We 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.”
– 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for the zoom link.
 What are you writing or would you like to write?
 What do you like to read?
 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!