Meetings

(Upcoming Meetings, and Minutes of Past Meetings are Posted Here)


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Upcoming Meetings

If you are scheduled to make a submisson for critique, or to lead a workshop, and can't make it, please let Cathy Greco or Dave Volk know by email as soon as possible.

October 24 Workshop - Just Write (plus, we'll decide on the November Workshop from among a few options)
November 14 Critique Meeting - Submissions by Sandra Gould Ford and Rick Jafrate
November 28 Workshop - TBD (We'll decide at the October workshop)


October 10, 2017 Fall Celebration

Lots of great stories were shared and treats were consumed. Original works were read by Sandra Gould Ford, Lyn Parkinson, Cathy Greco, Rick Jafrate, Ron Milanek, Barry Weinman, Bob Lash, Joe Raffaele and Dave Volk. We had just enough time to also play a scary movie-and-television theme-song game and enjoy a YouTube reading by Neil Gaiman.






September 26, 2017 Betwixt "Just Write" Meeting

We had a very productive session tonight, with everyone reporting they had a good word count done or broke through scene blocks that had been troubling them.







September 12, 2017 Meeting - Submissions by Ron M. and John T.

The Blue Ghost - submitted by Ron M.

What we liked: It's a good, entertaining story with a nice concept. We liked the scene wiht the boy and his mom at the police station.

Our critiques: The story sitches between first-person present and past. Review this carefully and stay with one. The wife may have been painted as too extreme to be completely believable. The story could be slowed down to increase the mood and characterization. The main character seems to be too quick to accept what's going on and to follow the ghost/orb to the body. Show more feelings and let us get to know the characters better. More show, less tell.

Call Him Ishmael - submitted by John T.

What we liked: This was very well written. There is a good sense of unease and anticipation. The slower pace to this chapter works well, after the intense second chapter that was submitted previously.

Our critiques: Perhaps give more hints that something is wrong while Ish is on the trail. The names Josh and Ish are too similar. Reveal more of Ish's character, and his physical appearance. Describe the environment more, including some descriptions of the several places on the trail, which were only named. Give some more description of the hiking experience.

Thanks to Ron and John for great submissions, and to everyone else for their thoughtful and helpful critiques.


August 22, 2017 Workshop - Anthology Planning

Tonight we discussed various details of our upcoming anthology. Among the topics we covered were the importance of building author pages (wwhich can be set up at Kindle's author central) and biographies, and dealines for edits. The second round of submitters should receive their editorial comments by October 1st, with a requested return date of no later than October 15th. We also discussed possible names for the antholgy, which will appear in a poll form shortly. We are looking to publish by the ned of 2017.



August 8, 2017 Meeting - Submissions by Jeff P. and Bob L.

A Heart's Halfway Journey Home - submitted by Jeff P.

What we liked: The characters were vivid and distinct. The comedic scenes involving Arnold, Lydia and the gloves were well-written. The Colonel's relationship with his wife is interesting and promising. We liked the portrayal of the relationship between Beech and Meechum. Overall very well written.

Our critiques: Most thoutht the opening should develop more of Meechum's internal conflict and increase the sensory perceptions in his dream of the battlefield; perhaps calling his battle planning a game minimized the internal conflict too much. The description of Arnold's moustache as gorgeous seemed out of place. We would have liked to see more development of the main character, but we suspect that is coming.

Grand Prize Winner - submitted by Bob L.

What we liked: Everyone agreed that this story was well written and compelling, with a nice amount of humor, and strong characerization and character arcs.  One person said Bob "knocked it out of the park" with this story. The ending was poignant and lovely. We liked the idea of a compilation of short stories about different kinds of love.

Our critiques: Maybe present a laundry list of Jeff's previous jobs for interest and a deeper connection. Perhaps connect back to the drama of Jeff and his own mom at the end of the story, by having Jeff refer to Ruthie as "Mom."

Sandcastle - submitted by Bob L.

What we liked: The hospital scene is moving, with good dialogue.

Our critiques: We suggest more focus, and less details that don't move the story forward. Perhaps less flashbacks. Most thought the flashback to the sandcastle should be played up, with more showing and less telling, and with more of Marty's personal involvement.


Thanks to Jeff and Bob for great submissions, and to everyone else for their thoughtful and helpful critiques.


July 25, 2017 Workshop - Planning Session

Everyone attending had great ideas of what they'd like to see for upcoming workshops. The ones that garnered the most interest seemed to be Character Workshop, Blurbs and Elevator Pitches, How (and why) Dragon MIght be Right for You, Writing Tools, Genre Discussions, New Takes on Old Myths, Creating Emotion, Tension, and Conflict, Literary Fiction, How Collaborations Work, Engaging the Reader Emotionally, Discovery Writning vs Plotting, Dialogue, Managing Social and Author Platforms, The Difference between Writing (and Critquing) Short Stories vs Novels, and the ever popular Just Write and Fix-It Workshops. The schedule has not yet been determined which and when these will be offered - it all depends on you! In other words, we'd love to hear your thoughts on it. Please head over to the forums to discuss which ones you want first.
                             We'd also love to hear who is willing to step into the fray to lead individual workshops. Remember, we can't do it without you.


July 11, 2017 Meeting - Submissions by Don S. and Tom I.

Retro Roommates - submitted by Don S.

What we liked: This piece is well written, with good pacing and lots of humor. Great world-building and characterization. The characters are well differentiated. 

Our critiques: Many suggested that the attempted molestation be toned down, in order not to be so jarring in tone compared to the rest of the novel. This will also cause Connie's relatively controlled reaction to the event to seem more reasonable. Some felt so many characters with multiple names (super hero, civilian and nicknames) in the same scene became confusing. There may be too much exposition, and some may feel forced (when characters say things to other characters, that the other character would already know).

Eyes, Hands and Hearts - submitted by Tom I.

What we liked: Most loved the historical immersion of the story, with very natural-seeming dialogue. The surgery scene was vivid and interesting. We liked the complicated relationship of a lord and servant who are friends. This was a smooth and well-polished story.

Our critiques: The ending may have felt rushed or not set up well enough. It was suggested that a scene could be added, perhaps an intimate dialogue, that will make their love, and Trota's statement of commitment at the end more believable. Some felt the visconte was not particularly likable, making it difficult to root for him, even though we certainly empathize with him. Perhaps toning down some of the language involving the prostitutes and the visconte's experience with them, and his discussion of them with Trota would help. Perhaps change Trota's name since historically she was not known to be deformed. 

Thanks to Don and Tom for their excellent submissions, and to everyone else for their thoughtful critiques.


June 27, 2017 Workshop - Websites for Writers

Dave V. shared 26 great websites containing advice and tools for writing, self-publishing, traditional publishing and marketing. And you can have them all. Just click here for a spreadsheet with clickable links and an explanation of what's contained on each site.





June 13, 2017 Meeting - Submissions by Sandra F. and Jonathan T.

Sacred, Ch. 1-3 - submitted by Sandra F.

What we liked: The magical world Sandra has created, the vivid descriptions, the lovely imagery, the dialogue, and the character names. The tension with the father was palpable. This was a very well executed bit of story.

Our critiques: There were some parts that were unclear, including the first incident with Sacred at the quarry, and the trip earlier with Loyal.

Wishing for Winter - submitted by Jonathan T.

What we liked: The story-line involving a stolen Rembrandt in El Salvador, and a young reporter sent to investigate were very compelling.

Our critiques: The prologue was rough compared to the reet of the story. Possibly delete that and get right into the more interesting parts starting with Chapter 1. The story works better when you stay in the character's point of view and stay with the action. Break up the dialogue with action and description, and careful use of dialogue tags.

Thanks to Sandra and Jonathan for their solid submissions, and to everyone else for their thoughtful critiques.


May 23, 2017 Workshop - Just Write!

This was our second Just Write workshop. Once again, every attendee was well-rewarded with some quality, undistracted writing time, and good conversation later at Eat'n Park.





May 9, 2017 Meeting - Submissions by Lyn P. and Rick J.

Revallo Ch. 10 - Lydia Arrives - submitted by Lyn P.

What we liked: This chapter reads beautifully, with a good flow. Great, natural dialogue. Elaborate, thorough world-building, and a very compelling conflict. We liked the unique spelling of names. 

Our critiques: Some would like more of the atmosphere of this foreign planet, and more time with the feelings of the main character, Lydia. In a couple of cases, we wanted more show than tell, for example, Margy is described as a well-controlled bundle of energy, but we'd like to see that rather than be told. The transition to Tom and Margy and the concept of Lydia channeling the voices seem to come too abruptly. Why is Lydia so willing to go on this mission and drop what she is doing, and why are Tom and Margy so willing to help? 2,000 years seems like a long time for a society to remain fairly stagnant, without big changes in technology and social norms.

Future's Promise - submitted by Rick J.

What we liked: Good dialogue, setting, and interaction between the characters. The story flows well. There is a good sense of adventure, a compelling mystery, and a good sense of drama regarding Max's illness and the hope of being cured in the face of a bad diagnosis.

Our critiques: Too many dialogue tags, and avoid using synonyms for "said." Tense shifted from past to present a couple of times. The passage with Barbara was a little awkward and some thought it could be cut. Dimitri's secret was given away too quickly. Perhaps a bit too much banter and repetition of phrases. Avoid using copyrighted song lyrics without permission. Give Dimitri better use of the English language. More characterization, particularly of Max would engage the reader more.

Thanks to Lyn and Rick for their solid submissions, and to everyone else for their thoughtful critiques.



April 25, 2017 Workshop - Just Write!

This was a well attended meeting, and everyone appreciated the opportunity to write undistracted. We had coffee, donuts, and the muses flowing. Many said they wrote more that evening than they had in a while. Writing in a large group was motivating, and helped us to keep focused and planted in our seats. Everyone seemed to want to do this again.





April 11, 2017 Meeting - Submissions by Dawn M. and Ron M.

Bully Problems - submitted by Dawn M.

What we liked: The descriptions of life in High Level, Alberta, especially the walk to school, were well done and enjoyed by the group. Most liked the name, Damaris, of the lead character. Everyone sympathized with Greta, and liked when Angela got her comeuppance.

Our critiques: Some thought the introduction and ending pulled them out of the story. Some thought the ending could have been stronger or more meaningful, while others loved it. Some were looking for more characterization and backstory to explain why Damaris wanted to stand up for Greta. Others wanted to see more development of the relationship between Damaris and Greta.

Stranded on Hinchinbrook - submitted by Dawn M.

What we liked: The dialogue, action and descriptions of Alaska were all well done.

Our critiques: More characterization and backstory would have helped us to relate more to the characters and their susequent conflict. We wanted to know more about their present life circumstances, their appearance, and so on. We wanted to see more conflict and troubles in the story (and it sounds like there will be, as the story is completed). We thought some kind of emotional through-line such as Jane's frustrations with Iven and Jane's concern about the children would help to engage the reader.

The Arrangement - submitted by Ron M.

What we liked: The story was very imaginative with a lot of promise. Several of us liked the idea of a dystopian near-future.

Our critiques: It seemed like a lot of information was provided too soon and all at once. So much is going on with the arrangement, Joe's unorthodox mindset and psychic abilities, and the political backdrop, that although it all promises to be very engaging, it would be better parceled out more slowly. Strive for more showing and less telling. Hide some of the exposition in the action and dialogue so it's not as direct, and consider balancing, toning down, and spreading out some of the political conclusions Joe draws, or making it more clear that these are Joe's conclusions, not necessarily the narrator's. Perhaps an even stronger case can be made for the narrator's or the character's conclusions about these issues if they are approached more slowly and subtly. Also, use more active verbs (look for instances of "was" and "had").

Thanks to Dawn and Ron for their submissions, and to everyone else for their thoughtful critiques.



March 28, 2017 Workshop - Kindle Self-Publishing

John T. gave an enjoyable and informative presentation on how to easily self-publish your book on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). John provided a handout and took us step-by-step through the process. Members can go to the Writing Resources section of our Forum to download a copy of the handout.

As a bonus, John also showed us a print copy of his book which he created through KDP as well. It came out beautiful, by the way. Thanks again, John for a great presentation.




March 14, 2017 Meeting - Submissions by Joyce S. and John T.

The Tipsy Toad - submitted by Joyce S.

What we liked: The general consensus was that this was a very enjoyable read. It captured the readers' imaginations and left us wanting more.

Our critiques: There was some discussion over the numbering in the hide and seek game, and a few individuals were confused over the description of the mind reading, the sound of the gun, and the dream sequence, but overall the subect matter was intriguing and the writing very professional.

Brood 16 - submitted by John T.

What we liked: Critiquers felt it was "well-polished," and changed several non-horror readers into converts.

Our critiques: A few felt that it could use soe more tension in the scene in the wood, and possibly more serious injuries to the main character to explain his reaction, but those were only minor nit-picks.

Thanks to Joyce and John for their great submissions, and to everyone else for their thoughtful critiques.


February 28, 2017 Meeting - Submission by Don M., and Writing Prompts

POW - submitted by Don M.

What we liked: We enjoyed this detailed fictional account of a fascinating time in military history. It was well written and clearly well researched. The story had a very authentic feel.

Our critiques: We would have liked to have seen more characterization. Some descriptions went on for too long, slowing the story down and becoming hard to follow at times. Perhaps more could have been revealed within the story via dialogue, action and thoughts of the characters instead of direct exposition. We'd like to see the narrator step back and the main characters take over. We're not sure about the story arc since we already know who committed the murder.

Thanks to Don for a good submission, and an enjoyable and interesting read.

For the second part of the meeting, Dave V. shared several writing prompts / story starters. We enjoyed reading them aloud, then each person chose one to write a quick story and share it with the rest of the group. As usual, there were some funny and imaginiative results.


January 24, 2017 Fix-It Workshop

This was an opportunity for everyone to bring something they're working on, for advice from the group. Cathy L. asked for advice on how to merge three parallel realities into a single story. Lyn P. wanted advice on coming up with short story ideas. Bob L. and Cathy G. each read from their stories and asked for feedback. Dave V. wanted advice on a pen name. Cathy L. read a funny flash fiction piece she wrote. Don S. and Shawn W. provided helpful advice and feedback. Thanks to everyone for bringing their work and providing great feedback.


January 10, 2017 Meeting - Submissions by Don S. and Shawn K.

Unexpected Guests - submitted by Shawn K.

What we liked: Everyone agreed that Shawn had an appealing theme and strong characters. The group was split over whether they saw the "twist" coming or not, but most thought that the story could be enjoyed either way. One critiquer said the writing gave them "goosebumps."

Our critiques: Some felt that there was an opportunity to show more of the scenes that were hinted at in the story, and that the dialogue could feel more organic.  There was also some discussion over whether the characters should show more reaction to the death that occurs in the story. Overall, the consensus was very positive, with someone suggesting the story had a strong "twilight zone" feel to it.

Megaton Man - submitted by Don S.

What we liked: Quite a bit. It had a classic comic book feel to it, with strong descriptions, strong characterization, and great atmosphere with touches of humor.

Our critiques: There were a few obscure refererences and some anachronisms that caused readers to stumble, but since the story is set in a fantasy/alternate universe, that might not pose much of a problem. A few people questioned the use of dialogue tags, and there was a question over whether some of the longer descriptions and "advanced" vocabulary might discourage some YA readers.
Finally, one or two had difficulty following the science involved and/or the exact specifications of the lab, but overall everyone seemed to follow and thoroughly enjoy the story, and everyone is looking forward to the next installment.

Thanks to Shawn and Don for their submissions, and to everyone else for their thoughtful critiques.

 

December 13, 2016 Meeting - Submissions by Cathy G. and John T.

Redemption - Ch. 1 & 2, submitted by Cathy G.

What we liked: We liked the fluid prose and quick pace. It holds interest. Characters, especially in the modern day, were well fleshed out. There is mystery involving the letter, and how Stefan/Stephen became a vampire.

Our critiques: Add more details and atmosphere. Several opportunities for this in 1672 - riderless horses, moans and screams, others looking for loved ones. Also, Marguerite seems to give up on looking for her brother rather quickly. Seemed odd to be able to get a physician to come to the front lines in this era. The reveals that Stephen is a vampire are obvious, better to leave some mystery. The shift from Jess bringing Stephen into his apartment, to his crossing to the side of the room to get his pills seems abrupt and unexplained. What happened in between? Is he on his bed? How can he not even remember she's there unless perhaps he passed out?

One Day in the Life - Ch. 1, submitted by John T.

What we liked: We liked the atmospheric, Twilight Zone feel of the narrative. We liked the paranoid thoughts of the main character, and his meticulous life. Great detail and pacing, both consistent throughout.

Our critiques: The descriptions of the bunk and its relation to the room are confusing at first. There are so many questions, like "How did the apocalypse start?", and "Are all of the dangers just in his mind?", that some backstory or some clues to the past would help here, even in the first chapter. We'd like to know more about the main character. We're wondering whey he's so paranoid if there's "never anything." Some sentences are too long.  

Thanks to Cathy and John for excellent submissions, and to everyone else for their thoughtful critiques. 


November 8, 2016 Meeting - Submissions by Dawn M. and Bob L.

Murphy & Sons - Ch. 5 & 6, submitted by Dawn M.

What we liked: Dawn's story was compelling and well written. The characterizations were clear, and the events flowed well. The difficult events of the story were well handled.

Our critiques: Monette's dialect and character may have been a bit overdone, although some liked this better than others. Some of the dialogue may have lacked some realism and would benefit from a fresh read and edit. We suggested some of the dialogue may be better as Charlie's thoughts, so it doesn't appear to be there solely for exposition. Some thought the accident in Charlie's background didn't appear to be enough to cause her deep slide. We would like to see more about what led to her addicted lifestyle (suggesting that perhaps this could come out in an NA meeting).

Small Change, submitted by Bob L.

What we liked: We enjoyed Bob's writing, including his narrative and turns of phrase. We get a good sense of place and time. We liked Gina's personality, and felt that Bob Sr.'s character and conflicts were compelling.

Our critiques: Trim down the narrative wherever the same point is made in both the narrative and the action or dialogue. Sometimes the narrative is used to move too quickly through important developments in the story, such as Bob Sr.'s life changes, especially finding the letter from his wife (we definitelhy want more on this). Most of us felt this story was about Bob Sr., not Bob Jr. Some were confused about Bob Jr.'s age, thinking he appeared to be older.

Thanks to Dawn and Bob for excellent submissions, and to everyone else for their thoughtful critiques.


October 25, 2016 Fix-It Workshop

This was an opportunity for anyone to bring something they're working on, for advice from the group. Dave V. wanted general feedback on a chapter from his Romance/Time Travel novel. Lyn P. wanted to know whether the war should be at the end of her current fantasy novel, or at the beginning of a follow-up novel. Don S. had a question about chapter lengths for his current YA novel. Shawn K. wanted advice on the development of his scary short story. Don M. wanted to know whether a passage in his short story would add credibility to his main character. Brian A. had a question about the POV in his current work. Ron M. wanted advice on the book proposal he's writing. Dawn M. and Tom I. provided good advice. Thanks to everyone for their questions and help. It was a very productive meeting.


October 11,2016 Special Meeting - Halloween / Fall Celebration

Adam Coppola, Don Simpson, Dave Volk, Sandra Gould Ford (read by Dave), Cathy Greco, John Thompson, Ron Milanek, Bob Lash and Lyn Parkinson all submitted and read original October/Fall/Halloween themed original works for our annual Ocobter Celebration. We also had delicious treats brought by several generous members. Thanks to everyone.




Pittsburgh South Writers Group

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