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.

September Guild Meeting Recap

By Linda Donaldson

Cindy Louden, our Zoom moderator welcomed published author Sandra Carey Cody to our September Writers Guild meeting. She has been a presenter at Pearl S. Buck Writing Center’s workshops. Visit her at her website http://www.sandracareycody.com/home.html to learn more about her writings.

Our first discussion was about Show Me the Way by Karen Edwards. Readers pointed out Karen’s ability to find just the perfect phrase to paint her characters’ traits, and her innermost feelings. Suggestions included noting tense changes, adding more dialogue, and expanding interaction between brothers. Continue reading “September Guild Meeting Recap”

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.

Writing Center Announces 2021 Programs

By Cynthia L. Louden

The Pearl S. Buck Writing Center began in 2010 under the title of Writing at a Writer’s House.  Our purpose is to respectfully continue the successful writing partnership and networking of Pearl S. Buck and her husband, Richard Walsh. Public information about the center is available at www.pearlsbuck.org/writingcenter. Interest quickly grew into the many activities offered by the Writing Center today. The PSB Writing Center has served approximately 500 people through its workshops and published 17 books through its WCP/Writing Center Press, continuing the writing legacy of Pearl S. Buck, with writers writing at a Writer’s House.

Are you an aspiring or an already-published writer?  Do you know someone who is?  Do you have a manuscript or an idea for a novel or story?  Then sign up for the writing events at the Pearl S. Buck Writing Center!  Mark your February & March calendars to attend a Zoom Writing webinar and “write at a writer’s house” or Zoom Discuss Pearl’s novels and short stories. Continue reading “Writing Center Announces 2021 Programs”

Writing at a Writer’s House

by Linda C. Wisniewski

Published in the March 2020 newsletter of Story Circle Network, http://www.storycircle.org

On weekday afternoons from March to November, writers converge on a 50-acre farm in rural Pennsylvania to work on their memoirs. Since 2010, I have been lucky enough to be their guide in the very spot where Pulitzer and Nobel laureate Pearl S. Buck wrote most of her novels and other works after leaving her childhood home in China in 1935.

Our class meets inside her 1825 barn, now called the Cultural Center, where her family once kept Guernsey cows and hosted Boy Scout, Girl Scout, and 4-H meetings, parties for wounded soldiers during the Second World War and even a temporary kindergarten for the overcrowded local school district. In a large high-ceilinged room that was once a basketball court for her children, my students write at tables with a view of well-tended gardens. Pearl Buck’s portrait hangs larger than life above a stage at one end of the room. Continue reading “Writing at a Writer’s House”

Writers Guild, Literary Journal & Memoir Class

Calling All Writers!

Dump the winter doldrums and join our Writers Guild at Pearl S. Buck’s historic Green Hills Farm, 520 Dublin Road, Perkasie, PA, 18944 this coming Sunday, March 15th at 1pm.

We meet once a month (on the third Sunday from March through October) in the Cultural Center – Red Barn – for two hours of lively discussion as we share and critique our writing work-in-progress. Registration for The Writers Guild is available for our 2020 season now at https://pearlsbuck.org/writing-center/.

Join us and bring a sample [up to 3 pages] of your work to share. In a friendly atmosphere, we encourage, support, and challenge writers to improve whether they are experienced writers or beginners. Continue reading “Writers Guild, Literary Journal & Memoir Class”

Register Now for 2020 Writers Guild & Memoir Classes

In keeping with the literary legacy of Pearl S. Buck, the Pearl S. Buck Writing Center, organized and run by the Pearl S. Buck Volunteer Association, offers Writers Guild monthly meetings and Memoir Writing classes. Both begin in March and are available for registration for our 2020 season now at https://pearlsbuck.org/writing-center/. Here is an outline of each offering. Hope you can join us! Continue reading “Register Now for 2020 Writers Guild & Memoir Classes”

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”

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

Sign Up For Advanced Memoir Classes

Need help telling your own life’s story by structuring work you’ve already written, Linda Wisniewski’s Advanced class in Memoir Writing is designed to fit your needs.

Register here or on the PSBI.org website where courses can be found under the Education tab at the top of the home page. See Linda’s biography at the end of this blog with a link to her website. Continue reading “Sign Up For Advanced Memoir Classes”