The Magazine of the Bethlehem Writers Group
Issue No. 51, Winter 2018

The 2018 Bethlehem Writers Roundtable
Short Story Award Competition
Win cash and publication 
for a short story (2000 words or fewer) on the theme
Stories of the Paranormal
For more information see 2018 SHORT STORY AWARD tab above

Editor's Note
Jerry McFadden

Writing is a lonely business. It doesn’t get done unless  you park your butt in a chair and concentrate, blocking out the physical or mental distractions around you while you are in your home niche or at a Starbucks or a library. The fact that it is lonely pushes most writers to search out writers’ groups, critique sessions, or on-line writing sites, etc., to share the writing experience.

In the beginning, joining these groups is a way to gain affirmation that you are a  writer, to maybe hear someone say “Hey, that’s not bad,” when talking about your writing efforts. But after awhile you gain confidence that your efforts are indeed not bad but continue with the group, or search out new groups, and attend writing conferences, to share the pain and joy of writing.

And somewhere along the way, these other writers become warriors in arms, fellow veterans, unattached colleagues, kindred spirits… other words: Friends.

But it is a strange group of friends. It is disparate groups that do not necessarily share your insights, attitudes, or you values. But, if they are honest writers, writing from their hearts and souls, you share the empathy of struggling to put words on paper (or screens). It is  a very eclectic group that allows you to talk about your differences, to explore both parallels and wide divergences, as friends.

Which brings us to Sally W. Paradysz. We were friends that bonded through our writing group. We couldn’t have been more dissimilar if we had come from different planets. Nor could our writing have been more dissimilar.

Sal was a wonderful writer, and a sweet, gentle woman who wrote about her God, her faith, the wonders of nature, about the hard effort of building a home in the wilderness by her own hands, and about her friends. I am a sarcastic old man who writes about crime, scary things, quirky things, and the humor of the  dark side. She was a woman of great faith. I make it to church (grumpily) only for funerals and weddings. She was a vegetarian. I like vegetables with my meat, maybe twice a day. She went through truly tough times as an adult. I enjoyed an entirely pleasant adulthood (Don’t ask about the childhood!).

But we became good friends through writing. We could talk about all of this as friends, as we struggled to write from our different perspectives. I am convinced that the world needs more writers so the world can explore our differences as friends.

Most of this issue is presumed to be about Sally Paradysz.  Actually, it is about friendships.

We’re gonna miss you, Sal.

We dedicate this issue to the memory of  Sally Paradysz, author, friend, and founding member of the Bethlehem Writers Group.

Sally W. Paradysz was born, raised, and earned her degree in the Berkshires of New England. She grew up reading, riding horses, and learning a love and respect for nature from her lumberman father. She married and raised three children in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. As years passed, her marriage became a struggle against a controlling man who could be quick to anger, and all too willing to undermine the self-confidence Sal had once known. Even so, she found a way to seek out higher education by auditing classes and completing course work that, had she been able to pay the tuition and fees, would have entitled her to a graduate degree. 

After a violent rape, about which she feared even telling her husband, Sal's ability to maintain the status quo wavered. Eventually, she found help through the Network of Victim Assistance in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. With their help she began her recovery from the physical violence, and grew to understand the emotional violence of her marriage. After thirty-five years, she divorced her husband, and began a new life. At age 60, she decided to build a house in the woods of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Sally wrote memoir, essays, and fiction from the cabin she built in the woods by her home, and it is from there that she penned a weekly blog and Facebook posts for those searching for a breath of calm. She produced short stories and essays that have been published in such anthologies as 65 Things To Do When You Retire and 70 Things To Do When You Turn 70, both from Sellers Publishing. In addition, she has stories in many BWG anthologies. In 2015, she published her book, From Scratch--Why I Walked Away from My Life and Built This Home

As an advocate for the self-empowerment of women, she drew upon her own life experiences, bringing the world a message of healing, love, and inspiration.  Ordained into the ministry of the Assembly of the Word, founded in Quakertown, PA, Sally provided spiritual counseling and ministerial assistance for more than two decades. She was the mother of three, grandmother of eight, and along with her housemate, Melanie, lived with their two flamboyant Maine Coon cats, Kiva and Kodi, who love their life in the woods.

After a lengthy battle with cancer, Sal passed away while on retreat to the Maine coast, in October 2017. You can read more of her philosophy of life on her blog, Finding Paradysz in the Woods, or on her Facebook Page.

Excerpted from

From Scratch:

Why I Walked Away From My Life and Built This Home

Sally Paradysz

Chapter 4

Yay for Chainsaws!

As the morning dawned, I began a new life with our land. It was spring, a pristine spring day, so I drove to our property—our property!—to do a walking meditation through the woods. Toward the end of my stroll, I realized that anything was possible now for me. In my opinion, life was all about effort. I gave this gift of effort as a mother, and in this present moment, I wanted to make an effort for me. I now had a better understanding of myself, and a deeper awareness of the many limitations that were lifted from my marriage. I was stronger and felt as though I was no longer an embarrassment to my moral fiber, by finally doing work that mattered: counseling and home building.

For eight years I'd worked as a counselor, helping people discover answers to life's difficult situations. Our time together helped bring balance to their world, and also to mine. A perfect harmony between old lives and new. Understanding the value of life's karmas is important to me, and I wanted to pass that on to those who were seeking a more spiritual path. Each and every call I answered hopefully gave strength and purpose to someone's life, and enriched mine as well.

I found a few sectioned tree trunks, and turned them on end, took a wide board that I'd brought with me and put it between the two. A table appeared. I had my cooler from the car with ice, drinks and food. The chairs and tools came next. In a month, it would look cozy under a tarp, but for now it wasn't. Cold seeped into my bones. 

With the sun came the warmth, followed by Mel around nine o'clock. "Look what I've done," I said, waving my arm at the table. "Our home isn't even built yet, and already we have furniture."

Mel grinned.

Sitting down, I made a list of what we were going to need first. At the top, there were only two things required before we could start clearing trees for the driveway: chainsaws.

* * *

Purchasing one chainsaw for our new project was expensive; two seemed out of the question.

I called my younger son, Andy, who lived twenty-five minutes away in Allentown. Of my three kids, he was the one we called Mr. Band-Aid. He always kept our family stuck together, reminding me of my dad in many ways. The glass always half-full, living in happiness, and changing the negative into a positive. They both lived those principles.

“Hey, Andy, I have a favor to ask.”

“Ask away.” I pictured him holding the phone between his ear and his shoulder, a serious expression on his face. He helped anyone who needed him, family or not.

“May I borrow one of your chainsaws for a couple of months? I know you have an older one of Dad’s, and I can’t afford to buy two.”


“Okay. Be there in an hour.”

While Mel drove to purchase our new chainsaw, I drove to Andy’s for his. When I got there he had it ready, complete with a new container of gas/oil mixture. He lifted the chainsaw into my car, then turned and hugged me hard and long.

“Good luck, Mom.” I loved him so much, and he was the epitome of effort. I guess some of what I tried to teach did rub off.

When I got back to the woods I took Andy’s cover off the saw and reached for the rope, ready to bring it to life. On his chainsaw in large black letters were the words, “Go Mom Go!” My eyes stung with fresh tears.

Using a chainsaw was dangerous. You can’t have any other focus, and that was tricky for me. For some reason, I always had deep thoughts when I used one. I had to keep telling myself to watch the blade and stay clear.

Chainsaw work killed my back and I had to stop often, straightening my spine slowly and then sitting for a few minutes. Sweat poured down my face, and I needed a cap to keep it from running into my eyes. Thank God I didn’t do this for a living.

I was working hard when Mel pulled in. She took out the new saw, gassed it up and began cutting smaller trees at the foundation site. There were larger ones also, but we started small. I needed to find peace before I took them down. Prior to cutting any large ones, I shut the chainsaw off and sat with my back at their base. Mel joined me. We said a prayer and asked if they would lend themselves to the building of our new home, promising them a place within its walls. I would mill a portion of their wood, and the rest I would burn for warmth during the winter. I think to this day their answer was “yes.”

* * *

Sally Paradysz and BWG

Carol L. Wright

Sal was at the first-ever meeting of the Bethlehem Writers Group in 2006. She had written several vignettes that she hoped would be inspirational, and brought them to the group for a critique. I remember it well. We had never met before, and here was a bright-eyed, white-haired woman with short bits of writing on several aspects of life and spirituality. The only problem was . . . they came across as preachy.

All of us who knew Sal know she was never preachy—but that’s how her writing came across. And that’s what we told her.

Instead of being discouraged, she went home and tinkered with them some more. At the next meeting she brought another draft, then another and another at the meetings that followed. She told us later that after each meeting she would go home and Mel would ask, did they like this one better? She just shook her head. Nope.

But, in true Sal fashion, she never gave up. She kept writing until she finally found her voice—by writing about her life. And when she did, she wrote from her heart.

Once she found her voice she wrote about nature. She wrote about recovery. She wrote about strong women, good friends, and spirituality. And then she combined the best of all of them when she wrote about building her house.

It took her years to complete her memoir, From Scratch: Why I Walked Away from My Life and Built This Home. At first, it was hard for her to share her private pain with members of the writers group—let alone imagine sharing it with the world. But every time she gave more of herself to her story, she lent it a truth that, when published, helped others in pain to find their own path to healing.

When she finally published the book, all of the writers group family celebrated. And, in the months that followed, she learned that her words were inspirational to her readers—and anything but preachy.

She stayed with our writers group for the rest of her life. Over the years, Sal became so much more than a fellow writer. She became a cherished friend.

We are so happy to have been part of her journey, and feel very blessed that she was a part of ours.

The 2018

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