We had our one-hundredth (!) Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, February 13. Thanks to Lisa, Salvador, Cary, Matt H, Jen, Brian, Kathy, and Aaron for joining me for another of our monthly get-togethers to talk about writing and stuff. Thanks also to Jaime for his well-wishes on our milestone meeting, and I’ll repeat my usual reminder that the Tamale Hut Café is open seven days a week for your tamale and tinga pleasure. Let’s keep supporting out local businesses as this pandemic grinds on.
As usual, I started with a few agenda items:
– I received an e-mail that Arts Midwest is looking for writers: “Arts Midwest is seeking contributing writers who are interested in covering stories about creativity, cultural leadership, and community vitality for our website, artsmidwest.org. Deadline is February 28th, 2021” – Details are at https://www.artsmidwest.org/news/2021/02-02/call-contributing-writers?fbclid=IwAR3KPOvieJBRiAxXK1cD2d9UDaaVOvefb8PGl_DpLtAay64Zy2W5OZOdBHU
– Dominican University is hosting Poet Laureate Joy Harjo (virtually) on Feb 18th at 7pm. If you’re interested in attending, here is the link to register: https://www.dom.edu/arts-minds/st-catherine-siena-center/joy-harjo
– The North Riverside Writers Group also meets Thursday, Feb 18 at 6pm, and this month, Lizzy is planning to get into the ins and outs of Reddit with everyone! I don’t know much about Reddit but I understand there are areas that have some benefit for writers, and presumably Lizzy will also help us avoid the more seedy sections of the site. Details are at http://www.northriversidelibrary.org/event-new/writers-group-4/ Also, the Berwyn Library Writers Group meets Sunday, Feb. 28 at 7pm. Info is on the library web site
– The No-Shush Salon meets this month on Feb 25th from 6:30 to 9pm on Zoom with author KM Herkes. There is an open mic afterward, limited to 10 minutes for each reader. Details are on the No-Shush Salon Facebook page. E-mail me if you are interested but are not a member of that service.
– Lisa mentioned that she read a recommendation from Dan Boyd, who runs https://storyluck.org, about getting into the habit of daily writing. He recommended that anyone trying to do so should write a minimum of two sentences a day. He suggests that everyone should be able to find time to write two sentences a day, and his idea that the two sentences should tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Lisa contends that it should really be three sentences, and she’s been doing that for about ten days now and has been really enjoying it. She said that some sentences are really long but some are short, depending on her mood that day. It’s a good way to get into the daily writing habit.
– I have more details about that proposed Café Paul collection. I spoke to my contact at Priority Print https://priorityprintbrookfield.com/ and he said that they don’t do any paperback-style perfect binding in-house, which would make that format would be more expensive. He said the 8.5×11 page folded and stapled format that I proposed is actually the most economical for us, and the price per copy may come down a bit depending on the size of the order. In the next few days, I will be contacting the six authors to confirm they are interested in participating, and to ask for an updated file and maybe a bio to include. After that, I will let everyone know how much it will be per copy and take orders, then we’ll place one order for all the pamphlets. There’s still time for you to submit a story to the collection, but you’ll need to hurry. E-mail me if you want to participate.
– Cary told us that he saw his friend Robert the other day. Robert had attended a few of our meetings before quarantine but lately has been too busy to join us. He did wish us congratulations on our 100th meeting, and hopes to make time for us soon.
– During the current reading list section of the meeting, Brian mentioned that a few years ago, he heard the writer of the book he’s now reading speak as part of that year’s Chicago Humanities Festival. As with most events of this type, it’s gone all virtual, but Brian recommends it: https://www.chicagohumanities.org/
– Last month, Lisa told us about a new card game that she got for Christmas, and thought it might be fun for us to play as a group, but she didn’t have time to prepare anything for the Feb meeting so we pushed that off to March.
We then went around the virtual table to get everyone’s current reading list:
– Lisa’s mostly just been reading vendor contracts and such for her new job, but she did find time to listen to the audio book of Martin Misunderstood by Karin Slaughter, which she enjoyed
– Salvador said that he got through another chunk of Technology’s Crucible by James Martin, and hopes to have it done in a month or two
– Cary read nothing of note this month
– Matt H read For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, as well as Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto, and he said he “could do without” either of them, but he said he’ll keep trying different things.
– Jen is reading Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction by Jay Lake, Orson Scott Card, and Philip Athans, partly for a class but also for inspiration for her own writing
– Brian highly recommended Inside Story by Martin Amis, for its blending of fiction with real people, a form the New York Times called a “novelized autobiography”
– For pure pleasure reading, Kathy really enjoyed Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce, which she said was a “fun story.” She also read The Chosen People by Sidney L. Nyburg and East River by Sholem Asch for a book club, and she said that she learned a lot from each.
– Matt B enjoyed The Programmer by Bruce Jackson, a story written in 1979 about a computer hacker, well before that term was coined, and he is now reading Gary’s Book of Short Stories by Gary Doherty
The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual general writing discussions and critiques. At our January meeting, Lisa suggested that for our one-hundredth meeting, we should try to write a 100-word story. Many of us ran with that, so that most of the 11 stories we discussed were 100 words each. I assumed that this would make for a quick meeting, but the discussions were surprisingly in-depth for such short works. We modified the format of the critiques somewhat after the January meeting, so that everyone had a chance to discuss the piece before the author was allowed to ask questions or comment on the conversation about their work. This seemed to be to be a good balance between last month’s format of only the readers commenting on the pieces, and our usual way of having the writers fully engaged in the conversation. This hybrid still puts more of the onus on the reviewers to be prepared to discuss the work, to which our attendees have stepped up admirably, but it also allows the writer to raise issues that may not have come up in the initial conversations. While our old format worked well for 98 meetings, it’s sometimes good to change things around a bit, and this seems a worthwhile change.
Thanks again to everyone for joining me this month. Here’s the schedule for the next month or so:
– The Tamale Hut Café Reading Series is still on hold until the pandemic abates.
– around February 28, I will send a reminder to everyone 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 13 at 2PM on-line.
Thanks for your interest in the THC Writers Group. I hope to see you at the next Writers Group meeting and at the next Reading Series event, whenever that may be.
Stay indoors, stay healthy, stay sane, support some locally-owned restaurants (including the Tamale Hut Café) with carry-out orders (and don’t forget to tip!) and most of all: Keep Writing!