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

We had our fifty-fourth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, March 11.  Thanks to Sean, Lisa, Matt H, Marianne, Steve, Aaron, Cary, Kathy, Salvador, and new member Mike for joining me to discuss many esoteric topics and some pretty darn good stories.  And thanks as always to Jaime for allowing us to rearrange three-quarters of the tables in his restaurant, and to Joe for putting them back where they belong when we were done.

Before I start with the recap, I want to point out an item that Lisa e-mailed me after the last meeting.  The International Writing Program at the University of Iowa has two new on-line summer courses for writers at all levels:
Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in Fiction and Nonfiction
Taught by Christopher Merrill and Venise Berry
Course dates: May 15-July 3
Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in Poetry and Plays
Taught by Christopher Merrill and Lisa Schlesinger
Course dates: July 17-September 5

We started the meeting with a few quick agenda items:
– We began by welcoming back Steve, one of our founding members, who missed only one meeting after a recent health issue.  His recovery is coming along well, and he said that returning to participate in our group is one of the goals that motivated him in his rehab.
– Lisa’s weekly Write-In at the LaGrange Park Library is deemed a success, with several of our members joining her for some quiet, dedicated writing time.  If you want to join her, she has a standing reservation every Thursday from 7 to 8:30pm in the Music Room on the second floor of the library, which is located at 555 N La Grange Rd in La Grange Park, IL.  Bring your laptop or pen and paper and be prepared to write.
– I mentioned that on Saturday, March 18, Those Were The Days, the long-running radio show featuring shows from the Golden Age of Radio, will be presenting radio adaptations of the first two Thin Man movies.  Stars William Powell and Myrna Loy reprise their roles in both shows, and the first show contains all of the original cast of famous movie.  The show is broadcast from 1 to 5pm on WDCB, 90.9 FM, or streaming at  If you can’t listen live, you can stream the show for the next two weeks at the Nostalgia Digest site.
– As the year seems to be flying by, the 2017 Printers Row Lit Fest will be here before we know it.  This years show is June 10th and 11th, and everyone in the group who has been to previous shows has had good things to say about it.  Matt B had some success selling his books there last year under the IWPA tent, and that group again has spots available for members and non-members.  Details at this link.  Another less expensive option for writers is the Chicago Writers Association but they are sold out.  They have a waiting list, and you can check the site for details.  Lisa also said that the Lit Fest needs volunteers every year, to help in running the show and to help the featured authors navigate the fest.  She’s volunteered in the past and said that she had a great time.  The fest this year is the second weekend in June, which conflicts with our meeting, so I plan to talk to Jaime about options for rescheduling the June meeting.  I hope to have our options next month.
– Matt H said that he’s sold many copies of his book Breath, a collection of reflections for those who care for the dying, to local caregivers and hospitals.  He’s also approached Anderson’s Bookstore in LaGrange about selling copies there, and he reports that they seem very receptive to carrying works by self-published authors.  If you want a copy of the book for yourself, you can check Anderson’s, or you can order it from Amazon
– Matt B mentioned that he has a few movies to watch as research for his latest story about barnstormers in the 1920s.  He said he’s watched Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965) and Flying Devils (1933 – Ralph Bellamy, Bruce Cabot), and plans to see The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) and The Tarnished Angels (1957 – Rock Hudson, Robert Stack – based on Pylon by William Faulkner).  Several people also suggested The Blue Max (1966 – George Peppard) which coincidentally was on the WPWR Movie channel this week.

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Salvador said that classwork again prevented him from reading for pleasure, but he recommended the recent film The Shack, which he found inspirational.  He also liked Ruby Sparks, a suggestion of Cary from last month, which he reviewed on our Goodreads discussion group.
– Cary is enjoying Yes Please by Amy Poehler
– Kathy read The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, and after struggling through a slow start, she just skipped to the end and found that it had a good ending.  Lisa commented that she enjoyed that writer’s first book but stopped reading The Wonder because of the same issues Kathy had.  Kathy also read and enjoyed The Opening of the Elysium by our own Matt B.
– Steve has had other things going on that understandably precluded reading time, but he’s still working through a collection of the Poetry of Robert Service, and said that he would like to read one of Service’s most famous poems, The Cremation of Sam McGee, at a future reading night.
– Marianne is reading Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz.  She said that she’s more than a little unnerved by the depiction of the modern-day south, and how it seems that many still cling to attitudes about country and race from civil war times, going so far as reenacting Civil War battles and having the south win.  Matt H commented that they lost the Civil War, and someone should remind them of that.
– Matt H is reading Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and commented that he thought it was more a straight war story than science fiction.  Matt B mentioned that at least it was better than the movie.  Steve suggested that he should read The Forever War by Joe Halderman next.  Matt H is also reading a collection of “real” reports of UFO abductions, the kind that used to be reported in magazines like Fate magazine.
– Lisa is working through Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple, and is reading the first Olive Kitteridge novel by Elizabeth Strout
– Sean is reading The Politics of Experience by R.D. Laing as research for his current project.  He’s also enjoyed Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh and recently picked up an omnibus of Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St Aubyn
– Mike is reading Ask Not by our own Sean Parks
– Aaron is still in the first Bazil Broketail book by Christopher Rowley, and is reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, which he says may wind up changing his dining habits
– Matt B finished Queen Bess by Doris Rich, which he said was good but seemed incomplete because of the lack of direct correspondence from its subject, aviator Bessie Coleman.  He also enjoyed Young Dillon in the Halls of Shamballah by Derrick Ferguson.

Internet Notes for this month:
– Asimov’s How To Never Run Out Of Ideas Again –
– How to read more books –

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the typical wide-ranging discussions of the submitted work, and some conversations that were way off topic.  Esoteric topics discussed included:
– a brief discussion of old-time radio broadcasts and the “Thin Man” shows among others, and one member commented that he didn’t know where else a large group like ours would get so excited about a radio broadcast of a movie.
– a conversation about marriage and how it is perceived when the Catholic church is not involved.  An interesting exchange recorded during this discussion pointed out that in the beloved Rankin/Bass TV special, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Kris and Jessica basically go off into the woods and then live as husband and wife without any official religious ceremony, to which another member responded that was “some pagan s*it.”  Matt H said that he’s officiated some non-denominational weddings, and he felt like he was only there to pray for the couple, rather than perform any ritual to join them together.
– a long discussion about the Wizard of Oz being the gold standard in allegories and metaphor, showing the political, economic, and social events of America in the 1890s, with the Yellow Brick Road representing the gold standard, and the quest for the Emerald City based on the author’s childhood memory of searching for emeralds with his father.
– a discussion of the Muppet Christmas movie from 2002 being based on the film It’s a Wonderful Life, and of the origins of Big Bird, Bert & Ernie, and other characters from Sesame Street
– a brief discussion of movie serials, which were popular from the early days of film to the advent of television, but were most popular in the 30s and 40s.  Aaron said that he had Pirate Treasure on Super 8 film, and we briefly discussed adjourning to his place to watch a few chapters.
– the sinking of the PS General Slocum, a passenger steamboat in New York City that caught fire and sank in 1904 with great loss of life but is barely remembered today.  Parallels were mentioned between that disaster and the sinking of the SS Eastland in the Chicago River in 1915.
– we also diverged at one point when we realized that no one knew the name of the letters following numbers such as the “th” in “4th” or the “nd” in “2nd”.  Fortunately, Google turned out to again be our friend, as one member checked on their phone and discovered they are called Ordinal Indicators.
I’m sure there were other conversations that I didn’t capture, but I think the above list gives you an idea of the type of freewheeling discussion that is the norm at one of our meetings.  And this was on top of the usual in-depth critique of the work submitted by the attendees.

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, March 25 at 7PM, with former Writers Group regular Alex Collier as featured reader.  Please check the blog or the group’s THC Facebook page for more information.
– around March 26, 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, April 8 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 the next Writers Group meeting.

Matt B


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