We had our seventieth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, July 14. Thanks to Sean, Lisa, Marianne, Cary, Christian, Kathy, Vickie, Molly, and Steve for joining me for a fun afternoon of conversation and critique. Thanks, too, to Matt H for mailing in comments, and to Jaime and Alex for the unmatched hospitality.
We had quite a few agenda items this month:
– Reminder: the submissions period for the 2018 Tamale Hut Café’ Presents Short Story Contest closes on July 31st, 2018. See our web site for details https://thcwritersgroup.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/details-of-the-tamale-hut-cafe-2018-short-story-contest/
– As it was Bastille Day, I recommended the various television incarnations of Jules Maigret, the French police detective created by writer Georges Simenon. The MHz channel (broadcast digital channel 20.1, Comcast channel 372) is running the 1990s French TV movies starring Bruno Cremer at noon each day, and channel 11 is running the recent Rowan Atkinson version on Saturday evenings, with reruns throughout the week. Check your local listings. I highly, highly recommend both versions.
– Matt H wrote in to say: please tell everybody to go on my walking tour/distillery tour in Riverside on the 28th of July. (Riverside: What The Burbs Could Have Been – https://www.atlasobscura.com/events/riverside-what-the-burbs-could-have-been) can’t wait to see everybody in August. I’ve got a lot of writing for you all.
– Several people mentioned formatting problems with one of the pieces submitted this month. I’m still trying to figure out what happened, so I can suggest changes to the author for future files, but for everyone’s reference, I found three ways to see the entire file: copy & paste the entire text into a new document, open in Wordpad (if you’re a Windows user), or use your word processor to “remove formatting”.
– The 2018 Silent Film Society of Chicago Silent Summer Film Festival is Aug 17-19 at the Filament Theater on north Milwaukee Ave. Details are at http://www.silentfilmsjaywarren.com/events.html
– Lisa sent word of a free Massive Open Online Course from the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. The course started July 15, but I believe you can still sign up. Details of the MOOC program are at https://iwp.uiowa.edu/iwp-courses/distance-learning-courses/moocs
– Cary reported that he had a great time at the Printers Row Lit Fest last month, and that he was again attempting Camp NaNoWriMo in July. His target is again 25,000 words.
– Steve reminded us that we had one last day to enter the Muriel Craft Bailey 2018 Poetry Contest, which closed on July 15th.
– Marianne highly recommended the winner of this years Nelson Algren short story contest. She thought that Matt H would especially appreciate it, as the style reminded her of his – http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/books/literary-awards/ct-books-algren-award-church-of-pit-hyman-20180522-story.html
– Sean brought in copies of a periodical that he had submitted a piece to which was not accepted. He said he ordered a few copies to read before submitting, to see if his work would be appropriate for the publication. I mentioned that I’ve read many articles by editors of pulp magazines from the ’30s and ’40s, and almost all of them suggest doing just that to get a feel for the publication. I guess you can’t make that suggestion enough times.
– Kathy passed around a volume of The World’s Finest Mystery and Crime Stories that she found in one of the Little Libraries that have been popping up in our neighborhoods lately. You can find treasures in the most unexpected places.
– Molly told us about her recent time as the writer-in-residence at the The H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest (https://andrewsforest.oregonstate.edu/) near Blue River, Oregon. She talked about how she took research books out of the on-site library and used them as basis for her writing, one such story she submitted to us for review this month. She said that her writing from that time will eventually will appear on the Forest Log web site (http://andrewsforestlog.org/) but warned us about about digging into that site unless we have large amounts of time we are willing to lose to that endeavor.
– And just a reminder, at our last meeting, we decided that for October’s THC Reading Series, we’ll present Autumn/October/Halloween stories that somehow incorporate a sense of smell.
We then went around the table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Sean said he had not read much this month, instead soaking in some neo-noir with the films After Dark, My Sweet and House of Games. He did pick up copies of the After Dark, My Sweet novel by Jim Thompson and Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen
– Lisa finished Noir by Christopher Moore, gave up on the Outlanders series by Diana Gabaldon after she was offended by the main character’s reaction to a beating received from a supposed love interest. She’s also fascinated by a coffee table book Abandoned: Hauntingly Beautiful Deserted Theme Parks by Seph Lawless that she’s hoping to use as visual prompts for her writing.
– Marianne loved Rocket Men by Robert Kurson. She also recommended the Algren contest winner, as mentioned above.
– Cary liked The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin and is reading Still Life Las Vegas by James Sie
– Kathy was impressed by Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. She also really liked Shall We Not Revenge by D. M. Pirrone. Other books she read this months were 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster and Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan
– Molly enjoyed The Old Child by Jenny Erpenbeck
– Steve finished The Film Snob’s Dictionary by David Kamp
– Matt B listed to the audio book of The Moon Pool by A. Merritt, because the initial short story was published 100 years ago last week. The book was originally published as two short stories, the first an amazing piece of weird fiction which was praised at the time by H.P. Lovecraft and others, but the second is a somewhat pedestrian “lost world” story.
– Vickie is reading My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman. She says it’s a good book but it sure starts off slow, and that his character development is always spot on!
Internet Notes for the month –
– The Creative Penn had an episode titled Writing TV And Film Adaptations With David Nicholls, Bestselling Author Of One Day (who is also the adaptor of the Patrick Melrose novels for television) – https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2018/05/07/writing-tv-film-adaptations-david-nicholls/
The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual free-wheeling discussion about general writing topics. A theme that repeated throughout the afternoon was how certain complex stories really benefit from repeated readings. You may have seen several contributions over the years in which the writer asks if the piece is clear enough, or if the story is too opaque. It’s something that we struggle with as we write, because when we bring in a piece to discuss at the meeting, we’re there to explain what we meant to say in the story. Conversely, when we send our stories out into the wild for total strangers to read, we can’t be standing over their shoulder as they read them, ready to answer questions that the reader might have.
The best stories, and ones that we all strive to write, need no explanation other than what’s on the page. Even better than that in my mind are the ones that are written in a way that you can read and enjoy superficially (I know that’s not ideal, but we’re all busy and sometimes can’t give a story our full attention) but if you read more carefully, or read it a second or third time, you discover elements that enrich the story in your mind. It’s a fine line to walk, because you want your reader to get everything the first time through, but I know that when I discover something I missed the first time, entirely through fault of my own, it increases my appreciation of the writing, and makes me like the piece more. I love nothing more than to read a story and see something near the end that makes me reevaluate something I read previously.
Thanks again to everyone for joining me this month. Here’s the schedule for the next month or so:
– around July 29, 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, August 11 at 2PM at the Tamale Hut Café.
– The next Tamale Hut Café Reading Series event will be Saturday, August 25 at 7PM, with featured readers Phil and Rita Reebius (aka series regulars Rod and Krista). Please check the blog (http://thcreadingseries.wordpress.com/) for more information, and check out Phil and Rita’s recently-revived podcast, Prehensile and Gretel (http://www.prehensileandgretel.com/). It’s really good.
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.