Audience Building Tips and October Meeting Recap

By Linda Donaldson

Cindy Louden opened our October Zoom meeting by welcoming a prospective member visitor Marjorie Brans who joined us from Alaska. Cindy invited us all to introduce ourselves and say a little about our writing.

Sandy Carey Cody talked about her published novels. Karen Edwards spoke about her memoir stories and plans for more fiction writing. Jane Bleam, who has shared stories about her leg injury, happily reported her full recovery (after 10 months of rehab) to universal applause.

Marjorie shared that during a trip to her grandmother’s home she discovered part of her memoirs. She plans to seek the balance of those papers on another trip. Listeners all heard the pages turning and can’t wait to hear what Marjorie does with them.

I spoke of the Writers Guild founded by Dr. Anne K. Kaler and Cindy Loudon. Along with editor Susan E. Wagner they attended birth of the Pearl S. Buck Writing Center Press now proudly boasting 17 books in print. From those endeavors sprang our Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal on our blog at www.psbwriting.org.

This month’s selection for discussion was the Epilogue to the upcoming novel by John McCabe about the atomic bomb explosions in Japan and the US Army’s nuclear testing exposing US soldiers in the 1960s.

Readers were moved by his character’s decision to ditch his Power Point and speak from the heart concerning the need to detonate atomic bombs in Japan. Commenters asked for more sensory examples of how the speaker’s nervousness manifested itself, and how the non-agreeing audience telegraphed their discomfort with his expressed opinions about nuclear testing.

At 2pm Cindy welcomed Linda Wisniewski who related the genesis of her recent novel Where the Stork Flies. Linda teaches Memoir Writing classes at the Pearl S. Buck Writing Center, currently on Zoom.

Linda told how the germ of idea for her novel was planted by her genealogical research into her family tree. This endeavor brought her to an ancestor Regina, born in 1778, who had 11 children. Regina lived in a Polish village which was on land owned by a nobleman. Families farmed and kept livestock, turning over most of their harvest and keeping a portion for themselves.

As Linda began to imagine Regina’s life, she traveled on a Roads Scholars trip to Poland to research the area. She visited an outdoor museum, a “Skansen,” that recreated life in an 18th & 19th century village with houses, tools and farm animals.

As the story began to take shape, Linda knew her protagonist would need to do a lot of research, so she fashioned her as a librarian, a career Linda herself enjoyed for many years. In the book, Kat the librarian discovers an 18th century Polish woman named Regina in her kitchen! Both become distressed due to their language barrier and seek a translator.

Regina tells of praying to the Black Madonna of Czestochowa at a roadside shrine in 1825 and finding herself in 21st century Doylestown. This time portal doesn’t seem to work backwards, so the women bond together in a search for answers to the path back in time.

Linda said she found a common thread in these two women’s lives – their strength and love for children – which made writing easier. She set out to contrast the two worlds but found the real story in the modern woman’s quest for her “best self.”

Linda plans to write two more novels – a trilogy – with the same characters but from different viewpoints. This first was from Kat’s, the next will be Regina, and the last the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. Brava!

To finish our meeting Linda presented a power point entitled “Be a Bridge to Your Reader.”

Standing on a soapbox and shouting your message can leave your book one of millions in the wilderness of the internet. However, building bridges in person and online can connect you with potential readers.

Linda’s practical, easy-to-follow steps outline strategies to not only sell books, but create networks of other authors, local bookstores, media contacts and book clubs.

Identify your readers. Look for Facebook groups, podcasts, ethnic associations and clubs.

Contacts can be made even if you’re not finished and ready to publish yet. Establish a web presence, support other writers, join online groups in your subject area, start a blog and link to others.

Once your book is available – keep publishing!

  • Place articles on your book topic.
  • Ask journals, newspapers, websites and blogs for reviews.
  • Offer to write “guest blogs.”
  • Review others’ books, adding your book sales link in your reviewer’s biography.
  • Send press releases to TV, radio and newspapers.
  • Build a social media following with blogs and newsletters.
  • Maintain a Facebook author’s page
  • Build a website featuring links to book sale page

Do in person appearances

  • Book shops – offer to do readings
  • Museum gift shops – offer to do readings
  • Book fairs / festivals – offer to speak, offer to volunteer in a booth
  • Writing Conferences – offer to speak, do readings
  • Do Instagram or book blogger interviews

Consider these actions an investment in your writing career. Some things cost money, but most are just the investment of time and effort to build your audience.

Always thank readers who reach out to you. Send personal thanks, and don’t be too shy to ask for a review or recommendation.

Finally, Linda Wisniewski advises you to stay in touch with your audience via: email, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon and Goodreads!

We closed October’s meeting with a reminder that the Journal’s deadline is October 31st for your submission of a story, essay, memoir or poem on the theme of Revenge: Sought or Untaken.

Click here for our Submission Guidelines.

Some Thoughts on Revenge

By Linda Donaldson

Your editors have chosen “Revenge – Sought or Untaken” as the theme for the Summer 2021 issue of our Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal. It is a rich topic that sparked a little etymological research for me.

“Revenge” has many evocative synonyms such as vendetta, payback, karma, or comeuppance. It has been described as sweet or a dish best served cold. Colorful phrases such as even the score or out of spite come to mind. Plus, a new one for me, revengineering, the act of orchestrating a revenge plot! Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Revenge”

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.

Journal Deadline Extension

By Susan E. Wagner

Roy H. Williams, in The Monday Morning Memo of February 11, 2019, writes how Margaret Atwood believes the story might have opened, “It was dark inside the wolf.” Williams goes on to analyze this in his piece, without telling us the title of the story she is speaking about.

It’s a good example of “tell it slant,” a story told in a different way, that slowly reveals truth.

The image of being inside the wolf, slowly gives us the who and why. In this case, the truth is a grandmother gets eaten, Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.

This year’s reporting on COVID-19 has probably been examined for truth more than any reporting ever has in this country. Truth is told in different angles in different ways, that will eventually end with something as close to the truth as we can get. We see the story slanted, though the ending is unknown.

Whether you prefer memoir, fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, we want your slant on some aspect of truth that inspires you, worries you, frightens you, or pleases you. This has been a year unlike any other in many ways and we are nearly at the end of it, the year, if not the story. Take a look back. See if there’s a truth you can give us in any form.

We are accepting submissions to our Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal, Vol. 5 No. 2 Winter 2020-21 until January 15, 2021. We would like to see yours.

Click here for our submission guidelines.

Writing “In Place”

By Linda Donaldson

Just to let you know, the Pearl S. Buck home and facilities are still closed until further notice. Your editors hope to offer a two meeting per month schedule for the rest of this season once health guidelines allow for it. We will keep you informed through this blog.

Continue reading “Writing “In Place””

March Writers Guild Meeting Cancelled

Dear Writers Guild Members,

The decision was just announced that the Pearl S. Buck house and gift shop are closing for the remainder of the month of March. We will be cancelling our March Writers Guild meeting that was to have occurred this Sunday at 1pm.

We will post to this blog, in advance of our scheduled April 19th meeting, to keep you informed.

Stay well and safe, and keep writing!

Your Editors,

Anne Kaler, Cindy Louden, Sue Wagner and Linda Donaldson

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

A Burst of Life

By Susan E. Wagner

We’ve all seen grenades explode on television or in the movies. It’s dramatic. It can make changes in a story and in real life.

Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem, Grenade, provides a vivid visual to the reader. A Vietnam veteran, who served in the army as a reporter during the war, Komunyakaa’s complex and powerful poem caused an immediate physical and emotional reaction in me.

The Vietnam War defined my entire childhood. It was on the news every night and in every Sunday newspaper. From sixth grade on, we discussed it in school. It was almost always our current events.

So, when I felt such a powerful reaction, I knew I needed to dig deeper. Everyday, I reread the poem. Because the imagery is so concrete, I took from individual words, phrases or a sentence, to jumpstart my daily journal writing. Continue reading “A Burst of Life”

Just Another Day of Adventure

By Susan Wagner

I’m a bit irritated today at the dreariness of winter. I can’t run off to a completely secluded life on a warm island somewhere. Damn. Instead, I plan to run into writing and see where that takes me.

Writing in my childhood, I wrote about small things or things I imagined. I read a lot of Greek and Roman mythology. So, sometimes I wrote characters or stories set in that time period. It was a lot more interesting living there in that story than on an old farm.

I branched out to natural wonders – mostly mountains and woods. This was due to seeing the movie, Heidi, and having miles of woods behind our property. To this day, I love mountains. I love woods. Continue reading “Just Another Day of Adventure”

The Road Not Taken

By Susan Wagner

My first experience with analyzing poetry came in my eighth-grade English class. One of the poems we discussed was “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost. I clearly remember writing about how choices define a life – heady stuff for a young teen.

Flash forward to a recent day when this memory popped into my head during my journal writing. So, naturally, I do what millions of other people do – I jump immediately onto the internet. I justify this interruption of journal time with the thought that it would be interesting to see how I feel about the poem now and how that would compare to what my younger self believed.

By phone, I visit the Poetry Foundation website to read the poem. The site is easy to use and also gives you short author biographies. I read the poem and I discover it has a Poem Guide, written by Katherine Robinson. I read that too. Continue reading “The Road Not Taken”