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

We had our forty-ninth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, October 8, which was Indie Author Day, and our fourth anniversary (you missed the cookies!)  Thanks to Cary, Beth, Marianne, Lisa, Sean, Steve, Matt H, Salvador, Robert, and first-time attendee Aaron for joining me for a lively afternoon talking about writing and stories.  And thanks to Jaime for four years of unwavering support.

We started with a few quick agenda items:
– Since it was our anniversary, I started with some statistics: we’ve had 48 meetings, we have 58 people on our mailing list, we’ve had 47 different attendees, and have critiqued 324 pieces!  Besides myself, Matt H has participated in the last 35 consecutive meetings, Sean has been to the last 24, and Cary the last 22.  And except for a few people who only attended one or two meetings, Sean is the only person to have contributed a story to every meeting he attended.
– The next two meetings will be Nov 12 and Dec 10.  I plan to have flyers up by next weekend at the usual places.
– Our group will be the feature at the next THC Presents Reading Series night, coming up on October 22nd.  We will be presenting stories from our latest group project, “the News and its impact.”  The current plan is to have Matt H and Beth read during the usual feature spot at the start of the evening, and anyone else attending is encouraged to read their “News” story during open mic time.  I’m really looking forward to it, as there are some really good stories written as part of the project.
– The 2016 Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author Project is now accepting entries (through January 7, 2017.)  You can enter your self-published book through your local library.  There is a cash prize this year!
– The 2016 Chicago Book Expo will be held on Sunday, November 13, 2016 at Columbia College downtown.  I have reserved a table as I did the last two years, and Marianne, Sean, Beth and Steve have expressed interest in joining me.  Mark your calendars and come down to support us.
– NaNoWriMo executive director Grant Faulkner will be in Chicago as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival.  He’s speaking on Friday, Nov 4, and tickets are $10/$12.  Many of the other festival events are already sold out, so if you’re interested, I’d recommend getting your tickets soon.
– Cary mentioned that the LaGrange Park library will be hosting NaNoWriMo Write-In meetings on Nov 6 and 27, from 1-4:30pm.  Aaron said he mentioned the THC to the NaNoWriMo people as a possible meeting place as well.
– Salvador reported that Barnes & Noble has a Writer’s group. The group is based out of Downers Grove and meets at the B&N in Oakbrook.  Next meeting is Thursday, Oct 20
– Salvador also found the missing info on the writer that he met at the Comic Con.  He thought Matt H might be interested because he expressed interest in horror fiction.  He said “this is serious horror, none of the cutesy stuff like the Twilight stories and others similar to it.” – http://www.dennismcdonaldauthor.com/
– Matt B has signed up to be in the Writers Marketplace at The Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books in Waukesha, WI on Nov 5.
– Steve brought up a fiction writing course from the University of Iowa entitled How Writers Write Fiction 2016: Storied Women.
– We discussed the serial story that we wrote earlier this year.  We did receive the final chapter for it this past week, but after careful deliberation we decided that it would not be a good use of our time to try to edit it for publication, or even for giving it away for free on our blog site.  We plan to do another project in the near future, and what we learned from this one will help us with the next one.

We then went around the table to find out what each of us was currently reading:
– Cary is enjoying Read Bottom Up by Neel Shah, and is still trying to finish The Scarlet Letter
– Beth is reading Grace Without God by Katherine Ozment
– Marianne is reading a book about Kafka and Prague, but there are several such books and I’m not sure which one
– Lisa is enjoying The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
– Sean is reading John le Carré’s The Looking Glass War, and The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire
– Steve recommends Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott
– Matt H read Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun, on Sean’s recommendation from last month, and has also enjoyed the first Sleep Detectives collection, and the first chapters of The King In Yellow.  He said he was looking for some classic sci-fi and horror, and Sean recommended A Voyage to Arcturus and Melmoth the Wanderer
– Matt B hasn’t read much last month but recommended The Magic of Belle Isle, a film from 2012 starring Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen.  Directed by Rob Reiner, it’s the story of a writer with writer’s block spending a summer in a small town and how he reacts to that situation.  He liked it a lot.
– Aaron enjoyed Guns Of Rio Conchos by Clair Huffaker, and is finding a lot of parallels between the Western town in the book and the fantasy town in his own work.
– Salvador said that he’s just been reading textbooks for the classes he’s taking
During the discussion, Beth suggested that instead of just mentioning titles, we should write short reviews of the books we read.  There was some resistance to that idea, from may people who say they simply don’t have the time, but we agreed to give it a try.
Matt B suggested that maybe we should set up a group in Goodreads to make it easier to share reviews, and Lisa said she would look into it.  A Goodreads group would make it easier to share reviews, to find past reviews, and I wouldn’t have to take down the names of each book mentioned and then try to find the author or make sure I have the title right while typing up these recap e-mails.  I’ll send out details of that when plans are solidified.
We later agreed that because this might increase the time taken at the meetings for the book section, we would move the reviews to the end.  We can then get the critiques done earlier, in case someone can’t stay if we run late.

Internet Notes –
– the NaNoWriMo blog had an article about Plot Doctoring: 9 Steps to Build a Strong Plot
– I’ve mentioned the Escape Artists podcasts in the past, and this month I listened to Escapepod episode 536 – Prophet to the Dogs.  It was an excellent story, and I was struck by how the gender of protagonist is never mentioned.  I worry that I sometimes don’t describe the physical attributes of my characters, and this story suggests that descriptions are not always necessary for a compelling story

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual lively conversation and critiques of the submitted work.  Four years in, I still enjoy our little get togethers, and get a lot out of the meetings, even if I don’t have a piece in for critique.  We still have new people and occasional attendees dropping by, but we have a very good core group of members who are positive and helpful and seem to get along well with each other.  That sometimes may seem a problem, such as when side conversations pop up and distract from the subject at hand.  I sometimes think that, as moderator, I should try to rein them in, but many of those side conversations wind up incorporated in the main discussion and take the overall conversation in a new and exciting direction.  You can’t plan for that, and it’s what makes the meetings as much entertaining as informative.  I’m pleased with the way things are going and look forward to our fifth year and beyond.

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, October 22 at 7PM, featuring our group and our “News” stories. Please check the blog or the group’s THC Facebook page for more information.
– around October 30, 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, beginning our fifth year, will be Saturday, Nov 12 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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