Notes from the January, 2016 Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting

We had our fortieth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, January 9.  Thanks to Cary, Marianne, Steve, Kathy, Matt H, Beth, Lisa, Sean, Salvador and Christian for joining me on a snowy Saturday afternoon, and to Mike for sending in his comments via e-mail since he couldn’t attend in person.  And as always, thanks to Jaime for the comfortable surroundings.

We started with a few quick news items:
– our round-robin story is under way.  I completed the first chapter and sent it off to next person before we met.  Just to recap if you don’t remember:
– I have a list of everyone who has signed up to participate
– when it’s your (randomly selected) turn I will send you the most current version of the story, containing all previous chapters.  You have two weeks to add a chapter and return it to me, at which time I will send it off to the next person
– I will strip off all indication of who wrote what chapter, so if you don’t recognize the style, you won’t know who wrote what came before
– each chapter will be a maximum of 2000 words
– once everyone on the list has had a chance to write a chapter, we’ll evaluate where we’re at.  We could end the story if we feel it’s run its course, or we could go around again
– I will also be sending out the latest version of the story attached to my monthly meeting announcement.  You can read it if you wish, or if you’d rather be surprised when your time comes, simply put it aside.
– have fun!
– if anyone wants to get in on the story project, please e-mail me and I’ll add you to the list
– I still plan to put links on web site to the writer’s articles we’ve discussed in the meetings – I’ll try to get that done this month
– Jaime is still looking for your thoughts on the Tamale Hut – you do not have to read them at the Jan. event, which will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the restaurant.  You can send them to him, or e-mail them to me and I’ll forward.
– the Nelson Algren contest deadline is Jan 31, 2016.  Most of the Printers Row inserts containing last year’s winners that I brought in last week came back and were lent out again.  The idea was that we could see what type of stories they picked last year.
– speaking of the Printers Row section of the Tribune, I commented that as of the first of the year, the section will no longer be delivered with the Sunday paper, but will be digital-only.  What that means to me is that I will no longer be able to share the section with my mother, who doesn’t use a computer or smart-phone, and I’ll no longer be able to share the fiction section with the group, as I have the last couple of years.  I’m pretty upset about this and will be canceling my subscription.
– I’m going to the Indie City Writers Live-Lit event at 57th Street Books on Thursday, Jan 14 from 6-8pm.  This is the first reading for that group, and I was invited by K.B. Jensen, who I met at the Chicago Book Expo last year.  When we met, we discussed some cross-promotion between the groups, so you might be seeing more about this group.
– Most of you are aware of Bad Grammar Theater, the reading series run by THC regular Brendan Detzner.  His first event of 2016 is this Friday, Jan 15 at a new location: Forte Framing and Gallery, 2301 W. North Avenue in Chicago. Show starts at 7 o’clock.
– Cary mentioned that much of what he’s been bringing to the group, such as last months Character Development Chart, has come from one of two Pinterest boards, and instead of him printing things out, he figured he’s just send in links to the boards.  He’s not sure if you need a log-in to get all the information.
– Writing and Role-play Inspiration:
– Writers Community Board:
– Steve told us that he was unable to submit anything to the group this month due to technical difficulties, but he will be reading his new work at the THC Reading Series event next Saturday, and would appreciate feedback from anyone in attendance.  You can speak to him in person Saturday, or send your thoughts to me at and I will forward.

Internet Notes –
– speaking of Brendan Detzner, the last PodCastle episode of 2015 contained a story from Brendan’s most recent collection.  Look for episode number 396 to hear Brendan’s story Spirits of the Wind read by someone other than Brendan
– I mentioned Dean Wesley Smith’s book about Heinlein’s Rules, the few simple rules he follows as a professional writer.  The book is done and is available on his web site until it’s published in book form.  It’s worth a read even if you’re not a professional writer.

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual conversation and critiques.  There were several really interesting conversations around the pieces we read this month.  One piece was longer than we usually get, which was fine since it was sent in early, and it generated a lot of discussion about the mix of flashback with the present day, and I found it interesting when the author talked about the transition the story took from short story to novella.

We also had quite a bit of discussion regarding the best way to indicate dialect on the printed page.  I found an article which suggested the best way was to use standard spelling while mentioning the dialect outside of the actual dialogue (  Other people had different suggestions on how to accomplish what the writer was trying to do.

A few pieces were in more of an early state, and we were able to suggest ideas for plotting that the author maybe hadn’t thought about, while others were more fully-formed, for which we simply offered encouragement, and maybe some fine-tuning suggestions, as needed.  Overall, it was a nice variety of pieces to review this month.

Thanks again to everyone for joining me this month.  Here’s the schedule for the next month or so:
– the next Tamale Hut Cafe Reading Series event will be next Saturday, January 16 at 7PM.  The featured reader will be Germania Solarzano, who was the very first Reading Series featured reader back in 2007. Please check the blog for more information.
– around Jan 31, I will 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, Feb 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 next Writers Group meeting.

Matt B


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