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

We had our fifty-seventh Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, June 17. Thanks to Cary, Matt H, Sean, Christian, Michelle, Marianne, Kathy, Salvador, and new member Brian for joining me for a rare third-Saturday-of-the-month, extra-long meeting to talk writing and other related topics. And thanks as always to Jaime for letting us have the third Saturday this month, and to Joe for not making us put the tables back where they belong when we were through.

We started the meeting with a few quick agenda items:
– the next two meetings will be July 8 and Aug 12. The flyers are up at THC, and will go up at the other usual places as time permits
– the Printers Row Lit Fest was the previous weekend, and Matt B, Salvador, and Cary were there. Salvador wrote a recap of his experience, and it’s posted below. Cary had a great time, and brought in a catalog from a local publisher he was interested in: Allium Press. Matt B had a great time but sold few books. He did get several people to sign up to his mailing list, and had a lot of fun talking to the people walking by his table.
– we briefly discussed plans for our Featured Reader spot at the October Tamale Hut Café Reading Series. If you don’t remember, we agreed to write stories with the same opening sentence: “All last night the singing went on upstairs and nobody said a word.” At the Printers Row event, Lisa and Salvador had discussed the printed volumes that several other writers groups had put out for their projects, and the idea was floated about whether we should plan that for our project. I suggested that if we were to do that, especially if we wanted to have printed copies available at the October reading night, we would need a deadline well in advance of that date to allow for editing and printing. We decided to discuss this further next month.
– Those Were The Days, the radio program heard every Saturday on WDCB is having a special event on two Saturdays, June 17 and June 24. They will be celebrating “75 YEARS OF SUSPENSE”, each week playing five episodes of that long-running radio program. On the 24th, they will be playing one of my favorites, “Three Skeleton Key” from 11-11-56, starring Vincent Price. If you miss it live, you can hear the repeat on their web site for two weeks after the broadcast date. For more about “Three Skeleton Key”, see the internet notes below.
– I mentioned an e-mail I received from a parent who has a 10-year old daughter who wanted to attend our group. I read part of the e-mail, and my reply, in which I offered to add the parent to the distribution list so they can preview our work before passing the files to the daughter. I said then if they felt that they still wanted to attend, we could discuss the daughter’s work first, and if anything was inappropriate, they could leave before we got to that portion of the meeting. On Saturday, I received another e-mail that the daughter had enjoyed what she read, but that they had another commitment and would try to make the next meeting.
– Matt H said that he had picked up a part-time job working for Atlas Obscura, coordinating tours of obscure and odd-ball places in the city and suburbs. He said that he figured that members of our group would probably have some ideas of places that might be interesting, so if you have any suggestions, reply to this e-mail and I’ll pass them along to Matt.
– Sean told us that his blog is now live on the web. It’s at He’s also been creating some comic strips using a site called, and has posted a few of the strips on his site.
– Cary also mentioned that he has a blog. It’s titled The Film Guy and can be found at
– Salvador sent along a list of phrases that are commonly used incorrectly. That list is attached here..
– Lisa asked that I mention that the weekly Write-In at the LaGrange Park Library on Thursday evenings has been renewed for another seven weeks

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Cary is rereading The Great Gatsby, to start off his summer reading list.
– Matt H is reading Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare At Goats, both by Jon Ronson. He hasn’t seen the film based on the latter yet, but Matt B says both the book and movie are good, but in different ways.
– Sean has been enjoying Man in the Holocene by Max Frisch
– Christian highly recommends Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach. He said it’s YA, but without any fantasy or wizards or vampires that are all the rage these days.
– Brian is reading Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald and is looking forward to reading The Emigrants by the same author. He said that Sebald headed up the writing program at the university of East Anglia for a number of years so there’s quite a lot of discussion out there on his approach to writing. Brian said that Sebald is not well known in America but should be.
– Michelle is rereading Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
– Kathy had quite a list: The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin, All the Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan
– Salvador hasn’t read anything lately, but he brought in a few of the old books he recently bought at an estate sale
– Matt B hasn’t read anything lately either. The last book was The Poseidon Adventure by Paul Gallico, which had a more downbeat ending than the 1972 film.

Internet Notes for the month:
– “Three Skeleton Key” was originally published in English in Esquire magazine in 1937. You can read the original story here:
– If you missed the TWTD broadcast, you can download the MP3 of “Three Skeleton Key” from at , or listen to it on YouTube


The rest of the meeting was taken up with comments and critique of the pieces submitted by the attendees. We had twelve works of varying length to discuss and we really took our time on each, which led to one of the longer meetings in recent memory. For a few of the pieces, the story behind the stories was as interesting as the stories themselves.

As I write up these recaps, I start with a copy of the previous month’s notes and modify them throughout, in order for the notes to stay consistent. I notice that last month, we talked a lot about character motivation and about if the author got across what they had intended, and those same themes came up again in the discussion this month. I don’t mention that as a negative. I think it means that those topics are important to all stories and they’re things that all writers should bear in mind when they are telling their stories. It’s hard enough to tell a story that will engage the reader, with characters who seem real, and I think the key to that is knowing who the characters are and why they do what they do. It’s also hard to get that on the page. Sometimes a writer knows their character so well, he or she can take it for granted that the reader knows the characters as well, but if some of those details are not in the story, the reader can become confused. No one wants that.


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, June 24 at 7PM. Please check the blog or the group’s THC Facebook page for more information.
– the following day, I’ll 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 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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