Notes from the April, 2018 Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting

We had our sixty-seventh Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, April 14.  Thanks to Sean, Lisa, Kathy, Gary P, Matt H, Steve, Cary, and new member Kay for joining me for a fun afternoon of discussion about writing activities.  Thanks, too, to Salvador for mailing in comments, to Jaime for the usual support and to Alex for the tasty food.  And we all hoped Joe was enjoying his vacation, although if we know Joe, he was probably just off somewhere causing trouble.

We started with few agenda items:
– Our next two meetings will be May 12 and June 9.  Flyers will be up in the usual places shortly.
– Good news for TV watchers: the MHz Worldview channel will be back on the air at 5am on April 23, on broadcast channel 20, Comcast channel 372 and RCN channel 57.  This is the foreign-language channel that used to be broadcast by WYCC before that channel ceased operation.  They carry subtitled, mostly-mystery and crime shows from all around the world.  Before the end of the month, we can see an Italian Nero Wolfe, a Swedish action miniseries called Commander Hamilton, and the season finale of Der Bestatter, a personal favorite of mine.  Schedule information is at https://mhznetworks.com/schedule/
– In other TV news, WKRP in Cincinnati is on MeTV weeknights at 8:30.  Original reports were that this would be the version from the DVD set that had most of the original music restored, but I’m not too sure about that.  It’s still a very funny show.
– Lisa sent in a note about Free Writing and Publishing Workshops at Frugal Muse in May.  The store is at 7511 Lemont Rd in Darien, and their web site is at https://frugalmusebooks.com/
– Memoir Writing Workshop – Wed, May 16 at 6:30
– How to get your Novel Published – Wed, May 30 at 6:30
– Cary said that his Camp NaNoWriMo was going well, although he was a little behind where he had hoped to be.  Camp NaNo lets you set your own word count goal, and Cary is shooting for 25,000 words this month.  He thinks he can still make it.
– My Windy City pulp convention recap: had a great time, spoke to some interesting people, saw a couple of good movies, spent a little less than I had planned.  Notable acquisitions this year included a copy of Philip Wylie’s Gladiator, 10 Perry Rhodan paperbacks, and a couple of free books!
– The enigmatic Bob Nemtusak sent me a fairly straightforward marketing e-mail with the subject “$7 on http://www.amazon.com”:
Hi:
I wrote a book.
Please buy a copy here:
   https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Bush-Bob-Dillon-Nemtusak/dp/1505980429/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1523378185&sr=8-1&keywords=Bob+Dillon+Nemtusak
– Salvador sent in word of an event that he thought we’d be interested in:
May 1st Crafters meeting at the Westchester Village Hall. A neighbor who is into crafts wants to start a crafting community. She organized the first meeting. All are welcomed. I thought I’d mention it here because, after all, writing is a craft, and I also know that people close to the group are crafters (and that includes painting<g>). One of her ideas is to have a storefront where crafters can sell their works. This may be attractive as a distribution point for our written works.  https://www.facebook.com/events/449068412193762/   [No login necessary to view fb content.]
– Matt H has another Atlas Obscura event coming up next month.  Ray Bradbury’s Waukegan (https://www.atlasobscura.com/events/ray-bradburys-waukegan) should be of interest to anyone who is a fan of Bradbury.  The tour is May 12, which is unfortunately the date of our next Writers Group meeting, and tickets are still available.
– Lisa sent in a note that the 14th annual Illinois Emerging Writers Competition is open for entrants.  Winners will receive the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award.  Entries must be postmarked by June 30, 2018. Cash prizes will be awarded for first ($500), second ($300) and third place ($100). Details and entry forms can be found at http://cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/library/center_for_the_book

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Cary is enjoying Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham
– Steve is reading a biography of Warren G. Harding
– Matt H liked The Comedians by Kliph Nesteroff, which has the fabulous subtitle of “Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy”
– Gary is doing research for his latest story, but one book that he really liked was The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World … Via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes by Carl Hoffman
– Kathy read Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
– Lisa says she’s been reading “a bunch of crap” but she did like The Chalk Man by C J Tudor, and she highly recommended My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Chicago native Emil Ferris
– Sean picked up an omnibus of Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St Aubyn
– Kay enjoyed The Wife Between Us by Sarah Pekkanen, and White Teeth by Zadie Smith
– Matt B highly recommended The Turk by Tom Standage, but suggests reading it before you Google the subject, because it really is written like a mystery.  He also read Edison’s Eve by Gaby Wood but was not that enthusiastic in comparison.

A quick note that during the discussion of the Edison’s Eve book, I mentioned that one of the chapters was essentially a brief biography of Georges Méliès, a French illusionist and pioneering filmmaker.  Many people know of him through his most famous film “A Trip to the Moon” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNLZntSdyKE) but just as many know him as a character in the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, and the movie Hugo, which was made from book.  The group recommends reading the book before seeing the movie.

Internet Note for the month (thanks to Lisa):
– Web App Identifies Unnecessary Words In Your Writing – http://mentalfloss.com/article/78180/web-app-identifies-unnecessary-words-your-writing

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual random comments, constructive criticism, and helpful discussion about general writing topics.  One thing that sticks in my mind from this month is the importance of doing research when necessary.  My story, Barnstormers, benefits from research because it’s set in 1925 and features biplanes, neither of which I’ve ever experienced outside of books, movies and TV, but I’ve been told comes across as credible in the story.  I asked Matt H about a small detail regarding a baseball game in his story, and he confessed that he didn’t know much first-hand about baseball, just what he had read.  And we were surprised when we asked Gary about the setting of his story and he told us that he had never been there, because the way he used the exotic location was used so well.  He said he was just intrigued by the area and did his research.  It’s easy for research to overwhelm a story, as in when the author wants to include everything he or she has learned in her research, but the better writers use just enough details to make you think they know what they’re writing about.

Thanks again to everyone for joining me this month.  Here’s the schedule for the next month or so:
– around April 29, 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, May 12 at 2PM at the Tamale Hut Café.
– The next Tamale Hut Café Reading Series event will be May 26 at 7PM.  Please check the blog for more information.

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.

Matt B

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Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for April

Happy Easter, everyone. Today starts the month of April, which is National Poetry Writing Month, not to mention the start of Camp NaNoWriMo. Literary days of note include World Book Day on the 23rd, National Scrabble Day is the 13th, National Library Week starting on the 8th, National Beer Day is the 7th, and the 27th is Tell A Story Day. But today is April Fool’s Day, so maybe I made all that up.

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, April 14th, at the Tamale Hut Café, starting at 2PM. If you can attend, we’d love to see you there. If you would like to submit a piece for critique during the meeting please send it to thcwritersgroup@gmail.com, along with an idea of the level of feedback you are looking for, and I will distribute it to the group. If you have something you would like feedback on but you can’t attend the meeting, I’d be glad to forward it to the group as well. We can discuss it at the meeting and get some comments back to you via e-mail.

I hope to see you all on the 14th for the Writers Group, and then we can just hang around because the April Reading Series night is also the 14th.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Kathy – One Mother’s Magic-Every Mother’s Wish.docx
SEAN – THE_STONE_MAN_CHPTRS 5 & 6.pdf
Matt H – Noah’s Ark section 5.docx
Cary – The Year of Living Normally – Dougie’s.docx, The Year of Living Normally – New in Chicago.docx
Gary P – TheKachinRakshasa.doc
Kaveria – If you can think it you can achieve it.docx

Notes from the March, 2018 Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting

We had our sixty-sixth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, March 10.  Thanks to Brian, Matt H, Gary D, Steve, Salvador, Marianne, Sean, Aaron, and new members Vickie and Molly for joining me for an afternoon of discussion about writing activities.  Thanks, too, to Kathy, Mary, and Cary for mailing in comments, and to Jaime and Joe for the usual impeccable hospitality.

We started with few agenda items:
– A last reminder that The Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention will be held on April 6-8 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown.
– Oak Park Festival Theater has an interesting program once a month – PLAY + A PINT Reading Series – it sounds like a table reading of a play, with refreshments and food
– Lisa wrote that her library is hosting local author Cristina Henriquez on Friday, April 13th. She will read a bit from her book, talk about how awesome the library is, tell us what her favorite books are, and answer questions. Then folks will be encouraged to browse and check items out. Drinks and snacks provided. Limited space, so go to https://hinsdalelibrary.info/ to register. Don’t forget to invite your friends and fellow authors.
– Matt H has another event planned this month – https://www.atlasobscura.com/events/frozen-masterpieces – and a few more in the works.
– Gary said that the Frugal Muse in Darien is planning on restarting its reading series in April.  When we get a firm date, maybe we can finally plan that long-discussed road trip to the store.
– Salvador said that he has a few art pieces in an exhibition at Triton College through March 16.  He did say that if you are planning to go to check it out, you should call ahead, because the exhibition space is not always open.
– This month, some members had problems reading one of the files that was sent in for review.  I was notified and quickly sent the file out in another format, but I wanted to remind everyone that if they can’t open a file for some reason, or if they don’t receive one of the pieces for review, let me know and I can resend.  You know that I include details of the previously-sent pieces on each e-mail, but for a quick reference, you can always check here.  I post the meeting announcement after I send it out, along with a current list of all the pieces that I’ve sent out for the upcoming meeting.
– Mary wrote that she wouldn’t be able to attend but wanted to share a few things with the group. The February 2018 column is from a friend of hers who knew Ursula Le Guin.  Aaron mentioned she may have been “haunting” him at the last meeting so Mary thought he might be interested. The article was published in February in the Eastern Oregonian newspaper. And for Marianne the name of the book that is an “answer” to Hillbilly Elegy is What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte.  She also suggested a second book that a number of her friends from that region have recommended: Ramp Hollow: the ordeal of Appalachia by Steven Stoll.
– Mary also wrote that April is National Poetry Month and she has spent at least 12 Aprils writing a poem a day as part of National Poetry Writing Month or NaPoWriMo…similar to Novel Writing Month except word count is not part of the goal. If any of you is up to the fun and challenge you can search online for more information.
– And those of you who didn’t attend missed the cookies that Steve brought in to celebrate his birthday.  Aaron brought brownies as well.

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Brian says he’s reading several books at once but is really enjoying War in Val d’Orcia by Iris Origo.  He says it’s a difference perspective on war, that of someone trying to live their life in the middle of one
– Sean says he’s not read much lately because he’s become obsessed with creating a crossword puzzle
– Matt H re-read The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, and followed that with what he classified as junk, The Shaver Mystery by Richard Sharpe Shaver, a collection of Hollow Earth stores originally published in Amazing Stories magazine back in the ’40s.
– Molly highly recommended The Sellout by Paul Beatty, and is now reading The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín
– Gary is reading Darke by Rick Gekoski, and a collection of short stories by Larry Brown, an author he has recommended in the past
– Steve is reading two James Bond-related books: The World of James Bond by Jeremy Black and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang by Mike Ripley
– Salvador hasn’t read anything, as he’s trying to get out from a pile of projects that he’s been working on
– Marianne also hasn’t read anything recently.  She’s spending all her time editing her Ball Collector story.
– Vickie is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, and wants to visit his book store in Archer City, Texas
– Matt B finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and thought it was okay.  He’s now reading The Turk by Tom Standage, about an 18th century chess-playing automaton.  He recently saw the 1927 French silent film The Chess Player, which included elements of the real Turk story in its plot, and was inspired to get the book out of the library to hopefully learn how the Turk worked.
– Aaron is still working on A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, and realized why he never went back to finish it years ago.  He said there’s a lot of “telling” rather than “showing” and it becomes tiring.  He is pressing on, though.  He’s also reading No Impact Man by Colin Beavan.  He challenged everyone to do one thing to reduce their carbon footprint, no matter how small, and report back next month.

Internet Notes for the month (thanks to Mary):
– The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park is having a HEMINGWAY SHORTS CONTEST – deadline 4/30, but they only accept 100 stories a month – https://thehemingwayfoundation.submittable.com/submit?platform=hootsuite
– World Literature Today – 5 Binge-worthy Literary Podcasts – https://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/2018/march/lit-lists-5-binge-worthy-literary-podcasts

The rest of the meeting was taken up with random comments, constructive criticism, and helpful discussion about general writing topics.  Several members commented that they thought that the quality of the stories this month was exceptional, and the critiques seemed to reflect that, with more high-level discussion about the themes presented rather than focusing on mechanics.  We discussed how certain names were chosen, and how some pieces were written to allow the pacing to move more naturally, rather than rush through the quiet parts in order to get to the action, something that I tend to want to do.

I’ve written in the past that I enjoy the continuity of when things are referred to that we discussed in previous meetings.  When I mentioned that I particularly liked Matt H’s use of the Chyron in his story, he said that he included it as an homage to us, because he wouldn’t have known that was the trade name of the words scrolling across the bottom of so many news channels if it hadn’t been mentioned during one of our group’s meandering conversations.  Sean, for his part, appreciated that Matt spelled Chyron properly.

And I took advantage of the resources of the group to get a question answered.  I’ve been listening to episodes of the Dragnet radio show from the ’50s, and in each episode, Joe Friday tells the listener of the department that he is working on for that weeks case.  One week he’ll be in Homicide, another in Bunko, yet another in Missing Persons.  I was curious if detectives jumped around like that, but how would I find out about that?  Sure, I probably could have Googled it, but why should I when our own Marianne has first-hand experience working in the police department.  So I asked her and she said that these days that wouldn’t happen, but back then it was a regular thing.  Only as forensic science became more important in solving crimes did detectives become more specialized, honing their skills to become more effective in a particular area.  And now I know.

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, March 17 at 7PM, with featured reader Darwyn Jones.  Please check the blog for more information.
– around April 1, 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, April 14 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.

Matt B

Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for March

We had a near-record crowd for the February Writers Group meeting, with 13 members discussing nine different pieces. Can we top that for March? Let’s find out!

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, March 10, at the Tamale Hut Café, starting at 2PM. If you can attend, we’d love to see you there. If you would like to submit a piece for critique during the meeting please send it to thcwritersgroup@gmail.com, along with an idea of the level of feedback you are looking for, and I will distribute it to the group. If you have something you would like feedback on but you can’t attend the meeting, I’d be glad to forward it to the group as well. We can discuss it at the meeting and get some comments back to you via e-mail.

Hope to see you all on the 10th for the Writers Group, and on the 17th for the March Reading Series night.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Gary D – 800 Apple Street.pdf
Matt H – YellowKingattack.docx
SEAN – THE_STONE_MAN_CHPTRS 3 & 4.pdf
Brian – Exeat March 2018 Tamale group.docx
Aaron – Autumn Centering.docx
Matt B – Barnstormers chapter 10.rtf
Molly – Every Tuesday.docx

Notes from the February, 2018 Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting

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.  Please check the blog 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.

Matt B

Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for February

Just a quick mention that I had the date of the next Reading Series night wrong on the flyer at the THC and other places. The February Reading Series night will be Feb 24, not the 17th as I had incorrectly posted. Apologies for the mistake. Jaime says they fixed the sign it at the THC, and I will be fixing the Brookfield Library and Half Price Books flyers in the next day or two. Fortunately, the Writers Group date on the flyer was correct.

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, February 10, at the Tamale Hut Café, starting at 2PM. If you can attend, we’d love to see you there. If you would like to submit a piece for critique during the meeting please send it to thcwritersgroup@gmail.com, along with an idea of the level of feedback you are looking for, and I will distribute it to the group. If you have something you would like feedback on but you can’t attend the meeting, I’d be glad to forward it to the group as well. We can discuss it at the meeting and get some comments back to you via e-mail.

Hope to see you all on the 10th for the Writers Group, and on the 24th for the February Reading Series night.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Matt H – noahs ark section 4.docx
Brian – Rùm February 2018.docx
Gary D – Killing Time.pdf
Cary – The Year of Living Normally – Chapter 10.docx
Mary – MEHope_Pistol.pdf
Marianne – The Ball Collector Chpt 9 Final.docx
Matt B – Barnstormers chapter 9.rtf
Sean – WHAT ROUGH DESTINY.pdf
Kathy – Retirement and the Freedom to Choose.docx

Notes from the January, 2018 Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting

We had our sixty-fourth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, January 13.  Thanks to Steve, Gary D, Matt H, Gary P, Sean, Salvador, Marianne, Kathy, Lisa, Cary, and Aaron for joining me on a cold but sunny Saturday afternoon to talk about writing stuff.  Thanks, too, to Jaime and Joe for their cheerful hospitality, although there was some grumbling from the members because the chili was sold out on a cold January day.  Here’s hoping Jaime makes a double-batch before the Reading Series night next week.

We started with few agenda items:
– I don’t like making New Year’s resolutions, but this year I’m setting some goals for myself in an effort (to use writing terms) to plot my life rather than “pants” it.  I tried to come up with some challenging goals, but at the same time be realistic.  One of my stated goals is to submit a story to a publication.  My goal is not necessarily to be published (which would be great, but is largely out of my control) but to submit a story or two to see how they fare in the world.  This triggered a conversation about submissions in which Sean mentioned Heinlein’s Rules, and I said that Dean Wesley Smith was a big proponent of what Heinlein called his “business habits,” which are:

  1.     You must write.
  2.     You must finish what you start.
  3.     You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
  4.     You must put it on the market.
  5.     You must keep it on the market until sold.

And if you’re unfamiliar with Dean Wesley Smith, you can read about him and his take on the rules on his site at this link
– I mentioned that Jaime e-mailed me to ask if we wanted to be the feature in October again, and everyone quickly replied in the affirmative.  Given the choice of Oct 20 or 27, we decided on the 27th, especially after I floated the idea of some kind of a Halloween theme.  We’ll discuss this more as the year progresses.
– We’ve had several mentions in past months of the Oak Park Festival Theater and I reported that their recent production of A Dickens Carol was excellent!  It was the familiar story of the miser with the ghosts visiting on Christmas Eve to show him the err of his ways, but in this version, the man needing his priorities adjusted was Charles Dickens himself.  I thought it was a clever twist on a story that’s been done in many ways over the years.  I’m going to keep an eye on the Oak Park Festival Theater group and the Madison Street Theater for future offerings.
– Matt H had an Atlas Obscura update: the upcoming tour he’s developing with fellow writing group member Marianne sold out in record time!  He said that he was in Washington recently and saw a display at the Smithsonian dedicated to the subject of his tour, Frances Glessner Lee, the Chicago heiress who was at the forefront of modern forensics-based crime detection.  He takes that to mean that she’s poised to be better-known to the general public, and he thinks that his and Marianne’s presentation is benefiting from that.  He said that they hope to be able to do another, similar tour soon.
– I was invited by Mike Penkas, one of the talented regular readers at the THC Reading Series, to another open-mic night, this one in Northbrook.  It’s being organized by his significant other, Julie, who is also a fixture at the THC Reading nights.  My first thought was that it was far from home, but then I realized that it was only ten minutes from work.  That horrible commute is good for something after all!  The event will be Tuesday, Jan 23, starting at 7pm at the Book Bin Northbrook, 1151 Church St. in Northbrook, and I’ll be there.

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Steve is still reading Putin: His Downfall and Russia’s Coming Crash by Richard Lourie.  He says he’s reading it “episodically” as time permits.
– Gary D read IQ by Joe Ide, and Spiritual Graffiti by MC YOGI
– Gary P is reading Corrupt Illinois by Dick Simpson and Thomas J. Gradel, and is finding it both interesting and maddening.
– Sean is expanding on his survey of Western literature to read some poetry: he’s sampled Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Dorothy Parker, TS Elliot, and Shel Silverstein to mention a few.
– As he mentioned last month, Salvador read Ray Bradbury’s Sound of Thunder, after seeing a film based on the short story.  He said that the endings of the two were different, and while he first thought the movie was okay, he liked the short story much better
– Marianne is getting a lot out of the Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum
– Kathy enjoyed It’s All Relative by A. J. Jacobs, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
– Lisa started a new series this month, the Gower Street Detective series by M.R.C. Kasasian, beginning with The Mangle Street Murders.  She also really enjoyed She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper much more than she thought she would, largely because of the portrayal of the girl and how she interacts with the world.  Lisa also read The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
– Aaron received a copy of Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick for Christmas and intends to attempt to read it for pleasure.  He will report back next month to let us know how that goes.
– Cary didn’t read any novels last month, but he has been doing a lot of research into addiction for use in his current story
– Matt B also didn’t read any books but has been working through a stack of magazines, including issues of Blood ‘N’ Thunder, “The Journal of Adventure, Mystery and Melodrama in American Popular Culture of the Early 20th Century!” and The Strand, a slick paged successor to the turn-of-the-last-century magazine that published the original Sherlock Holmes stories.  I’ve also begun reading Murder Draws a Crowd, a large collection of non sci-fi stories by Fredric Brown

Internet Notes for the month:
– 10 Tips on How to Become a Better Fiction Writer – https://www.mywordpublishing.com/2017/12/10-tips-become-better-fiction-writer/

The rest of the meeting was taken up with comments and critiques and suggestions and random thoughts.  We all appreciated Matt H’s story this month, which was prompted by some of the silliness from last meeting.  We had an interesting conversation about Salvador’s converting his prose story into a play, and what that entailed.  Sean’s survey of Western Literature triggered many side conversations, both about what was included and what wasn’t included, a reaction that I assume any such piece would provoke.  And we had a conversation about when someone thinks that your story is a little too similar to another, even if it was not obvious to you.

A question came up about the rules of when to spell out a number and when to use the numeral.  A post on Writers Digest (http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/when-do-i-spell-out-numbers) says “There are several rules of thought … but the most common is pretty simple. Spell out numbers under 10 (zero through nine), and use the numeric symbols for numbers 10 and up.”  The Grammarly Blog (https://www.grammarly.com/blog/when-to-spell-out-numbers/) says “It is generally best to write out numbers from zero to one hundred in nontechnical writing. In scientific and technical writing, the prevailing style is to write out numbers under ten.”  Purdue Online Writing Lab (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/593/01/) says “Although usage varies, most people spell out numbers that can be expressed in one or two words and use figures for other numbers.”  Other sites use variations of these, and all agree that there are some exceptions to these rules.  And as always, if you’re submitting to a publication or site that has a specified style, that’s the one you should use.

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, January 20 at 7PM, with Writing Group regular Kathy as featured reader.  Please check the blog or the group’s THC Facebook page for more information.
– around January 28, 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, February 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.

Matt B