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

We had our fifty-eighth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, July 8. Thanks to Brian, Michelle, Sean, Steve, Marianne, Cary, Kathy, Salvador, and new member Carolina for joining me for a few hours to talk stories and other related topics, and thanks to Matt H and Christian for providing their feedback to the pieces, despite not being able to attend in person. Thanks, too, to Jaime for the friendly surroundings.

We started the meeting with a few quick agenda items:
– Christian e-mailed that he would not be able to attend because his sister bought him tickets to see Hamilton. I told him that “in terms of reasons why not to go to the Writers Group meeting, having tickets to a Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning hit musical is a pretty good one especially since you didn’t pay for them!” (Christian later wrote that “it is a must-watch. It’s a dang good play, and its worth seeing.”)
– Matt H also was unable to attend, but he sent in a question: last month, he mentioned that he was doing some work with Atlas Obscura to coordinate tours of obscure and odd-ball places in the city and suburbs. He sent in a list of possible tours, and wanted to get our opinion. Of the three ideas, we were not too keen on the Gambling workshop with the horse race handicapper (although one member thought a poker workshop would be interesting.) The behind-the-scenes tours of Hawthorne Race Track had some interest, especially the one about “the bloody shoot-out that started Hawthorn Park.”
– First-time attendee Carolina told us about her efforts to get her first novel #Mujer que Piensa published, first by approaching publishers in Mexico, then through a small local publisher. She’s now working on her second novel, and is looking for a little inspiration and motivation and hopes that our group might provide both.
– I again reminded the group of our featured reader night in October. I said next month I will likely have the first of a few stories written to the prompt. We also decided that we would not try to do a print edition of our project, deferring that idea to a later time when we can each submit something that was more representative of our work. A suggestion was made to have a banner for the October event which showed the prompt sentence, “All last night the singing went on upstairs and nobody said a word.” That was an interesting idea, and would certainly look good in any photos taken at the event, so we’ll look into that.
– Cary announced that he signed up for the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge this month. Most of us are familiar with NaNoWriMo, the challenge to write a 50K word novel in November.  Camp NaNoWriMo is a little different, in that you set your own writing goal, and the web site assigns the participants to a virtual cabins for more personal support and encouragement. We wished Cary well and expect to hear about his progress next month.
– I mentioned that I got an e-mail from a new member of my personal mailing list who said that I was the “most enthusiastic author [she] met at Printers Row.” I talked about how I’ve bought books from authors at various events simply because their enthusiasm came through during my discussion at their booth, and that’s how I try to conduct myself when I’m the one behind the table. The person also said that my Twitter link on my monthly e-mail was not working, and I said that surprised me because I don’t use Twitter and didn’t realize Mail Chimp added that icon to the message. That brought up this month’s question: does anyone use Twitter, at least to promote their work? I got an almost unanimous “No.” Most attendees use Facebook or stand-alone web sites or blogs for that.

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Brian says he reads a lot of historical novels, and is currently enjoying The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh.
– Michelle says that lately she’s spending all her free time writing rather than reading.
– Sean really liked The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy by Evelyn Waugh. He said the book is very different from the movie they made of it in 1965, but both are very good. I thought that sounded familiar, then realized that I had seen the movie after I read a review that the movie had something in it to offend virtually everyone.
– Steve is re-reading 1984 by George Orwell, as many people seem to be in our current political climate.
– Marianne is still reading A Numerate Life by John Allen Paulos, which I seem to have missed on last month’s recap. She says that it’s an autobiography of a mathemetician, and there’s some complex math included, but written so that you can understand it. It also includes some pretty good math-related jokes.
– Cary is reading The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller. He has not yet seen the movie.
– For various book clubs, Kathy is reading Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man by Mark Kurlansky, and Protecting Paige by Deby Eisenberg.
– Salvador is still struggling to find time for pleasure reading, but mentioned Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz.
– Carolina is reading Hamilton, but I don’t know if it’s the biography by Ron Chernow or the book by Jeremy McCarter and Lin-Manuel Miranda about the musical inspired by the biography. (I guess I need to take better notes!) She’s also been reading Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo.
– Matt B is also trying to fit reading into his schedule, but he’s almost done with The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett. He hadn’t read any Hammett in a while before pulling this from the shelf. It was only later that he looked at reviews on the ‘net that said this was considered to be one of Hammett’s worst novels.

Internet Notes for the month:
– The Self-Publishing Podcast recently had an episode titled “Making Money with Short Stories”, and the dicussion included many places to find paying outlets for short stories –
– Black Gate recently had a story called “Using Podcasts to Build your own Writing Master Class” –


The rest of the meeting was taken up with comments and critique of the pieces submitted by the attendees. We had nine pieces to discuss this month from seven different authors, and the majority of them were chapters of larger works, which makes the conversation more interesting in my mind because we mostly know the characters so we can focus on the dialogue and the plot of the stories.

Unfortunately, this works against attendees who were not there for earlier chapters or maybe missed a chapter from a previous meeting. We’ve always had the problem of potential new members having no context for the conversations after dropping by without having read any of the items to be discussed, and I’ve not yet figured out a way around that. But for those of you who are new to the group and would like to read the earlier chapters of the pieces we are discussing, I have an offer for you. I have all of the files I’ve sent out to the group over the years, and (with the author’s permission, of course) I would be glad to sent you the earlier chapters of some of our current ongoing stories. Just let me know what you need and I will send the files as soon as I can.


Thanks again to everyone for joining me this month. Here’s the schedule for the next month or so:
– There is no Tamale Hut Café Reading Series event scheduled for July, so the next one will be Saturday, August 26th. Please check the blog or the group’s THC Facebook page for more information.
– around July 30, 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, August 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 Writers Group meeting or the next Reading Series event.

Matt B