Join the Writing Pad community!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Joe Donnelly: LA's Literary Innovator

By Lorinda Toledo

Joe Donnelly is an award-winning journalist and the former Deputy Editor of L.A. Weekly. He is also the co-founder (along with Laurie Ochoa) of the critically acclaimed Los Angeles literary quarterly, Slake which just celebrated publication of its second issue.

On Friday, Feb. 4 at Writing Pad, Joe will talk about how he became a professional writer and what he looks for when writers submit to his literary magazine. If you’ve ever dreamed about getting your stories or poems published or have wondered what it would be like to be a journalist or an editor, then you should definitely check out the talk this Friday night with Joe! Here are the details:

Literary Landscape LA: A Conversation with Joe Donnelly of Slake Los Angeles
Fri., Feb. 4, 2011, 8-10 p.m.
Cost: $10 for drinks and snacks

I had the chance to ask Joe a few questions. Below is a little bit about his background:

How did you get started as a professional writer? Did your career begin with journalism?
Mostly in journalism, though I did have a brief stint in advertising copyrighting in the late 80s in New York. One pitch involved me acting like the Frookie Monster for Frookies (fruit-juice cookies) and doing a Frookie Dance. I moved to Colorado soon after that to be a ski bum and eventually started writing for a small weekly newspaper. Not much has changed since.

How did you get the idea for Slake?
I've believed for a long time that the media in Los Angeles doesn't accurately reflect the city as I know it, where it is, where it's going. LA is the most challenging and intriguing city in North America, and I've lived all over. It's always being misrepresented in my mind. We want to let the city speak for itself.

Is Slake a leap of faith for the print industry for as a whole? Or do you see it as a more unique project with a niche audience?
Anytime you try something that goes against conventional wisdom, but feels right in your gut, it's kind of a leap of faith. I have great confidence in what we're doing, but the only thing I've ever promised is that it would and will be good.

Slake is, in some ways, a hyper-local publication. This seems to be a trend, at least in journalism. Do you think this is more sustainable?
We actually don't see it as hyper-local. We see it as from Los Angeles and for the world. Let's not forget how much Los Angeles has given the world in science, design, art, entertainment, sports, style, literature, imagination. . . we're just another gift.

Join us Friday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. as Joe gifts us with his writerly words of wisdom! Space is limited, so RSVP to now before the talk is full!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Let the Sunshine In - Adel's Triple Citrus Sunshine Cake Recipe

by Adel Aschenbrener and Amy Robinson

Brighten your day with a Writing Pad class or retreat! Adel's delicious Triple Citrus Sunshine Cake has been known to inspire literary brilliance. Call 323-333-2954 to RSVP before they are full!

Writing Retreats:
  • Writing Pad Ojai Retreat (Mar. 25 - 27 at a gorgeous ecosanctuary with award-winning author Thaisa Frank, NPR's Alex Cohen, and Writing Pad's Marilyn Friedman)
One Day Classes:
Multi Week Classes:
Adel says:
"Although the California winter months are far from dreary, a little extra sunshine never hurts, especially in the form of dessert. This moist, golden cake can be made with almost any combination of citrus zest and juices. If you're one of the lucky folks joining us for the Ojai retreat in March, you'll be tasting a version made with the amazingly sweet and delicious local Ojai Valley Pixie tangerines and Cara Cara oranges."

Triple Citrus Sunshine Cake

For The Cake

3 cups sifted cake flour
(sift the flour first, then measure it by scooping it gently into a measuring cup and leveling off the top)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt (I like Greek style yogurt such as Fage)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or the pulp and seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons, 2 oranges, and 1 grapefruit , preferably organic, scrubbed well before zesting (see Note)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Note: other citrus such as Meyer lemons, limes, satsumas, blood oranges etc. can be substituted here as well as for the juice in the recipe. If you don't have a fine grater or citrus zester, you can also use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin in thin strips and then finely chop it with a bit of granulated sugar sprinkled on the cutting board for traction and to grab onto the flavorful oils.

Equipment: 9 or 10-inch tube pan or bundt cake pan, buttered and floured

In a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until very pale, light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well between additions and making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula. In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt with the vanilla extract and citrus zests and juices. On low speed, mix the dry ingredients into the batter in 3 batches, alternating with the yogurt mixture. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack. Brush with the citrus glaze while the cake is still warm, or it will not absorb completely. It may take a while to soak in, but just keep layering it on with the brush.

Citrus Glaze and Candied Zest

1 lemon, 1 orange, and 1 grapefruit, preferably organic, scrubbed
2 1/2 cups sugar

Note: do not substitute limes for the candied zest, as they will turn brown when cooked

With a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the orange, lemon and grapefruit in long strips, being careful not to cut too deeply into the white pith, which is bitter. Cut the zest into fine julienne (about 1/8th of an inch wide). Fill a medium saucepan with cold water. Add the zest and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain the zest and rinse under cold water. Return the zest to the saucepan. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and 1 cup of cold water and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Simmer over low heat until the glaze is slightly thickened and the zest is softened and translucent, about 20 minutes. Strain the glaze into a bowl, pressing on the zest to extract as much liquid as possible. Toss the zest in the remaining 2 cups of sugar to coat completely. Scatter the sugared zest on a Silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and let stand until dry to the touch, about 2 hours.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Writing Prompt - Pucker Up

by Amy Robinson

Kiss your inner critic goodbye! February is full of fun ways to get your writing projects done like our steamy Erotic Writing class, irreverent Anti-Valentines Day workshop, and fantastic Stranger Than Fiction class! They are filling up fast, call 323-333-2954 to RSVP before all the seats are spoken for!

One Day Classes:
Multi Week Classes:
Writing Retreats:
  • Writing Pad Ojai Retreat (Mar. 25 - 27 at a gorgeous ecosanctuary with award-winning author Thaisa Frank, NPR's Alex Cohen, and Writing Pad's Marilyn Friedman)
Writing Prompt: Make a list of 5 memorable kisses for yourself or your character. How about a first kiss or a forbidden kiss? Add a sensory detail to it (smell, taste, sound, touch, sight), then write about it for 10 minutes. Describe the kiss in great detail: was it soft or sloppy, passionate, or comforting and chaste? What was it like outside--cold, steamy? What song was playing on the radio? Then post your smooching story in the comments of this blog.

Comment on this blog! What memorable kiss have you, or your character, shared?
Post your 10 minute write in the comments, and you could win a free class!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Screenwriting Prompt - You're Breaking Up

By Amy Robinson and Jonathan Davis

One of Writing Pad's teachers, the amazing Jonathan Davis, has
created today's writing prompt. As a successful, working screenwriter, Jonathan wrote the script for the Dukes of Hazard movie and earned a 2 picture deal with Warner Brothers! (Scroll down to read all about him.) We are very lucky to have Jonathan and his knowledge of the movie industry and screenwriting craft at Writing Pad this winter.

Space is
limited and filling up quick! Call 323-333-2954 to RSVP and save your spot today!

Jonathan's Classes:
More One Day Classes in January with Spaces Available:
More Multi Week Classes:

Jonathan's Writing Prompt: Write about the moment of your worst break up in scene form with dialogue. What happened at the moment? Were there any memorable things said? Add a sensory detail to it (smell, taste, sound, touch, sight), then write about it for 10 minutes. Post your break up story in the comments of this blog.

Comment on this blog! What happened during your character's worst break up?
Post your 10 minute write in the comments, and you could win a free class!

About Jonathan Davis:
Jonathan Davis has been a working screenwriter for over 8 years. In 2002, be received a two-picture deal from Warner Brothers based on a writing sample. One of those films turned out to be Dukes of Hazzard. He’s written comedies, action and thrillers for Universal, Sony, and the Cartoon Network. He’s a member of the Job Factory – a team of comedy writers who’ve written two projects for Disney and have other projects in the works. He’s also written for comic books and TV. He's taught classes in screenwriting and transmedia (storytelling across multiple platforms) for Columbia College (of Chicago).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Writing Prompt - You are getting very sleepy...

by Amy Robinson

Judy Reeves, the author of the wonderful book, A Writer's Book of Days, visited Writing Pad last weekend and ran a fantastic mini class! She has agreed to come back in March! In the meantime, we have a calendar full of classes to keep you motivated and writing. Follow up on your New Year's resolution to nurture your writing practice. Classes are filling up fast, call 323-333-2954 to RSVP before they are full!

One Day Classes:Multi Week Classes:

Writing Prompt: Our prompt today is borrowed from A Writer's Book of Days. Write what comes to mind when you think of falling asleep. Do you have a ritual to help yourself fall asleep? Have you ever fallen asleep at an inopportune moment? Add a sensory detail to it (smell, taste, sound, touch, sight), then write about it for 10 minutes. Post your sleepy story in the comments of this blog.

Comment on this blog! What happens when you, or your characters, fall asleep?
Post your 10 minute write in the comments, and you could win a free class!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Jason Flores-Williams reading at Stories Books!

by Amy Robinson

I haven't been this excited for the weekend since last year! Two great writers will be reading at Stories Books on Saturday night, January 8th. Come hear the works of Jason Flores-Williams, celebrated author of the controversial hit, The Last Stand of Mr. America. Jason has been called “a literary force of nature . . . A train wreck of genius” by the SF Examiner.

He will be reading from his new novel, Character and Fitness, a semi-biographical tale of an unemployed social justice lawyer and his nurse girlfriend who live in a crappy apartment complex in Philadelphia and answering questions from the audience. Jason's new work is not only a beautifully written story, it is also very timely. It touches on issues such as life in the Great Recession, unemployment, the corporatization of American culture, and marijuana.

As an additional bonus, the fabulous Marilyn Friedman, proprietor of your favorite writing school, Writing Pad, will be reading a selection of humorous poetry to start the night off right. But wait, there's more! After the reading, we will be gathering for a drink or two. That's right, literature, liquor, and the company of an amazing novelist! What more could you ask for on a Saturday night?

Where and When:
Saturday, January 8, 2011, 8 p.m.
Cost: No cost! The reading is free. (Price of drinks afterward depend on how expensive your tastes run.)
Location: Stories Books, 1716 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, 90026
RSVP to (Space is limited)

About Jason Flores-Williams:
Jason Flores-Williams is a social justice attorney and novelist who has been featured on CNN, NPR, Air America, Fox, The Nation and in The New York Times. He was the political writer for High Times magazine during the Bush administration. He has written three novels that have been published in seven countries. His second book, The Last Stand of Mr. America, was published by Canongate, Grove, and has recently been optioned for feature film rights by Melting Pictures. Flores-Williams is a frequent contributor to the Brooklyn Rail and is a weekly sociopolitical commentator for WBAI radio in NYC. His new novel, Character and Fitness, will be available on the Brooklyn Rail, one chapter at a time for free beginning January 2011.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Let the Mini Writing Staycation countdown begin!

Interview by Halie Rosenberg

Happy 2011! Hopefully by the time you read this, your champagne hangover has dwindled and you've taken a few minutes to set goals for 2011. I'm not psychic, but I bet that if you're reading this blog, one or more of your resolutions has to do with trying out a writing class, writing more in 2011, or finishing a writing project. Make those goals a reality this year by joining us at Writing Pad this weekend for the Mini Writing Staycation with the fabulous Judy Reeves.

Judy's book "A Writer's Book of Days" was named one of the "hottest writing books" by Writer's Digest. She has been a writing instructor for 20 years and has taught creative writing at The Ink Spot, University of California-San Diego, California State University-Fullerton as well as many other venues.

Here are the fantastic events and classes that we have planned for Judy's LA visit. Sign up for one class, one day, or the entire Mini Staycation. Spaces are limited and going fast. Call 323-333-2954 ASAP to study with this amazing, renowned teacher! Below is a little bit about Judy's background and this weekend's Mini Writing Staycation!

When/how did you first discover you were a writer?
I'm eight years old, in third grade, and I'm writing sentences that use our spelling words. I get that feeling . . . you know the one--when you're so into what you're doing that you become what you're doing. It was the first time that I felt that. And then my teacher said, "Here are some of Judy's sentences," in a way that made me feel so good! I've been writing sentences ever since.

How often do you write now? What are you currently working on?
I write most mornings, at least five out of seven, and sometimes later in the day, too. I'm on a third draft of a novel that I started a few years ago. I took time out last year to do the revised edition of "A Writer's Book of Days" and am stumbling my way back into my novel.

What's your favorite aspect of writing?
When I get that eight year old, third grade feeling and lose myself in the process. And when really surprising things happen that I could not have planned or thought up.

What literary accomplishment are you most proud of?
Twelve years ago, I wrote the first edition of "A Writer's Book of Days," my first book. I'd never written a book before and didn't really know what I was doing. But I had a vision of it, how it would be, and with the help of a great editor, it became even more than what I imagined. Co-founding two nonprofit literary organizations is pretty high on my list of accomplishments. I also started a Brown Bag Writing Group that is still going strong after 17 years.

How did you start teaching writing?
I'd been leading writing groups for several years, and that morphed into teaching writing. It started with a feeling of "hey, look what I found out about writing" and wanting to share that.

What is your teaching style?
I try to create a safe, friendly, non-threatening environment where we work together and support one another. I encourage explorations, questions, and learning from the masters. I use lots of writing exercises. I try to make classes and workshops fun. I believe that we should take our work seriously, but not ourselves.

What is one thing that you hope to impart to all your students?
That they can trust their own voice, and the way to find that voice is to write, write, and write some more. The craft of writing can be taught, but not the art. Find the passion. And READ!

What is a common misconception that you see less experienced writers thinking/believing?
That they're not good writers. That they don't have a "voice." That they can write a novel in six months. Or that, once they sell their novel, they'll come into a pile of money and can quit their day job. Under-confidence or over-confidence.

What prompted you to write your book, "A Writers Book of Days"?
It came out of my writing practice groups (Brown Bag, Thursday Writers, Writing Marathons). After five years of leading these groups several times a week, I saw what a difference having a writing practice made for those who were regular practitioners and how a simple writing prompt could evoke such creative, spontaneous writing. I wanted to share this with a larger audience than I could reach in person. My original idea was to create a daily calendar so writers could make an appointment for their writing practice and use a daily prompt to get started. It evolved into a book.

What writers influence you?
Pretty much whomever I'm reading at the time. Lorrie Moore is on my bedside table right now, Michael Cunningham is on next on my list. Annie Dillard is a forever model--I love a writer who sends me to the dictionary and who is so goddamn smart. Toni Morrison because she's so original and authentic, and her writing is filled with heat. Joan Didion for her clarity and brilliance. John Steinbeck for his humanity. I grew up on Mark Twain. For my teachers: Tom Spanbauer (Do you know him? His writing hits you in the heart, close to the hurt place.), and Janet Fitch opened the gates of the universe for me. There are so many! I also love to read poetry and have it read to me.

Why did you and Marilyn decide to make your class series a "Staycation?" What's the benefit to dedicating a whole weekend to writing?
Any time a writer can immerse herself in writing for a concentrated period of time or focus on a particular project, she's able to go deeper. It has to do with focus, concentration, but also opening up. After a weekend writing intensive, you can feel the folds of the brain opening and language and ideas tumbling out. A weekend devoted to writing is also a way to honor yourself and your work!

I can't wait for the Staycation myself. I hope to see all of you there! Call 323-333-2954 to sign up.