We had our sixty-sixth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, March 10. Thanks to Brian, Matt H, Gary D, Steve, Salvador, Marianne, Sean, Aaron, and new members Vickie and Molly for joining me for an afternoon of discussion about writing activities. Thanks, too, to Kathy, Mary, and Cary for mailing in comments, and to Jaime and Joe for the usual impeccable hospitality.
We started with few agenda items:
– A last reminder that The Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention will be held on April 6-8 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown.
– Oak Park Festival Theater has an interesting program once a month – PLAY + A PINT Reading Series – it sounds like a table reading of a play, with refreshments and food
– Lisa wrote that her library is hosting local author Cristina Henriquez on Friday, April 13th. She will read a bit from her book, talk about how awesome the library is, tell us what her favorite books are, and answer questions. Then folks will be encouraged to browse and check items out. Drinks and snacks provided. Limited space, so go to https://hinsdalelibrary.info/ to register. Don’t forget to invite your friends and fellow authors.
– Matt H has another event planned this month – https://www.atlasobscura.com/events/frozen-masterpieces – and a few more in the works.
– Gary said that the Frugal Muse in Darien is planning on restarting its reading series in April. When we get a firm date, maybe we can finally plan that long-discussed road trip to the store.
– Salvador said that he has a few art pieces in an exhibition at Triton College through March 16. He did say that if you are planning to go to check it out, you should call ahead, because the exhibition space is not always open.
– This month, some members had problems reading one of the files that was sent in for review. I was notified and quickly sent the file out in another format, but I wanted to remind everyone that if they can’t open a file for some reason, or if they don’t receive one of the pieces for review, let me know and I can resend. You know that I include details of the previously-sent pieces on each e-mail, but for a quick reference, you can always check here. I post the meeting announcement after I send it out, along with a current list of all the pieces that I’ve sent out for the upcoming meeting.
– Mary wrote that she wouldn’t be able to attend but wanted to share a few things with the group. The February 2018 column is from a friend of hers who knew Ursula Le Guin. Aaron mentioned she may have been “haunting” him at the last meeting so Mary thought he might be interested. The article was published in February in the Eastern Oregonian newspaper. And for Marianne the name of the book that is an “answer” to Hillbilly Elegy is What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte. She also suggested a second book that a number of her friends from that region have recommended: Ramp Hollow: the ordeal of Appalachia by Steven Stoll.
– Mary also wrote that April is National Poetry Month and she has spent at least 12 Aprils writing a poem a day as part of National Poetry Writing Month or NaPoWriMo…similar to Novel Writing Month except word count is not part of the goal. If any of you is up to the fun and challenge you can search online for more information.
– And those of you who didn’t attend missed the cookies that Steve brought in to celebrate his birthday. Aaron brought brownies as well.
We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Brian says he’s reading several books at once but is really enjoying War in Val d’Orcia by Iris Origo. He says it’s a difference perspective on war, that of someone trying to live their life in the middle of one
– Sean says he’s not read much lately because he’s become obsessed with creating a crossword puzzle
– Matt H re-read The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, and followed that with what he classified as junk, The Shaver Mystery by Richard Sharpe Shaver, a collection of Hollow Earth stores originally published in Amazing Stories magazine back in the ’40s.
– Molly highly recommended The Sellout by Paul Beatty, and is now reading The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín
– Gary is reading Darke by Rick Gekoski, and a collection of short stories by Larry Brown, an author he has recommended in the past
– Steve is reading two James Bond-related books: The World of James Bond by Jeremy Black and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang by Mike Ripley
– Salvador hasn’t read anything, as he’s trying to get out from a pile of projects that he’s been working on
– Marianne also hasn’t read anything recently. She’s spending all her time editing her Ball Collector story.
– Vickie is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, and wants to visit his book store in Archer City, Texas
– Matt B finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and thought it was okay. He’s now reading The Turk by Tom Standage, about an 18th century chess-playing automaton. He recently saw the 1927 French silent film The Chess Player, which included elements of the real Turk story in its plot, and was inspired to get the book out of the library to hopefully learn how the Turk worked.
– Aaron is still working on A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, and realized why he never went back to finish it years ago. He said there’s a lot of “telling” rather than “showing” and it becomes tiring. He is pressing on, though. He’s also reading No Impact Man by Colin Beavan. He challenged everyone to do one thing to reduce their carbon footprint, no matter how small, and report back next month.
Internet Notes for the month (thanks to Mary):
– The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park is having a HEMINGWAY SHORTS CONTEST – deadline 4/30, but they only accept 100 stories a month – https://thehemingwayfoundation.submittable.com/submit?platform=hootsuite
– World Literature Today – 5 Binge-worthy Literary Podcasts – https://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/2018/march/lit-lists-5-binge-worthy-literary-podcasts
The rest of the meeting was taken up with random comments, constructive criticism, and helpful discussion about general writing topics. Several members commented that they thought that the quality of the stories this month was exceptional, and the critiques seemed to reflect that, with more high-level discussion about the themes presented rather than focusing on mechanics. We discussed how certain names were chosen, and how some pieces were written to allow the pacing to move more naturally, rather than rush through the quiet parts in order to get to the action, something that I tend to want to do.
I’ve written in the past that I enjoy the continuity of when things are referred to that we discussed in previous meetings. When I mentioned that I particularly liked Matt H’s use of the Chyron in his story, he said that he included it as an homage to us, because he wouldn’t have known that was the trade name of the words scrolling across the bottom of so many news channels if it hadn’t been mentioned during one of our group’s meandering conversations. Sean, for his part, appreciated that Matt spelled Chyron properly.
And I took advantage of the resources of the group to get a question answered. I’ve been listening to episodes of the Dragnet radio show from the ’50s, and in each episode, Joe Friday tells the listener of the department that he is working on for that weeks case. One week he’ll be in Homicide, another in Bunko, yet another in Missing Persons. I was curious if detectives jumped around like that, but how would I find out about that? Sure, I probably could have Googled it, but why should I when our own Marianne has first-hand experience working in the police department. So I asked her and she said that these days that wouldn’t happen, but back then it was a regular thing. Only as forensic science became more important in solving crimes did detectives become more specialized, honing their skills to become more effective in a particular area. And now I know.
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, March 17 at 7PM, with featured reader Darwyn Jones. Please check the blog for more information.
– around April 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, April 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.