Friday, February 26, 2016

Tell it slant

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

Writers descend from the line of the bards. Those poets of old who recited, sang, danced the stories of their times. Like the bards, writers capture the “truths” of the world around them through the telling of stories. Whether journalism, fiction, nonfiction, poetry – they don’t invent the truths; they expose them.  But writers do so with finesse, through the cultivation of the written language, choosing words, characters, plots, newsflashes which will best reveal the truths they want considered. 

Emily Dickinson wrote, “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant….”  The work of writers is to create the slant that allows truth to “dazzle gradually.”  Producing a slant first requires writers to slog through the truths to know why and how we want to write.  We ask the question, “What truth is resonating for me as a writer right now?  The resilience of life?  A prejudice, bias, or hurt which exists in the world?  The joy which stems from companionship?

How we decide to reveal, convict or encourage becomes our stories. We consider whether the truth should be told subtly or obviously. We debate the merits of fictional characters through whom the readers can resonate versus straight-forward expression of the truth. We ask if brevity (maybe flash fiction) will win the day or if drawing out the truth over time (a novel) will have more impact.  We ponder which will make our readers more thoughtful: our characters or story repelling or attracting the readers? 

As we rewrite and edit, we remember Emily Dickinson’s truth:  Success in Circuit lies.  We ask, “How can we rewrite this section of dialogue so that it hints at the truth but does not reveal fully – at least not yet?”  We consider whether this is the point in the story where character development is key to draw the reader more completely into the know or whether it should come later.  We debate the merits of the ending as it is written versus a twist. 

Every decision crafts the slant through which we disclose a truth about the world, resulting in that poem, that novel, that essay, that news story.  And every choice yields the satisfaction of knowing that like the bard, we have given our audience something more, something which not only entertains but is another reason for reflection, something which reveals yet another truth.
Paula Castner is a wife, mother of three, and a co-founder of Seven Bridge Writers' Collaborative as well as a freelance writer, playwright, writing and baking workshop facilitator, and drama director. She receives emails at

Registration Now Open For 
Spring Writing Groups

Next session begins the week of March 21, 2016.  Writing groups require preregistration and are filled on a first come, first served basis.  

Commitment to regular attendance is requested. 

Information on the Tuesday AM, Thursday AM or Thursday  PM writing groups, can be found at  

To register:  Email Paula at or call 978-534-9767.  

Friday, February 12, 2016

Seven Bridge Sessions

Writing With Your Whole Self
With Leaf Seligman

Saturday, April 30, 2016
10:00 a.m.  –  4:00 p.m.

The Hall, First Church of Christ, Unitarian,
725 Main Street, Lancaster, Massachusetts

Course Fee $75.00

Preregistration Required (See below)

Craft and revision matter. That’s why so many writing workshops focus on them. But there’s more to great writing. When the energy, voice, imagery, and purpose of the writing reflects the essence and authenticity of the writer, readers engage more fully. Writing becomes more authentic and alive. This workshop builds on a series of prompts designed to engage you with what matters. When your writing reflects what matters to you and captures the essence of that in form and content, it will matter more to readers, as well.

Prerequisites: Both new and seasoned writers welcome.  Pen or pencil and paper or notebook needed.

Leaf Seligman began writing as a child in Tennessee. She graduated from the writing program at the University of New Hampshire, where she taught for thirteen years before pursuing pastoral ministry. A decade later, she happily returned to a writing-centered life in rural New Hampshire. In college, work, community, and prison settings, Seligman engages people with writing as a way to foster authenticity, deepen connection, and explore what matters. In 2011, Bauhan Publishing brought out her collection of Sabbath Meditations, Opening the Window. Leaf blogs at and offers writing guidance at

To preregister for this program, please mail  form (found here) with course fee (check only please, made payable to Seven Bridge Writers’ Collaborative) to: Paula Castner, 55 Fire Road 10, Lancaster, MA, 01523. 
Deadline for sign up, April 17th. 

For more information on this program, or on SBWC, please contact us at, or visit us at for the latest information and events.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Seven Bridge Sessions 

Look Who’s Talking: Exploring Point of View in Fiction
With Hollis Shore

Saturday, February 20, 2016
10:30 a.m.  – 12:30 p.m.
Thayer Memorial Library, Dexter Thayer Room

What if Boo Radley had narrated To Kill A Mockingbird? Could Bilbo have told the epic story of The Lord of the Rings? How would Harry Potter’s story have changed had it been from the megalomaniacal mind of Lord Voldemort.

Who tells the story is the most important choice a writer makes, affecting character, language, plot, mood and atmosphere, theme and meaning, and, of course, the reader.  A fictional narrator is a story’s lens, and the conscience and consistent application of that lens is one of the most complex craft skills for the writer to master.

In this class we will define fictional point of view, look at some masterful (and not so masterful) examples of point of view in fiction, and explore, through readings and exercises, the way fictional perspective works in our own short stories and novels.

Hollis Shore is a co-founder of the Seven Bridge Writers’ Collaborative, a workshop leader, and a writing mentor, and is a graduate of the Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. She was the 2012-2014 Boston Public Library Children’s Writer in Residence, and a winner of the PEN New England Discovery Award for her novel, The Curve of the World, out for submission shortly. Contact her at

An Easy Job

“It was a hell of a night to throw out a baby.” 

You’re hooked, aren’t you? An intriguing opening line, isn’t it?  I wish I had written it.

Someone recently told me that it must be nice to have an “easy” job.  I was startled.  As Ernest Hemmingway said, “There is nothing to writing.  You just sit at the typewriter and bleed.”  Writing is not for the faint-hearted.  It requires patience when writer’s block rears its ugly head, fortitude in the face of rejections, stamina when the writing is going well and you just “have to” continue, and serenity about your ability to bring all that’s swirling around in your head into a cohesive, dynamic story which readers will want to read.

Voltaire, that paragon of philosophy, said, “Writing is the painting of the voice.”  Exactly how does one paint a voice?  A voice is not seen.  It is heard.  And hearing isn’t always accurate.  Remember the first time you heard your voice on someone’s voice mail and were surprised because it didn’t sound like what you hear when you speak?  The speaking voice is sound waves and tone and words and emotion.  A writing voice is all that and more.  When someone paints a picture, they are trying to capture something real and alive, in existence and multi-dimensional, on several levels, onto a medium which is, well, flat, in all the many senses of the word.  When writers write, they are putting into words experiences which are not only myriad but reflective of chosen perspectives and which asks the readers to determine for themselves the accuracy.

To transport a reader into a time and space and setting and story which is not their own but which becomes their reality for that moment – that necessitates hard work.  To engage the reader at the onset and then keep them intrigued throughout – that demands hard work.  The work of both artists and writers requires genius.  And that is not easy.

“It was a hell of a night to throw out a baby,” is how Julia Spencer-Fleming begins her book, In the Bleak Midwinter.  Maybe the muses simply smiled upon her, but more likely days, months, years of continued writing, crumpled papers, deleted lines, revised scenes, moments of inspiration, times of despair led to that genius line.  Is writing easy?  Not by a long shot.  Writing requires the sweating of blood, and if you can’t handle that, find an easier vocation, like being a doctor. 
Paula Castner is a wife, mother of three, and a co-founder of Seven Bridge Writers' Collaborative as well as a freelance writer, playwright, writing and baking workshop facilitator, and drama director. She receives emails at