Notes from the January, 2019 Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting

We had our seventy-sixth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, January 12.  Thanks to Kathy, Sean, Vickie, Brian, John, Matt H, Marianne, Salvador, and Lisa for joining me for a snowy afternoon of conversation and critique. Thanks, too, to Jaime for pledging another year of support for our Saturday afternoon get-togethers.

As usual, we started with a few agenda items:
– The Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention (http://windycitypulpandpaper.com/home/) will be on April 12-14 this year, which happens to be the second Saturday of April.  I asked if the group wanted to have the meeting without me or if we should reschedule, and reschedule got the unanimous vote.  The April meeting will be on April 6.
– Those Were The Days (http://www.nostalgiadigest.com/those%20were%20the%20days.htm) on Jan 12 ran the radio version of Casablanca from 1943, starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid recreating the characters they played in the film.  On the 19th TWTD will play the 1944 radio version, starring Alan Ladd, Hedy Lamarr and John Loder.  You usually can stream the last two episodes od the program from the site, so the 1943 version will be available for approximately another week as of this writing, and the show containing the 1944 version should be posted by Tuesday and remain up for two weeks.
– Kathy mentioned that she found the results of the Reader’s Flash Fiction contest in the Dec 27 issue of the weekly newspaper.  All the entries from the paper, and five Internet-only stories, can be found at https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/ArticleArchives?category=62219548 (and we should keep an eye out for the contest next year, which looks to have been announced in November.)
– I received e-mail from five people interested in joining our group.  I think the snow kept some away this month, but we did get a visit from Jennifer from a new Writers Group at the North Riverside Library (http://www.northriversidelibrary.org/events/writers-group/).  She said that they were looking to move their monthly meetings away from the second Saturday, which would avoid conflicts with our group and allow writers to attend both if they wish.  She said she would let me know their new schedule and I’ll share with the group when she does.
– Salvador send in the following: Some may remember a children’s story that I wrote some years back and submitted to the group, which I titled The Boy Who Would be King. Some thought that the title was rather odd and long. Guess what all! A movie is coming out soon with a very similar title. Here is the trailer: https://youtu.be/Cg-h8TwQCgs

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Kathy read Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, Look Alive Twenty-Five by Janet Evanovich, and The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
– Sean picked up a copy of On Writing by George V. Higgins, and likes how the author uses actual examples from published novels when making his points. He’s also picked up complete works anthologies by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Oscar Wilde, and is reading Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard.  He also purchased and e-book collection of Nick Fury comics with art by Jim Steranko.
– Vickie is reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  She also read Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance and Knit Two by Kate Jacobs, the sequel to The Friday Night Knitting Club
– Brian is in the middle of Conundrum by Jan Morris, an author whom he’s spoken highly of at past meetings.
– John really enjoyed The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson
– Matt H read The Children of Húrin by J. R. R. Tolkien, but didn’t really like it.  He did like The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty, a writer he likes a whole lot better than Tolkien
– Marianne hasn’t been reading for pleasure, but she’s been reading a lot for research for a project she’s working on.
– Salvador was finally able to finish The House of Broken Angels by Luís Alberto Urrea.  He said that despite the section in the middle where the story wandered off on a tangent he thought distracted from the rest of the book, overall he liked it.
– Matt B liked The Worried Man by Lisa M. Lilly, one of the books offerred during the Chicago Authors event last month.  He’s now reading Roscoes in the Night by Robert Leslie Bellem, a fun collection of Dan Turner stores from the Spicy pulps.  He also recommended Impossible Dreams, a short story available on the Escape Pod podcast – http://escapepod.org/2018/10/25/escape-pod-651-impossible-dreams-flashback-friday/

Internet Notes for this month –
– A new weekly series begins this month at the Black Gate web site, where regular contributors at the site will be reviewing each of the 21 Conan stories written by Robert E. Howard.  I don’t know if there will be a link that points to the entire series, but here’s the first: https://www.blackgate.com/2019/01/14/hither-came-conan-bobby-derie-the-phoenix-on-the-sword/

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual varied discussions about general writing topics.  One topic that was discussed at length was an article that Molly had sent in (http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2016/06/20/how-to-write-protagonists-of-colour-when-youre-white/) about “writing voices outside our own.”  We talked about our own attempts to write characters of color or of different ethnicities than our own, and how easy it was to inadvertently slip into stereotypes.  The gist of the article, to me anyway, was that you must have a good reason if you want to write a protagonist not like you, and if you do, you need to do your research, and reach out to people in the demographic you are referencing, to make sure that you do the group justice.  But as one member put it, “if I only write characters like me, my story will be full of middle-aged white guys, and who wants to read that?”

We also had a discussion of the use of the word “bohemian” in reference to Salvador’s piece.  He has since sent in a little more detail about the original Bohemian Toast:
“It is effectively classified as a poem.  The original author was Guillermo Aguirre y Fierro, born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, in 1887.  Only three names are presented: Raul, Juan and Arturo. The other bohemians in the group are nameless.

Bohemian in this context, is used to describe the lifestyle, not ethnicity or nationality. WIki defines it as such: Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people and with few permanent ties. It involves musical, artistic, literary or spiritual pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may or may not be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds

Here is a video that recites the original poem in Spanish, with text captions. I recognized the cover of the LP; it is the same one that my mother had: https://youtu.be/uXIyA02sPQs

Thanks for the follow-up, Salvador.

Thanks again to everyone for joining me this month. Here’s the schedule for the next month or so:
– around January 27, I will to 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, February 9 at 2PM at the Tamale Hut Café.
– The next Tamale Hut Café Reading Series event will be Saturday, February 23 at 7PM.  Please check the blog (http://thcreadingseries.wordpress.com/) for more information.

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

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Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for January

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you had a great holiday season, regardless of the holidays your family celebrates, and I hope you got some writing done during that time. If not, I hope you at least got some inspiration for stories to tell in the new year. Few things bring out the storyteller in you like hanging out for a while with your crazy relatives!

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, January 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 Writing Group, and on the 19th for the first Reading Series night of 2019.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Matt B – Barnstormers chapter 17.docx
John – Heaven and Hell I – tamale hut.docx
Salvador – Gathering.docx
Matt H – hair.rtf
Sean – BorderCrossingsCHAPTER2.pdf
Lisa – Eddie Cattail draft.docx
Brian – Not knowing Tamale Group Jan 2019.docx
Vickie – Waiting Scene 1.doc

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

We had our seventy-fifth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, December 8.  Thanks to Gary D, Steve, Salvador, Sean, Beth, Marianne, Cary, and new member John for joining me for a very bright sunny afternoon of conversation and critique. Thanks, too, to Matt H for mailing in comments, and to Jaime for the south-facing windows that had many attendees donning sunglasses as the afternoon sun shone in.

As usual, we started with a few agenda items:
– Our next two meetings will be on Jan 12 and Feb 9.  I’m waiting for the Reading Series dates before creating the flyers, because I like to include the dates on the bottom.  They should be up next weekend.
– Another NaNoWriMo is over, and we had two winners in our group: Cary wrote 50,084 words in November, and Matt B wrote 50,505.  Aaron wasn’t at the meeting to share his results, but even if he didn’t hit the 50K word goal, from his page on the NaNoWriMo site it appears as though he got a significant amount of writing done in the month, which makes him a winner as well.  Congratulations, all!
– One last reminder that the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Manuscript Contest is accepting entries until January 2, 2019.  Remember: the winner of this contest will have their manuscript professionally edited, and I believe will get other help in getting it ready for publication.  Check out the details at http://soontobefamous.info/about-the-project/manuscript-contest
– I think the Chicago Authors GoodReads event was a success.  We had several people attend, and I had three people express interest in my book.  My winner was a woman in the UK, which caused a small problem with the gift copy I sent her, but it’s all sorted and she has her book.  If you’re interested in joining the group, search for the ‘Chicago Authors’ group on https://www.goodreads.com/
– Steve brought in word that the Comstock Review will be open for submissions from 1/1/2019 through 3/31/2019.  Steve had said that they were looking for anything written (poetry, short story, etc.) but the web site seems to indicate they are only looking for poetry.  You can find out for yourself at http://comstockreview.org/
– Salvador brought in copies of his latest projects: a novel called Stories of the Magi: Yan San, and a his first book of mazes titled Color Me Mazes: Welcome to the Curve.  They looked really nice, and both are available right now from Amazon.  Details on his author page at https://www.amazon.com/Salvador-Garcia/e/B00V0YXELW/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1545074386&sr=1-2-ent

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Gary D is still working on the Willie Nelson biography by Joe Nick Patoski.  He’s also reading The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell
– Steve has been preparing for his annual part in Handel’s Messiah, and was walking around with a book of the sheet music to prove it.
– John is reading Warriors of God by James Reston Jr
– Salvador thought he was going to have to give back the borrowed copy The House of Broken Angels by Luís Alberto Urrea he’s been reading, but he’s just found out that he has a reprieve and may actually get to finish it!  He says it started strong but is getting bogged down in the middle.
– Sean is finishing Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen, which he likes in part because of the island colloquial dialogue. He’s also reading The Tale of the Body Thief by Anne Rice and The Little Drummer Girl by John le Carré
– Beth is liking Paper Wife by Laila Ibrahim, and continues to look for mysteries with female detectives.  (I suggested The Big Book of Female Detectives, released this year by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard press)
– Marianne considers herself to be an “Atlanteophile” after reading Meet Me in Atlantis by Mark Adams
– Cary picked up Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris and The Christmas Kid by Pete Hamill, and is revisiting some short story collections with Christmas themes
– Matt B is reading Three Times Infinity, a collection of three novellas by Ray Bradbury & Leigh Brackett, Theodore Sturgeon, and Robert Heinlein

Internet Notes –
StoryHack Action & Adventure is a modern short fiction magazine in the tradition of the great pulps of yesteryear. It celebrates pulse-pounding fiction that is fun to read and welcomes works from a variety of genres.  They are accepting submissions until the end of the year: https://www.storyhack.com/

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual varied discussions about general writing topics.  The topic of research for our stories came up again, when one critique pointed out some factual inaccuracies in one of the pieces.  One of the major issues was identified by another writer who has admittedly very specific knowledge of the technology in question, so much of the conversation revolved around whether the author should feel the need to change the story, considering the small audience that would notice.  We should certainly strive to be as accurate as possible with the technical details of the story (as I try with the aviation bits in my story) but we are writing fiction, so maybe there can be a little creative license taken.  We might also take into account how much our expected audience might know.  Certainly, no one else at the table noticed the inaccuracy in an otherwise enjoyable and compelling story.

Thanks again to everyone for joining me this month. Here’s the schedule for the next month or so:
– around December 30, I will to 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, January 12 at 2PM at the Tamale Hut Café.
– The next Tamale Hut Café Reading Series event will be Saturday, January 26 at 7PM.  Please check the blog (http://thcreadingseries.wordpress.com/) for more information.

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

Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for December

I’ll keep this brief, because I’m in the home stretch for NaNoWriMo. I don’t know if I’ll hit my goal, but it’s looking like I’ll at least be darn close. I already know that some of what I’m writing will need some serious rewrites, but some of it is pretty good, or so Stephie tells me.

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, December 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 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 8th for the final Writers Group meeting before Christmas. Maybe I’ll bring egg nog.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Matt B – Barnstormers chapter 16.docx
Sean – BorderCrossings_Preamble.pdf
Cary – Flash Fiction.docx
Beth – Loop Mystery_4.docx
Steve – Story–‘The Milk Run’ v2.doc
Gary D – All that is left of the Moon.docx

 

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

We had our seventy-fourth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, November 10, the anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975 (nothing to do with us but interesting, and was the basis for a great song.)  Thanks to Steve, Sean, Lisa, Marianne, Cary, Gary D, Gary P, and Aaron for joining me for a sunny fall afternoon of conversation and critique. Thanks, too, to Matt H and Rebecca for mailing in comments, and to Jaime for the hospitality.

As usual, we started with a few agenda items:
– Gary D reminded us that he will be one of the readers at the Writers Read event at the Oak Park Public Library on November 17 at 2pm,in the Veteran’s Room of the Main Library.  The link on the library site sent me to   https://oppl.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails?EventId=37383&df=list&et=50&nd=120&backTo=List&startDate=2018/11/17&endDate=2019/02/11
– Beth wrote “I really enjoyed the reading series last Saturday. You all did a great job. The olfactory theme reminded me that I should add more smells with my sights and sounds of old Chicago in my new writings. “
– I reminded the group that the next Reading Series night is Nov. 17, and will feature the five winners from this year’s writers contest.  Congratulations to group members Molly and Matt H, who are two of the finalists.  Come on out on the 17th to support them!
– November is National Novel Writing Month, and three attendees are trying to write a 50,000 word novel this month: as of the time of the meeting, Cary was at about 14,000 words, Aaron was also around 14,000, and Matt B was just under 10,000
– Cary also told us about a day-by-day outline for succeeding in writing your novel – https://i.pinimg.com/originals/43/8c/a1/438ca19f3daa2f3cf8e09c7feff71dbe.jpg
– Just a reminder that the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Manuscript Contest is accepting entries until January 2, 2019.   http://soontobefamous.info/about-the-project/manuscript-contest
– Matt H write in to say “Tell everyone to go to this please: A Close Encounter with J. Allen Hynek Star gazing and the story of the man who made the world believe in UFOs.” https://www.atlasobscura.com/events/close-encounter-j-allen-hynek
– Gary P mentioned the Literacenter, a non-profit shared workspace in the West Loop.  It’s a project of the Chicago Literacy Alliance. http://chicagoliteracyalliance.org/projects/literacenter/
– Gary D also recommended the American Writers Museum.  Earlier reports were that the facility was interesting but did not have much compelling content.  Gary said that he really liked it and would have spent more time there if he could. https://americanwritersmuseum.org/

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Steve continues working on The Shadow of Blooming Grove by Francis Russell
– Sean liked The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker, which was the source for the Hellraiser movies.  He’d not read much Barker but plans to seek more out.
– Lisa is thoroughly enjoying Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor.  She says she almost never gives five star reviews, but this one deserved it.
– Marianne read the harrowing Typhoid Mary by Judith Walzer Leavitt.  She also read Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical by Anthony Bourdain.  She said the first was a very detailed account of the true story of a cook who infected many people before she was discovered.  The Bourdain book was interesting because it was written from a cook’s perspective.
– Gary P is reading Burmese Days by George Orwell and is finding many details he can use in his story.  He said he thought that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith would be a fun read, but it really wasn’t.  Much more to his taste was Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin
– Gary read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and deadpanned that it was a feel-good read.  He’s also enjoying the Willie Nelson biography by Joe Nick Patoski
– Cary and Matt B both said they were not reading anything due to NaNoWriMo

Internet Notes –
– Storybundle this month has a dozen e-books on writing, for whatever you want to pay – I’m interested in Writing as a Team Sport by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta and The Healthy Writer by Joanna Penn and Dr. Euan Lawson – https://storybundle.com/nano

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual varied discussions about general writing topics.  One interesting distraction was a discussion about book reviews.  These days, everyone wants reviews, and many service providers seem to pressure you to give them a five-star review, frequently saying that they need to get the top review every time.  Lisa mentioned that the book she was reading warrants a five-star review, only the third she’s ever given in her life.  I asked her what criteria she uses, and whether it depends on the venue.  (For example, the movie reviews on Netflix seem to stress entertainment value rather than quality.)  She said she uses a combination of both, as did most of the attendees.  We’ve all read “classics” which were of undeniable quality, but with minimal entertainment value.

But regardless of your criteria, it’s important to review books you read, especially small press and self-published works, and especially on Amazon, which promotes books with reviews over books without.  If you some day have a book published, you’ll want other people to review your work, so you should get in the habit of posting your own reviews.  (And if anyone has read any of the books published by members of the group, we encourage you to review them on Amazon!)

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, November 17 at 7PM, when the featured readers will be the winners of this year’s THC Short Story Contest.  Please check the blog (http://thcreadingseries.wordpress.com/) for more information.
– around November 25, I hope to come out of my post-Thanksgiving tryptophan haze to 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, December 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 at the next Writers Group meeting.

Matt B

Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for November

We had an intimate evening for our feature night at the THC Reading Series last month, and we heard lots of stories with smells in them (but none of them stunk!)  Now it’s back to work on our regular projects, especially for those of us who are attempting NaNoWriMo this year.

Lisa sent word of another free writing course offered by the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program.  Enrollment is now open for Stories of Place: Writing & The Natural World.  The course runs Nov. 15 – Dec. 31, and details can be found at https://iwp.uiowa.edu/iwp-courses/distance-learning-courses/moocs

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, November 10th, 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 10th for the Writers Group, and at the next Reading Series night on November 17.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Matt B – Barnstormers chapter 15.rtf
Gary P – TKR_Nov10.pdf
Sean – The Artist and the Tenant.pdf
Marianne – THE SLEEPING CHILDREN ON BAKER’S HILL.docx
Cary – Three States, THC.docx
Gary D – Mr. Exciting Guy PDF.pdf