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.