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

We had our seventy-second Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, September 8, which if you are doing the math makes sixth full year of monthly meetings!  Thanks to Brian, Sean, Salvador, Marianne, Steve, and Gary P for joining me for a fun afternoon of conversation and critique. Thanks, too, to Matt H and Cary for mailing in comments, and to Jaime for his unwavering support.

We had a few agenda items this month:
– Just a quick reminder that International Talk Like A Pirate Day is coming up on 9/19/2018.  Annoy yer landlubber friends an’ family (an’ maybe yer scallywag boss) wit’ salty banter!
– I saw the following notice on the http://soontobefamous.info/ site – “Watch for more information on the new STBF Manuscript Contest coming this Fall. This new contest will be judged by library professionals. The winner to be announced during Spring 2019 will receive a professional edit and cover art and will be entered into Round two of the 2019 Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project.”
– A quick TV recommendation: Stephie and I have been enjoying on NetFlix a Scottish sitcom from the early aughts called *Still Game*.  We have to watch it with subtitles on, and even then, we don’t always know what they’re talking about.  The guys once called another character a “jammy old boot.”  What does that even mean?  We don’t know, but we laughed.
– Sean says that he’s working on his first play.  He’s been transcribing the journals he’s mentioned in past months, and he thinks this would be a good way to tie some of the stories together in a coherent way.  He says he’s a few scenes in, and he’s pleased with the results.
– Molly was unable to attend, but sent in the following news: “I have a flash-fiction piece coming out in Newfound in October. I’ll send a link when I get one.”  I think she might mean https://newfound.org/, but I’ll forward the link when she sends it.
– We’ve talked about Goodreads in the past, and I’m still not sure the best way to utilize the site as a writer.  I’ve been invited to join a Chicago Authors group there, so maybe that’s what I needed to increase my engagement on the site.  I’ll let you know.
https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/710889-chicago-authors
– The First Folio Theater, which is located in the Mayslake Estate in Oak Brook, is again presenting the play ‘*The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe*’ this coming October.  Kathy and I had both seen it in past years and highly recommend it.  The promotional material says that they won’t be mounting the production again for another five years.  Marianne said that she checked the web site and some of the showings are already sold out, so if
you want to see it, now’s the time. http://firstfolio.org/?production=the-madness-of-edgar-allan-poe-a-love-story
– There’s still time to sign up for the Writers Marketplace at the 2018 Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books at the University of Waukesha.  The date is Nov 3, and I think I’m going to go – http://www.sewibookfest.com/
– Still no sign of the Public Library Association (PLA) National Writing Contest submissions portal but several articles mention that the submissions period begins be Sept. 25.  My announcement for our next meeting should be going out on Sept. 30, so I hope to be able to include details in that e-mail.
– And just a reminder, October’s THC Reading Series, we’ll present Autumn/October/Halloween stories that somehow incorporate a sense of smell.  Someone suggested “Smell-O-Vision” as the title, but that’s not really accurate, since the “vision” is in your imagination.  How about “Smell-O-Rama”?

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Brian says he has multiple books that he’s in the middle of reading, but one that stands out is Burmese Days by George Orwell
– Sean has been on a Carl Hiaasen binge lately. Having recently finished Lucky You, he’s starting on Bad Monkey
– Salvador is really enjoying House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
– Gary is loving Burmah Road by Donovan Webster, both for the story and for the details that he’s been able to use as inspiration for his story
– Marianne is working her way through an annotated collection of Edgar Allen Poe stories, as well as an annotated Dracula.
– Steve is reading The Shadow of Blooming Grove by Francis Russell
– Matt B enjoyed Zodiac Cracked by Marianne Koefer, actually completed Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust (which he considers to be a person accomplishment) and is now reading The Incal by Jodorosky and Moebius, and Ki-Gor and the Beast Gods of Atlantis, which is sort of a second-tier Tarzan from the golden age of the pulps.

Internet Notes –
– I was pointed to this interesting blog entry about engaging with potential customers at book fairs:
https://www.blog.yourfirst10kreaders.com/how-to-sell-more-books-at-events/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=10k_blog&utm_content=joseph_cillo&inf_contact_key=32e631031b0510c96fca1459024676ab6b6645df6d625a88dd27736bf58fbd7c

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual smattering of discussions about general writing topics.  It was a fun meeting as always, and was punctuated with some visual aids.  Gary passed around his copy of Burmah Road, showing some of the pictures that inspired characters in his story.  Brian brought in two photos his father took, which were part of the cache that was central to the chapter he submitted this month.  I brought in my copy of Batman #151, the issue mentioned in my piece.  It even has the “old paper” smell that featured in the story, and I found it funny to watch everyone look at the cover, then take a whiff to get the same experience as the characters in my story.  Inspiration can be found in so many different places.

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, September 22 at 7PM, with featured reader Chris Krazmus. Please check the blog ( http://thcreadingseries.wordpress.com/) for more information.
– around September 30, 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, October 13 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

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Just a quick note…

It appears that I had the incorrect date for the Reading Series night for this month.  The next Reading Series event will be on September 22, 2018, not on the 15th as I had been telling everyone in e-mails, in person at the Writers Group meeting, and as I had on the flyers I’ve put up.  Apologies for any inconvenience.

Matt B

Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for September

Well that was fun Summer, wasn’t it? What? You missed it? I did too. But the calendar tells me that Labor Day is next weekend, and Sam’s Club has started selling Christmas decorations, so Fall must be right around the corner. No matter though, because the new month gives us another chance to get together and talk about stories!

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, September 8th, 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 8th for the Writers Group, and at the next Reading Series night on September 22.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Salvador – TheIceWitch.docx
Matt B – Remembrance of Comics Past.docx
Gary P – TKR_Sept18.doc
Sean – 1980_WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION2.pdf
Brian – Photographs Tamale September 2018.docx
Steve – Story–‘Leaves’.doc

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

We had our seventy-first Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, August 11. Thanks to Steve, Gary D, Lisa, Cary, Matt H, Marianne, Salvador, and Kathy for joining me for a fun afternoon of conversation and critique. Thanks, too, to Brian for mailing in comments, and to Jaime for his usual support.

We had a few agenda items this month:
– Our next two meetings will be Sept 8 and Oct 13. Flyers will be up in the usual places shortly.
– The next Brookfield Library Non-Fiction Book Club Meet the Authors! event is on Thursday, August 23 @ 7 p.m. at Irish Times, and the author everyone will be meeting is our very own Marianne Koerfer. She’ll be discussing her book, Zodiac Cracked, of which there’s one copy left at the library. Details at http://brookfield.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails?EventId=19699&backTo=Calendar&startDate=2018/08/18
– In case you missed my follow-up e-mail last week, I discovered the problem everyone was having with Sean’s piece was in the paragraph margin, not page margin. I sent along a PDF that Sean created so that everyone could read the entire work, but I wanted to let everyone know what the problem was. I figured that we should know how to use the tools we have.
– Lisa sent word that The Public Library Association (PLA) National Writing Contest is taking place this fall. Original works of short fiction written by the submitter will qualify. Submissions must be in English, may not exceed 8,000 characters, and fit within the contest theme of “courage.” Submissions period will be Sept. 25 and Oct. 30 but the site is not up yet. Prizes are $1,000 and two $500. I will let you know when the submission site is up.
– I got an e-mail that Keynote Authors were announced for 2018 SouthEast Wisconsin Festival of Books at the University of Waukesha. The date is Nov 3, and I’m still considering trying to get into the writers marketplace – http://www.sewibookfest.com/
– Gary D has had a piece accepted by the Oak Park Writers Group for an upcoming issue of their publication, Keystrokes. He was also invited to be one of the readers at The Back Room event on August 19th at Hamburger Mary’s in Oak Park. The event starts at 7pm and there will be a $10 cover. Details at https://www.oakparkbeer.com/events/event/the-back-room/
– Cary announced that he won another Camp NaNoWriMo challenge, easily hitting his 25,000 word goal, although the story is far from being finished. He said that the virtual cabin that they assigned him to included Grant Faulkner, executive director of NaNoWriMo, who Cary said was a very supportive member of the group.
– Matt H said that he has some more Atlas Obscura tours coming up, after coming off a successful tour of Riverside. He will be reprising his walking tour of Hyde Park, from the Bronze Age to the Atomic Age, on September 9 (https://www.atlasobscura.com/events/hyde-park-walking-tour) and is working to coordinate something with the Theosophical Society of America.
– Lisa reminded us that her class on memoir writing starts on Wednesday, August 22, at the Compassion Factory in downtown Brookfield (https://squareup.com/store/compassion-factory/item/writing-class?square_lead=item_embed). The course runs for four weeks, and is limited to 12 students, but spots are still open!

– And finally a reminder that at October’s THC Reading Series, our group will present Autumn/October/Halloween stories that somehow incorporate a sense of smell. I’m sure everyone is feverishly working on one.

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Brian wrote that he’s “reading Primo Levi’s If This is a Man – the account of his time at Auschwitz. I should have read it years ago but kept putting it off I suppose. Too powerful and too insightful for a casual read. I can only manage a few pages at a time.”
– Steve has read nothing of note, preferring to spend his time writing.
– Gary is reading Decline of the Lawrence Welk Empire by Poe Ballantine, and really liked Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
– Lisa enjoyed A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn and The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac by Sharma Shields
– Kathy liked The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner, as well as Wicked River by Jenny Milchman
– Cary hasn’t read any books, but brought in a copy of Another Chicago Magazine, a local periodical full of short stories and poems
– Matt H is digging The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson, and is also reading a number of books as research for an upcoming story, Behold a Pale Horse by Milton William Cooper being one of them
– Salvador hasn’t had time to read anything this month
– Marianne is indulging in some non-fiction with Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
– Matt B finished Search by Robert Weverka, based on the ’70s TV show, Beyond The Bush by Bob Nemtusak, and is in the middle of Hollywood by Charles Bukowski

Internet Notes for the month –
– The Script Medic Blog – https://www.scriptmedicblog.com/ – is subtitled “A Medical Consultant for Writers.” It’s a site written by someone with 10 years of EMS experience, and it tells what the real effects of certain injuries would be on your character. Could be useful of you have some action in your story and want to inject some realism in the aftermath.

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual wide variety of discussions about general writing topics. Much of the commentary on the pieces this month seemed to revolve around Details. Many of the pieces included elements that were very specific to the time and/or place that the story was set. Even if they were not really central to the plot of the story, they grounded it in time and place. On the other hand, some of the things were just too specific, which could have the effect of reducing the story’s shelf life, the way a pop culture reference would be less relevant when the item falls out of favor. And as usual, we pointed out many great lines in the stores we read.

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, August 25 at 7PM, with featured readers Phil and Rita Reebius (aka series regulars Rod and Krista). Please check the blog (http://thcreadingseries.wordpress.com/) for more information, and check out Phil and Rita’s recently-revived podcast, Prehensile and Gretel (http://www.prehensileandgretel.com/). It’s really good.
– around August 26, 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, September 8 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 August

There’s only a few days left to submit a story for the 2018 Tamale Hut Café’ Presents Short Story Contest. The submissions period for the contest ends on July 31st, 2018, presumably at midnight. Salvador sent in the following tips:

“The THC story submittal instructions mention that the document should follow the standard manuscript format, with these following considerations:
– Send in story in Word format.
– Do not include the author’s name within the document”

All the rest of the details that I know are here on our web site at https://thcwritersgroup.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/details-of-the-tamale-hut-cafe-2018-short-story-contest/ . Good luck!

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, August 11th, 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 11th for the Writers Group, and at the next Reading Series night on August 25.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Matt B – Barnstormers chapter 13.rtf
Salvador – HoleInMyHeart2.docx
Matt H – Douplex section1.docx
Gary D – College.docx
Sean – 1980-9-13_I Lose My Uncle.rtf
Cary – Poems.docx

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

We had our seventieth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, July 14. Thanks to Sean, Lisa, Marianne, Cary, Christian, Kathy, Vickie, Molly, and Steve for joining me for a fun afternoon of conversation and critique. Thanks, too, to Matt H for mailing in comments, and to Jaime and Alex for the unmatched hospitality.

We had quite a few agenda items this month:
Reminder: the submissions period for the 2018 Tamale Hut Café’ Presents Short Story Contest closes on July 31st, 2018.  See our web site for details https://thcwritersgroup.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/details-of-the-tamale-hut-cafe-2018-short-story-contest/
– As it was Bastille Day, I recommended the various television incarnations of Jules Maigret, the French police detective created by writer Georges Simenon.  The MHz channel (broadcast digital channel 20.1, Comcast channel 372) is running the 1990s French TV movies starring Bruno Cremer at noon each day, and channel 11 is running the recent Rowan Atkinson version on Saturday evenings, with reruns throughout the week.  Check your local listings.  I highly, highly  recommend both versions.
– Matt H wrote in to say: please tell everybody to go on my walking tour/distillery tour in Riverside on the 28th of July. (Riverside: What The Burbs Could Have Been – https://www.atlasobscura.com/events/riverside-what-the-burbs-could-have-been) can’t wait to see everybody in August. I’ve got a lot of writing for you all.
– Several people mentioned formatting problems with one of the pieces submitted this month.  I’m still trying to figure out what happened, so I can suggest changes to the author for future files, but for everyone’s reference, I found three ways to see the entire file: copy & paste the entire text into a new document, open in Wordpad (if you’re a Windows user), or use your word processor to “remove formatting”.
– The 2018 Silent Film Society of Chicago Silent Summer Film Festival is Aug 17-19 at the Filament Theater on north Milwaukee Ave.  Details are at http://www.silentfilmsjaywarren.com/events.html
– Lisa sent word of a free Massive Open Online Course from the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. The course started July 15, but I believe you can still sign up. Details of the MOOC program are at https://iwp.uiowa.edu/iwp-courses/distance-learning-courses/moocs
– Cary reported that he had a great time at the Printers Row Lit Fest last month, and that he was again attempting Camp NaNoWriMo in July.  His target is again 25,000 words.
– Steve reminded us that we had one last day to enter the Muriel Craft Bailey 2018 Poetry Contest, which closed on July 15th.
– Marianne highly recommended the winner of this years Nelson Algren short story contest.  She thought that Matt H would especially appreciate it, as the style reminded her of his – http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/books/literary-awards/ct-books-algren-award-church-of-pit-hyman-20180522-story.html
– Sean brought in copies of a periodical that he had submitted a piece to which was not accepted.  He said he ordered a few copies to read before submitting, to see if his work would be appropriate for the publication.  I mentioned that I’ve read many articles by editors of pulp magazines from the ’30s and ’40s, and almost all of them suggest doing just that to get a feel for the publication.  I guess you can’t make that suggestion enough times.
– Kathy passed around a volume of The World’s Finest Mystery and Crime Stories that she found in one of the Little Libraries that have been popping up in our neighborhoods lately.  You can find treasures in the most unexpected places.
– Molly told us about her recent time as the writer-in-residence at the The H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest (https://andrewsforest.oregonstate.edu/) near Blue River, Oregon.  She talked about how she took research books out of the on-site library and used them as basis for her writing, one such story she submitted to us for review this month.  She said that her writing from that time will eventually will appear on the Forest Log web site (http://andrewsforestlog.org/) but warned us about about digging into that site unless we have large amounts of time we are willing to lose to that endeavor.
And just a reminder, at our last meeting, we decided that for October’s THC Reading Series, we’ll present Autumn/October/Halloween stories that somehow incorporate a sense of smell.

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Sean said he had not read much this month, instead soaking in some neo-noir with the films After Dark, My Sweet and House of Games.  He did pick up copies of the After Dark, My Sweet novel by Jim Thompson and Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen
– Lisa finished Noir by Christopher Moore, gave up on the Outlanders series by Diana Gabaldon after she was offended by the main character’s reaction to a beating received from a supposed love interest.  She’s also fascinated by a coffee table book Abandoned: Hauntingly Beautiful Deserted Theme Parks by Seph Lawless that she’s hoping to use as visual prompts for her writing.
– Marianne loved Rocket Men by Robert Kurson.  She also recommended the Algren contest winner, as mentioned above.
– Cary liked The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin and is reading Still Life Las Vegas by James Sie
– Kathy was impressed by Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.  She also really liked Shall We Not Revenge by D. M. Pirrone. Other books she read this months were 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster and Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan
– Molly enjoyed The Old Child by Jenny Erpenbeck
– Steve finished The Film Snob’s Dictionary by David Kamp
– Matt B listed to the audio book of The Moon Pool by A. Merritt, because the initial short story was published 100 years ago last week.  The book was originally published as two short stories, the first an amazing piece of weird fiction which was praised at the time by H.P. Lovecraft and others, but the second is a somewhat pedestrian “lost world” story.
– Vickie is reading My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman. She says it’s a good book but it sure starts off slow, and that his character development is always spot on!

Internet Notes for the month –
– The Creative Penn had an episode titled Writing TV And Film Adaptations With David Nicholls, Bestselling Author Of One Day (who is also the adaptor of the Patrick Melrose novels for television) – https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2018/05/07/writing-tv-film-adaptations-david-nicholls/

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual free-wheeling discussion about general writing topics.  A theme that repeated throughout the afternoon was how certain complex stories really benefit from repeated readings.  You may have seen several contributions over the years in which the writer asks if the piece is clear enough, or if the story is too opaque.  It’s something that we struggle with as we write, because when we bring in a piece to discuss at the meeting, we’re there to explain what we meant to say in the story.  Conversely, when we send our stories out into the wild for total strangers to read, we can’t be standing over their shoulder as they read them, ready to answer questions that the reader might have.

The best stories, and ones that we all strive to write, need no explanation other than what’s on the page.  Even better than that in my mind are the ones that are written in a way that you can read and enjoy superficially (I know that’s not ideal, but we’re all busy and sometimes can’t give a story our full attention) but if you read more carefully, or read it a second or third time, you discover elements that enrich the story in your mind.  It’s a fine line to walk, because you want your reader to get everything the first time through, but I know that when I discover something I missed the first time, entirely through fault of my own, it increases my appreciation of the writing, and makes me like the piece more.  I love nothing more than to read a story and see something near the end that makes me reevaluate something I read previously.

Thanks again to everyone for joining me this month. Here’s the schedule for the next month or so:
– around July 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, August 11 at 2PM at the Tamale Hut Café.
– The next Tamale Hut Café Reading Series event will be Saturday, August 25 at 7PM, with featured readers Phil and Rita Reebius (aka series regulars Rod and Krista). Please check the blog (http://thcreadingseries.wordpress.com/) for more information, and check out Phil and Rita’s recently-revived podcast, Prehensile and Gretel (http://www.prehensileandgretel.com/).  It’s really good.

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 July

Lots of activity for anyone interested:
– I received word that submissions for the 2018 Tamale Hut Café’ Presents Short Story Contest are now open! They are looking for stories of 3000 words or under in any genre, and it doesn’t matter if it’s been published as long as it’s your original work. There are cash prizes, and if chosen, you must be able to attend the THC Reading Series night on November 17. Deadline for submissions is July 31st, and all the details I have are on our web site at https://thcwritersgroup.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/details-of-the-tamale-hut-cafe-2018-short-story-contest/
– Lisa sent word of a free Massive Open Online Course from the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. The course starts July 15. Details of the MOOC program is at https://iwp.uiowa.edu/iwp-courses/distance-learning-courses/moocs
– And just a reminder, at our last meeting, we decided that for October’s THC Reading Series, we’ll present Autumn/October/Halloween stories that somehow incorporate a sense of smell.

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, July 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.

The THC Reading Series is taking its summer break in July, but I hope to see you all on the 14th for the Writers Group.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Christian – Story of the Slit Mouth Woman.Poem.docx
Sturdevant_The Life Table.docx
Cary – Flash fiction – Jimmy.docx, Flash fiction – Sticky Raspberry Yogurt.docx, Mike and Wendy.docx
Sean – MOST MORNINGS.rtf
Lisa – Michael.docx
Kathy – One Mother’s Magic-Every Mother’s Wish.docx