Notes from the June, 2018 Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting

We had our sixty-ninth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, June 9. Thanks to Steve, Brian, Lisa, Sean, Vickie, Salvador, and Gary P for joining me for a sweltering afternoon of discussion about writing activities. Thanks, too, to Matt H and Cary for mailing in comments, to Jaime for the facilities, and to Alex for hauling out the big fan to try to cool the place down a bit. Extra special thanks to Brian for bringing in home-made shortbread cookies. (See what you miss if you don’t attend?)

We started with few agenda items:
– Our next two meetings will be July 14 and Aug 11. Flyers will be up in the usual places shortly.
– I got an e-mail from the 2018 Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. In addition to the traditionally published authors they host, there is a Writers Marketplace for emerging authors. I attended two years ago, and while I didn’t sell many books, I had fun. It seems this year there is a new person running things, so it might be better for us indie authors. The event will be Nov 2-3, and they charge $30 for a half-day or $50 for a full day. Details, and the form to apply, are at
– Matt H sent in details of his next Atlas Obscura tour, and it’s closer to home than the last. The Peabody’s Mansion tour will be held on 6/23 in Oak Brook, but don’t worry. It’s an afternoon tour so you will have time to make it to the THC for the June Reading night. Details are at
– Sean brought in two books for us to browse. One was a book geared towards people writing for the law, both fiction and non-fiction. He thought Christian, one of our occasional attendees, might benefit from it, but he thought that others might be interested. He also brought in his copy of Perrault’s Fairy Tales by Charles Perrault, with artwork by Gustave Doré. He said it’s one of his most cherished books.
– Lisa mentioned that she had recently read an article about mermaids (a topic that seems to pop up in our meetings frequently) but written from and ultra-feminist viewpoint. She said that the article was not for everyone, but she found it fascinating:
– Steve mentioned that the Comstock Review is running its annual Muriel Craft Bailey 2018 Poetry Contest. Deadline is July 15th, and there are cash prizes for the winners. Details are at
– Lisa sent in a link to The Writer web site, and the flash fiction contest that they are running. Deadline is also July 15 –
– Because we are interested in story in all forms, Steve highly recommended the Billy Wilder film Ace In The Hole. He doesn’t know if he’s seen a more cynical film.
– Sean also recommended a film he recently saw on TCM: Hotel, an adaptation of an Arthur Hailey novel.
– Kathy was unable to attend, but sent in this bit of good news: “I also wanted to let the group know that after making several edits on my children’s book Grandma’s Amazing Table (thank you to all of you who took the time to suggest changes) I sent it out last week to a publisher specializing in Jewish children’s books that accepts unsolicited manuscripts. They say a decision is made within three months. It just felt good to actually send something out !”

We then discussed topics for our featured reader night at the THC Reading Series on October 27. Kathy had sent in a few ideas, including one where we would jointly create a character, then have to use that character in come capacity in our story. As intriguing as that idea was, it seemed that the time spent defining the character would be better spent working on our stories.
We finally decided that given the time of year we will be presenting the stories, we should do something relating to Autumn or October or Halloween. That means that if you want to write a traditional scary story, you can, but if you want to write about the change of seasons, or about the month of October, it will be relevant. As an extra item to tie the stories together, we decided that we would each include something relating to the sense of smell in the story. Steve pointed out that writers are focused on visuals or sound, but not much is written about the sense of smell, which can trigger strong memories and emotions, so we thought that would be good to use.
So I’m not sure how we’re going to bill this, but I think we have enough to get started. For October’s THC Reading Series, we’ll present Autumn/October/Halloween stories that somehow incorporate a sense of smell. Let’s get started!

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Brian is really enjoying The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay. He says it’s hilarious.
– Gary read Death in the Long Grass by Peter Hathaway Capstick, partially as research for his story, partially because it was an interesting read. He’s also reading The Burma Road by Donovan Webster
– Lisa has started another series, beginning with A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn. She also read the graphic novel version of The King in Yellow, and she said she just doesn’t get it. She’s now reading The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn.
– Sean has been getting into some current events, reading Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff, and Russian Roulette by David Corn and Michael Isikoff
– Vickie enjoyed Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis, and Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach
– Salvador again was too busy to read anything for pleasure, but has a few books he hopes to complete before the end of the year
– Matt B completed The Flying Squad by Bishop & Stuart-Wortley, which had some biplane details that will help in his current story, and is reading Banacek by Deane Romano, the novelization of one of the TV episodes.
– Steve picked up a copy of Film Snob’s Dictionary by David Kamp, which he identifies with.

Internet Notes for the month –
– Since we like to also talk about movies, I thought some of us would be interested in a BoingBoing story about an archive of 60 free-to-stream Noir films
Also, check the comments section of that post for more free-to-watch classic films
– I heard an excellent time travel story on Escape Pod recently –
– The Creative Penn had two very good episodes recently:
– How To Write Emotion And Depth Of Character With Becca Puglisi – In this, they also talk about the “Thesaurus Series for Writers,” Including the latest edition, “The Emotional Wound Thesaurus
– Another Creative Penn How To Fast Draft Your Memoir With Rachael Herron –
(A note about the Creative Penn: the program starts out with the host talking about publishing-related topics, then reads e-mails that she receives from her listeners. The content is after that.)

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual free-wheeling discussion about general writing topics. One thing I wanted to mention was a conversation that developed when Lisa brought up the article about mermaids. We first got sidetracked with trying to figure out the difference, if there is one, between sirens and mermaids. Then, it was fun to see that the concept of mermaids, which most people would think would be universally recognized, is actually something that could have a number of different interpretations, even if the core idea is the same. To many people, “mermaid” brings up thoughts of Disney’s Ariel, but to others, it might be Daryl Hannah from the film Splash, or Hans Christian Andersen’s original character of The Little Mermaid, who comes to a very non-Disney end in the story. All this goes to show that you need to consider this when using well known tropes like mermaids or vampires or other mythical creatures. Sure, you can do anything you want with them, and write them to conform with your own idea of those beings, but you need to convey that to your reader in the course of the story. Otherwise, the reader’s preconceived notion of the thing will not match what you are writing, leading to, at best, an unsatisfying reading experience. What I got out of the conversation was that if I’m going to take on a trope in my story, I need to know it thoroughly, and if I’m using it differently than most readers will expect, I need to explain that to my reader.

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 23 at 7PM, with a book release party for regular reader Alice Liddell. Please check the blog ( for more information.
– around July 1, 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 14 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 at the next Writers Group meeting.

Matt B