Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for November

We celebrated our fifth anniversary last month and our featured reader slot at the THC Presents reading night was a hit, so now what? Back to writing, of course!

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, November 11th, 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 11th for the Writers Group, and on the 18th for the final Reading Series night of 2017

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Sean – THE STONE MAN CHAPTER ONE.pdf
Steve – Story–2017 THC Writer’s Group Writing Exercise.doc
Cary – The Customer That Looks Like Judith Light.docx, The Ocean.docx
Matt H – Noah’s ark ch 1 section 2.docx
Marianne – Ball Coll Boys.docx

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All last night … we read our stories!

Our feature night at the Tamale Hut Café Reading Series was a blast!  Attendees heard eight different stories that started with the same sentence: “All last night the singing went on upstairs and nobody said a word.”  Everyone did a great job, both with the writing and reading, and the stories were well received.

I took some pictures and will post them when I have time, but in the meantime, here are two of the stories that you would have heard had you been there.  The first, Salvador’s “Classical Music”, was too long to read at the THC, so you not only can read what you missed, you can actually read more than you would have heard!  Enjoy.

Classical Music by Salvador Garcia

Singing Upstairs by Matt Bieniek

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

We had our sixty-first Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, October 14. Thanks to Salvador, Cary, Kathy, Marianne, Matt H, Sean, Brian, Michelle, and Aaron for joining me on an unseasonably rainy afternoon of conversation and critique, and to celebrate the fifth anniversary of our group! Thanks, too, to Jaime and Joe for five years of unwavering support.

We started with a quick trip down memory lane. Five years ago, on October 13, 2012, I sat down at the Tamale Hut with three friends that I had met through the Reading Series, and we talked about forming a writers group. I don’t remember exactly what we talked about at that first meeting, but I recall we focused more on the mechanics of the group, such as how frequently we would meet, what would be the format, how we would communicate between members, that sort of thing. The next month, we talked more procedure, but we also discussed two pieces we had written, and as I look back in my e-mailbox, the recap of that second meeting was in much the same format that I’ve followed ever since.

We’ve expanded a bit in the time since then, as the surprisingly popular statistics sheet that I brought in this month shows. We currently have 64 people on our e-mail list. The sixty meetings we’ve held in five years have been attended by 52 different writers, and we’ve discussed 424 pieces. We have four members who have not missed participating in a meeting in three years or more, and we have one member who has submitted at least one piece for review for every meeting he’s attended, a span of 36 consecutive months!

Also in that stretch, we’ve seen several members self-publish their work and we’ve represented the Tamale Hut at the last four Chicago Book Expos. We’ve had three group projects of varying success, the most recent bearing fruit at the October Reading Series night, and we’ve had lots of fun doing it. Thanks to everyone who has participated over the last five years, and I’m looking forward to the next five!

We continued with few quick agenda items:
– Our next two meetings will be on Nov 11 and Dec 9. I will have flyers up at the usual places shortly.
– I’m working on a banner that we can stand in front of when we read our stories on the 28th, adding a little branding to any pictures that might be taken.
– We had a brief Chicago Book Expo recap. Sean and Matt H joined me downtown for the day, and we had fun. We didn’t sell many books, but we handed out lots of flyers, for our work and for the Tamale Hut as a whole, so hopefully we will have some new attendees at future Reading nights or other THC events. And we might pick up some sales after the fact. It’s been known to happen.
– Kathy sent me a flyer for the Oak Park Festival Theatre and she said she thought the group might be interested in some of their offerings. She said she’s attended several of their readings (the last one at Hamburger Mary’s in Oak Park) and had enjoyed every one! I missed the ’40s-style radio version of The 39 Steps, but the Dickens Christmas show looks intriguing.
– Matt H gave us a quick recap of the Atlas Obscura tour he led last month. He said he was hoping for more people, but for a first go, he had a nice sized crowd. He has a few more planned, including another spin around Hyde Park, and will let us know so we might attend.
– Sean said that he liked the flyer that I was handing out at the Book Expo which contained information about all of my books, and he was inspired to create his own. The PDF is at this link.
– We had a note from Jaime this month. He wrote “THC is hosting a book launch for John McNally Saturday Nov. 4th at 7:00 p.m. See the flier. There is a good chance he will be interviewed on WLS radio to plug his book and he in turn will plug the Tamale Hut Café reading series.” John has been featured at the Reading Series in the past and was very entertaining. The flyer is linked here if you’re interested.

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Salvador reread Anthem by Ayn Rand. He said he’d read it before but that he remembered the ending differently.
– Cary is reading Haunted Texas by Alan Brown, which he said that he reads every year around this time.
– Kathy read The Grip of It by Jac Jemc but really didn’t like it. She also read The Plot Against America by Philip Roth, which she did enjoy.
– Aaron is reading The Genesis Wave series by John Vornholt. He said he’s reading them because he wants to pick up a little of the style they are written in. He’s also read, and been inspired by, Still Me by Christopher Reeve
– Marianne enjoyed The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston, which she said was made more hair-raising because it was a true story.
– Matt H has been reading some philosophy books lately, but made time to read The Year of the Jackpot, a short story by Robert A. Heinlein, which he said was very good.
– Brian is reading a book by Jane Gardam called Old Filth. It’s the first of a trilogy, and he said that Gardam is a superb writer and he recommends her books highly.
– Sean is reading The Benghazi Hoax by David Brock.
– Matt B finally finished And Then There Were None, and said that he thinks he didn’t like it because he knew who the killer was from seeing the movie or a TV adaptation. He’s also reading an e-book called Fight Card: Sherlock Holmes by Jack Tunney and is enjoying that.

Internet Notes for the month:
– I didn’t really have anything new to report, but I pointed out that November will be here before we know it, and that means NaNoWriMo if anyone is interested. I’ve enjoyed the challenge in the past, but I don’t think there would be any chance of winning this year, so I think I’ll sit this one out.

The rest of the meeting was taken up with comments and critique of the pieces submitted by the attendees, as well as eating the cookies I brought and the donut holes Kathy brought to celebrate our fifth anniversary. Topics that came up during the critiques of the stories included discussions about bringing up children, homelessness, methods of dealing with mental illness, how the general public views romani people, and the surprisingly frequent appearance of Marfa, Texas in popular culture, most recently in the Amazon TV series “I Love Dick.” And this was on top of the usual constructive comments about our work. Have I mentioned what a great group we have?

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, October 28 at 7PM, but you already knew that because our group is the featured readers! 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, November 11 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 October

It’s finally here!  October is the month in which the Tamale Hut Café Writers Group is the feature at the THC Presents Reading Series.  For those of you who don’t know (and if I met you at the recent Chicago Book Expo, welcome!) we have been working on a project for the past several months in which each of us starts a story with the same sentence.  We hope to present many of the stories on the 28th at THC Presents.  We will discuss logistics (such as who is going and who will read during Feature time as opposed to open mic time) at the meeting on the 14th, but for now, if you want to participate, simply write a short story beginning with our prompt sentence and bring it on the 28th to share with the group.  Your first sentence is:

“All last night the singing went on upstairs and nobody said a word.”

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, October 14th, 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 (and it doesn’t have to be using the above prompt) 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 14th for the Writers Group, and on the 28th for the October Reading Series night.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Matt B – Barnstormers chapter 7.docx
Brian – Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’.docx, Home Oct 2017.docx
Matt H – noahs ark section 1.docx
Sean – THE STONE MAN PROLOGUE.pdf
Cary – Audition, The.docx
Salvador – LegendOfPrincessSacNicte.docx
Marianne – THC All Last Night the Singing.docx

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

We had our sixtieth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, September 9. Thanks to Cary, Lisa, Matt H, Sean, Brian, Michelle, Steve, Salvador, Christian, and first-time attendee Gary for joining me for a sunny afternoon of conversation and critique. Thanks, too, to Jaime for allowing us use of his place of business, and thanks for Joe for the attentive service and for the quick wit.

We started with a few quick agenda items:
– We’re looking good for our featured reader night on October 28. We’ve seen a bunch of great stories so far, and may have a few more next month. At our October meeting, I’ll have a list of the pieces we’ve seen, so we can discuss who will read during the feature time that night, and if we want to decide on an order. I am also working on a sign to put up behind us that will contain our prompt sentence: “All last night the singing went on upstairs and nobody said a word.”
– We were gearing up to go en masse to the open mic night at the Frugal Muse in Downers Grove when we received notice that the event was cancelled. Gary said that he’s familiar with the book store and their open mic nights and that attendance had dropped off dramatically since they moved it from Tuesday to Sunday, which probably explains the cancellation. He echoed Lisa’s comments from previous meetings that it is a pretty good book store and is worthy of our support, so if you’re in the market for new reading material, keep them in mind.
– We will again have a table at the Chicago Book Expo, held this year on October 1 at Columbia College in downtown Chicago. Sean and I will be there, and Matt H has expressed an interest in going to try to sell some books and promote our group and the Tamale Hut at large. There’s typically not much room behind the table, but you’re all welcome to come down and hang out with us and to talk to some of the other writers in the Chicago area. It’s a free event.
Sean wanted to remind everyone that he will be the featured reader at this month’s THC Presents Reading Series night on September 30. Let’s pack the place to celebrate one of our own!
– Cary mentioned recently that he still uses Goodreads and I plan to as well once I get my reading schedule settled. We still have the group set up there (thc-writers-group) so feel free to add your books to the group bookshelf.
The Decades channel continues to show episodes of Westinghouse Studio One, only they moved them to Tues-Sat at 5am CDT. As I mentioned last month, Studio One was an anthology series of one-hour stage plays from the early days of broadcast television. I’ve enjoyed the episodes I’ve seen so far, so it might be worth your time to set your DVR to grab a few of them. Decades is broadcast over the air on channel 2.2, and is channel 338 on Comcast.
– At some point during the conversation, the topic turned to movies, especially movies relating to writing, and Gary recommended Midnight in Paris, a Woody Allen film staring Owen Wilson.

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Cary has read A Chicago Tavern: A Goat, a Curse, and the American Dream by Rick Kogan, and is reading The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby
– Gary is working his way through 11/22/63 by Stephen King, and highly recommends Joe by Larry Brown, who Gary says is great at writing evil people.
– Lisa’s re-reading It by Stephen King, ahead of the upcoming movie. She said that it was slower moving than she remembered, but that she also made the mistake of rewatching the mini-series of the story, which, in her estimation, “sucked”. She’s also enjoying an ARC of Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent
– Matt H is enjoying The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn by Arkady Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky. He’s also reading Metropolis by Thea von Harbou, and the group was aghast that he’s never seen the movie, one of the most popular and well-known of the silent era. Matt B offered to lend him the DVD to fix that oversight.
– Sean enjoyed The Operators by Michael Hastings, which was the basis of the film War Machine, which he also liked.
– Brian has been really enjoying Between Them: Remembering My Parents by Richard Ford.
– Steve just finished a re-read of 1984 by George Orwell, and I’m not sure if I got this correct, but I think he’s also reading Taming the Tiger Within by Thich Nhat Hanh. (Apologies if that’s not correct.)
– Christian is reading The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.
– Michelle, Salvador and Matt B didn’t read anything for pleasure last month.

Internet Notes for the month:
– Wildside Press has a new mystery e-magazine: Black Cat Mystery – http://bcmystery.com/ – and they have any interesting membership plan. For an annual membership of $11.97, you get a one-year e-book subscription each to Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine and Black Cat Mystery Magazine, as well as seven mystery and suspense e-books a week. That’s 365 e-books for less than a buck a month. They are also looking for submissions for the magazine, and details are on the site.

After the meeting I got an e-mail from Beth, who hasn’t been to a meeting in a while. She writes:
================================================================
I’m finding that now that my Book is published, I keep getting calls from marketing companies who want to Market my book for a fee, of course.
Recently one called bookwhirl.com was asking to market my book for $1.800.00. I’m wondering if others in the group are getting such solicitations?
================================================================
I replied that I hadn’t had any such solicitations, but that I’d ask the group. If anyone has had any experience (good or bad) with any of these so-called book marketers, please let me know and I’ll pass that along to Beth. I also congratulated her on her book publication, and asked her why she didn’t let us know?

 

The rest of the meeting was taken up with comments and critique of the pieces submitted by the attendees. Four of the eight pieces were stories written for our October Reading Series project, and as I wrote last month, I’m amazed at the different directions people went from the same opening sentence. I think the attendees of the October reading night are in for great night of stories.

The other four pieces were portions of larger works, and the continuity of attendance really pays off in those cases. What I mean by that is that most of the group was able to discuss the pieces in the context of the larger story. It’s not uncommon to hear “I remember that you did this in an earlier chapter…” or “I remember that character from last time.” There is a benefit to being a regular attendee, and I think that we are fortunate to have as many regulars as we do.

 

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, September 30 at 7PM, with our own Sean Parks as featured reader. 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, October 14 at 2PM at the Tamale Hut Café, where we will be celebrating the start of our sixth year.

I want to include one more reminder about our upcoming feature at the THC Presents Reading Series on October 28. I know many of you are not available to 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.”

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 September

Believe it or not, Labor Day is right around the corner. It seems that this year is rocketing toward its end, and I still have lots of things I planned to do before the year is out. I had hoped to be further along on my current story than I am, but I’m sure that many of you are thinking the same thing. I decided that I’m going to refocus my energies, try to avoid many of the real-life distractions that get in the way of my writing time, and carve out the time I need to get it done. Who’s with me?

At least Matt H is making good with one of his projects. He recently sent in this note:
Should anyone want to come on a tour on Sept 30 this is the link to my first one:
Hyde Park: The Beginning, Pinnacle, and End of Human Civilization

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, September 9th, 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 9th for the Writers Group, and on the 30th for the September Reading Series night, when our very own Sean Parks will be the featured reader.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Christian – Red Light Part 3.docx
Michelle – Coming Home.doc
Brian – Packed off Aug 2017 draft
Bob N – NEW ORLEANS DIARY.docx
Sean – THE STONE MAN – PREFACE.docx
Salvador – ClassicalMusic.docx
Cary – Audition, The.docx
Matt H – All night long the singing went on upstairs and nobody said a word #2.docx

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