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

We had our forty-fifth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, June 18.  Thanks to Cary, Beth, Kathy, Matt H, Sean, Salvador, and Steve for joining me to talk writing and stories.  And as always, thanks to Jaime, who apparently had left just before we invaded the place.

We started with a few quick agenda items:
– We’ll be back on our second Saturday schedule next month.  The next two meetings will be July 9 and Aug 13.  I plan to have flyers up over next weekend at the usual places.
– We’re still waiting on the final chapter of the serial story the group collaborated on.  Steve was at the meeting to defend himself, and he says that he will absolutely, positively have it done when it’s done.  He says this is different from anything that he’s ever written, and that he’s trying to wrap up the story to a satisfying conclusion.  As I mentioned last month, as soon as I have it from him, I will send it out to everyone.
– The deadline for the 2016 THC Short Story Contest has been extended to July 22, 2016.  All the details (and the link to submit your story) can be found at the link above.  A reminder: the Writers Group has nothing to do with the contest other than to promote it.
– I gave a little recap of my experience at the Printers Row Lit Fest last weekend.  Short version is that I had a blast.  I didn’t sell as many books as I’d hoped, but I sold more than I expected, which is pretty good for a first outing.  I was under the Illinois Woman’s Press Association tent, and the organizer spent some time trying to talk me into joining.  I’ll be looking into that and the Chicago Writers Association because they both look like good opportunities to do some networking in the local writers community.  I’ll let you know what I find.
– An artist approached me when I was at Printers Row to ask about my book covers, because he wants to get into book design.  He gave me a link to his on-line portfolio, so if you’re in need of a book cover, please check out Chris X at
– The previous item sparked a discussion of book cover design, and I mentioned that I bought a stock photo for one of my covers from Dreamstime.  It was not that expensive and it was just what I was looking for.  Other popular stock photo sites are Bigstock and Shutterstock.
– Cary mentioned that he was taking an on-line class for Romance writing.  He said that so far they’ve been covering genres and elements in Romance, of which there are many, and he’ll have more details as the class progresses.
– Beth brought in a flyer for a benefit for the 16th Street Theater in Berwyn.  She said that the benefit is important because of the lack of funding for the arts here in Illinois.  She’s mentioned this theater before and said that they mount some good productions and deserve our support.  The benefit is Sunday, June 26 at Fitzgerald’s in Berwyn.  Details can be found at
– Like last month, we went around the table to poll what each of us was currently reading:
— Cary is reading The Vacationers by Emma Straub and The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain
— Beth is reading The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro, and she recommends BookBub to find good stuff to read and deals on books
— Kathy is reading All Things Cease To Appear by Elizabeth Brundaqge, The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith, and The Catcher Was A Spy The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg by Nicholas Dawdoff
— Matt H is working through a book of short stories by Roald Dahl.  He’s also enjoyed The Mount by Carol Emshwiller and has just finished The Mothman Prophesies
— Sean is listening to Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.  He’s just finished Little Big Man by Thomas Berger and three Bertolt Brecht plays.
— Salvador says that all his reading is to support a class he’s taking, so he doesn’t think anyone would be interested in compiler design.  He did say that he thinks the last thing he read for pleasure was The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells.  This prompted a brief discussion about the differences between the book, the two movies and the Mercury Theater radio drama.  I talked about one aspect about the Tom Cruise film version that I liked, and Matt H got a big laugh by mentioning that I was probably the first person who told him that they liked anything about that film.
— Steve is reading Bambi vs. Godzilla, the book about the movie business by David Mamet, not the classic animated film.
— I’m still working through Legends of New Pulp Fiction on my phone via Kindle.  I’m halfway though On Writing by Stephen King and am about to complete the deluxe edition of DC: The New Frontier that I took out of the library after the recent passing of writer/artist Darwyn Cooke.
– In the same vein as the current reading poll, Cary asked the group what music they like to listen to when writing, or if there are any other activities that encourages writing, like eating or watching TV.  He said that he like to listen to Alanis Morissette, Michelle Branch and Melissa Etheridge when writing, and Steve said that he can write to classical (not opera) but everyone else said they need quiet.  Sean said that he might actually benefit from a sensory deprivation tank to help him focus on what he’s working on.  I said that I’ve tried classical and electronica, but find even those instrumental tracks too distracting while writing.

Internet Notes –
Seventh Sanctum is a web page full of random generators, like for names, weapons, story prompts, etc
– There was an article on BoingBoing about the upcoming 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein.  It talks about two contests associated with the event.
– Salvador mentioned a site which shows 30 second movies reenacted by bunnies

The last project was a serialized story, where one person picked up the plot from the previous person.  We decided that this time, we would each write something based on a theme.  Each of our stories will be stand-alone (unless you want to collaborate with someone else, which is fine) and we will not have any restrictions on length, style, or tone.  I assume most of us will write a short story, but if you want to write a poem, a play, a song, an essay, a haiku, a sonnet, a comic book, an aphorism, or any other literary form, please feel free.  The theme this time will be:

– the news, and its impact

I know this is kind of a vague subject, and I don’t want to influence anyone by writing here about my thoughts on the theme, but the conversation at the meeting was about how there are so many big topics in the news these days.  With the upcoming election and the recent (and seemingly frequent) mass shootings, the acts of terrorism around the world and the social issues here at home, there’s no lack of news stories that impact us daily.  Or you might want to write about how the news is delivered, from the seemingly dwindling relevance of print newspapers to the over-saturation of the 24-hour news cycle on cable TV to the Internet, where everyone has a short attention span.  It’s all fair game.

IF YOU WANT JOIN IN, there’s no need to register.  Simply get started writing!  We are tentatively planning to focus our August 13 meeting around the group project stories.  This will be different from the last group project, but no less fun.

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual conversation and critiques of the submitted pieces.  One of the pieces is intended for the 2016 THC Short Story contest, so we gave that one a little extra time.  We also spent a lot of time talking about character motivation.  The group questioned why a certain character in one of the pieces was acting the way she was, and the resulting conversation emphasized how an author should know the motivation behind all his/her character’s activities, even if those details are not explicitly stated in the story.  Likewise, another character had a particular attribute that should have impacted the way that character acted, and many of us thought it didn’t.  We spoke at length about the need to have a thorough understanding of your character’s background, because if an author puts something specific in a character’s past, the author should do a little research on the causes and effects of the attribute.  Not only will that paint a more complete picture of the character in the author’s mind, it should make the story more believable.

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 next Saturday, June 25 at 7PM.  The featured reader will be Carlos Cumpian. Please check the blog or the THC Facebook page for more information.
– around June 28, 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, July 9 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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