Notes from the October, 2020 Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting

TCCWG Meeting for OctoberWe had our ninety-sixth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, October 10, the first meeting of our ninth year, in the lovely confines of my back yard.  Thanks to Lisa, Kathy, Matt H, Aaron, Salvador, and Cary for joining me on a slightly overcast but temperate day to talk about writing and stuff.  Thanks, too, to my neighbors John and Erin for lending us the tables and chairs for outdoor seating, and thanks for the support from Jaime and the Tamale Hut Café, where we hope to be back once the pandemic is under control.

As usual, I started with a few agenda items:
– Like I did for the last four anniversary meetings, I brought in the statistics I have for the group.  I can send the full details to anyone who is interested, but the high level is this: over 95 meetings, we’ve had 64 different writers attend, and we’ve discussed 657 separate pieces.  The most people we’ve had at a single meeting was 14 (2/2015 and 3/2018) and the fewest we’ve had was four, but that hasn’t happened since 3/2014.  Nine members have participated in more than 45 meetings each, and we currently have 74 people on our mailing list!
– Jen, Brian, and Steve all had other obligations and sent their regrets for missing the meeting.
– Sean also didn’t attend, and mentioned that he’s going to be taking a break from the group.  He writes “Please thank everyone for all their help and support over the years.”
– Krista reported that there will be no early voting in Berwyn this year.  Early voting in Brookfield starts on 10/19, as it does in Cicero, Lyons, La Grange, and Oak Park.  The Riverside web site had a reasonable explanation for the lack of early voting: “Residents frequently ask why there are no early voting locations in Riverside.  Unfortunately, the Village does not have a handicap accessible facility that can accommodate a polling place for two weeks.”  I see nothing at all about early voting on the North Riverside site.
– Brian wrote “It’s possible everyone knows about the attached series of articles in the UK’s Guardian newspaper as they do tend to be widely circulated.  If not, here’s a link.  There’s also a series on “Why I write” and, for those who might be interested in spatial aspects, “My Writing Room.”  Anyway, here’s the link to My Writing Day.  The Guardian is one of the very few newspapers without a pay wall, or not much of one.  They may ask you to register but that’s free.  Strong books section and lots of international news.”
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/dec/23/philip-pullman-writing-day-coloured-pencils
– Just a reminder that the Midwest Writers Workshop Agent Fest mentioned last month will be held on Nov 18-21 via zoom.  Details at https://www.midwestwriters.org/2020/08/its-launch-day-mww-agent-fest-online-2020/
– The Northbrook Writes series continues at the Northbrook Public Library:
Beginnings & Endings with Juan Martinez Saturday, October 17, 1:00-2:00pm
Award-winning writer and assistant professor at Northwestern University, Juan Martinez shares how to develop the beginning and end of a story, successfully crafting them as two halves of the same whole, and mirror images of one another.
Developing Character Emily Gray Tedrowe Monday, October 19, 7:00-8:00pm
Award-winning author and Creative Writing teacher at DePaul University, Emily Gray Tedrowe presents the keys to developing convincing, memorable characters and how their relationships with one another will have readers invested in their stories.
Genre as Metaphor with Julia Fine Saturday, October 24, 1:00-2:00pm
Julia Fine, whose debut novel was shortlisted for the Bram Stoker Superior First Book Award and the Chicago Review of Books Award, will look at the elements of genre fiction with a focus on how writers use genre as metaphor to subvert expectations and enhance their work and how to determine which genre elements make the most sense for your individual project.
Details are at https://www.northbrook.info/keep-in-touch/news/five-acclaimed-authors-lead-new-fall-virtual-writers-workshops
– The North Riverside Writers Group meeting in October will have a special presentation this coming Thursday:
Using Real Crime & Forensics in Fiction
Thurs. Oct. 15th at 6pm on Zoom
“Telling details” and fascinating story sparks for your crime fiction can come from real cases, if you know where to look. Join author Cathy Pickens (Avery Andrews series, South Carolina: Charleston Mysteries, Charlotte’s True Crime Stories, and true crime columnist for Mystery Readers Journal) to discuss using real crime and forensics in fiction.
The presenters ask all attendees to answer the following questions; please email them to the hosting librarian at    bodenl@northriversidelibrary.org for the zoom link.
[1] What are you writing or would you like to write?
[2] What do you like to read?
[3] What questions would you like answered about using real crime and forensics to write either crime fiction or true crime?
– Other Writers Groups: the Berwyn Library group meets on Zoom 10/25 at 7pm.  Details and sign-up information is at https://berwynlibrary.libcal.com/event/7127702
– National Novel Writing Month starts the first of November.  I’m playing this year.  Who’s going to join me?  https://nanowrimo.org/
– Cary said that he found a NaNoWriMo prep workshop that has been helpful to him.  He says that all the sessions are available for those who want to catch up, and that it’s designed to end the week before NaNoWriMo begins, so you have plenty of time to check it out if you’re interested.  https://nanowrimo.org/nano-prep-101
– As mentioned last month, the 2020 Craft Flash Fiction Contest is on for stories up to 1000 words, with three prizes of $1000.  Deadline is Nov 1, must be unpublished work, and there’s a $20 reading fee per entry of up to two stories – https://www.craftliterary.com/craft-flash-fiction-contest/  Still haven’t looked into this site, but if anyone has, please let us know the scoop.
– Another website, The Masters Review, is having a Chapbook Contest for Emerging Writers.  The winning writer will be awarded $3000, manuscript publication, a subscription to Journal of the Month, and 50 contributor copies.  We’re interested in collections of short fiction, essays, flash fiction, novellas/novelettes, longform fiction or essays, and any combination thereof, provided the manuscripts are complete (no excerpts, chapters, works-in-progress, or other incomplete work), and function cohesively. Entry fee: $25  Deadline: November 15, 2020  Individual stories or essays within the manuscript may be considered for publication in our New Voices series https://mastersreview.com/chapbook-contest/
– Wikipedia says that “The term “chapbook” is also in use for present-day publications, commonly short, inexpensive booklets” – almost seems like it would be perfect to share our “Paul” stories.  I’m going to look into that when I have a chance.
– Last month, Salvador said that he entered a short-story contest on Lulu, but now he feels like they are spamming him.  He’s received a number of dodgy-looking e-mails, and when he tried to reply to one of them, he got a message back that the e-mail account doesn’t exist.  He feels they are really pushing him to sign up to have his book published through them, but when he tells them that he’s not at that point yet, the messages keep coming.  Looks like Lulu might not be the reputable company that some of us thought it was.
– There’s a pulp-style periodical called Storyhack Action & Adventure (https://www.storyhack.com/) that I’ve been meaning to look into.  The magazine recently opened for submissions, but I didn’t mention it to the group because they were filling only one issue, and it closed after a week (although I bet this would be a good spot for Gary P’s Kachin Rakshasa story, if he ever finished it.)  You can get a free issue from their site, and they also have a podcast where the magazine editor reads classic pulp short stories.  The narrator is a little rough in spots, but he’s getting better, and the stories are really good.
– Matt H says that he hasn’t had much luck selling advance copies of his book, so he’ll probably wind up getting the rights back once the pre-order deadline passes.  If you’re interested in seeing his pitch and maybe supporting his work, the link is https://www.inkshares.com/books/armageddon-in-the-agriculture?referral_code=5e956e9b

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Several attendees reported that they haven’t been reading much.  Lisa finished the books she was reading as a judge for the current Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project, but hasn’t read much else.  Cary and Matt B have just been catching up on magazines.
– Kathy liked The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman
– Matt H finished Role Models by John Waters and read the play Ubu Roi by Alfred Jerry.  He’s also reading The Neverending Story by Michael Ende to his kids, and he’s enjoying it so much he regularly keeps them up past their bedtimes.
– Salvador is still working on Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  He’s taking a trip soon and said he hoped to read it on the plane.

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual general writing discussions and critiques.  It was great to see everyone in person, and although it got a little chilly as the meeting went on, and at one point it was a little tough to hear everyone with a plane passing overhead as a train thundered by two blocks away, I think everyone felt a lot more comfortable being outdoors and socially distant rather than being inside somewhere.  And in-person is better, too, because of the side conversations that spontaneously started, something that can’t really happen on a video chat.  I again thank my neighbor John for suggesting that we do this, and for the loan of the tables and chairs.

As I mentioned above, I brought up the idea of trying to put all our project stories from this year into a chapbook.  I mentioned in the recap last month that I thought we had a great bunch of stories, and that it’s a shame that we won’t be getting together to present them to our family and friends, but maybe we can find an inexpensive way of printing our stories in a booklet that we can share.  And as Matt H pointed out, we already have the cover art in the form of the picture.  I’m going to try to look into that before I dive into NaNoWriMo and I’ll let you know how that goes.

Thanks again to everyone for joining me this month. Here’s the schedule for the next month or so:
– The Tamale Hut Café Reading Series is still on hold, pending some kind of a breakthrough in the current pandemic.  Please check the blog (http://thcreadingseries.wordpress.com/) for announcements of upcoming events, should there be any.  I will also try to notify you if anything is happening.
– around November 1, I will send a reminder to everyone 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, November 14 at 2PM, at a location to be determined.  If the weather is not too bad, we might try another outdoors meeting, as several people said they had patio heaters.

Thanks for your interest in the THC Writers Group. I hope to see you at the next Writers Group meeting, be it on-line or in person, and at the next Reading Series event, whenever that may be.

Stay indoors, stay healthy, stay sane, support some locally-owned restaurants (including the Tamale Hut Café) with carry-out orders or outside dining where available, and most of all: Keep Writing!

Matt B

Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for October

Summer’s over, Fall is here, and we’re in the thick of Election Season!  Here’s some important dates (in Illinois, at least) to keep in mind:
Oct 6 – Voter Registration by Mail Deadline
Oct 18 – Voter Registration Online Deadline (https://ova.elections.il.gov/)
Sep 24 through Nov 2 – Early Voting Dates (Details at https://ova.elections.il.gov/EarlyVotingLocations.aspx)
Oct 20 – Recommended Deadline to Send Back Ballot
Oct 29 – Absentee Ballot Request Deadline
Nov 3 – Election Day!
You can also go to the Registration Lookup site (https://ova.elections.il.gov/RegistrationLookup.aspx) to confirm that you’re registered to vote in Illinois.  This site will also tell you where your assigned polling place is, if you want to wait until Election Day to vote.

And if you really want to be a well-informed voter, you can check out these sites for information about that long list of judges you will see on the ballot:
https://ballotpedia.org/Judicial_selection_in_Illinois
https://www.isba.org/judicialevaluations/bycounty

So now you have all the information you need to register and then vote in the upcoming election for people who will (hopefully) work in your best interest.  You know the old saying: “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about the outcome.”

Meanwhile, the weather forecast for Saturday could not be better for this time of year, so we’re again going to try to have our October meeting outdoors in my yard. If you’re on the group mailing list, check your e-mail for attendance information.  If not, please e-mail thcwritersgroup@gmail.com and I will send you what you need to stop by.

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, October 10th, starting at 2PM, in my yard.  If you can attend, we’d love to see you.  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 any questions or concerns about the meeting, please let me know.  I hope to see you all on the 10th.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Matt H – The Oracle of Des Moines.docx
Salvador – ToruSancto.docx
Matt B – The Lost Job pt1.docx
Aaron – Los Ebanos 1.rtf
Cary – My Boys – Let Me Be Your Friend.docx

Notes from the September, 2020 Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting

We had our ninety-fifth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, September 12 and while we had hoped to be able to meet in person outdoors, the weather didn’t cooperate.  Thanks to Sean, Lisa, Kathy, Cary, Matt H, Carol, Salvador, and Aaron for joining me to make a perfect Brady Bunch-like square on our WebEx meeting to talk about writing and stuff.  Thanks, too, to Jaime for continuing to offer his establishment to us if we want to have another meeting indoors.  You really should stop by The Tamale Hut and get some carry-out at your next opportunity.

As usual, I started with a few agenda items:
– Jen, Brian, and Steve all had other obligations and sent their regrets for missing the meeting.
– The virtual 2020 Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books at UW-Waukesha scheduled for November 6 and 7 has been canceled, although a few of the previously-announced events will be held.  This is the event that I had a table at a few years ago, and while I didn’t do well in terms of sales, I had a great time.  Details of the event, and the sessions still planned, are at http://www.sewibookfest.com/.
– Verna from the Berwyn Library sent word of a Midwest Writers Workshop event featuring agent pitches!! The Midwest Writers Workshop Agent Fest will be on Nov 18-21 via Zoom. She says “It looks fantastic.!!” https://www.midwestwriters.org/2020/08/its-launch-day-mww-agent-fest-online-2020/
– The Northbrook Writes series at the Northbrook Public Library has a series of writers events coming up:
Methods of World-Building with Mary Robinette Kowal Thursday, September 24, 7:00-8:00pm
Hugo Award-winning writer, Mary Robinette Kowal offers suggestions to help you construct a compelling fictional world.
Beginnings & Endings with Juan Martinez Saturday, October 17, 1:00-2:00pm
Award-winning writer and assistant professor at Northwestern University, Juan Martinez shares how to develop the beginning and end of a story, successfully crafting them as two halves of the same whole, and mirror images of one another.
Developing Character Emily Gray Tedrowe Monday, October 19, 7:00-8:00pm
Award-winning author and Creative Writing teacher at DePaul University, Emily Gray Tedrowe presents the keys to developing convincing, memorable characters and how their relationships with one another will have readers invested in their stories.
Genre as Metaphor with Julia Fine Saturday, October 24, 1:00-2:00pm
Julia Fine, whose debut novel was shortlisted for the Bram Stoker Superior First Book Award and the Chicago Review of Books Award, will look at the elements of genre fiction with a focus on how writers use genre as metaphor to subvert expectations and enhance their work and how to determine which genre elements make the most sense for your individual project.
Details of all of these sessions are at https://www.northbrook.info/keep-in-touch/news/five-acclaimed-authors-lead-new-fall-virtual-writers-workshops
– Martin sent in a list of “Profound fortune cookie fortunes”, which is attached here.
– Other Writers Groups in the area: North Riverside Library meets 9/24 at 6pm, and the Berwyn Library groups 9/27 at 7pm.  Both are on Zoom, and you can check their respective library web sites for details.
– Mark your calendars: Advanced notice that the North Riverside Writers Group meeting in October will have a special presentation:
Using Real Crime & Forensics in Fiction
Thurs. Oct. 15th at 6pm on Zoom
“Telling details” and fascinating story sparks for your crime fiction can come from real cases, if you know where to look. Join author Cathy Pickens (Avery Andrews series, South Carolina: Charleston Mysteries, Charlotte’s True Crime Stories, and true crime columnist for Mystery Readers Journal) to discuss using real crime and forensics in fiction.
The presenters ask all attendees to answer the following questions; please email them to the hosting librarian at bodenl@northriversidelibrary.org for the zoom link.
[1] What are you writing or would you like to write?
[2] What do you like to read?
[3] What questions would you like answered about using real crime and forensics to write either crime fiction or true crime?
– The Craft Literary web site announced the 2020 Craft Flash Fiction Contest for stories up to 1000 words, with three prizes of $1000.  Deadline is Nov 1, must be unpublished work, and there’s a $20 reading fee per entry of up to two stories – https://www.craftliterary.com/craft-flash-fiction-contest/  This sparked a discussion of just what focus of the Craft Literary web site is.  I’ve mentioned it before because I’m on their mailing list, although I’m not sure how they got my name.  Matt H said that he’d submitted to their contests before, because it was easy and relatively inexpensive, but he was not sure what would have happened had he won.  I checked it out and it looks like the site publishes fiction and creative nonfiction on-line, and they are a paying market.  They accept submissions year-round and will reply with feedback for a fee.  If you’re interested in submitting, I’d recommend reading some of the fiction they have available on their site to get an idea of what they buy.
– Since I’m now taking the long drive to work a couple of days a week, I’m beginning to make a dent in the podcasts that have been building up on my phone since the plague hit.  I have two podcasts to recommend that I thought were outstanding:
Escape Pod 714: Marley and Marley a good time travel story, which ultimately breaks the rule that you’re not supposed to change things when you go back in time.
https://escapepod.org/2020/01/09/escape-pod-714-marley-and-marley/
Escape Pod 712: When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis is a good sci-fi story starring, unsurprisingly, a robot and a crow.  I thought it was very well done and really held my attention.
https://escapepod.org/2019/12/26/escape-pod-712-when-robot-and-crow-saved-east-st-louis/
– Cary reported that he actually finished a story!  (We kid him on this, which is why it’s newsworthy.)  He said that he set his goal for the July Camp NaNoWriMo at 25,000 words and finished the month with just over 26,000, but more importantly, he completed the story.  Congratulations, Cary.
– Matt H has been looking into Inkshares, and has submitted his latest project with them.  He said that if his story gets enough interest, they will help him to get it published.  Check it out and support his work at https://www.inkshares.com/books/armageddon-in-the-agriculture?referral_code=5e956e9b
– Salvador spoke of a short-story contest on Lulu, another company set up to help writers get their stories in print.  I apologize that I didn’t take down the details during the conversation, but I see on https://contests.lulu.com/ that there is a Halloween Flash Fiction contest going on now.  Submissions accepted until Sept 30
– Aaron mentioned that he sent the first three chapters of his current story to his publisher and is awaiting a reply.  We have our fingers crossed, Aaron!

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Aaron hasn’t done much reading, but he’s been spending time in editing
– Cary is enjoying The First Time by Colton Underwood
– Kathy mentioned three books and said they were all excellent: House on Endless Waters by Emuna Elon, A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum, and Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg
– Carol recommended Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
– Sean is still working on Theory of Remainders by Scott Carpenter.  He gave up on Pulp by Charles Bukowski, started The Girl with All the Gifts by Mike Carey, and picked up Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother by Barry Sonnenfeld and The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster
– Lisa has been reading three novels as a judge for the current Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project, and she’s also started The Institute by Stephen King
– Matt H mentioned Asteroid Made of Dragons by G. Derek Adams and The Cthulhu Casebooks #3 by James Lovegrove.  He’s also reading a biography of Walt Disney as research for another project, and has started on Role Models by John Waters
– Salvador said he’s read nothing of note
– Matt B read A Laurel and Hardy Book, a collection of essays edited by Leonard Maltin and is enjoying various issues of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine that he’s purchased over the years.

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual general writing discussions and critiques.  I think everyone was disappointed with the rain that forced us back on-line, but we made the best of it, and the conversation rambled from topic to topic as it typically does.  And with only five pieces to discuss this month, we had plenty of time for the discussion to veer into sometimes unrelated territory, usually television and movie adaptations.

We also had another unique story inspired by the picture in our latest group project.  I’m really bummed that we will not be able to get together somewhere this month and present all the stories, because there are some great ones, each with a different take on the same picture.   If you’re on our mailing list and you haven’t read them all, check back in your e-mails for the following:
From the July meeting:
Sean – MAXIME ET DANIEL.pdf
From the August meeting:
Kathy – THC photo prompt story 2020 Brunch at Paul’s Cafe & Bakery.docx
Matt B – Next slide, honey.docx
From the September meeting:
Salvador – PauldeLille.docx
From the October meeting:
Matt H – The Oracle of Des Moines.docx

Thanks again to everyone for joining me this month. Here’s the schedule for the next month or so:
– The Tamale Hut Café Reading Series is still on hold, pending some kind of a breakthrough in the current pandemic.  Please check the blog (http://thcreadingseries.wordpress.com/) for announcements of upcoming events, should there be any.  I will also try to notify you if anything is happening.
– around September 27, I will send a reminder to everyone 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, Oct 10 at 2PM, with a location to be determined.  If the weather holds out, we can try again to meet outdoors.

Thanks for your interest in the THC Writers Group. I hope to see you at the next Writers Group meeting, be it on-line or in person, and at the next Reading Series event, whenever that may be.

Stay indoors, stay healthy, stay sane, support some locally-owned restaurants (including the Tamale Hut Café) with carry-out orders or outside dining where available, and most of all: Keep Writing!

Matt B

Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for September

Believe it or not, it’s almost September!  The days are getting shorter, the air is a little cooler, and when I was on my morning constitutional today, I saw a number of kids going back to school.  I’m a little sad to think that the summer that I didn’t even realize had started is just about over.

Meanwhile, we’re still mostly trapped in our homes by this virus that has been running amok.  The consensus last month was to have our August meeting virtually again, and with the latest rise in cases in the area, I don’t think we should meet indoors for September.  I do have an alternative that I mentioned during the call last month.  We have a large yard next to the building I live in, and my neighbor has a banquet hall-amount of tables and chairs that he said we could use.  Weather permitting, we could have the September meeting outdoors, in my side yard.  When I raised this idea, Matt H suggested that if we do this, maybe we could arrange a big takeout order from the Tamale Hut, so that Jaime doesn’t think that we forgot about him.

I tallied up the responses I received and more of you prefer an outdoor meeting instead of an on-line one, so that’s what we’re going to try to have this month. As of Sunday morning, the National Weather Service calls for a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms every day this week including Saturday and both Weather Underground and The Weather Channel predict a 40% chance of rain for Saturday. I figure that means a 60% chance that it’s not going to rain, but if it looks bad on Saturday morning, I will schedule a WebEx session and send out the connection details early that day. If you’d like to attend but are currently not on our mailing list, send an e-mail to thcwritersgroup@gmail.com, and I can send you the details.

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, September 12th, starting at 2PM.  If you can attend, we’d love to see you.  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.

I hope to see you all on the 12th.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Matt H – AA 20-25.docx
Salvador – PauldeLille.docx
Cary – My Boys – Some Sunday Morning.docx
Aaron – Los Ebanos 1.rtf
Sean – COUNTERINTELLIGENCE.rtf

Notes from the August, 2020 Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting

We had our ninety-fourth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, August 8.  Thanks to Sean, Salvador, Brian, Kathy, Matt H, Chris, Carol, and Aaron for joining me on-line for conversations about writing and stuff.  I think for the foreseeable future, we’re going to operate as we did this month, where I’ll poll the members and see how many people are willing to attend in person and how many prefer the safety of meeting on-line.  Jaime is still willing to host us, but the Covid news out there is pretty grim.  Hopefully we’ll be able to flatten the curve, as they say, so more of us will feel safe meeting indoors again.

As usual, I started with a few agenda items:
– Salvador wrote in: I attended a User Group meeting and won an IT related book in a raffle, except that when I received the book via mail, I saw that the cover title did not correspond with the inside contents. Here, I’ve made a video: https://youtu.be/p1QNDgW_Lbk
– I received a message from Lana at queryletter.com – My name is Lana and I’m with QueryLetter.com. We’re holding a writing competition for talented and original writers. Here are the contest details including the cash award: https://www.queryletter.com/contest    Because we think it’ll really benefit Tamale Hut Café Writers Group members, we hope you’ll choose to add it to your website.
The contest is “Write and submit a back cover blurb of 100 words or fewer that sets the stage for a novel, establishes the characters, and raises the stakes in a way that makes readers want to find out more.”  There’s a $500 prize, and it closes 9/15 at noon Eastern
– I also had an e-mail from MastersReview.com – Summer Short Story Award for New Writers – 6000 words, $20 entry fee. Prizes are $3000+publication online, $300 & $200, All winners and honorable mentions will receive agency review. Deadline for entry is 8/30 – https://mastersreview.com/short-story-award-for-new-writers/
– I subscribe to the Washington Post and came across this ‘Perspective’ piece: “Alan Dershowitz claims a fictional lawyer defamed him. The implications for novelists are very real.” Basically, a character in the TV show The Good Fight made a comment about him and he wants CBS to delete the offending dialogue and issue him a public apology – https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/alan-dershowitz-claims-the-good-wife-defamed-him-the-implications-for-fiction-writers-are-very-real/2020/08/05/703e7106-d699-11ea-aff6-220dd3a14741_story.html
– If you’re looking for other Writers Groups, the North Riverside Library Writers Group meets on-line on Thursday, 8/20 at 6pm (http://www.northriversidelibrary.org/events/digital-programming-writers-group/), and the Berwyn Library Writers Group virtual meeting is Sunday, 8/30 at 7pm (https://berwynlibrary.libcal.com/event/6901184)
– Classic Tales Audiobooks is offering some free audiobooks for people stuck at home. The titles are ostensibly for kids K-12, but they’re free for anyone to download Titles include The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Captain Blood and The Wizard of Ozhttps://store.classictalesaudiobooks.com/home-from-school-free-c122.aspx
– THIS FRIDAY at 11am, August 21, there will be a webinar titled Pandemic Prose: Writing in the time of COVID with two of the past winners of the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author project.  Details are at https://soontobefamous.info/blog/what-are-two-award-winning-authors-experiencing-during-this-pandemic

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Sean had an eclectic list: Theory of Remainders by Scott Carpenter, Pulp by Charles Bukowski, It Was All a Lie by Stuart Stevens, Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean, and White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
– Salvador is reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley so that he can compare it to the new TV show he plans to watch
– Brian is reading Camp Z: The Secret Life of Rudolf Hess by Stephen McGinty, partially as research for his project
– Kathy has also got a lot of reading done: The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata, The Book of V. by Anna Solomon, Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon, and No Second Chance by Harlan Coben
– Matt H read The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis and is re-reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
– Chris is reading White Noise by Don DeLillo, but he recently enjoyed the TV series The Last Dance and is looking forward to the adaptation of I’m Thinking of Ending Things coming in Sept to Netflix
– Carol has been reading some Readers Digest Selects, but more as examples of storytelling rather than for enjoyment.  She’s also recently liked Long Road to Mercy by David Baldacci, Lawyer for the Dog by Lee Robinson, and The Burning Room by Michael Connelly
– Aaron wanted to read a classic work over the summer, so he’s tackling Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.  He’s also reading  Smart Blood Sugar by Marlene Merritt
– Matt B listened to Leave it to Psmith by PG Wodehouse, read A Hell of a Murder by Warren Carrier, and really, really liked Turn on the Heat by A.A. Fair a.k.a. Erle Stanley Gardner

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual general writing discussions and critiques.  We had few of the technical difficulties that we struggled with last time, and I think that made for a more relaxed session.  We had seven pieces to discuss, and we took our time with each of them, which made for the longest WebEx meeting that we’ve had so far.  Two of the pieces were written for the prompt that we chose for our summer project, and I’m a little sad that it looks like our scheduled feature spot a the September THC Reading Series night won’t happen, because the three stories so far made good use of the picture prompt and couldn’t be more different in the approach that the authors have taken.  It’s a creative bunch we have, and I’m looking forward to more stories loosely centered around the Paul pâtisserie.

Thanks again to everyone for joining me this month. Here’s the schedule for the next month or so:
– The Tamale Hut Café Reading Series is still on hold, pending lifting of the statewide stay-at-home order.  Please check the blog (http://thcreadingseries.wordpress.com/) for announcements of upcoming events.
– around August 30, I will send a reminder to everyone 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, Sept 12 at 2PM, with a location to be determined by the responses to my survey.

Thanks for your interest in the THC Writers Group. I hope to see you at the next Writers Group meeting, be it on-line or in person, and at the next Reading Series event, whenever that may be.

Stay indoors, stay healthy, stay sane, support some locally-owned restaurants (including the Tamale Hut Café – now also open on Sundays!) with carry-out orders or outside dining where available, and most of all: Keep Writing!

Matt B

Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for August

Last month, we had our first in-person meeting since the quarantine went into effect in March, and I thought it went very well.  It wasn’t quite like it was before the plague took over the world, but it was good.  Unfortunately, things haven’t been so good for the country at large since then, with the number of infections and the death toll continuing to rise.  As of today, the state has not backed off of the Phase 4 designation for reopening, but I know the news is making me concerned.

Jaime is still willing to host us if we want, but I took a survey of our membership and this time, more people responded that they would prefer prefer the relative safety of an on-line meeting, so that’s what we’re going to have this month. I would also encourage you to stop by the Tamale Hut for some carry-out tamales and tinga.

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, August 8th, on the ‘net via WebEx, starting at 2PM.  Connection details were sent to everyone on the mailing list. If you’re not currently on the list but would like to attend, please send an e-mail to thcwritersgroup@gmail.com. If you can attend, we’d love to see you. 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.

I hope to see, or at least hear, all of you on-line on the 8th.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Sean – THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT.pdf
Matt B – Next slide, honey.docx
Matt H – aa 14-20.docx
Aaron – Los Ebanos 1.rtf
Brian – If it moves Draft July 2020.docx
Kathy – THC photo prompt story 2020 Brunch at Paul’s Cafe & Bakery.docx
Chris W – The Cuckoo Clock.doc

Notes from the July, 2020 Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting

We had our ninety-third Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, July 11.  Thanks to Steve, Sean, Lisa, Aaron, and Chris for joining me in person at the Tamale Hut for conversations about our current creative efforts and how we’re coping with the state of the world today.  Thanks, also to Matt H for sending in some comments, and to Jaime for again allowing us to completely rearrange all the tables and chairs in his dining room to accomplish our social distancing.

THC Writers Group, July 2020

Social distancing at the Tamale Hut.

​Before we started, I shared an e-mail that I received from Robert, one of our recent attendees:


I’ve been thinking about the writer’s group meeting in-person once more. I very much wish I could be there, but I won’t, I’m afraid.

I grew up in a medical household, and my PhD area of specialization is medical education. I know the world very much desires to return to how things were before the pandemic.

But the U.S. isn’t ready. New Zealand did everything right and are reaping the rewards by reopening. But the U.S., despite having only 4% of the world’s population, has 25% of the world’s COVID-19 deaths. Increasing research indicates that indoor environments where people gather and linger (like restaurants) are significant vectors for transmission. Masks are certainly the right thing to do, but group meetings typically go 2 hours or more, and that’s a risk I’m unwilling to take at present.

I’m really sorry to miss it. I’ve been struggling a lot since I left grad school, and finding THC Writer’s Group was one of the best things that happened to me since moving back to Illinois. But until a vaccine—and a smarter U.S. response, locally and nationally—then I’m afraid I’m not going to be available for extended meetings inside, even with masks (which is the right thing to do!) and distancing (also the right thing to do!).

I hope everyone stays safe and healthy, and has a good meeting.

I miss the group. Please pass along my fond greetings to everyone, with special words of encouragement and gratitude to Cary, Lisa, Sean, Erroll, Cathy, and yourself.

Thanks,

Robert


This got me thinking about getting together in these Covid-19 times.  We met in person this month because the majority of people who replied to my e-mail said that they would prefer it over another webinar.  I plan to ask the same question next month, assuming that our governor doesn’t move us back from Phase 4 to a more restrictive stage.  But as I think about it now, I’m not sure which way I’d choose.

We then continued with a few agenda items:
– It seems I spoke too soon at last month’s meeting, because in the last two weeks, both the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention and the Printers Row Lit Fest were canceled for 2020.  Disappointing, but not unexpected.
–  Literary Agent/author Eric Smith recently had to put down his beloved corgi, Augie, “after five and a half sweet years together.” And while losing a dog is always hard, Smith penned a beautiful tribute to his short-legged companion — in the form of writing advice. https://www.ericsmithrocks.com/blog/2020/7/7/a-guide-to-writing-the-perfect-story
– And if you’re still looking for things to take up your quarantine time, now through 8/2, the 50% off Criterion Collection sale is on at Barnes & Noble (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/) online and in stores (and the big Godzilla set is included!)  Also, there’s a 4 for $44 sale going on at Warner Archive, which features lots of films that you don’t see every day. (https://www.wbshop.com/collections/warner-archive)
– Lisa sent word of an on-line reading event on Sunday, July 19 from the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.  Details of the event, including speaker bios and registration info, are at https://www.prairielights.com/live/iwp-presents-between-lines-peace-and-writing-experience

– We briefly discussed the Group Project that we’re doing this year.  Sean’s piece was in the batch to review for the meeting, and he’s set the bar pretty high for this project.  Our group is still scheduled to be the feature readers at the September Reading Series, should there be one, but even if we just share our stories with family and friends, these projects are always fun.  In case you missed it, here’s the prompt picture: https://thcwritersgroup.wordpress.com/2020/05/20/notes-from-the-may-2020-tamale-hut-cafe-writers-group-meeting/#group-project-2020

We then went around the table to try to get everyone’s current reading list, but most of us have not been reading,  Steve is in the middle of his periodic re-reading of George Orwell’s 1984, and is also reading The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, edited by Bandy X. Lee, but Lisa and Matt B had nothing to report.
Sean was the only one with a list.  He’s still reading What’s Bred in the Bone, the second book in the Cornish Trilogy by Robertson Davies, and he’s re-reading Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré, for what he says is the fourth or fifth time.  He’s also read, or is reading, Catch a Falling Spy by Len Deighton, Howards End by E. M. Forster, and Begin Again by Eddie Glaude.

Lisa did recommend a few horror movies that she’s seen recently.  She spoke highly of Hereditary from 2018, Midsommar from 2019, and 2019’s The Lighthouse, which she praised for it’s almost square picture evoking a feeling of actually being in a lighthouse.  She also recommended Eegah, a 1962 film starring Richard Keil.  She said it’s “so bad, it’s brilliant!”

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual general writing discussions and critiques.  We had a small list of stories to discuss this month, so we were able to spend sufficient time on each.  The highlight was probably Sean showing us all the research that he did before writing his story.  As I mentioned earlier, he set the bar high on this group project.

Additionally, the conversation meandered quite a bit as it usually does when we meet in person.  That seems to me to be the biggest difference between meeting on-line and meeting in person, and it was a welcome change after a few months of virtual meetings.

Thanks again to everyone for joining me this month. Here’s the schedule for the next month or so:
– The Tamale Hut Café Reading Series is still on hold, pending lifting of the statewide stay-at-home order.  Please check the blog (http://thcreadingseries.wordpress.com/) for announcements of upcoming events.
– around July 26, I will send a reminder to everyone 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, Aug 8 at 2PM, with a location to be determined by the responses to my survey.

Thanks for your interest in the THC Writers Group. I hope to see you at the next Writers Group meeting, be it on-line or in person, and at the next Reading Series event, whenever that may be.

Stay indoors, stay healthy, stay sane, support some locally-owned restaurants (including the Tamale Hut Café – now also open on Sundays!) with carry-out orders or outside dining where available, and most of all: Keep Writing!

Matt B

Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for July

While the coronavirus threat is still very much with us, our friends and neighbors (well, most of ‘em, anyway) have been doing such a good job with wearing masks and social distancing that we are now in Phase 4 of the state’s recovery plan. This means that gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed, and bars and restaurants are allowed to have indoor seating.

It also means that we can resume in-person meetings starting in July. Things will be a little different from past meetings, though. Everyone will be required to wear a mask, except while you’re eating. Everyone will be seated at their own table, and the tables will be situated at least six feet apart to maintain recommended social distancing. And Jaime has offered to provide hand sanitizer for our use. Other than that, it should be the same fun and interesting kind of meeting that we’ve been enjoying for almost eight years. I hope to see many of you there.

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, July 11th, at the Tamale Hut Café, starting at 2PM. If you can attend, we’d love to see you. 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 any questions or concerns about the meeting, please let me know. I hope to see you all on the 11th.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Sean – MAXIME ET DANIEL.pdf
Chris W – First Lucky Chapter 3 POVs.docx

Notes from the June, 2020 Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting

We had our ninety-second Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, June 14.  Thanks to Lisa, Sean, Salvador, Matt H, Brian, Kathy, Cary, Chris, and Aaron for joining me on-line via WebEx for conversations about our current creative efforts and how we’re coping with the state of the world today.

As usual, we started with a few agenda items:
– I received a message from Marianne: Hello All, Just a shout-out to check in and let you know I’ll be back with the group when we can finally meet in person…I have been reading everyone’s submissions each month…WOW, lot’s of writing going on, all great stuff!  Juppe is still romping around in my computer…can’t wait to get critics again.
Hope everyone is well, so far I have endured months of Covid isolation, 3 demonstrations in town, and just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse THE CICADAS ARE HERE, aaaaaaaagggggggggggggg!!
Love & miss you all, Marianne K.
– Errol wrote in to say that he couldn’t make the call this month, and Jenn wrote that she “won’t be able to make today’s meeting, studying for my Microsoft exams.”  Good luck on the exams, Jenn
– I had some encouraging book-related signs that life might soon be returning to normal:
– Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention (http://windycitypulpandpaper.com/home/) and the Printers Row Lit Fest (https://printersrowlitfest.org/) are still scheduled for September.  I was skeptical when each rescheduled instead of cancelled, but with Illinois already in Phase 3 of reopening, the possibility of the two events happening is increasing.
– Chimera’s Comics in LaGrange is now open Wednesdays – Fridays 12-7 and Saturdays 11-5.  As most places, they have a limit of now many people can be in the store at once, but they are offering curbside pickup if you call ahead.
– Brookfield Library is also open for curbside service, as are other libraries
– Half-Price Books in Countryside is open, but with the limited number of customers allowed in the store, shopping there is apparently not the casual experience it has been.  I’m sure that’ll change once restrictions loosen.
– In disappointing news, Lisa reported that the stories from last month were true that Anderson’s Bookshop in LaGrange is closing for good on July 1, even while running a GoFundMe campaign to keep the chain open.  I still say a magazine rack would have been a moneymaker there, despite the extra work involved.
– I’ve been enjoying the Silent Comedy Watch Party (https://www.silentfilmmusic.com/silent-comedy-watch-party/), where you can see three silent comedy shorts on-line, accompanied by live piano music and some historical commentary.  The live broadcast is at 2pm CDT on Sundays, but you can see past episodes on YouTube at the link above.
– The North Riverside Writers Group meets next on Thursday, June 18 at 6pm on Zoom.  Details and registration information are at http://www.northriversidelibrary.org/events/digital-programming-writers-group/

– We briefly discussed the Group Project that we’re doing this year.  The photo we’re using as a prompt is on our web site, and was included in last month’s recap e-mail.  Kathy said that she’s been thinking about a story, but Sean said that his story is done and he would be sending it in for review soon, possibly next month.  How’s everyone else coming along?

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list, such as it is in this time of short attention spans:
– Lisa has been reading documents for work on how to reopen public buildings safely with the threat of COVID-19 still upon us.  She’s also been writing some similar documents, so at least she’s getting some writing done.
– Sean is really enjoying What’s Bred in the Bone, the second book in the Cornish Trilogy by Robertson Davies. Brian also highly recommended the author and the series.
– Salvador had nothing to report
– Matt H is reading Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham. He said he’s looking forward to the upcoming film adaptation of the story.
– Brian really enjoyed Trial by Battle by David Piper, so much so that he actually finished it!
– Cary recently started On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves, and he likes what he’s read so far
– Chris liked I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid, and Finding Chika by Mitch Albom
– Matt B just started reading Shatterday by Harlan Ellison, after Jenn’s recommendation last month, and she was right that the first story, “Jeffty is Five,” is amazing

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual general writing discussions and critiques.  We had a few more technical difficulties this month with WebEx than we’ve had for previous meetings, but it was still better than meeting in person with all the associated health risks involved, and much better than not meeting at all.

Thanks again to everyone for joining me this month. Here’s the schedule for the next month or so:
– The Tamale Hut Café Reading Series is still on hold, pending lifting of the statewide stay-at-home order.  Please check the blog (http://thcreadingseries.wordpress.com/) for announcements of upcoming events.
– around June 28, I will send a reminder to everyone 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, July 11 at 2PM on-line via WebEx.

Thanks for your interest in the THC Writers Group. I hope to see you on-line for the next Writers Group meeting call, and in-person at the next Reading Series event, whenever that may be.

Stay indoors, stay healthy, stay sane, support some locally-owned restaurants (including the Tamale Hut Café – now also open on Sundays!) with carry-out orders or outside dining where available, and keep writing!

Matt B

Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for June

Jaime sent word that the meal that we all pitched in for was delivered on Tuesday, May 26, to the COVID-19 unit and the Internal Medicine department at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood.  Our contributions purchased:
24 pork tamales
24 cheese – Jalapeno tamales
24 chicken tamales
24 spinach tamales
12 bean tamales
19 pounds of tinga with tostada chips, sour cream and cotija cheese.

The following message was sent with the lunch:
Please accept this small token of appreciation from the Tamale Hut Café Writers Group for everything you do for the community. As writers, we know that our words have the power to heal minds and spirits, but your deeds have the power to heal bodies. Thanks for being there for us.

And our gesture was well-received:

Thanks to everyone for helping out the heroes at Loyola, and the Tamale Hut!

I also received a request from Chris, one of our regular attendees.  He is looking for someone to help him directly with the novel manuscript that he has been submitting in pieces to the group.  He writes, “I would be happy to offer a stipend that I could talk to anyone who might be interested in this with directly. Since I have sent in different chunks at various times, it’s not necessarily so fresh in everyone’s minds. Also, I know that it isn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea.”  I’m hoping that Chris will join in the next meeting, so we could talk to him in person about what he’s looking for.  In the meantime, if you’re interested in helping Chris out, let me (Matt B) know and I’ll put you in touch with him.

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, June 13th, on the ‘net via WebEx, starting at 2PM.  Connection details were sent to everyone on the mailing list. If you’re not currently on the list but would like to attend, please send an e-mail to thcwritersgroup@gmail.com. If you can attend, we’d love to see you. 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.

I hope to see, or at least hear, all of you on-line on the 13th.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Sean – REGARDING THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT.docx
Matt H – AA 11-14.docx
Brian – The contours of homesickness June 2020.docx
Salvador – GodofWar.docx
Cary – My Boys – Just Three friends.docx
Aaron – Los Ebanos 1.rtf
Matt B – The Three Piemakers pt1.docx
Chris W – Batch of 4 Shorts for June THC Meeting.docx