many years. We like knowing secrets, even those of fictional characters. It gives us satisfaction.

Biographies and memoirs reveal the secrets of someone’s life, which can be endlessly fascinating. Even self-help books reveal secrets – Learn to cook creatively! Be a better person! Learn the secret of weight loss!

We chose Secrets as a theme for this issue of the journal because there is something deeply human about them, something that brings out emotions of every sort. It is universally interesting and it inspires all kinds of writing. We have a little bit of everything in this issue, a variety well worth exploring.

So, come – visit our secrets.

Susan E. Wagner
Editor, PSB Literary Journal

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

Bike Ride

A Poem by Susan E. Wagner

A Sea of a Thousand Shalt Nots

A Memoir by Meredith Betz

A Moment

A Novel Excerpt by Melissa Triol

In the Time of

A Poem by Elizabeth Esris

Secrets – A Play in Four Scenes

A Play by David H. Werrett

The Secret of the Double Knot

A Poem by Anne K. Kaler, PSBVA

Whose Secret Is It?

A Memoir by Linda C. Wisniewski

Secrets Beyond the Windowsills

A Poem by John A. McCabe

Poetry in Brief

An Essay by Susan E. Wagner

In the Garden of the Lost and Found

A Short Story by Meredith Betz

Harry’s Hobby Shop

A Memoir by Fred W. Donaldson

Lost Generation

A Poem by Elizabeth Esris

Winter Roses

A Short Story by Paul Sullivan

Cereal Killers

A Mystery by Ann Nonymous

Ogallala Memories

A Short Story by Bob McCrillis

His Footsteps

A Poem by David H. Werrett

A Women’s Tale

A Short Story by Susan E. Wagner

Nevada’s Light Brigade: A Top Secret Clearance

A Novel Excerpt by John A. McCabe

Keeper of Secrets

A Short Story by Paul Teese

Secretes Continuum

A Memoir by Ronald Scott Price

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 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