Posts Tagged ‘Critique group’

Tuesdays with Story
January 3, 2023

The first word . . .

“The profession of book-writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.”

John Steinbeck

Tuesday Evening . . .

Mike Austin (The Reed Gang, Chapter 1)

Chapter 1 of The Reed Gang (working title) was well received. I need to change some names. Red and Ned just doesn’t work. And I need to introduce the characters more, with descriptions. We had some discussion about the drunk girl, and whether she should be older. But having her younger has more of an impact. Nick’s involvement with the other four needs to be explained, and I’m thinking that I’ll move that introduction so it’s before this chapter. Thanks!

Kashmira Sheth (I Am From Here Too, first 15 pages)

Kashmira submitted the first fifteen pages of her novel in verse, I am From Here Too. The main thing discussed was how to weave a conflict or a hint of it earlier. The writing worked well for the most part. There was also a discussion about writing about Sikh faith and what kind of research was needed. 

Larry F. Sommers (Untitled, Chapters 1 and 2)

Larry F. Sommers, Untitled WWII novel, Chs. 1 and 2:  The main point all agreed on was that Jag, and to some extent, Hal as well, are not likable characters. Too cold and self-involved. More human facets of their inner lives need to be disclosed. It was suggested that the first paragraph, introducing Hal, be omitted to begin with the second graf on the coal-scooping action. John pointed out that tidying up the coal dust partway through the job didn’t make sense, and he suggested that Hal and Jag hold an active productivity competition. Great feedback, everybody, thanks.

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

Overall the revised chapters were received very well. A few changes were suggested regarding reducing the number of characters in the first chapter, changing the order of paragraphs and giving more details about the bazaar (scent and sounds) and a bit more explanation of the geo-political background.

Thanks all!

Judy Cummings (A Real Hero, Chapters 8 and 9)

The group gave overall positive feedback on these chapters, specifically the protagonist’s struggle between duty and young romance, the voice, and the emotional pull whenever the protagonist’s missing brother is mentioned. Larry suggested changing the German so it’s clear to the reader that the protagonist isn’t fluent in the language. Thanks for the feedback, everyone.

Who’s up next . . . 

Jack Freiburger

Amber Boudreau

Amit Trivedi

Judy Cummings

Kashmira Sheth

Suzanne Gillingham

For the good of the order . . .

Our Fifth Tuesday gathering will be held Jan. 31 at Jack’s place, Hickory Knoll Farm. It will be potluck. Jack will inform us what he’s providing and what we need to bring ourselves. 

The writing prompt is “The best prank ever.” Any form or format, 500 words max. Send to Larry by the end of Monday, January 30. 

The last word . . .

“Literature abhors the typical. Literature flows to the particular, the mundane, the greasiness of paper, the taste of warm beer, the smell of onion or quince.” 

Richard Rodriguez


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Writer’s Mail

November 15, 2022

The first word . . .

Trigger the imagination. A story never belongs solely to you the author

Tuesday evening with Zoomers and Sitters:

TWS writers offered their input on four submissions from their colleagues.

—Kashmira Sheth Kashmira submitted two chapters of Nina Soni, Miserable Traveler. The biggest takeaway was to have a positive title and show more excitement about going to India. Also need some more tension in the story.  

— Larry Sommers “Smile”- Although the factory setting, the violent action, and the tension between the two main characters are interesting, most readers felt that Johnny’s detached state of mind in the immediate aftermath of the slashing was unrealistic and that there needs to be a deeper and more meaningful resolution of the clash.  Thanks, everybody!

— John Schneller A series of scenes were submitted. Most felt the redirection of Nia into an active role offers better potential for her storyline. (You can only do so much when locked up.) Dialogue needs were identified.

— Amber Boudreau

Amber read from the beginning of Chapter 20 of Second Act. Amit didn’t understand the humor at the end of chapter 19 and thought there was a bit too much introspection on the part of the main character. Meanwhile, Kashmira wanted to know about what the main character was thinking at the end of chapter 20. Kashmira and a few others also had to ask if a certain character had died because the way one particular line was written made it sound like they were still alive. 

Who’s up next . . . 

Those wishing to present material on December 6 are:

Judy Cummings
Suzanne Gillingham
Jaime Nelson Noven
Mike Austin
Amit Trivedi
Kashmira Sheth
Amber Boudreau

Every scene in your novel should advance your story or reveal character. Avoid:

  • Throat-clearing—a literary term for a page or two of scene-setting and background before a story or chapter finally really begins. Get on with it.
  • Too much stage direction. Don’t spoon feed the reader every action of every character in every scene. Stick with the heart of the scene and let the reader enjoy deducing the rest.
  • Cliches—this doesn’t apply to just words and phrases but also to clichéd situations: starting your story with the main character waking to an alarm clock; having a character describe herself while looking in a full-length mirror; having future love interests literally bump into each other upon first meeting, etc.
  • Telling what’s not happening—like “He didn’t respond,” “She didn’t say anything,” or “The crowded room never got quiet.” If you don’t say these things happened, the reader will assume they didn’t.

The last word . . .

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

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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

Meeting notes from Tuesday (of course), December 7

“Collaborative workshops and writers’ peer groups hadn’t been invented when I was young. They’re a wonderful invention. They put the writer into a community of people all working at the same art, the kind of group musicians and painters and dancers have always had.” 
― Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew

Five writers presented their work at Tuesdays meeting. Here are some of the comments they received.

John Schneller

Precious Daughter

Most found the chapter engaging. Amit appreciated the change in tension when storylines jump from Nia to Kotel. Kashmira thought the dialogue should be given prior to the hawk catching the breeze and exiting. Larry noticed that I like to have minds ‘bounce’ a little too often. Thanks for reading.

Bob Kralapp

“Don’t Take It Personally”

Mike wanted to know if there was anything Kenny and the narrator respected about the coach that would make them feel his betrayal in betting on the game. Or if he was just another authority figure. Amber felt that the story read a lot more streamlined than before. She and several others agreed there should be something more at the end that would bring it around and make it feel more finished.


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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story
September, 20, 2021

The first word . . .

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday evening in person and on Zoom . . .


Amit Trivedi  

1. Jerry felt that it was incomplete. It need closure.
2. Bob and kashmira liked the Passage of time (dusk-night-morning)
3. Jack had quite a few suggestions
4. Mike and Larry thought the portrayal of the old men was realistic.


Kashmira Sheth (chapters 2-3, Nina Soni, Best Hostess) – Kashmira read from chapter two of Nina Soni, Best Hostess. Overall, the comments were positive. Larry liked how these chapters were progressing. Jack suggested tweaking a word to fit Nina’s word-loving personality and Jaimie and Larry had ideas on how to improve some parts of the story. Jerry wondered if Nina’s father going to be a list-maker like her and Amber wanted to know if the story will cover the entire six weeks of her grandmother and cousin’s visit. John pointed out that bouncy goes more with bunnies than flowers. Thank you.


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Tuesday with Story

August 17, 2021

First word…

Most humor depends on specificity. It’s funnier to say that a cheese steak tastes better when you’re leaning up against a Pontiac than when you are leaning up against a car.

– Calvin Trillin

Here’s who presented Tuesday evening…

Kashmira Sheth – (Chapter 1, Nina Soni, Best Hostess and chapter 10, rewrite, Nina Soni, Snow Spy)…I submitted the first chapter of Nina Soni, Best Hostess. The main concern was keeping things simple for new readers, using active voice, and maybe playing around with a different starting point. All were excellent suggestions. I also resubmitted a revised chapter of  Nina Soni, Snow Spy. There were no major concerns there. Thank you all.

John Schneller (Chapters 16-17, Precious Daughter)…Jerry wanted to clear up some disparity on fishing, both the numbers, and what ones does with a grub once it in your hands. Larry wanted clarity on how long the boys would help cooking. Amit pointed out too much falling in the dance, while Kashmira pointed out that it slows down when the dance routine was described twice. Jamie noticed Kotel was a bystander in the opening. These things can be fixed! Thanks to all for the keen powers of observation.


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