Notes from the January, 2017 Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting

We had our fifty-second Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, January 14.  Thanks to Sean, Lisa, Marianne, Aaron, Matt H, Kathy, Steve, Cary, and returning member Laurie for joining me for the first meeting of 2017.  And thanks to Jaime for checking that we were paying attention with the sign pointing us to the other entrance door (which some of us missed!)

We started with a few quick agenda items:
– This first one is just a place-holder for the conversation we had during the first half-hour of the meeting.  Sean talked a bit about his recent experience with a web site that he found via a Facebook link that offered to help him publish and market his book.  I didn’t take notes on much of his presentation, but I asked him to send me the details, and I will post it separately once I receive it, because his comments and the conversations it triggered were really interesting, and I want to highlight it to the group.  Keep an eye on the blog for that one.
– Jaime confirmed to me that our group is the feature at the Reading Series night on October 21, 2017.  We pretty much decided that we want to have a group project like we did last year.  We’ll discuss this more next meeting.
– I mentioned Goodreads again, and asked if it was worth pursuing.  I set up the group there months ago, and created a bookshelf for people to add their books to, but so far only Lisa and I have done so.  I realize the bookshelf thing is not ideal, but I can’t see any other way of highlighting the most recently reviewed books of the group members.  A few people said they can’t see themselves writing reviews of books they read, but most people acknowledged that it would be a good resource, as the list of book titles mentioned in the meeting has been useful.  I then asked that everyone at least take a look at Goodreads (this link goes to the group) before the next meeting.  I’ve cleared the bookshelf and added the book I just finished so you can see how I’m proposing the bookshelf work.  You don’t have to write anything there, but at least look at it before next month’s meeting, so we can make a final decision on whether we will use it or if I should stop bringing it up.
– Sean got a nice note from his local librarian that they were happy to propose his book, Kalamazoo Oriole for this years Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author Project.  They close for submissions today, as I write this, and we wish Sean well in the contest.
– In response to the article I brought to the group a few months ago about movies that writers should watch, Steve proposed that we watch his addition to that list as a group and then discuss it.  He thinks that “In a Lonely Place” is worthwhile to do that, not only because Humphrey Bogart plays a writer but it’s a well written and well produced film.  The consensus is that it would be fun to watch a movie as a group then discuss it, but it would not be suitable for one of our monthly meetings, because it would take too much time.  Alternate proposals are welcome.
– Steve also mentioned the Chicago Writers Association Literary Bus Tour, which is happening later this month.  I included this in one of the pre-meeting e-mails, but if you need more information, it can be found at the link above.
– Aaron asked for ideas on how he can become more proactive regarding publishing.  Several members offered to speak with him off-line.
– Krista, one of the regulars at the THC Reading Series, tells us about the 16th Street Theater’s Great Blizzard Open Mic Night, on Tuesday, January 17 from 5pm-8pm at Culver’s Restaurant at 6943 W. Roosevelt Rd in Berwyn, IL 60402
“2017 is the 10th Anniversary of Berwyn’s first and only professional theater AND the 50th Anniversary of the great blizzard that nearly took down Chicago.
Join 16th Street Theater’s community of artists and storytellers to celebrate the opening of the first show of our 10th Season, Blizzard ’67, by Jon Steinhagen, and share your own memories of the ’67 blizzard (or ’79, or ’99, or ’11).  Stories, songs, jokes, newspaper clippings, scenes, and poems are welcome.  Drop in for some or all of the fun!  There is no fee to attend, but 10% of restaurant proceeds for the night will be donated to 16th Street Theater.”
– I mentioned that the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention is coming up on April 21-23 at the Westin Lombard, across the lot from Yorktown.  Details are at

– I next brought up a movie that we recently received from Netflix as an example of how not to write a story blurb.
The movie is Perfect Sense, a film from 2011 starring Ewan McGregor and Eva Green.  I was a little hesitant to give too many details because part of what I liked was the way the plot kept me guessing,
I added the film to my DVD queue based on the little pop-up on the Netflix web site, which read:
After sparks fly between an epidemiologist and a charming chef, a patient who’s lost his sense of smell radically alters the couple’s budding romance.  Genre: Indie Dramas, Drama
I didn’t read the full description on the Netflix site before watching, but that made the film sound like more than just an Indie Drama:
After sparks fly between a newly single epidemiologist and a charming chef, a puzzling patient — a truck driver who’s lost his ability to smell — drastically alters the couple’s budding relationship in this sci-fi thriller. Genre:     Drama, Indie Dramas, Romantic Dramas, Indie Romance, Sci-Fi Dramas
After we watched it, I looked in IMDB (which is not always accurate because it’s largely crowdsourced.)  Their blurb is a little more accurate:
A chef and a scientist fall in love as an epidemic begins to rob people of their sensory perceptions. Genre: Drama | Romance | Sci-Fi
At the meeting, I brought in my dog-eared copy of the Leonard Maltin Movie Guide.  Here’s what that august tome says:
Impulsive affair between a Glasgow sous chef and a wry epidemiologist unfolds amidst chaos as the world’s population starts to lose its five natural senses.  Grimly romantic medical mystery about falling in love during a plague that isn’t viral or toxic, or caused by terrorists or aliens; it just happens.  Actors bare their souls (and more) in a well-thought-out scenario of one possible end of the world, a refreshingly CGI-free sci-fi yarn in which the apocalypse is odorless and tasteless.
The point of me bringing this up, outside of recommending a pretty good movie (so long as you don’t mind a fair bit of nudity) is that had Stephie been watching this by herself, she likely would not have lasted 20 minutes, because the movie didn’t seem to match the blurb, and sent it back with a negative review.  The blurbs on the back of our books, or on the Amazon selling page, need to entice the reader but set reasonable expectations of what’s inside.

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
-Sean is enjoying Jurgen by James Branch Caball
-Lisa read Great Kitchens of the Midwest but didn’t care for it
-Marianne has been reading Zodiac Hunter, in preparation for her next book.  She said it’s filled with inaccuracies.
-Laurie has been reading books on writing.  She recommends Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress
-Matt H has been reading a lot of philosophy, but recently enjoyed The Rim of Morning by William Sloane
-Kathy read The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney and The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner, but she really liked The Art Forger by Barbara Shapiro
-Steve is working his way through a collection of Robert Service poems
-Cary has been too busy writing and working to read anything of note this month
-Matt B didn’t like The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson, but really enjoyed The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder

Internet Notes –
– The Secret of Writing An Action Movie in Book Form –

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the discussions of the submitted work.  We had a few rather lengthy pieces this month, but they were submitted early enough that most people had time to read everything, so the comments were thoughtful and constructive.  What made this meeting a little special was that Matt H brought in further work on a fascinating piece that we haven’t seen in almost two years, and Laurie was back after a year-and-a-half absence with more stories the ambitious fantasy world she is creating.  As I type this, it occurs to me that after more than four years of monthly meetings, we now have history where we can say, “Hey, it’s been years since we last saw that story!”  but we also have newer members who had never seen this stuff before.  How cool is that?

Thanks again to everyone for joining me this month.  Here’s the schedule for the next month or so:
– around January 29, 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, February 11 at 2PM at the Tamale Hut Café
– The next Tamale Hut Café Reading Series event will be Saturday, February 25 at 7PM, with series regular Brendan Detzner as featured reader.  Please check the blog or the group’s THC Facebook page for more information.

Thanks for your interest in the THC Writers Group.  I hope to see you at next Writers Group meeting or the next Reading Series event.

Matt B


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