Archive for the ‘Newsletter’ Category

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
May 24, 2019


The gathering

TWS alumnus Shel Ellestad returning made it a dozen writers who clustered around tables at B&N Westside Tuesday evening. They critiqued the works of six of their colleagues. Here are some of the thoughts that were shared:

Chris Zoern (chapter 2, Apostate):

Kashmira Sheth and Amit Trivedi (chapters, untitled novel):

Cindi Dyke (chapters 9-10, The Mansion Secrets):  Lots of discussion on unpleasant smells, specifically ‘stench’ and whether or not you can collide with it. Larry said no. Tracey considered her son’s shoes, Cindi considered changing a diaper, and both adamantly agreed the answer is yes.  Obviously, Larry changes his socks but has not changed diapers. Carved pumpkins could have a moldy smell, but Jerry pointed out they wouldn’t have time to get moldy in just 3 days. Mike suggested Wart could wonder if it is the smell of blood. Several agreed that Clifford’s speech pattern needs to reflect his disability. Issues with POV and overuse of filters needs to be addressed. John said he bought into the story line and liked the ending. Thanks to all – I appreciate your feedback. (more…)

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Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
May 10, 2019


Way back in the bookstore

A dozen writers circled up on B&N’s bargain book Tuesday evening to critique the works of seven of their colleagues. Here are some of the comments that were shared:


Bob Kralapp (chapter 7, Capacity) . . .

Lisa McDougal (chapters 10-11, The Tebow Family Secret) . . .

Amber Boudreau (chapters 4-5, Mavis): Amber read from Chapters 4 and 5 of her untitled urban fantasy. It was unclear to Lisa if the main character was following a recipe for cookies in Chapter 4. Lots of suggestions to cut Chapter 4 in its entirety or to really cut it down. Otherwise, not much to tell. (more…)

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Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
April 24, 2019

Way back in the bookstore

Ten writers trooped into B&N Westside last week to hear Tracey Gemmell, Larry Sommers, and Paul Wagner share about what they learned at Writers Institute held a couple weeks ago in Madison. Our writers also critiqued the works of six of their colleagues. Here is some of what was said:


Tracey Gemmell (query letter and synopsis, Life Like Lavender) . . . Most agreed the synopsis for Life Like Lavender was too long. Larry also suggesting cutting much from the query letter and replacing it with more wit. Many thanks for your suggestions.


Kashmira Sheth and Amit Trivedi (chapters 12-13, untitled novel) . . .  Amit and Kashmira submitted chapters of their book. Readers wanted to see more interaction between Uma and her father to show she was aware of what was going on in the country. Also, some part of Kedar’s chapter sounded more like stage direction and readers wanted more description of what Virabha looked like. Thank you all for your comments. We will work on the chapters. (more…)

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Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
April 5, 2019

Where were you?

Seven writers gathered at B&N Westside Tuesday evening. If you were among the missing, here are some of the comments in the critiques you didn’t get to hear:


Chris Zoern (chapter 1, Apostate) . . .

Kashmira Sheth and Amit Trivedi (chapters 10-11, untitled novel) . . . Amit and Kashmira submitted two chapters of their untitled novel. There were concerns about using italics for the flashbacks as well as the length of flashbacks. Jack wanted more emotional reaction to the flashback, John wondered if they were all needed. Larry likes some of the descriptive language and Jerry pointed out the inconstancy in using the word “Elder” throughout the chapter. Also, Jack thought Uma’s character was rather dull. (more…)

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Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
March 22, 2019


Once more unto the rectangular tables


Ten writers gathered around a real table at B&N Westside when last we met. Here are some of the points that were shared in the critiques:


Lisa McDougal (chapter 9 rewrite, The Tebow Family Secret) . . .  Here are the notes I got from yesterday. I don’t remember who all said what so I’ll just say what was said. No inner analysis from Ahna which made it hard to know whose mind we were in. Calling the father “Mr. Tebow” considered to be too formal. The chapter was very talky, so needs something to break it up. More emotion needed. The father needs to come off a bit more ruthless with others if he’s going to be so sweet to Ahna. Also, need to narrow down what drugs Ahna was on.


Larry Sommers (experimental blog posts) . . .  Mention of “Low Point” without clarification that it was a small town in Illinois caused confusion. Everybody seemed to think the concept of combining a brief fictional vignette with a longer non-fiction reflection on the same historical material was a viable and interesting concept. BUT, blog posts normally tend to be shorter, and Jerry pointed out that if you don’t post something weekly, folks are not likely to get in the habit of coming back. Tracey suggested finding some way to relate this content more closely to my longer historical fiction, which I’d like to promote. Lisa pointed out that podcasts are becoming the blogs of now. Jack suggested there may be some centralized website that functions as a sort of clearinghouse or reference point for historical-fiction-related blogs. Thanks, everybody, for the helpful comments.


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Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
March 5, 2019

The group met as usual at Borders:  Your editor was absent and so can say nothing about who was there and who not.


But here’s the feedback from those who had their work critiqued: (more…)

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Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
March 1, 2019


Back again at last!


One short of a dozen writers returned to B&N Westside on Feb 19th to critique the works of five of their colleagues. We were not snowed out, rained out or froze out – something to celebrate. Here are summaries of some of the things that were said:

Larry Sommers (Letter to the Editor of the Svenska Dagsbladet) . . . Jerry wants to know how the doctor knows the ages of the children he’s never met and suggests adding the word about. The story drew Tracey in, but she didn’t think it was a letter to the editor. Maybe if he got rid of the beginning and end. Jack didn’t think it was arch enough and recommended making it more “Dickensian,” with a real letter to the editor and then a letter to the author’s sister with the whole (short) story. Jean enjoyed the interaction between the main character and the young girl. Amber was a little unclear as to what the author’s goal was. (more…)

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Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
January 18, 2019

Crowding around in ye olde book shoppe

Thirteen writers, including four guests, packed around the tables Tuesday evening at Barnes & Noble, to critique the works of six of their colleagues. Here is some of what was said:

Millie Mader (short story, final rewrite, “Stone Cold Stripper”): My work was on the agenda, but not critiqued severely, as I said it was the end of the short story. Thanks. Millie

Kashmira Sheth and Amit Trivedi (chapter 4-5, untitled novel): Kedar’s dream seems to be very logical. Need more description of the kitchen. Show Kedar’s thoughts/feelings when he is rescued by Abdul. Thanks

Amber Boudreau (chapter 3, Avice):

Tracey Gemmell (chapter 6, Lavender Wine): General agreement the chapter contained good humor and moved the plot forward. Some discussion about whether readers would know what ‘jitterbugging’ meant. Jerry felt some of Cassie’s comments were trite. Larry commented the chapter was a well-done presentation of an important moment in the story. Cindi felt the chapter wove humor and pain together well. Some discussion as to whether the chapter should end with Isabella’s POV or Cassie’s. Many thanks to all.

Jack Freiburger (chapters 26-27, A Walk upon the Water):

Cindi Dyke (chapter 4, The Mansion Secrets): Many good questions and suggestions on developing Wart’s character. His latchkey status in a fatherless home needs to be brought in sooner to explain the roving independence of a ten year old boy. To explain his adult language and perceptions, it is mentioned that he watches too many detective shows on TV. Some thought it might be more believable and humorous if Wart took on the persona of one of his detective heroes. Thanks to all for the interesting suggestions.

John Schneller (chapter 4, Broken): I turned around on my way to the group as I figured no one wanted to sit alongside my coughing fits. Submitted critiques were appreciated. The chapter placed Broken in a proactive role, moving beyond the victim stage. Numerous small suggestions … the most interesting one surrounds using the word swirlish to describe a pile of discarded rope. The group was split with half loving the word and half replacing it. Thanks to all!


Who’s up next

February 5

Larry Sommers (???)

Lisa McDougal (chapters 8-9, The Tebow Family Secret) Previously posted for December 18

Bob Kralapp (short story, part 4, Capacity)

Jack Freiburger (chapter, A Walk upon the Water)

Jerry Peterson (chapter, Night Flight)


Fifth Tuesday

Yes, it’s coming.

January 29, we will gather at Tracey and Scott Gemmell’s home in New Glarus at our usual time of 7 p.m. Tracey has a dog, just in case anyone needs to take an allergy pill!

This is a potluck supper gathering, so bring something good for the feasting table—a main dish, a vegetable side dish, a salad, perhaps a dessert. Contributions so far:

Tracey – pasta dish, wine, all plates/cutlery/cups

Amit – soft drinks

Cindi – salad

Yes, we do have a writing challenge. Here’s the prompt: It’s January in Wisconsin. We’re deep into winter. Where would you rather be? Maximum length for your story, poem, or essay is 500 words.

Email your mini-masterpiece to Jerry Peterson by Sunday evening, January 27.


New Writer’s Mail editor for February

Email Amber Boudreau thematerials you’d like included in our first issue of the month which will come out on February 7.

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Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
December 21, 2018


Partying and critiquing at Alicia Ashman:  Present were Amber, Jack, Tracey, Bob, Millie, John, Larry, and Paul. Thanks Amber and Millie for bringing cookies!

Tuesday evening, here’s who had their work critiqued:

John Schneller (chapter 2, Broken.rewrite) . . . “Broken chapter 2 created scenes that needed clarity. Why would Broken be considered bait in Keefer’s trap? The explanation of Din status needs modification as both a worthless and a most valuable person were locked into the indentured service. The scorpion scene was well received.  Thanks to all!! And, Merry Christmas!”

Jack Freiburger (chapters 24-25, A Walk upon the Water) . . .  “I have been so busy I haven’t even looked at the comments yet. Seemed like it read well for the readers, enough action in as few words as possible with some humor that seemed effective.  Sean’s witness the arrival of Venus seemed to work.”

Amber Boudreau (chapter, Avice) . . . “Jack thought the main character would guess others were discussing her and had a problem with one character being described as mean, when they could just as well be described as professionally distant. Larry was looking for more of an emotional reaction from the main characters. Tracey just had to go and channel Jerry and insist tables don’t drink coffee. John suggested being more specific with the last line.”

Tracey Gemmell (blog entry on West Somerset Morris) . . .  “Tracey requested feedback on her blog. She felt it was covering too much ground and was too long. The group agreed. Jack suggested removing all the Morris dance information and including it after the links to more information. Larry felt it read more like a newspaper article on the members of the Morris group than an introspection of Tracey’s ties to England. The group agreed it was maybe two blogs. Tracey has now separated it out into two blogs: her story in one, the stories of the West Somerset Morris members in Part II. Many thanks for all your help.

As an aside, if you want to hear Tracey’s interview on Exmoor Radio, follow this link and scroll down to Stories in Depth.  http://exmoorradio.com/



Who’s up next

January 15

Larry Sommers (chapters 3-4, Izzy)

Millie Mader (???)

Kashmira Sheth and Amit Trivedi (chapter, untitled novel)

Meg Matenaer (chapter, Write in Time)

Paul Wagner (???)

Cindi Dyke (chapter 3, The Mansion Secrets)



Next month

January 1, our next regular meeting night, stay home or go to a party. We won’t meet that night. We will resume on January 15.

And meet again on January 29, Fifth Tuesday. Tracey Gemmell will host us at her home in New Glarus.

The Fifth Tuesday writing challenge? It’s January in Wisconsin. We’re deep into winter. Where would you rather be? Maximum length for your story, poem, or essay is 500 words.


New editor

John Schneller is our Writer’s Mail editor for January.


Words make the news

Merriam-Webster executives announced their choice of the word of the year earlier this week. Here’s the story from the Associated Press:

Racial justice. Obstruction of justice. Social justice. The Justice Department. Merriam-Webster has chosen “justice” as its 2018 word of the year, driven by the churning news cycle over months and months.

The word follows “toxic,” picked by Oxford Dictionaries, and “misinformation,” plucked by Dictonary.com.

Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, told The Associated Press ahead of Monday’s announcement that “justice” consistently bubbled into the top 20 or 30 lookups on the company’s website, spiking at times due to specific events but also skating close to the surface for much of the year.

While it’s one of those common words people likely know how to spell and use correctly in a sentence, Sokolowski pointed to other reasons that drive search traffic. Among them is an attempt to focus a train of thought around a philosophical problem, or to seek aspirational motivation. Such well-known words are often among the most looked up every year, including those that are slightly abstract, including “love,” he said.

The designation for “justice” came soon after President Trump’s one-time fixer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison for crimes that included arranging the payment of hush money to conceal his boss’ alleged sexual affairs. He told a judge he agreed time and again to cover up Trump’s “dirty deeds” out of “blind loyalty.”

It also came ahead of a Senate vote on the “First Step Act,” a criminal justice reform bill with broad bipartisan support. Earlier in the year, Kim Kardashian West not once but twice paid a White House visit on Trump to discuss prison and sentencing reform. Sentencing for drug crimes, treatment for opioid addiction, a loosening of cannabis laws, a Tesla probe, the Mueller investigation into the Trump campaign: Justice will remain top of mind into the new year.

“These are stories that connect to the culture and to society across races, across classes,” Sokolowski said. “We get this word that filters in.”

That includes Twitter in a big way.

Often, when Trump tweets about the Department of Justice, he uses simply “Justice.” On Aug. 1, when he tweeted his wish for then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to stop the Mueller investigation, searches spiked significantly. Trump referred to “obstruction of justice,” a separate entry on the Merriam-Webster site, prompting a lookup increase of 900 percent over the same date the year before.

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Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
December 7, 2018

At Alicia Ashman, the branch library in the small conference room:

 Present on December 4 were Larry Sommers, Millie Mader, Tracey Gemmell, Jack Freiburger, Lisa McDougal, Cindi Dyke, JohnSchneller, Amit Trivedi, and Amber Boudreau.

Tracey Gemmell (chapter 5, Lavender Wine) . . . “Members treated the chapter kindly. Some questioned the use of ‘skew-whiff’ so this may be a more British word. Larry wanted less emphasis on scooters and Jack suggested changing transportation and transformation usage. Cindi likes the expression ‘accidentally fine.’ Isabella is coming across as a star character. It’s recommended I downplay the ‘goodbye’ scene when Cassie leaves the hotel as it almost seems Isabella’s part is over. Some of the banter needs cutting. Thanks for your input. Thanks also to Larry and Lisa for helping with the book cover blurb for More or Less Annie.”

Kashmira Sheth and Amit Trivedi (chapters 2-3, untitled novel) . . .  “Summary of comments by group: (1) Pay attention to point of view. (2) Define ‘Indian’ words up front. (3) Kedar needs to be a bit more aware of what is going on in the country. Thanks!  Amit.” (more…)

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