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

We had our fifty-ninth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, August 12. Thanks to Sean, Lisa, Matt H, Christian, Michelle, Marianne, Kathy, and Cary for joining me for an afternoon of conversation and critique, and thanks to Salvador for e-mailing his feedback to the pieces we discussed, as he was off celebrating his wedding anniversary with his lovely wife Noemi. Thanks, too, to Jaime for the comfortable surroundings, and thanks to everyone who signed the birthday card I was given at the end of the meeting.

We started with a few quick agenda items:
– our next two meetings will be Sept 9 and October 14. I mentioned that I was considering redesigning the flyer, but whether I do or not, I should have new flyers up at the usual spots this week.
*BIG NEWS* – the date for the October Reading Night has changed. Our featured reader night is now Saturday, October 28th, so mark your calendars for the change. We will be discussing plans for the evening at our next two meetings, and I am still looking into the suggestion from last month of a banner containing our prompt sentence, “All last night the singing went on upstairs and nobody said a word.”
– Cary announced that he met his word count for Camp NaNoWriMo last month. The story he worked on is not finished, but he was happy he hit his goal for the month, and intends to continue the story to completion. He said he did participate a little in the “cabins” that Camp NaNoWriMo provided for a little added encouragement to keep writing.
– Christian said that he is making good use out of an app called Writer for his iPhone. He said it’s easy to use to write on the go, but it also allows you save voice notes and photos associated with your writing. He liked the flexibility of being able to capture a story if all he has with him is his phone.
– Sean mentioned that he’s been regularly recording his observations on his blog, http://seanpatrickparks.com/ and he welcomes everyone to read them.
– For those of you who watch TV, or at least record it for later viewing, the Decades channel has been showing episodes of Westinghouse Studio One weeknights at 10pm. On the air from 1948 through ’58, Studio One was an anthology series of one-hour plays, some taken from books and some written for the series, and most presented live, like a stage play. It’s fascinating to see the variety of actors, many going on to star in tv and movies. We’ve recently seen an episode with a very young William Shatner as a layer defending an equally young Steve McQueen. They’re in black and white, and far from HD, but it’s a fascinating peek in to the early days of TV. Decades is broadcast over the air on channel 2.2, and is channel 338 on Comcast.
– Since the meeting, Lisa e-mailed that the Frugal Muse in Downers Grove is having “A knock-down, drag-out literary fight to the death between authors Martin Seay & Peter Ferry (oh, plus a book signing) on Aug 22, 6 p.m” Lisa said:
“Sounds like fun. I do know this place is suffering and they really could use bodies to walk through the door and buy a few items. So even though it is a school night, I’m going to try to get there.”
I’m not sure we’ll be able to make it on a Tuesday night, but I have my eye on the next Open Mic session at that location on Sept 10.

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Cary has been reading some travel books in advance of a trip he is taking, and in researching books he discovered Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard, which he intends to read next.
– Kathy continues to embarrass the rest of us by reading more books than almost all of us put togther. She’s recently read Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande, The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler (which she said was a fun read), The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai, All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda, and Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer, which she said she really liked.
– Michelle said she had no time this month to read, as she spent most of her free time writing.
– Marianne really liked Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson, about two guys who found the wreck of a WWII German U-boat off the coast of New Jersey. She said there was a Chicago connection as the men came to our Museum of Science and Industry and toured the U-505 sub displayed there, to get an idea if what being inside a sub was like.
– Christian recommended Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell and Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson.
– Matt H read The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes, partially as background for the Hyde Park tour he’s putting together for Atlas Obscura (http://www.atlasobscura.com/). He’s also said that a recent credit card breach has prevented him from buying any new books, so he’s been going over previous purchases on his Kindle. He’s been re-reading some Lovecraft, and is working on The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle.
– Lisa’s been reading Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory. She liked the characters and the fact that it was set in Chicago.
– Sean also has been too busy to read, as he’s reworking his catalog of self-published books in advance of his September Featured Reader spot.
– Matt B finished The Dain Curse, and liked the first half of it. He also read Mixtape by Adam Gaines, after hearing the author on a podcast. He enjoyed the form of one-act plays, but was turned off by what he felt was amateurish dialogue. He also wanted to recommend the Amazon Studios adaptation of Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon. He said that book has been on his shelf for almost 30 years, and if he knew it was loosely based on Irving Thalberg, he would have read it years ago.

Internet Notes for the month:
– Online Creative Writing Courses for NaNoWriMo Participants – http://www.wesleyan.edu/cpi/idd/NaNoWriMo_enrollment.html

The rest of the meeting was taken up with comments and critique of the pieces submitted by the attendees. We had twelve pieces to discuss this month from nine different authors, and unlike previous meetings, I tried to keep the conversations on-track so that everyone’s piece got the time it deserved, yet we were still out of there in a reasonable time. I know that left to our own devices, we’d have been there until midnight. Jaime is good to us in allowing use of his place of business to talk shop for an afternoon, but I’m sure Joe would have kicked us out well before midnight!

Several of the pieces we discussed were stories written to the theme of our October Reading Series project. It’s amazing how we’ve had such a variety of stories yet they all start with the same sentence. And there’s plenty of time for you join in on the fun! I know many of you can’t attend one of our second Saturday afternoon get-togethers but do attend the Reading Series nights. You are more than welcome to write a story based on our opening sentence, then read it at the THC Presents event on October 28. Wouldn’t it be fun if all the stories read on that night started with the same sentence? If you want to play along, your opening sentence is “All last night the singing went on upstairs and nobody said a word.” (By the way, this is a little long to include in a haiku, but we haven’t seen any poetry yet. I expect Steve is working on something, but I wanted to put a bug in your ear if you are poetry-minded.)

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, August 26 at 7PM, and the featured reader will be series regular Chris Krazmus, who was an early attendee of the Writers Group. 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, September 9 at 2PM at the Tamale Hut Café. I hope you can stop by to help us celebrate five years of Writers Group meetings!

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

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Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for August

With the lack of an open mic night at the Tamale Hut in July, and the July meeting having been so early in the month, it seems to me like it’s been an awful long time since we last got together. I think other people might feel the same, because we already have seven pieces for August, and the meeting is two weeks away at the time of this writing! But I’m not complaining, mind you. The more the merrier!

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, August 12th, at the Tamale Hut Café, starting at 2PM. If you can attend, we’d love to see you there. If you would like to submit a piece for critique during the meeting please send it to thcwritersgroup@gmail.com, along with an idea of the level of feedback you are looking for, and I will distribute it to the group. If you have something you would like feedback on but you can’t attend the meeting, I’d be glad to forward it to the group as well. We can discuss it at the meeting and get some comments back to you via e-mail.

I hope to see you all on the 12th for the Writers Group, and on the 26th for the August Reading Series night.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Christian – Red Light Part 1.docx, Red Light Part 2.docx
Michelle – Chapter 5.doc
Brian – Packed off Tamale Hut group.docx
Sean – ALL LAST NIGHT THE SINGING WENT ON.docx
Matt H – hare and the beavers.docx
Bob N – New Orleans Idea.docx
Matt B – Barnstormers chapter 6.docx, Singing, Verse One.docx
Marianne – THC All Last Night the Singing.docx
Cary – Frozen Daiquiris.docx, Audition, The.docx
Lisa – Limbs.docx

 

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 – https://sterlingandstone.net/podcast/spp260-making-money-short-stories-gregory-norris/
– Black Gate recently had a story called “Using Podcasts to Build your own Writing Master Class” – https://www.blackgate.com/2017/06/24/building-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

Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for July

The first of July is a Saturday this year, so the second Saturday is the earliest in the month that it can be. Couple that with our June meeting having been held a week later than normal and we have a short turnaround time before our next meeting. I hope everyone has been writing. If not, maybe you can carve some time out from your fourth of July festivities to get something on paper and send it in.

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, July 8th, at the Tamale Hut Café, starting at 2PM. If you can attend, we’d love to see you there. If you would like to submit a piece for critique during the meeting, please reply to this message and attach it, along with an idea of the level of feedback you are looking for, and I will distribute it to the group. If you have something you would like feedback on but you can’t attend the meeting, I’d be glad to forward it to the group as well. We can discuss it at the meeting and get some comments back to you via e-mail.

I hope to see you all on the 8th for the Writers Group.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Brian – Farnham Road.docx
Cary – Fame Liquor Love Chapter 6.docx, Fame Liquor Love Chapter 9.docx
Marianne – The Ball Collector Chpt 6.docx, The Ball Collector Chpt 7.docx
Matt B – Barnstormers chapter 5.rtf
Steve – Poetry–Veteran’s Day #.doc
Sean – HER EXCELLENCY.docx
Michelle – Chapter 5.doc

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 http://seanpatrickparks.com/. He’s also been creating some comic strips using a site called stripcreator.com, 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 https://carypohlhammer.wordpress.com/
– 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: http://www.scaryforkids.com/three-skeleton-key-free-horror-story/
– If you missed the TWTD broadcast, you can download the MP3 of “Three Skeleton Key” from archive.org 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

The Journey to Lit Fest 2017

By Salvador Garcia

On Friday morning we were still unsure whether we were going to go. We had motivation. This year three friends were promoting their works. I spent some time planning the logistics of the trip. We were undecided whether to take the car or the train, although we were leaning towards the train. The Lit Fest website indicated that the closest station was for the CTA Red line. It was but a block away; the site indicating a five minute walk.

There was one problem; however. The Red Line travelled North-South. We needed East-West transportation. It was clear that the Red Line was not going to help us. The choice came down to either the Pink or Blue line. If we decided on the Pink Line, we would park the car at the 54th/Cermak station. Noemi wasn’t totally convinced and we opted for the Blue Line which has a station in Forest Park. We preferred the residential setting of this village to the more bustling setting of the Pink Line station.

Having this information, I set out to map out a route. I am an expert at getting lost and wanted to be sure that I knew where we were going. The logistics seemed simple enough. The map indicated that the name of the Blue Line station where we had to get off was La Salle. The Google map I was looking at indicated that this station was located on the North side of Congress Parkway. The route to follow was to cross this street, head East towards Dearborn and then South towards Lit Fest.

When we got to LaSalle station we turned left onto Congress Parkway and at the first opportunity crossed and moved eastward. It seemed odd that Dearborn was nowhere to be seen. We then decided to head South. The first street should have been Harrison, but instead we found ourselves at Van Buren. I had a bad feeling about it.

We definitely were not heading in the right direction. I looked at the shadows of nearby objects to get oriented, but it was close enough to midday that the sun did not cast a good enough shadow to determine orientation. We decided to head back and crossed Congress Parkway (again) and moved away from it. Much to our surprise the first street was Harrison!

Apparently, the Google map that I used to plan the route had the “train” icon on the North side of Congress Parkway leading me to believe that we had to cross Congress Parkway while the opposite was true. When we exited the Blue Line station we were already on the South side. We were actually moving in the opposite direction of where the Lit Fest was located. After this slight correction we quickly found Dearborn and the Fest.

There were books everywhere! As we walked around I kept my eyes open for the “R” tent where the Illinois Woman’s Press Association (IWPA) was located. That was our first stop. After going around the tent we quickly saw Matt. I greeted him effusively; however, the first thing noticed about him was his hair. He had it going up and towards the back. Although I have seen him almost every month at the writer’s group reunion, I had never noticed this particular hairstyle. I only wondered what fortune he had to pay the hairstylist to get it that way.

Matt had a full line up of his books and was promoting his newest work-in-progress, “Barnstormers”. He had already designed the cover which he indicated he created himself. Nothing Waldo Pepperish, just a monochrome image of a barnstorming bi-plane with someone hanging upside down on a rope ladder that was underneath the plane. I thought it reflected the storyline perfectly and the monochromatic presentation gave it the look of a bygone era.

He explained that his promotional strategy was to get people onto a mailing list. He planned to provide them with chapters from his book as they became available.

His hair style also came up during our chat. Apparently, his hair style was the result of gusts of wind that repeatedly struck the area. I mentioned that we got caught in a strong and lasting gust while we were walking through the tunnel underneath the stock exchange. I wondered whether sticking my head out of the car while driving would give me the same effect.

Our next stop was within the same tent, two tables over from Matt’s location. This was Ana Vera’s table who was also promoting her book “Dare to Change Your Story”. She already had this book in Spanish and was now promoting the newest edition in English. We met her at last year’s Spanish Language book fair. When Matt told us about the IWPA tent I sent Ana this information and she took advantage of the opportunity. Her book is her own story in dealing with adversity. Her first child was diagnosed with autism, as was her second. Then a further tragedy left her a single mom. She wanted to share her story to motivate other people and to let them know that there is hope. In a way, she challenges the reader, making it clear that the outcome of an adverse situation depends on the decisions and choices that we make, we just have to be up to the challenge to make it happen.

Her book is self-published using Amazon’s Create Space.

While we were chatting with Matt he said a magic word that threw us into a frenzy: Häagen-Dazs. He mentioned that Häagen-Dazs was giving away samples of their ice cream. I am not sure if I remember anything else he said after that, so after quickly moving on to say hi to Ana we quickly headed to where the ice cream company was stationed, thanking a lady that overheard us and kindly provided detailed directions, which basically consisted of go straight through here and then turn left. We quickly found the ice cream truck and got the sample of this delicious delicacy.

After finishing off the ice cream we headed towards Jones College. I again consulted my map wondering whether I had correctly understood where the College building was located. We were already at the corner of Polk and State, so we went around the corner and much to our surprise we found the building immediately. We went in and after a little looking around found our friend Caroline Herrera. She participated in an author’s panel along with Ana Vera at the Spanish language book fair. Her book is based on her blog. Apparently, enough people liked the blog that they suggested that she turn it into a book which she did. We found her at the “El BeiSman” table. This is a non-profit organization based in Pilsen that organizes journalists and educators. Their website contains articles, short documentaries and news related to the Latino community. They helped her publish her book.

The book is just random thoughts and stories about her life both here in the U.S. and in Mexico, injecting humor into her tales. Unfortunately, the humor does not translate well into English due to cultural differences, so I suspect that she won’t be releasing it in the near future. The cover of her book is a stylized version of Mexico’s “La Catrina” which means “the elegant lady”, but in this context refers to death. The book is titled “<hashtag>Mujer que Piensa” which translates to “The woman that thinks”. Chapters include discussions about the Tinderella syndrome and Bradley Cooper Interrupted.

Carolina mentioned that if she is able, she intends to visit our group in July. Perhaps we’ll get a chance to meet her. She currently resides in Aurora, so it is not a trivial drive.

After that we started looking at individual tents and tables. We stopped by the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation tent and probably spent more time there that we had intended. The men wore baseball caps to shield them from the sun when not under the tent while the women wore a bonnet. After careful analysis and seeing them in the sun I concluded that the bonnet was far more effective than the baseball cap. They explained about their outreach program and how they were helping people at different locations. I guess they appreciated our time because they gave us a Chinese character that we can hang. In true Chinese custom, the character is red as this color has special importance within this culture.

We also went by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community tent which were next to the Tzu Chi Foundation tent, although we spent very little time there, just enough to see what they were presenting. We noticed a stark difference between the two tents where the Tzu Chi tent was bustling with activity and engaging passersby while it seemed that the staff at the Muslim Community tent were simply chilling out.

We also found a tent that was selling handmade, in the USA, leather bound notebooks. These were, in a word, amazing! There were all kinds of leather notebooks, of all sizes. There were even some blue ones which the proprietor explained, was as close as they could get to reproduce the TARDIS without having legal sharks gnawing at their heels. I thought that the TARDIS is just an English police box that is bigger on the inside, so they could have just emulated a generic police box and let the customer deduce that it was a TARDIS. Both Noemi and I were tempted to buy one of the notebook each, but they were roughly two inches thick. The cost of the notebooks that we asked about ranged from $15 to $55. The price might have been a deal breaker, but the thickness definitely was, as we tend to use thinner notebooks, plus I am working on moving my note taking to digital media.

We went by the IWPA tent again. Then Noemi found the $5 tent and I did not see her again for about an hour. I decided to look around to see what the neighboring tables and tents had to offer. I came across the Bizarro Writers Association. I could not help thinking about Svengoolie, although I suspect that this is not the vibe that Bizarro was going for. Some of the authors were on hand and they proudly exhibited their bizarre books. Thankfully, I don’t remember any of the titles, but some sounded rather dubious which made me wonder if they crossed the line from just being bizarre to something else.

In another nearby tent I found a book of spells from some past century selling for $250. The text seemed to be encrypted by leaving out strategic letters in each word. I had a hard time reading it, but it was not impossible. After reading some spells I looked around and after concluding that I had not turned anyone into a horned toad lizard I quickly put the book back on the shelf

As I made my way back to the IPWA tent I came across the DuPage Writer’s Group. They have their reunions every second Monday of the month at the Carol Stream library. We chatted for a while and shared my participation with the THC Writer’s Group, pointing at Matt to indicate that our fearless leader and author was at the fest promoting his own works. She talked about a book that the group published which included the contributions of the group. This interested me and suddenly an energy saving light bulb went off in my head and I knew I just had to go gossip about this with Matt.

When I got to Matt’s table I got the pleasant surprise of seeing Lisa there with him. I took advantage of the moment and told them about the DuPage Writer’s Group and their project. We reminisced a few minutes about our own book project that we put together last year. Although the group as a whole had agreed that the resulting work was not 100% publish-worthy, after seeing the offerings from Bizarro, I would say that it actually is very publish-able, given that we market it as a social experiment instead of a coherent story.

Noemi finally came out victorious from the $5 tent and we moved on. We were looking at more books at a table when this tiny dog did a Cujo on me, seemingly attacking me with all its tiny ferocity. I jumped, not knowing what to do, but when I turned around I saw that there was another dog behind me. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing the target of the dog’s aggression was not me. The dog’s owner swiftly snatched up the dog and quickly walked away.

I had never heard a dog bark so viciously; ok, maybe I have. I am sure that I would have blushed had I understood dog. Speaking of dogs, a couple were walking their dogs, in fact, there were plenty of attendees to the fest representing the canine species. These two dogs in particular were so beautiful that they attracted more attention than the books around them. Unfortunately, I am dog breed challenged, so I can’t say what breed they were, but everyone wanted to pet them. This is something the dogs welcomed, with their owners’ permission. One of the dogs was huge, fluffy, white fur speckled with light gray fur. Imagine a Saint Bernard, but obviously it wasn’t.

I recalled a new law that was passed in New York that prohibited dog owners from getting on the subway with their pet, unless it fit inside a carrier. For smaller dogs this was not a problem, but for larger dogs, it posed a challenge. The article was accompanied by photographs of large dog owners getting creative, including a man who lovingly stuffed his German Shepard in a backpack that was strapped to his back. I could imagine the owner of the dog at the Lit Fest getting or making a bag large and strong enough for this giant dog, but I had a hard time imagining anyone short of a body builder carrying this enormous canine.

After the Great Canine Scare we started to move towards the intersection where we entered the fest. This was a great experience. We are glad to be part of the THC Writer’s Group because we would have never heard of this event if it weren’t for this group. Gee, now I want to hug all of them!

List of all Lit Fest exhibitors, some with Website URLs:

http://printersrowlitfest.org/exhibitors.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for June

BIG NOTE: Due to the Printers Row Lit Fest this month, our June meeting will be the third Saturday of the month instead of the second. We will be back to our regular schedule in July. In the meantime, I hope everyone takes an opportunity to spend some time at the Lit Fest next weekend. I always come away from events like this inspired to want to write more and better stories.

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, June 17th, at the Tamale Hut Café, starting at 2PM. If you can attend, we’d love to see you there. If you would like to submit a piece for critique during the meeting, please reply to this message and attach it, along with an idea of the level of feedback you are looking for, and I will distribute it to the group. If you have something you would like feedback on but you can’t attend the meeting, I’d be glad to forward it to the group as well. We can discuss it at the meeting and get some comments back to you via e-mail.

I hope to see you all on the 17th for the Writers Group, and on the 24th for the June Reading Series night.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Kathy – Grandma’s Amazing Table.docx, All last night the singing went on upstairs and nobody said a word.docx
Christian – Run and Gun.docx
Matt H – the embiggening ray edit.docx
Salvador – TheJourneyHome.docx
Matt B – Barnstormers chapter 4.rtf
Cary – Fame Liquor Love ch 10 and 11.docx, Fame Liquor Love The Interview.docx
Brian – The bird notes intro June 2017.docx
Marianne – The Ball Collector Chpt 5.docx
Sean – THE ARTIST IN ME.docx
Michelle – The Forest.doc