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

We had our fifty-fifth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, April 8.  Thanks to Marianne, Sean, Lisa, Mike, Steve, Michelle, and Cary for joining me on a beautiful afternoon to talk writing.  Thanks too to Salvador for mailing in some comments, and to Matt H for quick drive-by reviews, and for introducing us to his adorable children, Huey and Louie.  And thanks as always to Jaime for everything he does.

We started the meeting with a few quick agenda items:
– Next meetings will be May 13 and June 17 (note: the June date is not the second Saturday)  Flyers will go up as soon as I have the Reading Series dates for May and June
– The date change is because the second Saturday of June is the first day of the Printers Row Lit Fest (  This year the fest runs June 10 and 11.  Matt B will again be under the IWPA tent.
– Lisa’s Write-In sessions on Thursdays at the LaGrange Park Library ( have been a success.  She has requested the room for another run, but has yet to receive confirmation that the room was assigned to her.  Check the group blog ( for status.
– If you missed the March 18th Those Were The Days episode with the radio versions of the first two Thin Man movies, has the episodes available.
– While we’re on the Old-Time Radio theme, Steve Darnell, the host of Those Were The Days, will be at The Prairie Trails Library on Thursday, April 13 at 7PM, talking about all things old-time radio.  Here’s the link:  The event is free, but I believe you need to register.
– Lisa sent an e-mail with more free classes from world renowned University of Iowa writing program.  Details are at this link:
– There’s another Open Mic event in the western suburbs.  The Frugal Muse bookstore (7511 Lemont Rd in Darien – is trying to re-start their program, and have moved it to the second Sunday of the month.  You’ll probably see this too late to attend the April 9 one, but the next after that is May 14.  Readings start at 6:30.

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Marianne has been really enjoying Driving Mr. Albert by Michael Paterniti, all the more because it’s a true story.
– Sean is still working through The Politics of Experience by R.D. Laing
– Lisa read The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, which she says is actually more Middle Grade then YA
– Mike’s been too busy to read for pleasure, but he has been keeping abreast of the news.
– Steve mentioned the collection of the Poetry of Robert Service he’s been reading, but also talked about the extra featurettes on the Andromeda Strain DVD, specifically about how Michael Crichton got started in his writing career
– Michelle picked up on the Michael Crichton reference and recommended Travels, a non-fiction book that she says contains a short story that geve her an idea about how Crichton’s brain worked.  She also is reading The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary and lamented that teenagers did not come with instruction manuals.
– Care has been writing more and reading less.  He’s still working on Yes Please by Amy Poehler, and liked the memoir style it’s written in.
– Matt B recently read A Storm of Stories by past THC prize winner K.B. Jensen, The Monster of Chinatown:Death on the Ice by Dick Enos, which he bought because of the sheer enthusiasm of the author when Matt met him, and is currently reading The Poseidon Adventure.  He’ll probably re-watch the film after he’s through.

Internet Notes for this month:
– Cities within a radius – this site will help you find other cities within X miles of a place – good for when your character travels and you need to figure out how far they go and where they will stop:
– Distance Calculator – calculate the distance between two sites anywhere in the world:

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the typical wide-ranging discussions of the submitted work.  We did kind of keep to topics this month, the biggest distraction was probably when Matt H brought his kids in.  They were extremely well behaved for the short time they were there, and we were quickly back on track.  It seemed to me that there was a lot of conversation about things that were actually not in the submitted stories, like knowing what motivates your characters, how much time you spend deciding on names for your characters, how much backstory can (or should) be carried by a single paragraph, the logic of writing a story with flashback or flashforwards, and conventions about using names of real landmarks in fictional stories.  None of us are experts so we may not have a definitive answer on some of these issues, but some topics don’t have definitive answers, and just talking about it can help you decide the path forward.  Fascinating stuff.

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, April 22 at 7PM.  Please check the blog ( or the group’s THC Facebook page for more information.
– around April 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 will be Saturday, May 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 the next Writers Group meeting.

Matt B


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