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Pagoda Writers Circle

Encouragement and Inspiration

Past Events (2018)

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John Yamrus

Saturday, January 6, 2018 at 1:00 pm

John Yamrus on Memory Lane - Jan 6

Poet/writer John Yamrus discussed his nearly 50 years as a writer, and why in his latest book he had decided to finally take his readers on a walk down Memory Lane in a short memoir that chronicles his days spent growing up in a coal mining family in Wilkes-Barre, Pa, in the 1950s.

Here is a review by Wayne F. Burke about Memory Lane: "This beautifully written memoir is also a meditation and consideration of the power of memory to evoke and its tendency to falsify, or lie. The unreliability of memory is as much subject as the life the memoir describes--and what a life! At a distance of sixty years Yamrus manages, through language, to convey the sense of incredulity and innocence felt by a child growing up poor in a Pennsylvania coal-town in America in the 1950's. In a voice beguiling, and disarming, and reminiscent in its authentic-sounding originality to that of William Saroyan's, Yamrus admits to his inadequacy to recreate, on paper, a childhood, and his capacity to dis-remember, yet plunges ahead, making us, the readers, sort of co-conspirators along the way... This is a tribute to the writing. This memoir-in-the-making, is high art. The details Yamrus chooses--his Uncle's missing "pointer finger," his grandmother's "clunky black shoes...with block heels," the way his father wore a baseball cap "slung off to the side," give verisimilitude, which, coupled with the stylish, and no doubt hard-earned craft of the prose, make "Memory Lane" memorable indeed.

Since 1970 John Yamrus ( has published 26 volumes of poetry and 2 novels. He has also had nearly 2,000 poems published in print magazines around the world. Selections of his poetry have been translated into several languages, including Spanish, Swedish, French, Japanese, Italian, Romanian, Albanian and Bengali. His poetry is regularly taught in colleges and universities. His newest book, MEMORY LANE, a memoir looking back at his childhood growing up in a Pennsylvania coal mining community, is a highly anticipated addition to his published work.

Saturday, February 3, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Heather Christie

Heather Christie on From Pen and Paper to Book Deal: My Writer's Journey - Feb 3

Heather gave a talk about her path to publication on her just-launched first novel.

Heather Christie ( is a wife, mother of two teenagers, writer, real estate broker, amateur cook, exercise freak, and avid reader. She holds a BA in Literary Studies from the University of Texas, Dallas and an MFA in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College, Boston, MA. When she's not selling houses, she's writing books and blogging at Kirkus Reviews calls Heather’s debut novel, What The Valley Knows, “A taut, compelling family tale.” Her work has been published by Writer’s Digest, Scary Mommy, Elephant Journal, Mamapedia, The Good Men Project, Grown & Flown, Baltimore Child,, Bon Bon Break, Her View From Home, the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, Sammichs and Psych Meds, and The Lighter Side of Real Estate. Heather was a member of the 2017 Listen To Your Mother cast.

CJ Rhoads

Saturday, March 3, 2018 at 1:00 pm

CJ Rhoads on The Business Side of Publishing and Getting Paid - March 3

Everything you always wanted to know about agents, publishers, copyrights, licensing, publishing, printing costs, ISBN's, e-books, publishing platforms, subscription sales, and more. This workshop was an overview of CJ's journey, including everything anyone should know about the business side of writing, printing, publishing, and getting paid for your writing. Whether you are an already-published author who wants to get up to date on all the recent changes in the world of publishing or a budding author who has yet to write your first book, this was definitely one of those workshops that will inspire.

CJ Rhoads ( is a multi-dimensional, multi-faceted dynamo. She is a successful entrepreneur of multiple companies, a hardworking volunteer for non-profits, and a professor of business at Kutztown University. One of the many projects she has been working on for several years (but is still not yet ready to fully launch) is a way to help budding authors who need just a little bit a help, for not a lot of money, to publish their books. She sees the needs because she has experienced them all over the past 15 years as her 9 books got published. Agents, publishers, contracts, self-publishing, printers, hardback books, softback books, e-books: you name it, she's experienced it, and now she will share her experiences with you.

Saturday, April 7, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Joseph Szimhart

Joseph Szimhart on Memoirs: The limits of experience recalled and expressed - Apr 7

Joseph is in midst of rewriting a memoir of his career as a cult interventionist and how he got into that strange line of work. He finished a 400-page manuscript ten years ago, but no publisher would accept it. We went over goals and what we should avoid when writing a memoir.

Joseph Szimhart ( is an Artist, published author, mental health worker, and cult information consultant. He has had an art studio at Goggleworks in Reading since 2011 and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

Joseph has also worked as a Crisis Intake Caseworker at Montgomery County Emergency Services since 2000. He also worked as a cult interventionist, consultant, and lecturer since 1980. Joseph has had many media appearances, research and opinion articles and book reviews published in professional journals and books on cults.

Joseph has written a novel: Mushroom Satori: The Cult Diary published in 2013 by Aperture Press in Reading, PA and has an undergraduate degree in Arts and Sciences from the University of Dayton. His writing and art has been featured in the cover story in ICSA Today magazine, 2017: “Retribing the Planet: Shamanism Repurposed for Modern Times” (International Cultic Studies Magazine, Vol. 8: No. 2)

Dave Kline

Saturday, May 5, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Dave Kline on The Life and Times of Mountain Mary - May 5

An interactive exploration of Dave’s work to explore and portray the live and times of a woman who was way ahead of her time here in Berks County.

Dave Kline is a business person, musician, composer, entertainer, writer, photographer, traveler and bard who has traveled the world bringing back folkloric tales of traditions, customs and culture. Dave writes, produces and hosts the award-winning, weekly Mountain Folk radio and web show that is herd on terrestrial radio stations in the USA, as well as internationally via satellite and Inet networks, including Apple iTunes and PlanetBluegrass Network. Dave writes the weekly Mountain Folklore column for Berks County Magazine in the Reading Eagle newspaper, has written and taken photographs for other publications such as Pennsylvania magazine and is an experienced mountain guide with more than 50 trips to the alps and beyond to his credit.

Garrett Robinson

Saturday, June 9, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Garrett Robinson on Bringing Literature to Life - June 9

Writing is an invaluable tool for self-development. It is an exercise in organizing our experiences, both real and imaginary, through language. However, writing is also a means of communication and communication necessitates an audience. Garrett Buhl Robinson described his adventures in his attempts to reach the public. His presentation included excerpts from his performance works adapted directly from his books. Through this, he revealed ways to engage, entertain, enrich and inspire the public through the literary arts.

Garrett Buhl Robinson ( left his home town in Alabama by jumping on a coal train in 1992. For over 25 years, he has been wandering around the country, supporting himself with various jobs while studying intensely and writing prolifically. In 2012, he began marketing his books and performing his works directly to the public in Manhattan. In 2015, he made his Off-Broadway debut performing his solo musical, Letters to Zoey, which he adapted from his second novel, Zoë. In 2017, he published his 5th book of poetry – Fortune. His website is:                      

Marcia Rowe


Saturday, July 14, 2018 at 1:00 pm


Marcia Rowe on The Three Keys to Contentment

We learned about the Emotional Locks that keep us from living a peaceful life and the Spiritual Keys… Forgiveness, Gratitude and Faith that open the way to contentment. Marcia talked about how her own spiritual journey led to these concepts. She offered an opportunity to explore them for ourselves through writing, sharing and breathing practices.

Marcia Rowe designed, illustrated and wrote The Three Keys to Contentment. She has focused her life on creating beauty in many forms. She received BFA from Moore College of Art, and is a fine artist, muralist and graphic designer. Marcia lives in Berks County


Saturday, August 04, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Michael Miller

Michael Miller on Collaborative Public Art in the Reading Community

Description of Michael Miller will describe several of the public art projects he has helped to coordinate in the Greater Reading area, focusing on works that feature writing or text in their process. His current project, The West Reading Museum of Temporary Art and Personal Histories, is an installation combining storytelling and site specific artwork. This project will feature the art of more than one hundred artists from around the world.

Michael L. Miller earned his Master’s Degree in Fine Art from the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. After showing his own artwork for several years in the Philadelphia area, he became interested in community-based art. This interest stemmed from the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia. Over the past 15 years, he has created collaborative murals together with hundreds of people and many community organizations in the greater Reading area. He is currently an art teacher in the Wyomissing Area School District.


Brian Engelhardt

Brian Engelhardt on The Writing and Publication of Reading’s "Big League Exhibition Games"

Brian discussed how Reading’s Big League Exhibition Games evolved from research in response to an inquiry by a fellow at his gym about an exhibition game played at George Field in 1946 between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Bowers Battery team, to an article published in the Historical Review of Berks County (HRBC to those in the know), to a project for a display at an annual Society for American Baseball Research (SABR to those in the know) convention, to becoming a book as a result of favorable response to the SABR project and the HRBC article. He will discussed various issues, challenges, and experiences he encountered in the creation of the book and in its promotion. Royalties from the sale of the book were assigned equally to The Historical Society of Berks County and to Baseballtown Charities, however Brian has retained all movie rights.

The author of Reading’s Big League Exhibition Games, Brian has contributed to several publications by the Society for American Baseball Research. He is a regular contributor to The Historical Review of Berks County, his articles in that publication being equally divided between matters of local history and baseball. A Berks County native who resides in Cumru Township with his wife Suzanne, with whom he raised three wonderful daughters who are Phillies fans, although the one who lives in Pittsburgh has a picture of Bill Mazeroski in her living room. Brian is a graduate of Dickinson College and University of Pittsburgh School of Law whose emotional growth was stunted at age 13 in 1964- the year in which not only the Phillies epic collapse occurred, but also in which his mother threw out his baseball cards.


Saturday, September 8, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Cindy Ross

Cindy Ross on The World is Our Classroom- How One Family Used Nature & Travel to Shape an Extraordinary Education

While leading their young children 3,100 miles across the Rocky Mountain wilderness on llamas, author Cindy Ross learned how experiences can generate extraordinary learning. She created a whole new way of nurturing and supplementing her children’s education, focusing on two major arenas for learning- the natural world and travel. The result is Cindy’s 7th published book: The World is Our Classroom- How One Family Used Nature and Travel to Shape an Extraordinary Education. For 25 years, Cindy has been writing about outdoor adventure, experiential learning and lecturing on how to craft a life utilizing it.

For more than 35 years, Cindy Ross has walking and cycling the trails of North America. She has crossed the Appalachian Trail as a single woman penning her first book, A Woman’s Journey on the Appalachian Trail, which has become a hiking classic. Then she tackled the Pacific Crest Trail through the Sierra and Cascade Mountains with her husband, Todd Gladfelter and wrote and illustrated, Journey on the Crest. Her 6th book, Scraping Heaven- A Family’s Journey Along the Continental Divide is the rousing adventure of a family’s incredible five-summer trek over the rooftop of North America. They traveled across the Rocky Mountains, through the desert of New Mexico and down to the Mexican border all with her children. Her newest book, The World is Our Classroom- How One Family Used Nature and Travel to Shape an Extraordinary Education, will be published by Skyhorse Publishing, NYC in September 2018.


Saturday, October 6, 2018 at 1:00 pm

David Miller

David A. Miller, II on Stand up and speak!

You have the “too afraid to speak in public” flu?
On October sixth, ‘tween one and three p.m., you
will be a finer speaker than you ever were!
This interactive afternoon can be the cure…

so if you ‘uh’ and ‘um’ and your mouth gets dry
anytime you’re asked to speak (or even try),
bring your long-held fears, your inner quakes
and share the speaking tips and tricks that planning makes!

David Miller has built a successful creative career in advertising, marketing and publishing, heading three successful advertising agencies. Accounts included Mack Trucks, Inc., The Lutheran Church in America, major accounting firms in the New York metro, plus timeshare properties from Maine to Aruba. Miller has published a spy-adventure novel, “Time Birds,” featuring birds that can travel in time. A second novel, “Bravo 26”, is in final phase. He has also published ‘A Gift of Love’, a history of the first 100 years of The Lutheran Home at Topton. He has conducted workshops at Bernard Baruch College, NYC and Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA, plus GLVWG (Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.)

Saturday, December 8, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Hiram Larew

Hiram Larew on Poetry Legacies: What about Your Evers?

Designed for active discussion among all participants, this Workshop considered the notion of leaving a legacy of poetry behind. The visit wasn't morbid or depressing. Instead, we explored a subject that's rarely discussed among poets but that's endlessly fascinating for the powerful sway it holds on us as we write. In preparation we looked over the 4-pager that raises a few questions about the topic.

Larew's work has appeared in several journals, books and collections, most recently in vox poetica, Every Day Poems, Seminary Ridge Review, among others. His third collection, Utmost, was published by I. Giraffe Press in 2016. Nominated for four national Pushcart prizes, he is a member of the Shakespeare Folger Library’s poetry board, and organizes poetry events in and around Prince George’s County, MD and the Greater Capitol Region that showcase the wonderful diversity of poetic voices in the area; using an Individual Artist Grant from the County’s Arts and Humanities Council, Larew organized The Poetry Poster Project, an exhibit of framed poems by six County-based poets in libraries, office buildings, churches, galleries and other venues in and beyond the County. His poetry page on Facebook is at "Hiram Larew, Poet" Retired from the federal government, Larew is a global food security specialist with courtesy faculty appointments at the University of Georgia, Oregon State University, Baylor University and Montana State University. He lives in Upper Marlboro, MD and is very, very tall.


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