Weekly Write-In Reservation Renewed

The weekly Write-In at the LaGrange Park Library has been renewed for another seven weeks, starting today.  If you’re looking for some quiet, dedicated writing time away from the distractions of your home or office, Lisa has made a standing reservation every Thursday from 7 to 8:30pm in the Music Room on the second floor of the library, which is located at 555 N La Grange Rd in La Grange Park, IL.  She may not be there every week, but the room is reserved for us every Thursday evening through May.  Bring your laptop or pen and paper and be prepared to write.

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

We had our fifty-fifth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, April 8.  Thanks to Marianne, Sean, Lisa, Mike, Steve, Michelle, and Cary for joining me on a beautiful afternoon to talk writing.  Thanks too to Salvador for mailing in some comments, and to Matt H for quick drive-by reviews, and for introducing us to his adorable children, Huey and Louie.  And thanks as always to Jaime for everything he does.

We started the meeting with a few quick agenda items:
– Next meetings will be May 13 and June 17 (note: the June date is not the second Saturday)  Flyers will go up as soon as I have the Reading Series dates for May and June
– The date change is because the second Saturday of June is the first day of the Printers Row Lit Fest (http://printersrowlitfest.org/).  This year the fest runs June 10 and 11.  Matt B will again be under the IWPA tent.
– Lisa’s Write-In sessions on Thursdays at the LaGrange Park Library (http://www.lplibrary.org/) have been a success.  She has requested the room for another run, but has yet to receive confirmation that the room was assigned to her.  Check the group blog (https://thcwritersgroup.wordpress.com/) for status.
– If you missed the March 18th Those Were The Days episode with the radio versions of the first two Thin Man movies, Archive.org has the episodes available.
– While we’re on the Old-Time Radio theme, Steve Darnell, the host of Those Were The Days, will be at The Prairie Trails Library on Thursday, April 13 at 7PM, talking about all things old-time radio.  Here’s the link: http://prairietrailslibrary.evanced.info/signup/eventdetails?eventid=3933&lib=0  The event is free, but I believe you need to register.
– Lisa sent an e-mail with more free classes from world renowned University of Iowa writing program.  Details are at this link: https://iwp.uiowa.edu/page/power-of-the-pen-2017-moocs
– There’s another Open Mic event in the western suburbs.  The Frugal Muse bookstore (7511 Lemont Rd in Darien – https://frugalmusebooks.com/) is trying to re-start their program, and have moved it to the second Sunday of the month.  You’ll probably see this too late to attend the April 9 one, but the next after that is May 14.  Readings start at 6:30.

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Marianne has been really enjoying Driving Mr. Albert by Michael Paterniti, all the more because it’s a true story.
– Sean is still working through The Politics of Experience by R.D. Laing
– Lisa read The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, which she says is actually more Middle Grade then YA
– Mike’s been too busy to read for pleasure, but he has been keeping abreast of the news.
– Steve mentioned the collection of the Poetry of Robert Service he’s been reading, but also talked about the extra featurettes on the Andromeda Strain DVD, specifically about how Michael Crichton got started in his writing career
– Michelle picked up on the Michael Crichton reference and recommended Travels, a non-fiction book that she says contains a short story that geve her an idea about how Crichton’s brain worked.  She also is reading The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary and lamented that teenagers did not come with instruction manuals.
– Care has been writing more and reading less.  He’s still working on Yes Please by Amy Poehler, and liked the memoir style it’s written in.
– Matt B recently read A Storm of Stories by past THC prize winner K.B. Jensen, The Monster of Chinatown:Death on the Ice by Dick Enos, which he bought because of the sheer enthusiasm of the author when Matt met him, and is currently reading The Poseidon Adventure.  He’ll probably re-watch the film after he’s through.

Internet Notes for this month:
– Cities within a radius – this site will help you find other cities within X miles of a place – good for when your character travels and you need to figure out how far they go and where they will stop: http://www.travelmath.com/cities-within/
– Distance Calculator – calculate the distance between two sites anywhere in the world: https://www.distancecalculator.net/

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the typical wide-ranging discussions of the submitted work.  We did kind of keep to topics this month, the biggest distraction was probably when Matt H brought his kids in.  They were extremely well behaved for the short time they were there, and we were quickly back on track.  It seemed to me that there was a lot of conversation about things that were actually not in the submitted stories, like knowing what motivates your characters, how much time you spend deciding on names for your characters, how much backstory can (or should) be carried by a single paragraph, the logic of writing a story with flashback or flashforwards, and conventions about using names of real landmarks in fictional stories.  None of us are experts so we may not have a definitive answer on some of these issues, but some topics don’t have definitive answers, and just talking about it can help you decide the path forward.  Fascinating stuff.

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, April 22 at 7PM.  Please check the blog (http://thcreadingseries.wordpress.com/) or the group’s THC Facebook page for more information.
– around April 30, I will 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, May 13 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

Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for April

Spring is here!  According to the calendar, anyway.  True to form, we had one day where the high temperature was barely above freezing, and two days later we were in the 80s, and that was followed by two days of cold rain.  Hey, at least we didn’t have any snow, and the days are getting longer!  All this unpredictable  weather, plus the fact that we’re now a third of the way through 2017, means that it’s the perfect time to sit at your desk and see how you’re doing towards hitting your writing goals for the year.  Need some more motivation to get rolling?  I have a suggestion.

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, April 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.

So come join us and get back on track for 2017.  I hope to see you all on the 8th for the Writers Group, and on the 22th for the April Reading Series night.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Sean – BERNIE_4_PROLOGUE_AND_CHPTR_1.pdf
Marianne – The Ball Collector Chpt 3.docx
Matt B – Barnstormers ch.2.rtf
Lisa – Roses.docx
Cary – Character Sketch Questions (Steve,  Ellie).docx
Michelle – Chapter 4 paragraph.docx

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

We had our fifty-fourth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, March 11.  Thanks to Sean, Lisa, Matt H, Marianne, Steve, Aaron, Cary, Kathy, Salvador, and new member Mike for joining me to discuss many esoteric topics and some pretty darn good stories.  And thanks as always to Jaime for allowing us to rearrange three-quarters of the tables in his restaurant, and to Joe for putting them back where they belong when we were done.

Before I start with the recap, I want to point out an item that Lisa e-mailed me after the last meeting.  The International Writing Program at the University of Iowa has two new on-line summer courses for writers at all levels:
Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in Fiction and Nonfiction
Taught by Christopher Merrill and Venise Berry
Course dates: May 15-July 3
Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in Poetry and Plays
Taught by Christopher Merrill and Lisa Schlesinger
Course dates: July 17-September 5

We started the meeting with a few quick agenda items:
– We began by welcoming back Steve, one of our founding members, who missed only one meeting after a recent health issue.  His recovery is coming along well, and he said that returning to participate in our group is one of the goals that motivated him in his rehab.
– Lisa’s weekly Write-In at the LaGrange Park Library is deemed a success, with several of our members joining her for some quiet, dedicated writing time.  If you want to join her, she has a standing reservation every Thursday from 7 to 8:30pm in the Music Room on the second floor of the library, which is located at 555 N La Grange Rd in La Grange Park, IL.  Bring your laptop or pen and paper and be prepared to write.
– I mentioned that on Saturday, March 18, Those Were The Days, the long-running radio show featuring shows from the Golden Age of Radio, will be presenting radio adaptations of the first two Thin Man movies.  Stars William Powell and Myrna Loy reprise their roles in both shows, and the first show contains all of the original cast of famous movie.  The show is broadcast from 1 to 5pm on WDCB, 90.9 FM, or streaming at http://www.wdcb.org/.  If you can’t listen live, you can stream the show for the next two weeks at the Nostalgia Digest site.
– As the year seems to be flying by, the 2017 Printers Row Lit Fest will be here before we know it.  This years show is June 10th and 11th, and everyone in the group who has been to previous shows has had good things to say about it.  Matt B had some success selling his books there last year under the IWPA tent, and that group again has spots available for members and non-members.  Details at this link.  Another less expensive option for writers is the Chicago Writers Association but they are sold out.  They have a waiting list, and you can check the site for details.  Lisa also said that the Lit Fest needs volunteers every year, to help in running the show and to help the featured authors navigate the fest.  She’s volunteered in the past and said that she had a great time.  The fest this year is the second weekend in June, which conflicts with our meeting, so I plan to talk to Jaime about options for rescheduling the June meeting.  I hope to have our options next month.
– Matt H said that he’s sold many copies of his book Breath, a collection of reflections for those who care for the dying, to local caregivers and hospitals.  He’s also approached Anderson’s Bookstore in LaGrange about selling copies there, and he reports that they seem very receptive to carrying works by self-published authors.  If you want a copy of the book for yourself, you can check Anderson’s, or you can order it from Amazon
– Matt B mentioned that he has a few movies to watch as research for his latest story about barnstormers in the 1920s.  He said he’s watched Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965) and Flying Devils (1933 – Ralph Bellamy, Bruce Cabot), and plans to see The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) and The Tarnished Angels (1957 – Rock Hudson, Robert Stack – based on Pylon by William Faulkner).  Several people also suggested The Blue Max (1966 – George Peppard) which coincidentally was on the WPWR Movie channel this week.

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Salvador said that classwork again prevented him from reading for pleasure, but he recommended the recent film The Shack, which he found inspirational.  He also liked Ruby Sparks, a suggestion of Cary from last month, which he reviewed on our Goodreads discussion group.
– Cary is enjoying Yes Please by Amy Poehler
– Kathy read The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, and after struggling through a slow start, she just skipped to the end and found that it had a good ending.  Lisa commented that she enjoyed that writer’s first book but stopped reading The Wonder because of the same issues Kathy had.  Kathy also read and enjoyed The Opening of the Elysium by our own Matt B.
– Steve has had other things going on that understandably precluded reading time, but he’s still working through a collection of the Poetry of Robert Service, and said that he would like to read one of Service’s most famous poems, The Cremation of Sam McGee, at a future reading night.
– Marianne is reading Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz.  She said that she’s more than a little unnerved by the depiction of the modern-day south, and how it seems that many still cling to attitudes about country and race from civil war times, going so far as reenacting Civil War battles and having the south win.  Matt H commented that they lost the Civil War, and someone should remind them of that.
– Matt H is reading Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and commented that he thought it was more a straight war story than science fiction.  Matt B mentioned that at least it was better than the movie.  Steve suggested that he should read The Forever War by Joe Halderman next.  Matt H is also reading a collection of “real” reports of UFO abductions, the kind that used to be reported in magazines like Fate magazine.
– Lisa is working through Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple, and is reading the first Olive Kitteridge novel by Elizabeth Strout
– Sean is reading The Politics of Experience by R.D. Laing as research for his current project.  He’s also enjoyed Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh and recently picked up an omnibus of Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St Aubyn
– Mike is reading Ask Not by our own Sean Parks
– Aaron is still in the first Bazil Broketail book by Christopher Rowley, and is reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, which he says may wind up changing his dining habits
– Matt B finished Queen Bess by Doris Rich, which he said was good but seemed incomplete because of the lack of direct correspondence from its subject, aviator Bessie Coleman.  He also enjoyed Young Dillon in the Halls of Shamballah by Derrick Ferguson.

Internet Notes for this month:
– Asimov’s How To Never Run Out Of Ideas Again – https://medium.com/personal-growth/isaac-asimov-how-to-never-run-out-of-ideas-again-b7bf8e09cc91#.c0qaazxk2
– How to read more books – https://www.kennorton.com/newsletter/2017-02-22-bringing-the-donuts.html

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the typical wide-ranging discussions of the submitted work, and some conversations that were way off topic.  Esoteric topics discussed included:
– a brief discussion of old-time radio broadcasts and the “Thin Man” shows among others, and one member commented that he didn’t know where else a large group like ours would get so excited about a radio broadcast of a movie.
– a conversation about marriage and how it is perceived when the Catholic church is not involved.  An interesting exchange recorded during this discussion pointed out that in the beloved Rankin/Bass TV special, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Kris and Jessica basically go off into the woods and then live as husband and wife without any official religious ceremony, to which another member responded that was “some pagan s*it.”  Matt H said that he’s officiated some non-denominational weddings, and he felt like he was only there to pray for the couple, rather than perform any ritual to join them together.
– a long discussion about the Wizard of Oz being the gold standard in allegories and metaphor, showing the political, economic, and social events of America in the 1890s, with the Yellow Brick Road representing the gold standard, and the quest for the Emerald City based on the author’s childhood memory of searching for emeralds with his father.
– a discussion of the Muppet Christmas movie from 2002 being based on the film It’s a Wonderful Life, and of the origins of Big Bird, Bert & Ernie, and other characters from Sesame Street
– a brief discussion of movie serials, which were popular from the early days of film to the advent of television, but were most popular in the 30s and 40s.  Aaron said that he had Pirate Treasure on Super 8 film, and we briefly discussed adjourning to his place to watch a few chapters.
– the sinking of the PS General Slocum, a passenger steamboat in New York City that caught fire and sank in 1904 with great loss of life but is barely remembered today.  Parallels were mentioned between that disaster and the sinking of the SS Eastland in the Chicago River in 1915.
– we also diverged at one point when we realized that no one knew the name of the letters following numbers such as the “th” in “4th” or the “nd” in “2nd”.  Fortunately, Google turned out to again be our friend, as one member checked on their phone and discovered they are called Ordinal Indicators.
I’m sure there were other conversations that I didn’t capture, but I think the above list gives you an idea of the type of freewheeling discussion that is the norm at one of our meetings.  And this was on top of the usual in-depth critique of the work submitted by the attendees.

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 25 at 7PM, with former Writers Group regular Alex Collier as featured reader.  Please check the blog or the group’s THC Facebook page for more information.
– around March 26, I will 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 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

Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for March

With all the upsetting things which seem to be in the news these days, it’s about time for some positive news for a change.  In last month’s recap, I mentioned that THC regular Steve had some health issues that he thought would sideline him for a while.  Yesterday, I received a call from him and he said that his recovery is progressing faster than he had hoped, so he expects to be back at the Writers Group in March!  Better still, he’s writing and intends to have a new piece to submit for the meeting.

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, March 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.

Hope to see you all on the 11th for the Writers Group, and on the 25th for the March Reading Series night.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Matt H – new dominion 3.5 edit.docx
Cary – Fame, Liquor, Love book 2.docx
Lisa – What it Smells Like to Move.docx
Marianne – The Ball Collector Chpt Two.docx
Matt B – Barnstormers ch.1.rtf
Sean – SLEEPING SONG.rtf

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

We had our fifty-third Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, February 11.  Thanks to Sean, Lisa, Marianne, Aaron, Matt H, Cary, and Salvador for joining me on an unseasonably mild Saturday afternoon to talk stories.  And thanks as always to Jaime for his support and encouragement.

We started with a few quick agenda items:
– First, a serious note that Writing Group and Reading Series regular Steve will be out for the foreseeable future after having some somewhat serious health issues.  I saw him this week and he’s in good spirits and his prognosis is good, so we wish him well and expect to see him back at the THC before long.
– Out next two meetings will be on Mar 11 and Apr 8.  New signs are up at the Tamale Hut, and will be posted at the usual places as soon as I get around to dropping them off.
– I brought up the Writing Group’s presence on Goodreads, as I put it “for one last time.”  Last month I asked that everyone at least take a look at Goodreads to see if we want to pursue using the service to share our reading lists, but the general feeling is that it would be too much work to maintain that.  I’ll leave the group there if anyone wants to join and share their reviews on books they read, but for the monthly reading list, I guess I’ll just continue to try to accurately capture titles as we go around the table at the meetings.
– Matt H announced that his long-promised collection of short writings will soon be available on Amazon.  The listing is there, but it’s currently showing as temporarily out of stock.  He’s not thrilled at the price, but the publisher set it so he didn’t have any control.  The sample copy he passed around looked pretty good, and he’s going to find out if he will get copies to sell.
– Lisa said that as much as she values our monthly meetings, she feels like she’s not getting the full benefit because she’s not submitting anything due to difficulties in finding time to write.  She thinks that if she schedules some time, maybe outside her home, it would force her to make time to write.  To that end, she’s reserved a room at the LaGrange Park Library for the next few Thursdays and invited us all to bring our laptops (or pen and paper) to join her at a write-in.  The first one will be next Thursday, February 16, starting at 7PM in the Music Room
– Last weekend, I attended the First Folio Theatre’s production of Captain Blood, and I recommend it whole-heartedly.  I’ve not seen a bad production by First Folio, and I thought what they did with lighting and set design was outstanding.  The play runs through the end of February, it’s in Oakbrook (so it’s not far), and the tickets are reasonably priced (and there’s free parking), so there’s no reason not to go.
– Cary had two more movies to add to the “movies about writers” conversation we’ve been having for the past few meetings.  He recommended Alex & Emma and Ruby Sparks.  He wanted me to include Author’s Anonymous, which was mentioned last month but I failed to capture that part of the conversation.

We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Sean is enjoying Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus by Matt Taibbi
– Lisa’s reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.  She also recently read Delicious! by Ruth Reichl and said it was “so bad she’ll never read another book by the author.”
– Aaron is close to finishing the first Bazil Broketail book by Christopher Rowley.  It’s taking him a while, and he said he will wait until he’s done before deciding if he wants to inflict the other six volumes on himself.  He also recommends A Dog’s Purpose, both the film and the book.
– Marianne is still in research mode for her next book, but she was excited to purchase a copy of a history of Riverside Community College.  He said she found it on alibris, that it was kind of expensive, but it was in beautiful condition for being an ex-library book.  She said it was not exciting reading, but invaluable for her project.
– Matt H is enjoying Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut, and says you can’t go wrong with Vonnegut.  He’s also recently liked Counternarratives by John Keene and Jihad vs. McWorld by Benjamin Barber, which he said was written in 1995 but has increased relevance today.
– Cary is reading two books: Reality Boy by A.S. King and Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub.  He said he’s not very far into the latter but is really enjoying it.
– Salvador said that his greatest accomplishment was “getting within three feet of his bookshelf” but expects to get back to reading for pleasure now that a few of his other commitments have been completed.
– Matt B recently read a nice variety: The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore, The Desert Demons by Will Murray as Kenneth Robeson (which prompted a quick discussion of the history of Doc Savage), the LibriVox audio book of Armageddon 2419 AD, the first Buck Rogers story by Philip Nowlan, and two books for research for his next project: The Perils of Pauline by Charles Goddard and the Time-Life book Barnstormers & Speed Kings.

Internet Notes for this month:
– I passed around a humorous jpg about writing that I found on Facebook.  It’s attached at the bottom of this post.
– An article on Black Gate: What Black Sabbath Can Teach Us About Writing

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the typical wide-ranging discussions of the submitted work.  In the course of those discussions, we talked about: writing fiction using real locations, the history of photography, the use of spell-check and grammar-check in writing software, how the nature of relationships change the longer they last, how and when to use “drink,” “drank,” or “drunk” in a story, how formatting of text (especially in poetry) can impact how a piece is perceived, the intrinsic value of collectibles, the history of the “Dark Shadows” TV show, using pop culture references in fiction, the use of standard characters in detective fiction, and whether anyone besides me used the Home and End keys on their keyboards.  And that’s only the stuff I remember!

During the discussion of my piece, there was some question about my description of a stairway to the front of a building.  I need to make my description clearer, but if anyone is curious, here’s the Street View of the location I was trying to describe (it’s the house on the left).

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, February 25 at 7PM, with series regular Brendan Detzner as featured reader.  Please check the blog or the group’s THC Facebook page for more information.
– around February 26, I will 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, March 11 at 2PM at the Tamale Hut Café

Thanks for your interest in the THC Writers Group.  I hope to see you at next Writers Group meeting or the next Reading Series event.

Matt B

writing-advice-as-seen-on-facebook

Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting for February

There is no shortage of stressors these days, and if left unchecked, that stress can take a real toll on our health and well-being, both physical and mental.  I find it funny that some people think writing is stressful, yet many find catharsis in writing.  Whether writing a personal journal, or expressing your feelings in a poem or story, getting some of your anxieties and stress onto the printed page can help you acknowledge them and maybe help you deal with them.  So in these days of high anxiety, keep writing.  And if you have something you’d like to share with a friendly group of like-minded people, we have just the place.

The next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, February 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.

Hope to see you all on the 11th for the Writers Group, and on the 25th for the February Reading Series night.

For those of you attending, you should have already received the following pieces:
Matt H – New dom 2.docx
Matt B – The Lost Ticket – complete draft.rtf
Cary – Raspberries.docx
Sean – CAVERNS AND WHISPERS.rtf
Marianne – The Ball Collector.docx