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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.

March Workshop - New Writing Lecture Series (taught by two highly successful authors)
April Critique Meeting - TBD
April Workshop - Writing Lecture Series

((Past meetings not yet shown here are: Jan. 8 Critique - Lyn P.; Jan. 22 Workshop - Book passages; Feb. 12 Critique - Ron M. and Jeff P.; Feb. 26 Workshop - Fixit, March Critique - Jim L. and Betsy C.))

December 11 Critique Meeting - Submission by Bob L.

We enjoyed Bob's submission - The December Club. The characters were vivid, the dialog was clever, and there was a good tone and sense of humor. The large cast of characters was handled well. We would have liked to have seen more about the rift between the main character and his daughter, and the catalyst for change.

We continued the meeting with a fun writing challenge and a writing prompt.


November 13 Critique Meeting - Submissions by Cathy G. and Rick J.

We enjoyed both of these submissions: Elysium - Chapter 4, by Cathy G. and "Double Duty" by Rick J. Cathy's submission was well told and vivid with great world-building, interesting and empathetic characters, humor, and an engaging conflict. Rick's submission was engaging, with colorful characters, a well-told action scene, and humor. It has the makings of an entertaining series or serial. We loved the telepathic creature, and the way he was treated by the crew.


October 23 Workshop - Writing Prompts and Games

We chose from several opening line writing prompts and then wrote some fun and fresh stories (and beginnings of stories) that we read to one another. Then we followed with our now-famous movie title game, where we take a real but not well-known movie title and try to fool the others into believing that the fake synopsis we wrote about it is the real one. This has always been and continues to be a fun and popular workshop.

Previous Meetings - July Workshop - October Celebration


Although in the past, we've posted notes from each meeting as it's been completed, we've had a very busy three months personally, and so we're playing a little catch-up now. So welcome to this summary of the previous six meetings! 

Our July Workshop was the always productive: Just Write!, where we all had the opportunity to work on our WIPs without interruption, then head to Eat n' Park to discuss our progress and just have some good social time. 

Our August crtique meeting included very strong submissions from Barry W. and Ron M - Remember the compellingly described earthquake (Barry), and the surprising reactions of the ladies to our hero at the dance social (Ron)? Our August workshop was another installment from the Writing Great Fiction lecture series: How Characters Are Different from People and Turning a Story into a Plot. 

Our September critique meeting included entertaining submissions from Betsy C. and Sandra G. F. We were treated to Betsy's well-told memoir of some of her life experiences with animals. We'll always remember that sweet, sad dog that jumped into her car and then stayed with Betsy for the rest of her days. Sandra's short story, Cornbread was an engaging story of coming to peace with the past. Remember Granny Jeantelle, Bessie, Sylvette, that old cherry tree, and the cornbread that Granny lovingly and hopefully taught Bessie how to make. As usual, we were treated to wonderful imagery in Sandra' submission.

The September workshop was a Fix-It workshop. Members read from their WIP and asked for advice and feedback. The October celebration meeting was well attended, to overflow (not complaining!). Some truly wonderful stories were shared. We all snacked on fall/Halloween treats (and still found room for something at Eat n' Park).

July 10 Critique Meeting - Submissions by Bob L. and Don S.

We enjoyed both of these submissions: "The Other Side," a short story by Bob L., and Son of Megaton Man, chapter 1, by Don Simpson. Bob's submission was a ghost story with children as the main characters on each side of the veil. It was well-received, and contained Bob's trademark warmth, realisitc family potrayal and unique characters. Don's submission was the first chapter of his novel, with professional illustrations, showing Megaton man's new, ordinary life in Ann Arbor, MI, and how his son Simon comes to know that his dad and mom were really superheroes. We loved the illustrations and the flow of the story-telling, and are left wanting to read more.

June 26 Workshop - Writing Great Fiction - Evocative Writing and Integrating Dialogue into Narrative

We watched another two lectures from this very instructive series on the craft of writing. In the lecture on Evocative Writing, we learned about showing not telling, and how the addition of detail puts the reader in the scene. This gives us the opportunity to evoke emotion in the reader.

In the second lecture, we learned about using dialogue to evoke character, to tell the story, and to provide exposition, with great examples and techniques.

June 12 Critique Meeting - Submissions by John T. and Jim L.

We were treated to two strong submissions. "Sins of Omission," chapters 1-2 by Jim L., and "Wings of the Cherubim," chapters 6-8 by John Thompson. Jim's submission was a murder mystery that spans generations, with an engaging prologue and good characterization. John's submission was a tense and engaging continuation of his apocalyptic novel, with vivid descriptions.

May 22 Workshop - Just Write

Folks took advantage of focused time for writing, then retired to Eat 'n Park to refuel and relax.

May 8 Critique Meeting - Submission by Don M.

"Traitor," submitted by Don M, a tightly paced, detailed piece--chapter 8 of a noir novel in progress. 

April 24th Betwixt Meeting - Writing Great Fiction

Shawn presented two great sessions from the Writing Great Fiction series. It discussed starting the writing process, using both logistical and psychological questions. It also talked about using the five "w"s of journalism, and letting the beggining determine the story versus letting the story determine the beggining. The workshop was well-received, and other modules will be presented in the near future. Thanks to Shawn for finding and presenting it!

April 10 Critique Meeting - Submissions by Tom I. and Jeff P.

"Papyrus," submitted by Tom I.

What we liked: There was obviously lots of research behind this story. The dialogue was rich. The story is engaging and ambitious. We felt like we were there. We liked the plan to bury the idol, and the ending regarding the foreboding dreams is a great way to end the chapter.

Our Critiques: Sometimes the dialogue seemed a little expository. Dedu would know some of the things that Teta was telling him, already. The discussion between Teta and Dedu regarding the gods may have gone on just a beat too long. We would have liked to see more narrative description and internal thoughts. Dedu, considering his uprbringing, may not have referred to the idol as just a piece of stoneware.

"Untitiled Contemporary Fantasy Novel," submitted by Jeff P.

What we liked: This story was very enjoyable. It was a page-turner. The opening scenes regarding his sister and his car being shot out moved quickly and was a favorite of several of us.  

Our critiques: The internal monologues slowed down the story and weren't necessary. The mild reaction of the main character to being invisible, and his failure to immediately run to the place where his sister and niece were hiding at his first opportunity seemed unrealistic. The neighborhood where the shooting occurs may have been over-described and lacked some clarity.

Thanks to everyone for their critques, and to Tom and Jeff for great submissions.

March 27, 2018 Workshop

Bob L. read from two current short stories he has in progress, Tom I. read from a series of blog posts that are now on his website:, and Ron M. read from his novel in progress, soliciting comments and suggestions from the group.

March 13, 2018 Critique Meeting - Submissions by Ron M. and Shawn W.

"The Midnight Gravedigger," submitted by Ron M.

What we liked: This story is entertaining and engaging, and several of us commented on how much we enjoyed the seedy hotel scene. Well done.

Our critiques: Self-edit for flow. Watch for unnecessary or repetitive words. Avoid the thoughts in italics: these distract and change the tense, and they are unnecessary. Help us to create more of a personal connection with the main character by showing him in relationships. Spectacular events, such as the lady in the robe, may benefit from a slower setup. This would add tension and improve believability. The story works best when it builds mood, so take your time with narration.

"The Writers' Group," submitted by Shawn W.

What we liked: We liked the first-person-present POV, especially the narrator's cynical attitude. We liked the twist at the end (only one of us saw it coming). This was well written and entertaining.

Our critiques: Perhaps add some foreshadowing of Marcie. There are plausibility issues: if he's visting several local writer groups, with some members in common, with the same story about his intentions, he would become an obvious suspect. It could be fun to have him pick up pointers on murder from the group. Although the last several sentences in the story as we begin to understand the "reveal" are great, the very last sentence seems a little flat.

Thanks to Ron and Shawn for great submissions!

February 27, 2018 Workshop - Author Platforms

We talked about facebook pages and websites for authors. Both are vital these days to establish lines of communication with your readers. Dave showed the facebook page he's working on, but it's not quite ready to launch, so we can't put a link here. Instead, check out this excellent author facebook page here:

We also talked about excellent marketing tools for self-publishers, such as and, for creating mailing lists and handling ebook giveaways.

February 13, 2018 Meeting - Submissions by Lyn P. and Bob L.

"Ch. 14 - John and Rion Reach Riknsaldare," submitted by Lyn P.

Since Lyn couldn't make it to the meeting, we didn't give spoken critiques of her story, but insead provided our reviews via hard copy and email. In summary, though, we loved the world building, characterization, and of course, the character names. The love scene was lovely.

"Small Change,"
 submitted by Bob Lash

What we liked: We loved the narrative voice and humor, and thought the scenes of the main character's family, his relationship with Jay, and the issues with Jay's family were all intertwined well. We enjoyed this story very much.

Our critiques: Some would have liked to know more about the main characters (the narrator and Jay). There were a few times where the dialogue may have sounded too adult coming from kids. When Grandma's spry hands were mentioned, it was confusing at first who was being talked about, because Jay's grandparents had just been mentioned. The last sentence of the story may have been too "on the nose."

Thanks to Lyn and Bob for great submissions!

January 23, 2018 Workshop - Anthology Planning

We had a very productive meeting where we reviewed and made final comments on the author contracts, decided on a cover and title for the anthology, gave advice on author blurbs, and explained how to set up an author facebook page for your author platform. Every author who will be in the anthology should create an author blurb with one or more links to your social media platform(s) (amazon author page, website, or facebook page). There are good instructions and examples on creating an author blurb here:

We'll post more helpful stuff in the forum on creating facebook pages and other aspects of your social media platform. Keep an eye out (figuratively).

We also talked about possible publisher names (the name that will appear on the front cover of the anthology, at the bottom). We haven't decided on a name yet, so please visit the forum, see the current conversation on that topic, and add your two cents (also figuratively).

January 9, 2018 Meeting - Submissions by John T. and Jeff P.

"The Wings of the Cherubim" - Chapters 4 & 5, submitted by John T.
What we liked: Everyone enjoyed the story and thought it was well written. Good dialogue, clear descriptions and a narrative that flows well, making for an easy read. Most felt the characterization of Frank and his wife were well done, as well as the interactions involving them. We are engaged with the entire story so far, and are looking forward to reading more.

Our critiques: The characters' reactions to the circumstances appear to be too tame. We'd like to see more reactions to finding the dead bodies. This scene can be drawn out more, providing greater detail, building more fear and apprehension, and revealing more character. Some feel that Ish is still underdeveloped as a character, and we would like to know more about him, his backstory and his internal conflcits.

"Zelda's Magic Emporium" by Jeff P.

What we liked: This story was well-written and imaginative. It was fun to read and humorous, with some lovely sections. We thought the story idea was rich and provided lots of opportunities for expansion, although it already stands well on its own.

Our critiques: The son's and wife's characters are a little flat. There were missed opportunities in the bubble scene for descriptions, dialogue and reactions. Some thought there wasn't enough response to these unexplainable events--no questioning, fear or confusion. Some would have liked to see more development of Zelda and Anton. There were some long paragraphs. 

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

Pittsburgh South Writers Group

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