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Tuesdays with Story

The first word . . .

“At the most basic we are only discussing a learned skill, but do we not agree that sometimes the most basic skills can create things far beyond our expectations? We are talking about tools and carpentry, about words and style…but as we move along, you’ll do well to remember that we are also talking about magic.”

–Stephan King, On Writing

Tuesday evening. . .

Six TWS writers came together on Tuesday to share their works. Here’s the conversation:

Bob Kralapp  Jaime liked the sequence where Katherine is almost clipped by the Mercedes, then thinks through the incident later at the grocery store. Mike felt the story is only partially resolved since the pistol is still in the bedpost. There were several comments that some of the longer sentences later on in the story could be broken up into shorter ones. Thanks all for the excellent comments.

Kashmira Sheth Kashmira submitted two chapters of Journey to Swaraj.

Larry had a couple of comments regarding certain metaphors and phrases. Overall, he thought it flowed nicely. Jaime wanted a little more time to go by in the cart before Veena reached home from helping her brother. Bob wanted a little more information about the salt marsh, the leaders’ involvement, and its significance. Mike wrote that he enjoyed the chapters. He did find Mrs. Bibra too kind. 

Thank you all.

Jaime Nelson Noven  Chapter 1… Kashmira enjoyed the world-building but could use some clarity on the sequence of actions happening. Larry enjoyed the tension caused by the character’s lack of sleep. Jack made suggestions for cutting long sentences into smaller ones, as well as adding some more scene-building sentences. Bob also thought the chapter could go a little longer. We all wondered whether the alcohol business would have gotten better as things got worse or whether the vodka would really be made out of fermented squash from a rotting Jersey. Amit noted that the somewhat disembodied voice of Alexei speaking to Nathan from below reminded him of Alexa, which made for an amusing image. Thanks, everyone!

Amit Trivedi  (If Not For The Partition, chapter 1) The group felt it was an improvement from the previous version. Babubhai illness has to be developed more. The importance of books and Kedar leaving needs to be explained.  Slowing down pacing will also help. Explain  Rangoli. Otherwise it seems it’s a police officer!

Larry F. Sommers Early passages from memoir Good Enough–There were various suggestions for word order and flow in the opening section (1948). Kashmira and others felt I, the narrator, could have been more active in seeking to play with the electric train. The final scene, being evicted from my second-grade teacher’s house, needs a bit more specification of the circumstances and elaboration of the impact. Thanks, all.

July 19,  here’s who’s on deck

So far, we have only three. There is room for more. If interested, please let Larry know. Thanks.

Kashmira Sheth

Amit Trivedi

Larry F. Sommers



Our editor

Amit will edit the July issues of Writer’s Mail. If you have something, do email it to Amit.

The last word . . .

“The first draft of everything is shit.”

                                                                                                                      —Ernest Hemingway 


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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays With Story

June 7th Meeting

First Word…

“I write to discover what I know.”
― Flannery O’Connor

Tuesday evening…

Larry, Jack, Kashmira, Jaime, Daniel and Bob met via Zoom to discuss the works submitted. Here is a summary of what was said:

Dan Culhain (A Grand Thing, chapters 3 and 4) … Dan submitted two chapters from his work-in-progress. In general, he received more feedback on the Aikken chapter than the Nellie chapter. Kashmira thought there were some opportunities to better show Aikken’s mental state vs. telling. John offered a couple of wording suggestions related to how Aikken would perceive the sudden presence of the strangers. Jack wanted to see more of Aikken up front to invest the reader more in the character. Also, the Aikken chapter seemed to jump around a bit and could use some arrangement.

—Larry F. Sommers (“Sketches,” experimental early chapters of memoir) … Discussion centered around the contrasting and complementary roles of juvenile vs. adult narrator voice in different sections. It was illuminating and informative. I will go and try to make it better. Thanks, all.

Kashmira Sheth (Journey to Swaraj, chapters 14-16) … Kashmira submitted three chapters of Journey to Swaraj. Jack wanted sentences to be shortened in the part when Veena confronts the police officer. Jamie asked about the turban and how it came undone. John wanted to know how quickly the brother disappeared and reappeared. Overall the comments were positive. Thank you all.

Jaime Nelson Noven (New York, After All, chapter 3)… We talked this week about world-building, and Dan brought into question if the population is dwindling, why does she pay for rent, and why would the city build a new train? Larry would almost like to see this as chapter 1. Kashmira enjoyed the slow build and the character relationships. Bob enjoyed the tone, texture, and imagery of the chapter. John brought into question the connotation of a toucan’s beak (as being long more so than curved). Jack was concerned the narrative voice may be dulling the scene, and that the narrator should notice more than the characters do. Dan pointed out that Charlie needs to think about her missing book in this chapter since it’s so important to her and the plot. Thanks, everyone!

Who’s up Next?

The only definite presenters so far for June 21st are:

Kashmira Sheth               Journey to Swaraj

Bob Kralapp                    Storm, revised ending

That leaves several slots open if anyone has something to submit for the next meeting.


On June 1st, Amber Boudreau appeared as a guest on The Author Blurb Podcast, hosted by E. A. Maynard. Some of the talking points include finding a supportive writer’s group, the slippery conventions of the genre, and the sometimes disconnect between the writer’s intentions and the reader’s expectations. This interview can be seen here

Last Word…

That’s my only defense against this world: to build a sentence out of it.— Jim Harrison

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Tuesdays With Story

May 17th Meeting

“Remember, a writer writes, always.”—Billy Crystal, Throw Momma from the Train.

Five of us, Daniel, Kashmira, Bob, Jaime, and Mike, got together for Tuesday’s meeting to discuss and offer suggestions for the three submissions. Here are the summaries:

Kashmira submitted two chapters of Journey to Swaraj. Mike and Jaime said they enjoyed the metaphors that were grounded in Veena’s world. Jamie had a question about the chapter 12th ending. Daniel felt that Veena’s paranoia could be better presented and Bob wanted more details about the mob scene. Thanks all for your comments.

Mike submitted a new version of his short story, Roger. Bob missed the post-funeral dinner scene in the re-write, but liked young Roger’s wondering about the baby being lonesome. Kashmira suggested that the ending should show more transformation or resolve from Roger. Daniel thought that Roger lost some kindness in this version. Thanks, everyone for your helpful comments!


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Tuesdays with Story

May 3rd Meeting

“Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.”
–Virginia Woolf

Well, let’s just hope we don’t get as cynical as that.


Seven of us Zoomed in on Tuesday to share their writings to offer suggestions and comments on writing. Here are the summaries from the writers:

Jaime Nelson Noven (New York, After All, chapter 2)… Most writers agreed the chapter is working well in both introducing the characters and providing intrigue. For Bob, the detail of the chocolate on the breath of the nurse made the scene really come to life. Kashmira suggested that instead of telling Charlie’s intentions in the last line, I can show this by having her hesitate putting on her reading glasses. Thanks, all!

Amber Boudreau Amber read from the beginning of chapter 6 of her sequel, Second Act. Jaime seemed to take immense pleasure in deleting sentences and Amber can’t wait to see what she got rid of. John, who wasn’t with us last time, said he didn’t immediately like Jeremy as much as he did Mavis. Jaime suggested mentioning a role Jeremy didn’t get as a way to perhaps endear him to the reader. Bob wondered if Jeremy isn’t on the autism spectrum. Spoiler: he’s not. Kashmira was looking for a little more reaction from Jeremy concerning his old pack. 


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Tuesdays with Story
April 19, 2022

The first word . . .

In selecting the starting point and ending point for your story, it will help “if you will remember the following facts about readers:

  1. They are fascinated and threatened by significant change;
  2. They want the story to start with such a change;
  3. They want to have a story question to worry about;
  4. They want the story question answered in the story ending;
  5. They will quickly lose patience with everything but material that relates to the story question.”

– Jack M. Bickham, Scene and Structure, p. 7 (1993).

Tuesday evening April 19, 2022

Six TWS writers came together over Zoom and in person this week to review the works-in-progress of four of their colleagues and offer insights and critiques. Here is a summary of what was said:

— Mike Austin (“Roger”) … “Roger” was very well received. I had concerns that it might be too depressing, but that didn’t seem to be a problem. Some areas that could use fleshing out were the things that have alienated his family from him, such as his affair and his mocking of his son’s religion. I also should clarify Angie’s comment about not being able to afford an emergency room. (And along those lines, it occurred to me that if Angie had a job at the university, she’d have insurance. So I might have to give her a different job.) There was a little brawling, though no bloodshed, thanks to Zoom, about whether the structure could be changed so that the story begins with Roger waking in the waiting room, contemplating the events leading up to his being there, or if it should remain linear. I did find the idea of beginning in the waiting room appealing. Hm. Thanks to everyone for your comments and suggestions.  

Dan Culhane (A Grand Thing To Be An Afternoon, Ch. 2) Dan submitted chapter 2 in which we are introduced to Nellie, Oren, and Jacob and start to see the world of MY026. Dan received some very helpful feedback on the mechanics of the chapter, including on the opening description of the scene and the purpose of certain section breaks. A universal agreement against the use of parenthesis was duly noted. The piece succeeds in introducing characters that are engaging and get people to care about their relationships. However, the narration needs some attention in places to avoid the voice of the narrator sneaking into Nellie’s internal dialogue. All very helpful feedback and much appreciated.


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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story
April 5, 2022

The first word . . .

“Drama is the way of holding the reader’s attention. The basic formula for drama is setup, buildup, payoff—just like a joke. The setup tells us what the game is. The buildup is where you put in all the moves, the forward motion, where you get all the meat off the turkey. The payoff answers the question, Why are we here anyway? What is it that you’ve been trying to give? Drama must move forward and upward, or the seats on which the audience is sitting will become very hard and uncomfortable.” – Anne Lamott (bird by bird).

Tuesday evening April 5, 2022

Seven TWS writers came together over Zoom (mostly) this week to review the works-in-progress of four of their colleagues and offer insights and critiques. They also got a look at Larry’s freshly minted bookmarks! Here is a summary of what was said:

Kashmira Sheth (Journey to Swaraj, 7-9) …Kashmira submitted chapters of Journey to Swaraj. Larry thought that the story has improved from the previous draft. Daniel liked what the description of the food evoked. John had some logistic concerns and Bob suggested places where the story can be deepened. Jaime pointed out places where the story could be tightened. Thank you all for reading and sharing your comments.  


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Tuesdays with Story

The first word . . .

I don’t start out writing to challenge stereotypes. I think that can be as dangerous as starting out to ‘prove’ stereotypes. And I say ‘dangerous’ because fiction that starts off that way often ends up being contrived, burdened by its mission. I do think that simply writing in an emotionally truthful way automatically challenges the single story because it humanizes and complicates. And my constant reminder to myself is to be truthful.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Tuesday evening. . .

Eight TWS writers attended the March 15 meeting.  

Amit Trivedi (If Not for the Partition, Chapters 1-2)

The revised chapters are a lot better than the previous ones but still need work.

The ‘Monkey’ scene needs to be expanded.

Try to incorporate two points of view (Kedar and Uma) in the first chapter. This will also give insight to their characters and make them more interesting to the readers.

Foreshadowing a bit about the partition is acceptable.


Bob Kralapp (Slow Dancing Under the Mirror Ball)

The story was well-received. There were several comments that the story ended on a strong note. Kashmira felt there were still places where Bernie’s emotions and situations from his past could be brought out further. Both Jack and Larry saw the burning of the disability check as a crucial moment, a turning point in the growth of Bernie’s character.

John Schneller (Precious Daughter, Chapter 32)
Varied response to this chapter. Larry found quite a bit of confusion in the action. Jack felt Oltan was a cardboard character as an antagonist and bad guy. Kashmira suggests condensing the scene and prodding Kotel into this fight with Oltan. And all think turtles need to learn more complete English or we won’t know who they foiled. Lots to consider.

Jaime Nelson Noven (New York After All, Ch.1)

We looked at the logistics of what Nathan is doing: How high up is he really, what is his job exactly, and what is he standing on? Several members thought Lindyhop’s exit from her scene could be stronger and show her personality more. Bob enjoyed “saxophone artist.” Larry pointed out that calling the press a “vanity” publisher at this stage is misleading. We spent some time discussing the cigarette Lindyhop smokes but doesn’t smoke: She would have to wave it to light it, and this may highlight her different approach to things. How popular is smoking in the future, and does this hint at her view of the world or how she doesn’t want to take responsibility for her alter-persona? Does she have an ashtray that tells us something? Thanks, all!

Jack  Freiburger(3 Poems) Please see the attached file from Jack.

Kashmira Sheth (Journey to Swaraj Chapters 6-9)

We will take this up next time.

April, here’s who’s on deck

Kashmira ShethJourney to Swaraj, 7-9
Dan Culhane 
John SchnellerPrecious Girl 
Bob Kralapp 

Our editor for the April meetings:

We do not have an editor for April. Any volunteers?

 Fifth Tuesday…

Fifth Tuesday will be at Jack’s, the writing prompt is “Those Darn(ed) Masks.” People can send their up-to-500-words efforts to Larry, by Monday, March 28, so he has time to arrange them and print them up.

The last word . . .

It’s a mistake that we divide art into popular art and fine, highbrow, high-quality art…It has no basis in reality. And it is a way to keep other people and other people’s taste at a distance. It is a way of closing oneself towards some kinds of reality. So I like to play with genres and to experience the thriller and the love story and to play with reality.

Peter Høeg

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Tuesdays with Story

The first word . . .

“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.” — George Orwell

Tuesday evening. . .

Nine TWS writers attended March first meeting.  

Bob (Slow Dancing Under the Mirror Ball, part 1)

There were many comments that the small-town setting was believable and that the conversations sounded real. The homecoming parade needs work on two points. The first is showing a stronger connection between the temperature of a snowy day and how the townspeople are dressed. The second concerns making Bernie a stronger or more continuous presence.


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Tuesdays with Story

The first word . . .

“The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.”

–Charles Dickens

Tuesday evening. . .

Nine TWS writers came together on Tuesday to talk shop. Here’s the conversation:

Jack Freiburger (poems, “LAL Moon,” “Skeets”) . . . Nothing to report as there was not much feedback.

Kashmira Sheth (Journey to Swaraj, ch. 1-2) . . . Kashmira submitted the first two chapters of Journey to Swaraj. Overall, the response was positive. There were suggestions to fine-tune some sections, less narration by Veena about her family’s situation/history, and a few tweaks to strengthen the story. There was also a suggestion that “telling” could be omitted and that the same trees were mentioned in the front and back of the house!

Thank you all for reading the revised version.

Amit Trivedi (poem, “Nursing Home”) … Jack felt it was thought-provoking and liked the references to Van Gogh paintings. Jack also felt that western readers will not recognize the gods/angles of death in the last line. Larry thought it was an interesting tour of a typical end-of-live situation. Bob felt the situation in the poem seems real and intimae. When I thanked Jack for his comments/advice he said, “Semper laetus erit adiutori poetae!” I’ll let you figure it out using google translate.


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Tuesdays with Story

The first word . . .

“One time, while I was at my day job of computer programming, I was working through a conversation two characters were going to have in my story. I mumbled both parts to myself as I walked. When I got to the door, I walked through and held it open for a moment. I realized I was holding it open for the ‘other character’ that I was talking to.”

―Andy Weir, author of The Martian, Artemis, and Hail Mary


Tuesday evening. . .

Nine TWS writers—including newcomer Dan—filled our screens this week for a lively critique session, which included an in-depth discussion on how and why crop fields are plowed, proving that this is a very Wisconsin writers group. Here is some of what was said:

Jaime Nelson Noven (chapter, New York After All) . . . John and Amber want Nathan to have stronger dialogue. Kashmira thought Nathan could have an inkling of memory of Charlie as being some kind of fisherman, and that we should see an example of Charlie’s resistance to letting other people hold her baby. Jack added some new jokes. Bob wondered if there is something else Charlie can notice about Nathan’s hand, other than no wedding ring. And where did that escaped Lifesaver end up anyway? Thanks, all!

Bob Kralapp (“Street Fair” and “Driving to Town”) . . . Larry felt that Street Fair had some interesting images, but lacked context. Jack commented on its conciseness, that it was almost a haiku. In Driving to Town, Jaime felt that there was a problem in not showing what the narrator sees in the field before going into the interpretation of what he sees. Helpful comments, all. Thanks.

John Schneller (chapter 29, Precious Daughter) … Kashmira was hoping to see Nia in this chapter. (Sorry, Kotel needs to keep moving for a chapter or two.) Jack and Larry picked up on a few word clarifications. Jaime noted Kotel used the horse character names before he was privy to that. A short discussion on what words/wording are appropriate for middle-grade readers. The dialogue of Guardian raised questions in some readers but was accepted as a part of his distinctive character. Many good suggestions tonight.

Larry F. Sommers (chapter 1-2, Untitled Memoir) . . . It was unanimous that the new Chapter 2, going from the recon flight to the Freedom Bird flight with memories of the Knox College failure experience, was more effective than the previous Chapter 2, which went back to infancy. More is needed on the return to Kenosha and on Joelle. Jack suggested that “Reconnaissance” could be a title for the whole memoir, not just Ch. 1, and pointed out that movements from one place to another are natural opportunities for flashbacks. Thanks, all, for your insights.

February 15, here’s who’s on deck

Jack Freiburger (poems)

Kashmira Sheth (Journey to Swaraj)

Amit Trivedi (???)

Larry F. Sommers (chapter, Untitled Memoir)

John Schneller (chapter 30, Precious Daughter)

Mike Austin (???)

Our editor

Jaime Nelson Noven is editing the February issues of Writer’s Mail. She’s always looking for good things to include. If you have something, do email it to Jaime.

Happy Pub Week, Amber!

TWS member Amber Boudreau celebrates the publication of her novel Second Nature, which the group helped critique not so long ago. Happy pub week, Amber! Second Nature is now available for purchase from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/dp/1952919800/), and watch for a bookstore event with Mystery to Me Bookstore this May.

What goes into your Character Bible?

A Character Bible is a tool used by writers to keep their characters straight. It can be an outline of the primary characters in a novel that the author creates before beginning to write, or it can be a place to track details about a character as the story is being written, to prevent continuity errors down the line. So what should be included in your Character Bible?

In an article by The Writing Cooperative (https://writingcooperative.com/why-a-character-bible-might-be-the-key-to-your-character-creation-24650823ae99), they break it down into three sections: SKIN (physical appearance), FLESH (backstory), and CORE (psychology). If you’re missing any one of these three, your character is not well-rounded enough.

In a new interview, #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner, who uses repeat protagonists in many of her books, says that she includes in her Character Bibles details of the characters’ lives from the “resting” moments. If she has a detective protagonist, she thinks about who that person is when they’re not working. Family tree. Professional resume. What does their apartment look like? How do they dress? “Sometimes you can go on Pinterest to look at things. I have friends who are big on astrological signs for their characters. I have one writing friend who can define [their characters] by a flavor of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.”


The last word . . .

“There is some confusion as to what magic actually is. I think this can be cleared up if you just look at the very earliest descriptions of magic. Magic in its earliest form is often referred to as ‘the art.’ I believe this is completely literal. I believe that magic is art, and that art, whether it be writing, music, sculpture, or any other form, is literally magic.”Alan Moore, author of Jerusalem, V for Vendetta, and Watchmen

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