Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
April 22, 2017

Tuesday eve at B&N Westside

A dozen gathered around a table to critique the work six of their fellows. Here’s some of the comments of your colleagues:

  • Rebecca Rettenmund (chapter 1, Hunting for Dad) . . .
  • Pat Edwards (chapters 7-8) . . . Pat submitted two more chapters of her non-fiction book about the hero’s journey.  Most reviewers wanted more detail in the myths and stories, and ways to tie those stories to the advice in the chapter.  John had a good idea for including some unconventional mentors like cancer – for what people learn from them.  Pat also asked for input as to what to call those who complete a hero’s journey, as she doesn’t want to use the word hero.
  • John Schneller (chapter 12, Final Stronghold) . . . Final Stronghold chapter 12 drew a few good suggestions. Mike thought a weasel should be able to eat like a weasel. The idea that “these are the rules of the valley” seem a bit shallow so I have had to think through this dynamic. Jerry and Pat didn’t like similarity of names. I begged off on a one time appearance but to no avail. Rebecca  felt the scene should be described in more detail, and lastly, I was reminded to replace as many speech tags with actions, as possible. Great suggestions, one and all!!
  • Amber Boudreau (chapters 16-17, The Dragoneer) . . .Amber read from the beginning of Chapter 17 of her YA Fantasy novel, The Dragoneer. Pat thought the shame Moira felt at one point in the story was too much and suggested a replacement, such as discomfort because shame is such a strong emotion. Katie requested Amber read a particular paragraph from the end of the chapter. Amber, humbled by the request, complied as she wasn’t sure about the paragraph, as other critiques suggested getting rid of it.
  • Jack Freiburger (short story, part 1, “Jesus Walked into the IHOP”) . . .
  • Eva Mays (chapter 10, Dhuoda) . . . The consensus was that I achieved the high tension  that I was going for in Chapter 10. Jack put forth the word “caravan” to replace “cavalcade. Many people thought Rosamund’s broken arm should be more painful than the chapter currently shows. Jerry suggested I change a sentence where it makes it seem like the horse is running for longer than is physically possible. Thank you all for your input, I will put it to good use!

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Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
April 14, 2017


April 4 at the bookstore

We had 11 writers, including guest Katy Sullivan, around the tables at B&N Westside to critique the work seven of their fellows. Here’s some of the comments of your colleagues:

  • Millie Mader (poem, “Ballad of the Tower”) . . . Here’s my “3 sentences” re: my poem. I had submitted it once before—a couple years ago. It was well received, with a couple of word changes. I made the changes when I got home last night. Thanks for doing the newsletter.
  • Nora O’Reilly (chapter 9, Bill McCormick’s Bliss) . . . The group asked that I slash much of Bill’s internal dialogue (something I am doing currently throughout the rest of the book.) I was warned to be careful of switching my point of view between Bill and the omniscient narrator, and to cut my excessive food description. These suggestions as well as cleaning up the end of the chapter to leave a bit of a cliffhanger were also incorporated. Appreciate all the honest feedback, thanks everyone!!
  • John Schneller (chapter 11, Final Stronghold) . . . Chapter 11 was a chapter of working through a vignette on justice. The characters being mostly animals, were easier to follow, and the justice-logic worked for the group. The main discussion centered on names. How and why Jjosh is spelled (stuttering squirrel) and the possible means to remind e reader how Kotel acquired his name and what it means (Keeper Of The Lamb). Since this came out of book one, it might help to return to this early in Final Stronghold. Another useful note, your children’s names should not show up in the list of characters.
  • Mike Austin (chapters 1-6, Riding with the Reed Gang) . . . “Riding with the Reed Gang” was received very well by everyone, which is really going to put me on edge about the next chapters. We had some discussions about the alternating POV, and why Nick’s character is the only one not in first person, and if it worked or not. The consensus, if I understood correctly, is that it works so far. We also talked about making the era more clear in the beginning. There were very helpful and appreciated comments all around. Thanks!
  • Hannah Marshall (poems, “Second Daughter” and “Wintering”) . . . We had good discussion around both poems. The words “coal” and “barks” stuck out in “Second Daughter” as needing some reworking. In “Wintering,” we discussed that the first few lines were perhaps too spring-like for the rest of the poem which revolved around summer and winter.
  • Tracey Gemmell (prologue and chapters 1-2, rewrite, Losing It) . . . The prologue and introductions to Annie and Taylor were generally well received. Several group members found the writing to be tight and polished. Some tidying needed to clarify a few minor points. Mike found the prologue a little ‘stiff,’ but enjoyed the way the first chapter brought out Annie’s desperation without being melodramatic. Taylor is still not considered likeable, (Jerry has no sympathy for damaged Chanel shoes) but the backstory as to why she is like she is was helpful to readers. Hannah hated the idea of a character becoming more or less male/female in behaviors. Later story does get into how a man can be aggressively successful while a woman is simply a ‘bitch’ if she tries the same. Hey, I don’t make up societal rules ;). Many thanks for all your helpful comments and encouragement.
  • Jerry Peterson (short story, “Escape to Wenzhou”) . . . This was a fun read, kind of reminiscent of ‘Indiana Jones,’ said Mike Austin. Tracey Gemmell found the truck fixing scene a bit long. Also, said she, “I found the frequent use of ‘Sister’ [in referring to the nun] a little distracting.” Cindi Dyke and several others were confused by Boone’s knife-cut hand gesture. To Cindi, it was the throat-cut gesturing meaning stop, not a gesture meaning turn as Jerry intended. He said he’d fix it.

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Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
March 24, 2017


What you missed if you weren’t with us

For the third meeting in a row, we had 14 writers crowded around the tables at B&N Westside to critique the work seven of their fellows. Two of our 14 were guests, Lisa Jisa and Larry Sommers. Here’s some of the comments of your colleagues:

Jen Wilcher (chapter 3 rewrite, Hogoshiro Chronicles) . . .The chapter was well received. Several expressed that they found the drills easy to follow and visualize. Some asked to see a physical calming: a routine that carried her from agitated to calm and in control. A suggestion was made to allow her to exit without a reverse repetition of returning to civilian attire.

Pat Edwards (mentor and threshold chapters, What to Pack) . . . The group reviewed two of Pat’s chapters: Crossing the Threshold and Meet the Mentor. There was some confusion on the guardian’s listed — whether they were at the threshold or over it.  A few of the group did the exercises in the chapters and gave good feedback on them. Insightful notes from the group!

Amber Boudreau (chapter 14-15, The Dragoneer) . . .Amber sent out Chapter’s 14 and 15 of The Dragoneer to the group. Pat thought Moira argued with her mother in a very mature manner and wondered if that was intentional or not. Jerry read through the argument and found it fit with what his idea of the characters are like. Tracey suggested cutting a large bit of rehashed story from the beginning of Chapter 14 (which Amber did). Eva noted that the phrase, “on the fritz,” was used twice, once in each chapter, to refer to a phone not working but she found it a bit dated and wondered if there was a more current way to say it. Tracey was kind enough to text her daughter and informed the group she would probably just say it was broke. Continue Reading »

Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
March 10, 2017


Tuesday evening at ye olde bookseller’s

For the second meeting, we had 14 writers crowded around the tables at B&N Westside to critique the work seven of their fellows. Here’s some of their comments:

Jack Freiburger (3 poems, “Nostalgia I”, “Nostalgia II”, and “Half Moon Bay) . . .  Jack did his best Ezra Pound imitation Tuesday night, but with out the Fascist salute or praise for Mussolini, with two Imagist poems and one Imagistic dreamscape.  The poems were so simple and obvious that little criticism was offered, but jack did receive an anonymous email from one of the women in the group who offered to have a short affair with him as long as he memorialized it in similar Imagist poetic despair, once she ended it.

 Nora O’Reilly (chapter 10, Bill McCormick’s Bliss) . . . So for my out of order Chapter 10 from Bill’s Bliss: Some brilliant suggestions include to loose the omniscient narrator’s comments on page two (sounds too Hollywood and is distracting,) and to alter Bill’s body language in the final scene involving Joel and a park bench. Also the vote is out on whether my flashback works or not. I will leave it for now with some smoothing of the rough edges. A fun twist involving the alleged reporter from the Isthmus, Ali, is actually from the Madison police department. . .thanks, John! Continue Reading »

Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
February 24, 2017


Tuesday evening at Barnes & Noble

A big crowd for us, 14 writers gathered to critique the work six of their fellows. Here’s some of their comments:

  • Pat Edwards (Call & Refuse) . . . The group gave Pat a lot of good ideas for enhancing the chapters.  Hannah noted the change in voice once the exercises were introduced.  John and Jerry thought a clear arch of Pat’s own journey would help the readers identify with her story.  The group discussed how to make the example people’s stories more relatable and real.
  • Amber Boudreau (chapter 12, part 2, The Dragoneer) . . .
    Amber submitted the second half of Chapter 12 of the Dragoneer to the group. Pat wanted a bit more showing between two characters during a particular piece of dialogue, but otherwise seemed to like it. Kashmira noted a repetitive phrase and suggested ending the chapter earlier because it had a good hook and would want to make people turn the page. So really, it was the second half of chapter 12 and chapter 13 that got reviewed.
  • Eva Mays (chapter 9, Dhuoda) . . . Regarding chapter 9, Rebecca suggested “sprout” as a more dynamic word than “grow”. Tracey gave the group a lesson in the anatomy of a sidesaddle. Most people approved of changing Ludovic’s name to Hludowig, to avoid confusion with his son, Lothar.
  • John Schneller (chapter 9, Final Stronghold) . . . Final stronghold chapter 9 received several good suggestions. As these concerns occur regularly, greater effort needs to be applied. Problem: The large cast of characters along with minimal internal thoughts and explanations. This result in difficulties identifying POV characters, a full understanding of the scene dynamics, and full characterization of those in the scene. Efforts at tight writing and protecting subtlety may be winning the battles, but losing the war. The battle plan will be reevaluated. Thanks for all the constructive thoughts!
  • Millie Mader (poem, rewrite, “Divorce”) . . . Some of the word choices could be changed. I’m working on them—and grateful that there aren’t too many. Thanks for taking all this on — Millie

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Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
February 9, 2017


And we have a winner!

Writing contest judge Pat Tomlinson selected Eva Mays’ story, “The Ball at Mawley,” as the best of the best contest stories at Fifth Tuesday, last week. As a result, Eva gets a free critique of the first 50 pages of her novel, the critique provided by Pat. And she also gets the pot of entry fees, currently at $100, which she must spend taking Pat out to dinner at one of our finer restaurants. Over dinner, the two will discuss that critique.

Number two of the best of the best, said Pat, was John Schneller’s story, “The Cold Truth.”

“Writing a compelling story in 500 words is really difficult,” Pat told the group at Fifth Tuesday. “You can take one of two approaches, tell a story with a beginning, a middle, and end where there is a resolution or write a vignette. The two best [Eva’s and John’s stories] are examples of each.”

Pat also is high on humor in stories. “Every story had lines in them that made me laugh,” he said. Continue Reading »

Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
January 18, 2017



Due to road conditions, the 1-17-17 TWS meeting was canceled at 5.30pm. Several members didn’t see the message, which came through on a thread rather than its own email. Apparently, at least four members showed up but didn’t see each other. (Tracey was in the coffee shop section – the tomato-pesto caprese comes highly recommended.) Apologies for the confusion. If there is a need to cancel again, hopefully a designated email will notify everyone.


A big thank you to Jerry and Marge Peterson for hosting the TWS Post-holiday party on January 7th. If you missed it, the decorations were spectacular, the company delightful, the split pea soup delicious, and the various dishes to pass a real treat. Who knew John Schneller was famous for sour cream chocolate cake? Here’s to next year …


Submissions for the writing contest are due by midnight on January 22nd. Forward entries to Jerry.

Here’s everything you need to know to win a critique of 50 pages of the book you’re writing, the critique to be provided by a published author . . . TWS alumnus and sci-fi writer Pat Tomlinson. Pat has three novels out and a fourth under contract. Continue Reading »