Pagoda Writers Logo
Sign up or Login

Pagoda Writers Circle

Encouragement and Inspiration

Click here to see other year's events:


January 4, 2020

Roger Mallon

Roger Mallon impersonated Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and regaled us with entertaining stories. (Although the stories are different, you can get a sense of it from this video: Roger Mallon as Mark Twain.)

February 1, 2020

Rev. Sandra Fees

Sandra Fees on Painting a Picture with Words

Sandra helped us find more ways to make our writing more vivid and memorable, in this workshop on “Images: Painting a Picture with Words.” Imagery has the power to charge your writing with freshness and intensity, whether through the stunning image of a sunset, a dancer, or a penguin. Participants will learn the various sources of images, types of images, and techniques for crafting them. There will be opportunities for conversation and a writing exercise.

Sandra Fees is the author of “The Temporary Vase of Hands” (Finishing Line Press, 2017), and her recent work appears in The Comstock Review, Sweet Tree Review, Quiddity, and elsewhere. She has served a term as Berks County Poet Laureate and is a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee. Sandra earned an undergraduate degree at Shippensburg University, an M.A. at Syracuse University, and M.Div. and D.Min. degrees from Lancaster Theological Seminary.

March 7, 2020

Harry L. Serio

Harry L. Serio on The Power of Place

How specific locations can affect spiritual experiences, shape thoughts, and infuse memories.

Rev. Serio will read a chapter from his forth-coming book, “The Mysticism of Ordinary and Extraordinary Experience.” He will also ask participants to reflect on those special places or experiences in their lives that have given them inspiration or caused them to reflect on the transcendent.

Rev. Dr. Harry L. Serio is a minister in the United Church of Christ, and is past-president of the Academy for Spirituality and Consciousness Studies, Inc. He published The Dwelling Place of Wonder, and several articles including “The Afterlife in the Hebrew-Greek Scriptures,” “The Celtic Mystical Tradition in a Postmodern Age,” “Liminality at the Time of Death: Transitions of the Soul as a Rite of Passage.” His doctoral dissertation related to mysticism and ministry and the psychology of consciousness. He has studied archaeology in Italy and Greece and assisted with excavations in Jerusalem. He is a founder of the Berks Jazz Fest and the creator of Spirit on Tap and the Spiritual Exploration Project which includes Soul Café, Contemplative Spirituality, and the Interfaith Dialogues Community Forum. His next book is titled The Mysticism of Ordinary and Extraordinary Experience.

Originally planned but cancelled events

Heather H. Thomas

Heather H. Thomas on Unanswerable Letter Poems

We will explore the now-rare practice of letter writing as a springboard to poetry. This exercise combines the strategy of direct address— Dear You—with prose style in poetic form. We will explore the emotionally charged contexts of loss, absence, rant, plea, apology, and manifesto. Springing from Emily Dickinson's "This is my letter to the World" (Poem 441), the unanswerable letter can be written as a poem addressed to a real or imagined person, or, as in Dickinson's example, to the world itself. Vortex Street contains two of these poems: "Letter My Father Never Sent Me" and "Letter My Grandmother Never Sent Me." Although it is not necessary, you are welcome to bring one or more old letters for interrogation and inspiration.

Heather H. Thomas is the author of Vortex Street and three other full-length poetry collections. Her honors include a Rita Dove Poetry Prize, a Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry, a fellowship at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and a term as Berks County Poet Laureate. For Heather, poetry is a practice of interrogation of self and world, tracking a path to discovery and healing. In her new book Vortex Street, life is subject to forces disrupting the flow—from the Schuylkill River to Aleppo, Syria. The poems contend with turbulence, loss, and renewal both personal and political. She was Professor of English and Professional Writing at Kutztown University for 25 years and currently teaches creative writing at Cedar Crest College and in community and private workshops. Heather earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania and her M.A. and Ph.D. at Temple University.


Joseph Ross

Joseph Ross on The Elegy: Poems That Rise

We will explore the elegy, that   ancient poetic form that has a resurrection force. Elegies can raise the dead and keep their lives and hopes alive. We will read elegies and do a brief writing exercise.

Joseph Ross is the author of three books of poetry: Ache (2017), Gospel of Dust (2013) and Meeting Bone Man (2012). His poems appear in many places including, The Los Angeles Times, Poet Lore, Xavier Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly and Drumvoices Revue. He has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations and won the 2012 Pratt Library / Little Patuxent Review Poetry Prize. He recently served as the 23rd Poet-in-Residence for the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society in Howard County, Maryland. He teaches English and Creative Writing at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. and writes regularly at

James Chan

James Chan on Life's Pivotal Moments

James Chan advises U.S. manufacturers and organizations in doing business in China and Asia. He founded his independent consultancy in 1983 after having worked as the China Area Manager and International Promotion Manager for a New York-based Fortune 500 company. He has consulted with more than 100 U.S. firms large and small. He is the author of the book, Spare Room Tycoon: Succeeding Independent, The 70 Lessons of Sane Self-Employment. Autographed copy will be available during his presentation at $20 cash or check. His website: .

Picture Picture

Jean LeBlanc and Susanna Lee on Haiku Poetry

A deeper look at the creation of haiku poetry and the discovery of the haiku aesthetic. Inspiration for a poem may exist in close observation of words and images found all around at any particular moment. The essence of a poem is the creation of a connection between the poet and the reader, an agreement that beauty is born in the recognition of truth. Participants will be encouraged to create their own haiku, inspired by words and photographs in magazines or other printed materials.

Jean LeBlanc is an Assistant Professor of English at Sussex County Community College and executive editor of the Paulinskill Poetry Project. A member of the Writers’ Roundtable, she is active in the vibrant local poetry scene in northwestern New Jersey, often appearing as a featured reader. Her poetry has appeared in many journals, and her collections include At Any Moment (Backwaters Press, 2010) and A Field Guide to the Spirits (Aqueduct Press, 2015). Her haiku publications include The Haiku Aesthetic: Short Form Poetry as a Study in Craft (, 2013).

Susanna Lee is a writer and enjoys participating in poetry readings, and she has appeared as a featured reader for "Thursdays Are For Poetry" in Teaneck, NJ. Her poetry has been published online in the White Shoe Irregular, and in print in the Red Wheelbarrow #9 anthology, and will appear in an upcoming anthology by the Paulinskill Poetry Project. Her self-published book of poetry, Sunrise Mountain (Rose Mason Press, 2015), is available from the HPL Consortium.


During the pandemic, until we were able to be back together in person again, Linda posted this video of Ted sharing some of his stories.

Also planned:
Nancy Hughes
Phillip Tietbohl