We had our sixty-fifth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, February 10. Thanks to Steve, Salvador, Sean, Lisa, Marianne, Gary D, Kathy, Matt H, Brian, Cary, Aaron, and new member Mary for joining me for a spirited discussion about writing activities. Thanks, too, to Jaime and Joe for the use of the café, and for the excellent chili on a cold February day.
We started with few agenda items:
– The dates of our next two meetings are Mar 10 and Apr 14. The flyer is already up at THC and the Brookfield library, and I hope to get the rest up at the usual places this weekend.
– The Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention will be held on April 6-8 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown. I have a great time every year, and will be going all three days again this year. Details are at the link above.
– It’s February, and for fans of old-time radio comedies, that means it’s Jack Benny Month on Those Were The Days, the radio show broadcast on Saturday afternoons on WDCB. More details, and streams of the last two episodes, are at the link above.
– Steve said that owners of the Quincy Street Distillery in downtown Riverside has expressed interest in hosting a reading night in their Speakeasy Cocktail Bar. Most everyone said they would be interested in going, and Steve said he would relay our interest back to the proprietors.
– Cary brought in a Writers Toolbox that he picked up from Amazon. Subtitled “Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the ‘Write’ Side of Your Brain,” it is literally a box filled with tools to help an aspiring writer get started, or to help an experienced writer break through the dreaded writers block.
– Kathy mentioned that she was asked to read a piece at her Temple the previous night. She thought she would be reading to a few dozen people, only to find a group of over a hundred people in attendance. She said the reading went well, and she was approached by several people afterwards who were moved by her piece. Kathy has been on a roll lately, with the publication of her collection of short stories, along with her well-received appearance as featured reader at the THC Reading Series in January. Congratulations, Kathy.
– Gary said that he visited the American Writers Museum in down-town Chicago, and he thought that it was well worth the admission fee.
– Matt H and Marianne reported that their recent Atlas Obscura event at the Glessner house was a rousing success. I mentioned that I was on the wait list for the sold-out event, and Matt said they had over 60 people on the list. They are planning to offer the tour again in the Spring, and Matt has other tours in the works.
We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Steve is reading Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. He said he was attracted by the back cover copy, and while he’s still early in the novel, he’s liking what he’s read so far.
– Salvador watched a video on You-Tube based on the Stephen King short story The Moving Finger, then he tracked down the short story and read that, which he said is (spoiler alert) about a moving finger. He enjoyed both the story and the adaptation, which he thought was pretty faithful to the story.
– Sean is reading The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, and The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain, which he says is still in need of a good movie adaptation, even after the 1946 and 1981 versions. He also just picked up a copy of The Human Comedy by Honoré de Balzac
– Lisa has read The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson and Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
– Mary recently read You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie and The Book of Emma Reyes by Emma Reyes, along with some poetry
– Marianne read Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance and hated it, saying that the author came across as whiny and unsympathetic. Lisa said that she appreciated the point of view that the writer had.
– Gary recommended A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Dear Dad by Louie Anderson, and The Rabbit Factory by Larry Brown. Gary said that he feels Brown is an excellent writer and should be better known.
– Kathy recommends The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott
– Matt H read a biography of Jack Parsons, who he said was a rocket scientist and occultist who hung around with Aleister Crowley and L. Ron Hubbard. He also really liked Central Station by Lavie Tidhar and Empire of Deception by Dean Jobb
– Brian enjoyed In Siberia by Colin Thubron, which he said gave him an entirely different picture of Siberia than just a place where Russia sends its undesirables
– Cary is reading All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg, and recently bought another in the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, a guilty pleasure of his
– Aaron is finally reading the copy of A Wizard of Earthsea that he bought years ago. He was inspired to read it by the recent passing of its author, Ursula K. Le Guin
– Matt B finally finished the novella Fight Card: Sherlock Holmes by Jack Tunney and recommended it. He also enjoyed The Red Dragon by L. Ron Hubbard, and has started Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Internet Notes for the month:
– The HP Lovecraft Historical Society produces a series called Dark Adventure Radio Theatre. These are full-cast productions of Lovecraft stories in the style of old-time radio shows. They have a new one, based on an Edgar Allan Poe, that they’ve released for free. I highly recommend downloading The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar to get a taste of the DART project.
– KB Jensen, one of the winners of the last THC writers contest, wrote an interesting article titled “How to Rock a Free Day Promotion for Your eBook” that contains some interesting information about free book promotions, including some specifics about cost of ads and what her results were.
The rest of the meeting was taken up with random comments, constructive criticism, and helpful discussion about general writing topics. One of the topics that came up during the critique section was about using literary archetypes in different ways, and about how the author must define the rules of the story clearly so as to avoid confusing the reader. An example would be if you were familiar with the slow, shambling, unintelligent zombies from the first Night of the Living Dead films, then the fast-moving, more intelligent zombies of the Walking Dead series would seem an incorrect depiction of the reanimated dead, even though the Living Dead zombies are themselves different from the way the undead are portrayed in Haitian lore or the film White Zombie. In each case, the writers redefined the rules by which the zombies act, but it was conveyed to the readers and viewers so they understand that despite the similarities, their walking corpses are different from previous versions.
This was also the third meeting in a row when mermaids were a topic, first in Cary’s story two months ago, followed by Matt H’s piece last meeting, which was inspired by discussions surrounding Cary’s piece. This month, it was one of Lisa’s book selections, which she said appears to be about killer mermaids. It’s fun to see the continuity from meeting to meeting.
Thanks again to everyone for joining me this month. Here’s the schedule for the next month or so:
– The next Tamale Hut Café Reading Series event will be Saturday, February 24 at 7PM, with featured reader Daniel Rosenberg, winner of last year’s Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author Project. Please check the blog or the group’s THC Facebook page for more information.
– around February 25, I’ll send a reminder to you to submit a piece for critique during our next meeting.
– as I get pieces, I will send them out as quickly as I can
– our next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, March 10 at 2PM at the Tamale Hut Café.
Thanks for your interest in the THC Writers Group. I hope to see you at the next Reading Series event or at the next Writers Group meeting.