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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Writing Prompt: Winter Holiday Memory

by Marilyn Friedman    
I have a couple more fun literary tidbits for you this Friday and Saturday--check out the details below.  Plus the Winter 2012 schedule has been posted!  Also, don't forget that Writing Pad gift certificates make wonderful presents.  To sign up for a class, click "Buy Now" at the bottom of the class descriptions at the links below, call 323-333-2954, or email marilyn@writingpad.com to grab a spot before they are full!

Events:
One-Person Show Performance Showcase (12/16)
Footprints Screening (1/13)

Classes This Week:
Writing Pad Show and Tell

Winter 2012 Classes

Book Publishing 
Get Your Book Published
How To Hook An Agent

Children's Writing and YA
Bullies, Werewolves, and Monsters: Creating Characters For Children’s Books and YA Fiction
Write A Book That Sell Itself: Crafting A Killer Premise
From Bedtime Stories To Tales of Teenage Woe: Writing For Kids and Young Adults Pt I
From Bedtime Stories To Tales of Teenage Woe: Writing For Kids and Young Adults Pt III

Creative Writing/Multi Genre
The Found Story: Finding Your Story In The Street
So You Want To Be A Writer?
Finishing School

Fiction, Memoir, Romance
The Found Story: Finding Your Story In The Street
Write A Book That Sell Itself: Crafting A Killer Premise
From Aphrodite To Zeus: Myth Fueled Stories
Storytelling at Light Speed: The Art of Flash Fiction
I Love You Silly: Crafting The Perfect Romance Novel

Journalism, Personal Essay and Web Writing
So You Want To Be A Freelancer?
Blogger's Paradise: Creating Irresistible Content
Personal Essay II: The Advanced Class
Literary Feast: Writing A Culinary Masterpiece
You in 1200 Words: Writing and Publishing The Personal Essay

Playwriting and Writing For Actors
Ex’s, Bosses, and Crazy Relatives: Creating Characters For The Stage
It's All About You: A One-Person Show Workshop
From The Page To The Stage: Finish That One-Person Show

Screenwriting
Get Your Foot In The Door: Develop Your Dream Script
Lights, Camera, Action: Screenwriting Boot Camp



Writing Prompt:
Make a list of the best or worst five childhood winter holiday memories.  Pick one and add a sensory detail to it (smell, taste, sound, touch, sight).  Then write for 10 minutes and post the results in the comments of this blog! 

For instance, I am going to write about getting in trouble for singing Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer on a tour bus in Florida.  My parents didn't think that was an appropriate thing a little Jewish girl to do!


Post your writing in the comments of this blog!  You could win a free class.  What comes to mind when I say, "childhood holiday memory?"

Recipe: Wassail

by Andrea Ruth and Marilyn Friedman    

Take a Writing Pad class, and make your winter cozy and productive!  Also, don't forget that Writing Pad gift certificates make wonderful presents.  To sign up for a class, click "Buy Now" at the bottom of the class descriptions at the links below, call 323-333-2954, or email marilyn@writingpad.com to grab a spot before they are full!

Events:
One-Person Show Performance Showcase (12/16)
Footprints Screening (1/13)

Classes This Week:
Writing Pad Show and Tell

Winter 2012 Classes

Book Publishing 
Get Your Book Published
How To Hook An Agent

Children's Writing and YA
Bullies, Werewolves, and Monsters: Creating Characters For Children’s Books and YA Fiction
Write A Book That Sell Itself: Crafting A Killer Premise
From Bedtime Stories To Tales of Teenage Woe: Writing For Kids and Young Adults Pt I
From Bedtime Stories To Tales of Teenage Woe: Writing For Kids and Young Adults Pt III

Creative Writing/Multi Genre
The Found Story: Finding Your Story In The Street
So You Want To Be A Writer?
Finishing School

Fiction, Memoir, Romance
The Found Story: Finding Your Story In The Street
Write A Book That Sell Itself: Crafting A Killer Premise
From Aphrodite To Zeus: Myth Fueled Stories
Storytelling at Light Speed: The Art of Flash Fiction
I Love You Silly: Crafting The Perfect Romance Novel

Journalism, Personal Essay and Web Writing
So You Want To Be A Freelancer?
Blogger's Paradise: Creating Irresistible Content
Personal Essay II: The Advanced Class
Literary Feast: Writing A Culinary Masterpiece
You in 1200 Words: Writing and Publishing The Personal Essay

Playwriting and Writing For Actors
Ex’s, Bosses, and Crazy Relatives: Creating Characters For The Stage
It's All About You: A One-Person Show Workshop
From The Page To The Stage: Finish That One-Person Show

Screenwriting
Get Your Foot In The Door: Develop Your Dream Script
Lights, Camera, Action: Screenwriting Boot Camp

Andrea says:
"This Wassail recipe is perfect for any and every holiday gathering from now until New Years.  It is strong and puts a hum in your day if you have too many at an afternoon party. You can make it sans alcohol, and it is still just delicious!
It's a traditional Irish Christmas drink, and it comes to me via traditional Irishwoman Sarah Lang whose Wassail was the first and best I ever tasted!"

Wassail
For 10 to 12 servings:
8 cups apple cider
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup dark rum
1/2 cup brandy
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Salt to taste (just a couple pinches)
1 lemon and 1 orange, thinly sliced

Mix apple cider and brown sugar in large saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved. Stir in the rum, brandy and Grand Marnier. Stir in spices and lemon/orange. Simmer over medium heat 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do NOT boil. If you want to be fancy, you can serve with grated nutmeg or cinnamon sticks.

Good luck - we hope it and YOU are a big hit!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Writing Prompt: Memorable Movies

by Marilyn Friedman    

Get your writing fix before the holidays swoop you up!  We have two fantastic screenwriting classes in December that you won't want to miss: Microbudget Madness: Writing A Script You Can Actually Go Out and Shoot! with award-winning screenwriter, Steven Peros and Get Your Foot In The Door: Develop Your Dream Script with development exec/screenwriter, Rob Ripley!

To sign up for a class, click "Buy Now" at the bottom of the class descriptions at the links below, call 323-333-2954, or email marilyn@writingpad.com to grab a spot before they are full!

This Week:
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times to go to the movies (and watch lots of movies on DVD).  In honor of this ritual, I'd like you to make a list of five memorable movies (memorable because something bad happened when you went to see the movie, or it was the setting for a first date, or you always watch this movie with your family on Thanksgiving, etc.).  Pick one movie.  Now write down a sensory detail (smell, taste, sound, touch) to go along with movie.  Set the timer for 10 min. and write, and make sure that you include the sensory detail in your piece.  When you are done, post your write in the comments of this blog!

For example, when I went to see "The Piano Teacher" with Isabelle Huppert, I was so disturbed by the behavior of the main character that I got nauseous and fainted in the movie theater lobby twice.  I think that I will write about that!

Comment on this blog!  Write what comes to mind when I say, "memorable movie."  If you post your story in the comments of this blog, you could win a free class!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Movie Talk With Screenwriter/Director Steven Peros

 By Sophia Kercher

Skim the resume of Steven Peros, and you'll be inspired to rise out of your chair and go make something. Why, you ask?

Steven has created award-winning films and is a twice-published Samuel French playwright. His research into a mysterious death on board William Randolph Hearst's yacht led to his original screenplay, “The Cat's Meow” (Lionsgate, 2002), directed by Peter Bogdanovich, starring Kirsten Dunst and Eddie Izzard. The film was highly regarded by critics and appeared on a dozen year-end “Ten Best” lists, including Film Comment. When he's not speaking about screenwriting at film festivals and universities nationwide, Steven dreams up budget-friendly movies. His microbudget film "Footprints" comes out next month. 


On Sunday, November 13th, Steven will be teaching Writing Pad students how to turn unwieldy real life events or characters into a three-act script in his class "Writing the Royalty Free Screenplay."  Before this weekend, we had the chance to pick Steven's brain and, like we imagined, it was quite a ride.

How does L.A. inform your work?
I become very immersed in where I live and have always incorporated it into my scripts.  L.A. has a special draw for me because even as a boy on Long Island, I dreamt of Hollywood.  Now I can walk to Grauman’s Chinese.  For me L.A. has so much history, so much energy of the creative souls that have come, fought so hard to be heard, and won or lost the battle.  It’s a crazy, beautiful, ugly, frustrating, and exciting place. 

Your movie “The Cat’s Meow” was based on your research of a mysterious 1924 real-life death. Can you explain how people looking to write a screenplay can draw stories from real-life events?
How can writers draw stories from real life?  How can they not?  Flip through an encyclopedia to any random page.  Type arbitrary interesting words or people into Wikipedia and see what pops up or pick up a book on famous murder trials or unsolved mysteries.  If a story involves a public figure and that figure is deceased – guess what? – there are no rights required.  It’s free!  We will go more into this on Sunday (Nov 13) at Writing Pad, so I urge everyone with a true story from history, their family tree, or their own lives to join us so they can take the next steps to putting it on the page.

As an experienced screenwriting teacher, as well as a film professional, what are some of your suggestions for writers who are sitting down to write their opening scene?
Whether you are writing a subtle character piece or a kick-ass action film, you must make us sit up and say, “This is a writer who I want to spend the next 90-120 pages reading.”  Your dialogue, description, economy (so important!) lets the reader know they are in good hands.  In addition, surprise us with something that we were not expecting in that first scene, a detail we couldn’t predict that tells us your characters will keep us compelled and on our toes.  Most people write scripts with scenes unintentionally copied from a million other movies – make your first scene something we haven’t read before.

In addition to your playwriting and screenwriting career, you have made several films on a budget such as “Footprints.” Can you tell me more about what led you to that process?
I have always been a screenwriter with a goal of making the films I write.  I tried for years to get four different “first directing features” off the ground with four different producers, each budgeted between $1M and $6M. After a rollercoaster of “almosts” with those films, I finally said, “I’m going to make a movie for an amount of money I can actually raise, instead of for an amount I can’t.”  From there, “Footprints” grew.  You can read more about how the film happened at The Huffington Post and find out how to do it yourself during our Microbudget Madness class on Dec 11 at Writing Pad. 



You have two films coming out next month, can you tell me more about them?

Yes, I’m very excited about them.  The first film, "Footprints" was a microbudget film shot entirely on Hollywood Boulevard and stars Sybil Temtchine.  We had a limited Engagement in April in NYC and LA.  In July, the Chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle called it “One of the 10 Best Films So Far This Year” which led to us being booked into more cities beginning Dec 16.   The second film is a larger budget supernatural thriller called "The Undying" which stars Emmy nominee Robin Weigert (HBO’s “Deadwood”) and Wes Studi (“Avatar,” “Last of the Mohicans”). That movie will be released on DVD/VOD on Dec. 12 and will be at every Redbox in the country as well as Blockbuster, Amazon, and Netflix afterwards.

What are your tips for people who are considering writing a screenplay and/or producing their own film on a budget?
Write a film for an amount of money that you can actually raise with a unique script that excites you.  In my one-day Microbudget Madness class, we will go through a series of great in-class exercises to help you utilize all that is already in your life and therefore free or very inexpensive (locations, crew, actors, props).  If you came to L.A. to not only write, but to go out and make a movie, I hope that you will join us.

Thanks, Steven for sharing your expertise with us!  We can't wait for your classes Writing The Royalty Free Screenplay and Microbudget Madness: Writing A Script You Can Actually Go Out and Shoot! at Writing Pad this weekend and on Dec. 11th.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Recipe: The Waffle of Insane Greatness

by Andrea Ruth and Marilyn Friedman    

Writing Pad has a delectable feast of writing classes paired with Andrea Ruth's culinary yummies this November and December.  Also, Andrea and rock star novelist Jessica Brody will be tantalizing our literary and food muses at Writing Pad's Idyllwild Writing Retreat this March 9-11th!  Stay tuned for more details.

To sign up for a class, click "Buy Now" at the bottom of the class descriptions at the links below, call 323-333-2954, or email marilyn@writingpad.com to grab a spot before they are full!

This Week:
Short and Sweet: The Art of The Short Story
Get Your Grimm On: Finding Your Inner Fairy Tale
Writing The Royalty Free Screenplay
Period Piece Power: Crafting A Historical Masterpiece

Next Week:
So You Want To Be A Writer? (ONLINE)
Plot It Out: Mapping A Compelling Journey
Be A Troublemaker! Mastering The Art of Conflict

Dec. 1 - 4:
Writing Pad Show and Tell
I Would Never Do That: A Taboo Tales Workshop
Your Name In Print: Get Your Story Published

Dec. 6 - 11:
The Found Story: Finding Your Story In The Street
Girls Gone Wild: Writing For The Female Audience
Microbudget Madness: Writing A Script You Can Actually Go Out and Shoot!
Get Your Foot In The Door: Develop Your Dream Script

Andrea says:
"I didn't start out as a waffle person. I didn't like the idea of starting my day with a griddled cake covered in butter and syrup. A few years ago, I took a job making waffle pops for a holiday party, and I had to come up with a damn good recipe. I stumbled upon the "Waffle of Insane Greatness," and boy were they great! I made 12 liters of waffle batter based on that recipe. We had many subsequent waffle parties in an attempt to use up the batter, and we never got tired of the waffles.  They were that delicious.

But I just had to monkey with the recipe. I couldn't resist making them with a little less oil, a little whole wheat flour, a banana or some pecans, etc.  The following recipe is a waffle of INSANE greatness to be sure, but it's also good for you! It's a bit more grown up: a sweet breakfast for people who don't really dig sweet breakfasts. And you can feel good eating them five times a week.

To that end here's a tip: double the recipe on Sunday morning, make all the waffles, (not too well done), cool them on a wire rack, and freeze them in a ziplock bag. You can pop them in the toaster all week long." 

Thanks, Andrea!  These waffles sound fantastic.  I can't wait to try making them myself.  Yum, yum, yum!

The Waffle of Insane Greatness
1/2 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1/4 cup Unbleached White Flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
Between 3 and 4 Tbsp of vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
A few shakes of cinnamon
Optional: chopped pecans or walnuts, mashed banana

Directions: Combine all dry ingredients, whisk together in a big bowl. Add buttermilk, oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Mix. Add cinnamon, nuts (if using) mashed banana (if using).  Let it stand in the refrigerator while the iron heats up. You don't have to spray the iron. But you can if it makes you feel better. But only spray it once!

A few suggestions: serve with warm maple syrup (drop your maple syrup in a bowl of hot water while you cook). Take out your butter first so that its not ice cold by the time you need it.  Experiment! Add mashed pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice instead of banana and cinnamon. Use all white flour. Use almost all wheat flour (you want to retain at least 3 Tbsp of white flour for the texture to be good). Add mini chocolate chips (wipe your waffle iron afterwards). Go crazy!

Writing Prompt: Weird Family Ritual

by Marilyn Friedman    

Thanksgiving is nipping at our heels.  I don't know about you, but I'm mentally preparing myself for a healthy helping of delicious food with a side of family dysfunction.  This November, I'm thankful that we have a bunch of terrific writing classes at the Pad to take the pain away before the holidays descend upon us.  Most of them are quickie one-day or one-night stands, so they'll leave you plenty of time to prepare for holiday travel, company parties, and last minute shopping missions.

Relax, get inspired, and write your literary masterpiece in front of the cozy Writing Pad fireplace this November and December.  To sign up for a class, click "Buy Now" at the bottom of the class descriptions at the links below, call 323-333-2954, or email marilyn@writingpad.com to grab a spot before they are full!

This Week:
Short and Sweet: The Art of The Short Story
Get Your Grimm On: Finding Your Inner Fairy Tale
Writing The Royalty Free Screenplay
Period Piece Power: Crafting A Historical Masterpiece

Next Week:
So You Want To Be A Writer? (ONLINE)
Plot It Out: Mapping A Compelling Journey
Be A Troublemaker! Mastering The Art of Conflict

Dec. 1 - 4:
Writing Pad Show and Tell
I Would Never Do That: A Taboo Tales Workshop
Your Name In Print: Get Your Story Published

Dec. 6 - 11:
The Found Story: Finding Your Story In The Street
Girls Gone Wild: Writing For The Female Audience
Microbudget Madness: Writing A Script You Can Actually Go Out and Shoot!
Get Your Foot In The Door: Develop Your Dream Script

Where's the turkey?  It's so small, I need a magnifying glass to see it.

Writing Prompt:
Make a list of 5 weird or unusual family holiday rituals (real or imagined).  Pick one.  Now write down a sensory detail (smell, taste, sound, touch) to go along with that situation or place.  Set the timer for 10 min. and write, and make sure that you include the sensory detail in your piece.  When you are done, post your write in the comments of this blog!

For example, at Thanksgiving, my family was so small that my mother didn't bother buying a whole turkey at the supermarket.  She just bought a capon breast.  Or, I might mention that my in-laws insist on passing plates when we go to a restaurant together.  So if I order duck and blackberry stuffed ravioli, I might only get a tiny bite because everyone else takes a swipe at my plate before I get it back.  I think that I will write about that!

Comment on this blog!  Write what comes to mind when I say, "weird family holiday rituals."  If you post your story in the comments of this blog, you could win a free class!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Writing Prompt: Home (Compliments of Judy Reeves)

 by Marilyn Friedman    

Judy Reeves will be visiting us from San Diego to teach two classes at the Pad on Saturday, November 12th--Speedwriting: Getting It Down Fast and Clean and Writing Reboot: Rescuing Your Crashed Creation!  Judy is the author of "A Writer's Book of Days," one of Writer's Digest's "hottest writing books" on the market.  "A Writer's Book of Days" helped me re-establish my own writing practice 12 years ago after I had a long writing hiatus.  It has a different writing prompt for every day of the year and is chocked full of wonderful information to help you take your writing to the next level. 

When I first met Judy three years ago at the Southern California Writers conference, I was thrilled to meet my writing idol. "I loved your book! It helped me so much.  It was so hard to get back into writing, but I felt like you were cheering me on every day with your terrific writing prompts," I told her.

The fantastic Judy Reeves
"I was cheering you on!" Judy replied.  I took several of Judy's seminars at the conference, and she further impressed me with her knowledge of writing craft.  In just a few minutes, Judy helped me fix an essay that I had been struggling with for months.  Armed with Judy's editing suggestions, I polished my essay and one week later, read it at a literary variety show.  I not only got a standing ovation but was later contacted by a literary agent who'd heard about my piece from a client who'd attended the show.  If you take Writing Reboot: Rescuing Your Crashed Creation, Judy can work her literary fix-it magic on you too!

While you are anxiously waiting for Judy's classes on the 12th, I recommend watching these short interviews to hear her helpful tips on writing craft and practice and learn the harrowing story behind "A Writer's Book of Days."  You can sign up for one of Judy's classes or any other class by clicking "Buy Now" at the bottom of the class descriptions at the links below, by calling 323-333-2954, or emailing marilyn@writingpad.com to grab a spot before they are full!

November Classes
In honor of Judy's visit, here's a November writing prompt from "A Writers' Book of Days."  I chose this prompt in particular because it reminded me of the intense feelings that can sometimes accompany family visits on Thanksgiving and the holidays.  Make a list of 5 things that come to mind when I say, "This is not my home" (after Elizabeth Bishop). Pick one.  Now write down a sensory detail (smell, taste, sound, touch) to go along with that situation or place.  Set the timer for 10 min. and write, and make sure that you include the sensory detail in your piece.  You can repeat the words, "This is not my home" several times if it helps kickstart your imagination.  When you are done, post your write in the comments of this blog!

Comment on this blog!  Write what comes to mind when I say, "This is not my home."  If you post your story in the comments of this blog, you could win a free class!

Meet Chad Gervich, TV Exec/Writer Extraordinaire

By Sophia Kercher and Marilyn Friedman

First things first, Writing Pad would like to give props to Chad Gervich. This week, he is wrapping up not one—but two—TV shows ("After Lately" and "Cupcake Wars")! He stepped off set for a moment to talk with us about the television industry and the craft of pilot writing.

Chad, a TV writer, producer, and development exec, will share his secrets for creating a riveting pilot and bringing it to the screen at his upcoming Writing Pad class, Writing A Pilot That Can Fly.  We can't wait!  It starts Monday and is almost full (only 1 spot left). 

In the meantime, here's a little bit about Chad's background and some of his tips on writing for television.


Chad says, "TV writing is unlike any other kind of writing. It’s nothing like novel writing.  It's not like screenwriting.  Even if you are a writer who isn't necessarily interested in writing for TV, my pilot writing class will still be incredibly valuable to you because it will teach you new ways of looking at character, story, and conflict.  I think people underestimate how complex and interesting TV is." 

TV writing has helped Chad, who was originally a playwright, hone his own writing craft.  He says, "Even if I'm writing something nonfiction like a how to article or a profile for a magazine, I now make sure that there is story and conflict in every single sentence.  Even if I'm writing something that isn't a narrative, I make sure that I am clearly communicating the emotional journey of the piece."

After 12 years in the industry, Chad has worked on programs such as "The Wanda Sykes Show," "Star Search," "Malcom In The Middle," and he regularly publishes  articles in Daily Variety, Script, and Writer’s Digest.  In 2008, Chad wrote “Small Screen, Big Picture” (Random House/Crown), a guide that makes the complexities and jargon of the TV business easy to understand.  He created the book because "a lot of new writers don't think of television as a business with creative rules, business rules, processes and paths that must be followed.  They think, 'As long as I'm creative and a good writer, I'll succeed.' But that's not true."  The book helps aspiring television writers understand "how the business works, where the business side meets the creative side and how they affect each other."  It's used at industry classes and Universities nationwide. 

When it comes to pilot writing, Chad says, "A pilot isn't just a great story.  It has to do very specific things to be sellable or used as a viable writing sample."  He recommends that you keep these three things in mind when you sit down to brainstorm your pilot:

1. The pilot needs to work just like every episode is going to work.
For example, is it a mystery series? If all of the episodes are going to be about solving a mystery throughout the show, the pilot has to work the same way.

2.The pilot needs to show us where the story is going to come from every week.
For instance, if it’s a relationship story like "Everyone Loves Raymond," Raymond is always forced to balance what his wife wants with what his mother wants.

3. You to be very clear on who the characters are and what their relationships are to each other.
You need to really understand those dynamics before you complete your pilot.

Thanks for sharing these helpful insights, Chad!  We look forward to learning more from you in your Writing A Pilot That Can Fly class next week.

Monday, October 31, 2011

In Conversation with Short Story Scribe/Novelist Melissa Clark

By Sophia Kercher

Melissa Clark
Novelist and published short story writer Melissa Clark likes to dive into the extraordinary. Her book "Swimming Upstream, Slowly"  features a character named Sasha Salter who discovers that she is pregnant, even though she hasn't had sex in years. It turns out that Sasha's body has been hosting a "lazy sperm," and she must figure out which of her exes is the father of her unborn child. Melissa's imaginative and convincing story-telling (don't worry--she made up the science behind a lazy sperm) makes her novel a page-turner that we couldn't put down! She advises other writers to try incorporating fantastical elements into their stories to make them more exciting.

This November, Melissa will pass on her secrets for crafting a compelling narrative in the Writing Pad class "Short and Sweet: The Art of the Short Story." By the end of this class, you will have written one amazing short story, and Melissa will help you get it published.  In the meantime, we asked Melissa to share her experience and tips on writing with all of you.

How did you get started as a professional writer?
My dad is a writer so I grew up watching him and then mimicking him on my own typewriter. I used to write tons of short stories as a little kid. I majored in writing in college and then went to a writing program for graduate school. I was all about the short story. I lived, breathed, embodied it. It always felt so magical - not only reading them, but writing them. Further down the line I veered off into television writing, mostly kids' shows. I learned quickly that a good story is a good story, no matter what the genre. . . If you'd told me in graduate school that I'd be writing television and novels in the future, I wouldn't have believed you. I was that obsessed with the short story.

What are some tips you have for people who are sitting down to write a short story?
Before you write, read tons of short stories.  When you're done writing for the day (whether it's a couple of hours or 10 minutes), stop when it's really flowing - or during a scene that you're excited about. That way, when you pick up your writing the next day, you will tap into that excitement and your story will continue to flow.

Can you tell me what some of the key elements of structure that you utilize to write a short story?
The only three words you need when talking about short story structure are: Conflict, Crisis, Resolution.

You have a screenwriting and TV writing background, how does this shape your storytelling?
Both helped me write stronger dialogue my stories and novels. Writing for TV helped me with speed. There is a quick script turnover in television, and this helped me begin and finish other writing projects swiftly.

Where do you draw inspiration for your own stories?
My first novel, "Swimming Upstream, Slowly" - about a woman who becomes pregnant from a lazy sperm - was born because I was having lunch with a friend and I overate. When I showed him my bloated belly he said, "Are you sure you're not pregnant?" and I said, "Yeah, right, from a lazy sperm." I decided right then and there to write a movie based on that idea, but after a few weeks I decided to write it as a novel instead.

My second novel, "Imperfect" was born because I have a cat with asthma and her purr is so frigging loud. One night while she was on my lap doing her kneeding thing, I wondered, what if people purred? And it wasn't a sexy thing, but more of an embarrassing thing? I started the novel the next day.

You recently finished another novel.  Tell me more about that.
My writing is usually on the lighter side, but my latest novel, "Bear Witness" explores the aftermath of a kidnapping in a small town. It is told by the victim's best friend, and we see how she's coping after the tragedy. Last year I traveled to Utah to observe the Elizabeth Smart case which had finally gone to trial. The experience was harrowing but important for the book.

Every artist/writer has an inner critic that lives inside them, how do you battle this inner critic?

I think the biggest issue for most people is negative self talk. If you're hearing, "I can't.  I'll never. . ." chances are that you won't be very productive. Catching this and then converting it to positive talk is an effective method. You just have to be able to do this. Rubberbands on the wrists helps!

Thanks so much for sharing these helpful tips on writing, Melissa, and we can't wait for your class which starts next Sunday!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Writing Prompt: Your Very Own Tall Tale

 by Marilyn Friedman
It's almost Halloween--yay!  It's time to let your imagination run wild and dress up like a character from one of your favorite stories or movies. Fun! 

Once you've settled down from your candy corn high, Writing Pad has a terrrific new class to help you write an amazing short story AND get it published. Successful writer, Melissa Clark, will be teaching Short and Sweet: The Art of The Short Story starting Nov. 4! Click "Buy Now" at the bottom of the class description, call 323-333-2954, OR email marilyn@writingpad.com to sign up before it's full!

November Classes
Short and Sweet: The Art of The Short Story
In honor of our new short story class, here's a writing prompt to inspire your very own story classic.  Make a list of your 5 favorite fairy tales or short stories.  Pick one.  Now write down five specific details of that story (e.g. For Little Red Riding Hood I'd write down: 1. red cloak, 2. big fangs, 3. cherry pies in a basket, 4. granny nightgown, and 5. "What big eyes you have!").  Set the timer for 10 min.  Write a modern version of this tale, including at least 2 of the 5 specific details that you wrote down.  Maybe apply this story to something that happened to you recently.  Start your story with "Once upon a time" and then post the results in the comments of this blog!

Comment on this blog!  Write a modern fairy tale.  If you post your story in the comments of this blog, you could win a free class!

Writing Pad Recipe: Creamy Spinach

by Andrea Ruth and Amy Robinson

Shorter days mean more time at night to write. Writing Pad has so many different classes to fit your writing goals, you'll be more excited than a trick-or-treating Ninja Turtle!  Click "Buy Now" at the bottom of each class description, call 323-333-2954, OR email marilyn@writingpad.com to sign up before the classes are full! 

November Classes:
Mini Writing Pad Bootcamp . . . With Dessert (ONLINE)
Short and Sweet: The Art of The Short Story

Andrea says:
"Yay! It's Fall! My favorite season of eating. Thanksgiving is my all-time favorite holiday! It is the only holiday where I will not try any new foods that anyone brings over because as I told one of my Mom's friends last year, 'The real estate in my stomach is just too valuable on this day.'


This is a recipe that I created for the Step-Up Women's Network Healthy Holiday Class. I wanted a recipe that would not suffer even a tiny bit from being made "healthy". And Creamed Spinach is it! Because it is made using a béchamel sauce, it is up to you whether you use 1%, 2% or whole milk.  If you don't mind the calories, you can even use half and half or cream. But go easy on the milk or cream--what you want to taste is the spinach."

Creamed Spinach
3-4 natural bunched spinach (greatly preferred- it really makes a difference) or two 10 oz bags pre washed.
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
or white flour (plus more if needed)
one shallot minced
2 gloves garlic
minced
1/2 cup whole milk
whole nutmeg
for grating

Wash spinach in one or two changes of water. Shake out or spin dry. Heat a large dry skillet. Add spinach and wilt quickly, turning frequently to avoid sticking or burning. Set aside to cool in a colander or strainer and press to release extra liquid. When cooled, chop roughly.

Wipe out skillet. Melt butter over medium heat, add shallot and sweat gently until translucent. Do not brown. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add flour and cook until soft bubbles form. Add milk and whisk quickly to incorporate. Simmer about 3 minutes until thickened. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from heat and stir in spinach to coat evenly with sauce. Taste and adjust salt pepper and nutmeg.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Writing Prompt - Scandalous Acts

By Sophia Kercher

With Halloween swiftly approaching, I am reminded of scandalous costumes and October debauchery!  For instance, once in college, I dressed up in a très sexy French maid costume and drank such potent vodka-laced cocktails that I passed out at my apartment and didn't even make it to the Halloween party. I bet that you have some great tales to tell. Unlock your wildest stories at our upcoming Taboo Tales Workshop. Published writer and Taboo Tales co-producer Laurenne Sala will teach you how to mix dirty secrets with hilarious details to create an irresistible piece for one of LA's hottest storytelling shows (or any other literary variety show).
Let us help you spill your zany tales at our exciting line-up of October and November classes:

Start 10/23 - 10/31:
From Snoozeville to Sizzletown: Crafting A Page Turner
I Would Never Do That: A Taboo Tales Workshop

Short and Sweet: The Art of The Short Story

Writing Prompt: Here's a writing prompt inspired by our upcoming Taboo Tales Workshop.  Make a list 5 things that you've done (or a fictional character has done) that are scandalous or embarassing.  Pick one and and write a scene in which you (or your) character are caught doing that scandalous thing.

For example, I'm going to write about my character Grace who at the age of 13, gets caught smoking cigarettes that she stole from her Uncle.

Comment on this blog! Write about getting caught in a a scandalous act! Post your juicy 10 minute write in the comments, and you could win a free class!

Friday, October 14, 2011

August/September Comment Contest Winner!

By Amy Robinson and Marilyn Friedman

There is so much going on at Writing Pad this fall! We have classes for every writer. Let us help you chase down your muse and finish your stories and writing projects.  Classes have been filling up fast, so reserve your spot today on our website!

Start This Weekend Thru 10/23:

Start 10/24 - 10/31:

Short and Sweet: The Art of The Short Story (4 Wk)

Now, the news you've been waiting for: the August/September comment contest winner is  Lorinda Toledo!  

We asked Lorinda what inspires her to write.  She said, "I get inspired to write by all the fascinating people I meet everyday, by my crazy family and by flaky pastries!"

Well, we are glad for the flaky pastries and crazy family because it inspired Lorinda to write a sumptuous story here. Congrats, Lorinda--you win a free class at Writing Pad!

Please keep commenting on the writing prompts.  So many of you posted terrific stories so keep them coming!  The best comment of October/November will win a free class.  We hope to see your entertaining tales on the blog this month.  Have a great Friday!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Joshua Tree Retreat Scholarship Winner! (And More Fall Classes!)

By Lizzie Vance
This month, we held a contest to offer a full scholarship (an $815 value!) to one lucky writer to our Joshua Tree High Desert Retreat. The submissions were absolutely incredible-- and we wish we could give everyone who entered a scholarship. But alas, there can only be one winner.  Before we tell you who that lucky person is, here are the fantastic classes we have coming up at Writing Pad very soon.  Sign up online or, call 323-333-2954, or email marilyn@writingpad.com to sign up before the classes are full!

Start This Weekend Thru 10/23:

Start 10/24 - 10/31:

Start in November:
Short and Sweet: The Art of The Short Story (4 Wk)
And now . . . the winner of the Joshua Tree High Desert Writing Retreat is . . . Abby Schachner!!! 

Congratulations, Abby!  We asked Abby where her favorite place is to write.  She said,  "Oooh, my very special, lovely coffee shop.  At some point, I'll O.D. on that place and write at home or another coffee shop, but for now, it's Cafecito Organico.  Lately, I've been donating my pages as their scrap paper. Ripped in quarters, of course, to save myself any embarrassment."

You can read Abby's winning blog entry here.  Thank you so much to our fantastic judges, Antoine Wilson, Janelle Brown, Joe Donnelly, and Pamela Ribon.  Thank you also to everyone who entered. Please do not be discouraged.  Your writing was truly amazing.  You will automatically be entered into the August/September comment contest for a free class at Writing Pad.  Results of that contest will be announced very soon so stay tuned.

Writing Prompt - It's Just Like The Movies

 By Sophia Kercher and Marilyn Friedman

After watching Ryan Gosling zip around downtown L.A. in Drive, we have fallen in love all over again with cinema. Write your own Oscar-worthy film or TV show and let the successful film industry professionals who teach screenwriting at Writing Pad help you get it produced!  Sign-up before these classes are full!
Writing Prompt: Here's a movie inspired writing prompt for this week.  Make a list of 5 significant people in your life (e.g., your Mom, your Dad, your siblings, your friends, your boss).  Pick one.  Write down something specific that the person does or says (for example, Marilyn's mother starts every sentence with the word, "For."). Now, make a list of five celebrities that could play that character in a movie.  Pick one.  Now, write down something specific that the celebrity does or says (for example, Ellen Degeneres is known to break out into dance, Charlie Sheen is notorious for saying, "winning," etc.).

 Write a scene or story where the celebrity you chose meets the person from your life, be sure to include the specific things that the character and the celebrity does or says.  For example, Sophia is going to write a scene about her sassy friend Lisa meeting Kat Dennings at a party, and the two of them rolling their eyes in unison at an annoying drunk guy.

Kat Dennings pictured above 

Comment on this blog! Write about a person in your life meeting the celebrity version of themselves. If you post your 10 minute write in the comments, you could win a free class!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

October Recipe: Soup of the Day!

by Andrea Ruth and Amy Robinson

Our new fall classes will inspire you to curl up with a blank page next to our cozy fire and start writing!  At many of our classes , you even get to enjoy Executive Chef Andrea Ruth's tasty treats to rev up your writing practice!  Call 323-333-2954 or email marilyn@writingpad.com to sign up before the classes are full!

Start This Week:

Start 10/16 - 10/23:
Start 10/24 - 10/31:
Start in November:
Andrea says:
"Hey its Fall! The days are shorter, the nights are cooler and it's finally okay to eat soup again!  This is a Mushroom Soup recipe based on one by Anthony Bourdain, but it is so incredibly simple that it's just barely a recipe at all. With 4 main ingredients (and two variable ones), it takes so little effort.  You will be amazed how delicious it is."


 

Easy Mushroom Soup

12 oz crimini mushrooms (equal to one and a half containers from TJ's)
4 tbsp butter
one onion, thinly sliced
4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
a few sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper
2 oz pale dry sherry*


None of these amounts are written in stone. You don't have to
measure the mushrooms, and you can certainly use more butter, more
sherry, or another herb if you like. Just taste it as you go.

Melt three tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan and saute the onions until they are soft, add one more tbsp. of butter, and then add the mushrooms. (I chop them roughly, but you don't have to if they are
small) Cook on med-low about 8 minutes, stirring often. Add the stock and the thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer for 30-40 minutes (you can even let it simmer
for an hour, if you have the time)

Remove the thyme sprigs, and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Taste, adjust the salt and pepper.  Stir in the sherry. Taste again. Stir in a little more sherry if you like.

*Sherry is a fantastic addition to many soups and stews right before serving as well as any sauteed vegetable. A bottle of pale, dry sherry from Trader Joe's costs about $5.  You will never regret buying this ingredient. One splash goes a long way, and it lasts forever.

Enjoy!