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Friday, June 28, 2013

Celebrate Summer Hemingway Style

By Marilyn Friedman and Alana Saltz

We can't believe the 4th of July is right around the corner! In celebration of Independence Day, we wanted to share a couple recipes with you from "The Hemingway Cookbook" by Craig Boreth.

If you like sweets, the Apple Tart makes a great dish to bring to a BBQ. If you prefer your sweetness in a glass, blend yourself a nice cold Hemingway Daiquirí.

Hemingway Daiquirí

The following recipe is based upon the Daiquirí recipe from El Floridita that Hemingway drinks with A. E. Hotchner in his book "Papa Hemingway."

2 ½ jiggers Bacardi or Havana Club rum (1 jigger = 1 ½ ounces)
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of ½ grapefruit
6 drops of maraschino (cherry brandy)

Fill a blender one-quarter full of ice, preferably shaved or cracked. Add the rum, lime juice, grape-fruit juice, and maraschino. Blend on high until the mixture turns cloudy and light-colored, “like the sea where the wave falls away from the bow of a ship when she is doing thirty knots.” 20 Serve immediately in large, conical goblets.

Boreth, Craig. The Hemingway Cookbook. Chicago Review Press. 

Apple Tart 

For the Dough
½ cup butter
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup ice water

For the Filling
4 baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Stayman, peeled and cored
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter

To make the dough with a food processor, fit the processor with the metal blade. Cut the butter into small pieces and place in the bowl of the food processor. Add the flour and sugar. Blend together until dough just begins to adhere to the sides of the bowl. Add the ice water and continue blending until the dough starts to stick together. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. To make the dough by hand, cut the butter into small pieces.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Cut the butter into the dry mix with a pastry blender or two knives until it has the texture of coarse crumbs. Add the ice water slowly and mix with a wooden spoon until completely incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently, pushing part of the dough away from you with the heel of your hand, and folding it over onto itself. Repeat a few times. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. When the dough has chilled, turn it out onto a floured surface. Roll the dough, lifting and turning a quarter-turn after each roll, to a circle of ¼-inch thickness.

Transfer the dough to a buttered 10-inch tart pan by rolling the dough around the rolling pin and unrolling it onto the pan. Work the dough into the pan, gently lifting to cover the bottom and sides evenly. Fold over any excess and crimp decoratively. Refrigerate the tart shell for at least 30 minutes, or until ready for filling. When the shell has chilled, preheat the oven to 350 ° F. Prick the bottom of the shell several times with a fork. Line the surface of the shell with aluminum foil and fill with dry beans to prevent shrinking or heaving. Bake the tart shell for 20 minutes.

To make the filling, cut the apples into thin slices and toss in a bowl with the lemon juice. Arrange the slices in the tart shell in two layers of overlapping, concentric circles, sprinkling half the sugar on each layer. Drizzle the finished tart with melted butter.

Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Serve warm.

Boreth, Craig (1998-11-01). The Hemingway Cookbook. Chicago Review Press. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Writing Prompt: Dream Job

By Marilyn Friedman

It's the last week to enter the comment contest for the best May/June story. So please sit down for ten minutes to write a story in the comments of any of the prompts from the last two months! I can't wait to see what you come up with.

I don't know about you, but I'm really looking forward to having a little downtime and writing time during the 4th of July holiday. Before we are all busy attending firework displays and 4th of July BBQ's, I have a few fabulous short classes left that you won't want to miss in the next seven days.

They include Personal Essay, Pitch Letters, Freelance Journalism with Taffy Brodesser-Akner who has gotten 28 students published and writes regularly for the NY Times and all of the big magazines like Self and GQ, Literary Games with award-winning author Grace Krilanovich (Best Book of Year on NPR and Amazon), and Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writing with award-winning author Maureen McHugh (Best Book of 2011, Publisher's Weekly). Sign up before they are full!

Scroll down for your writing prompt and to check out our list of upcoming summer classes. Hope to see you soon.

Classes June 25 - July 1st

Classes Starting July 9-14
Memorable Memoir Bootcamp: Make Your True Tales Thrilling
Addictive Fiction: Writing The Knock Out Novel

Writing Pad Events
Writers With Drinks

Other Journalism/Web Writing Classes
#FameSuccessLove: Harnessing The Power of Twitter

Other Fiction/Memoir Classes
Get Your Memoir Excerpt Published
A Novel Approach: Mastering The Long Form Story
It's Story Time: Storytelling For Kids
Short Story Reboot: Rescuing Your Crashed Creation

Other Screenwriting Classes
Work The Room: Mastering The Power of The Cocktail Party Pitch
Writing A Pilot That Can Fly (Weekend Intensive)

Writing Prompt: This prompt is inspired by the freelance journalism classes we have happening this week as it is a dream of mine to someday be a full-time writer. Make a list of your top three dream jobs (or your fictional character's dream jobs) or gigs that seemed like a dream job at first and then turned out to be nightmare jobs. 

Pick one of the dream jobs. Write down a few specific things that you imagined about this job. Who would you work with? What would you eat and drink? Feel free to exaggerate. Then write a sentence about what it's probably really like. Write for 10 minutes about this job. Make sure to include the specific things you imagined about this job. Make sure to post your story in the comments of this blog to be entered into the May/June comment contest for a free class!

For instance, I would love to make my living naming the OPI nail polishes or by being a candy taster. Also, I always imagined that running my own writing school would be a dream job where I'd have endless free time to write, exercise and relax. I was surprised to learn that although running the Pad has some wonderful aspects, I rarely have enough enough time to blow dry my hair and drop off dry cleaning, not to mention sit still.

What's your dream job? Write about it for 10 minutes, and you could win a free class!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Publishing Picture Books with Sarah Maizes

By Kelly Smith

If you have a lot of great ideas for picture books but don't know where to start, look no further. Nobody knows more about picture books than Sarah Maizes!

Sarah Maizes is the award winning author of three picture books for children including"On My Way to the Bath" - a Children's Book of the Month Club Main Selection and Children's Book Committee "Best Children's Book of 2012" and it's upcoming sequels, On My Way to Bed," and "On My Way to School, published by Walker Books/Bloomsbury. Sarah is also a former Literary Agent with the William Morris Agency in NYC representing the following children's book authors: Dav Pilkey, Cynthia Rylant, Paul Zindel, Bill Cosby, amongst others and a former TV development executive for kid's television.

Since she's been on both sides of the fence (as a literary agent and successful author), Sarah knows all about how to avoid the rookie mistakes and make your work stand out. If you want to learn how to write and publish a picture books, check out Sarah's Writing the Marketable Picture Book class this Tuesday, June 25th and Get Your Picture Book Published starting on July 13th!

In the meantime, Sarah graciously answered a few questions about how she got her start in the field and what makes a good picture book.

What inspired you to become a literary agent and how did you transition to children's book author?

I have always loved kids entertainment: books, cartoons, anything that made me laugh. I was a Jim Henson fanatic growing up and it was my dream to create material like "The Muppets." When I graduated from college I was looking for work when I got a call from a HR agency about an interview as an assistant to the Literary Agent for Maurice Sendak, Steven Kellogg, Rosemary Wells and James Marshall and I thought "H*LL YEAH!"  From there, I moved to William Morris and helped create a children's entertainment division.

As for how I got into writing for kids: after I had kids, I had a new perspective on life as a kid - and combined with my love of humor - these stories just started popping out.  I couldn't stop them!

What qualities did you look for in a picture book projects when you were an agent? 

There are three things that are most important to me in a kid's story:

1. An authentic kids' voice
That's the most important thing to me. So many projects came to me and the writing is what a grown-up THINKS a kid would enjoy - as opposed to a subject matter that is interesting to today's kids and a voice that rings true to a kid.

2. Humor
It's hard to define humor, but I can say it needs to come naturally from the material and not feel forced. I have a soft side too, but I hate anything that's too sweet.  If something is soft, it needs to feel very real and relatable to a kid.

3. Focus
What is the author trying to tell in their story and do they do it without flying off on tangents?

What did you learn as a literary agent that informs your writing? 

As a literary agent I learned two things:

1. Nothing is more important than the writing.
So many people come to agents and say "This would make a great series!" or "I can see the dolls!"  If your story isn't strong, it won't sell. If it doesn't sell, you're not going to see book #4 anytime soon.

2. Criticism is subjective. VERY subjective.  Rejection is a part of the game and you can't let it get you down. You have to believe in your work and your vision. Just because five editors pass on your manuscript, that doesn't mean it's not a good or worthwhile book. That being said, when 20 editors ALL come back to you with the same note then it's time to evaluate what they're saying about your work and make some edits.

Give us a little class preview. What's the most important thing that will keep your picture book out of the slush pile?

If you want to stand out, write something unique. Bring something new to the marketplace. Even if your writing is strong, if you've written another story about an unwanted Christmas Tree, you've got an uphill battle in front of you. Share a new perspective or a fresh voice if you want to stand apart from. . . (dun, dun, duuuuunnnnnnn). . . the pile.

At what point in the process does the illustrator become involved in your picture book?

You do not need an illustrator attached to your picture book to sell it.  In fact, it's better to try to sell your manuscript without - unless you are a fabulous illustrator yourself.  In that case, you are the type of author who is in high demand!

Are you children your toughest critics?

Are you kidding me?  They are my biggest supporters! They love being the subject of stories and they laugh harder than anyone. But then again, they're laughing at themselves. And I really respect that about them.

Thanks, Sarah! That was so helpful and interesting. We can't wait for your picture book classes in June and July! Keep in touch with Sarah on her facebook page and @SarahMaizes on Twitter.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Writing Prompt: Good Things Come In Small Packages

By Marilyn Friedman

We had an amazing TV Horror panel last Friday! 60 people heard Tim Minear, Lee Shipman, and Angela Kang share some very interesting stories about American Horror Story, Hemlock Grove, and The Walking Dead. Click here for pictures! 

And, if you're looking for something thrilling to do Tuesday night, join us at
Writers With Drinks at The Blind Barber. It's fun and free. 

This week and next week on the menu at Writing Pad is our Mini Writing Pad Bootcamp with bestselling author Brett Paesel, Twitter class with expert Rob Gokee (this Wed.--he has 14,500 followers and gets 90% of his freelance work on Twitter) and our Short Story class with multi-award winning writer, Maureen McHugh (Thurs., June 20). Maureen will show you how to write a thrilling tale with vivid details and characters. Her last collection of short stories "After The Apocalypse" won Publisher Weekly's best book of the year! Scroll down for your free writing prompt inspired by these classes, and I hope to see you soon.

Writing The Marketable Picture Book
Literary Games: The Art of The Found Story
Zombies, Space Ships, Killer Robots: Science Fiction/Fantasy Writing
Get Your Picture Book Published
Memorable Memoir Bootcamp
Addictive Fiction: Writing The Knock Out Novel
A Novel Approach: Mastering The Long Form Story
It's Story Time: Storytelling For Kids
Short Story Reboot: Rescuing Your Crashed Creation

Journalism/Web Writing
Work The Room: Mastering The Power of The Cocktail Party Pitch
From Mad Men to Breaking Bad: Writing the Television Drama

Writing Prompt:

As I mentioned before, this writing prompt is inspired by our Mini BootcampTwitter and Short Story classes this week and next week that pay homage to compact stories.  Here's a recipe for your own story that pays homage to small things.

Make a list of 5 things that you love that are short or small. Feel free to steal a few of mine (e.g. poems, flash fiction, little kids and the honest and funny things they say, comebacks, dark chocolate nibs from TJ's, miniskirts, mini cupcakes). Now pick one. Add a specific sensory detail (smell, sound, taste, touch) that conveys what you love about this thing (e.g. For mini skirts, the feel of soft, stretchy fabric against my thigh).

Spend 10 minutes writing a story, poem, or scene that includes this short or small thing and the specific sensory detail. Don't forget to post the results of your writing session in the comments of this blog to be entered into the May/June contest!

Write about something that you love that is short or small. Post your story, scene or poem in the comments of this blog for your chance to win a free class!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Erin Aubry Kaplan and The Art of The Op-Ed Essay

By Alana Saltz

If you have a lot of strong opinions, writing an op-ed can be a great way to share your ideas and passions with the world. And nobody knows more about op-ed's than Erin Aubry Kaplan!

Erin is an award-winning journalist, columnist, and op-ed writer who has written about African-American political, economic, and cultural issues since 1992. She is currently a contributing editor to the op-ed section of the Los Angeles Times, and from 2005 to 2007 was a weekly op-ed columnist – the first black weekly op-ed columnist in the paper’s history.

Erin knows all about how to find, research, and tell a good story. If you want to learn how to write, pitch, and publish your own op-eds, check out Erin's Writing the Op-Ed Essay class starting July 23rd! She'll help you finish and publish two 800 word op-eds.

In the meantime, Erin graciously answered a few questions about how she got her start in the field, what makes a good op-ed piece, and the future of the industry.

How did you get your start in the field of journalism?

I kind of took a circuitous route. I always wanted to write, so in college I majored in English and later got a graduate degree in acting because I thought I wanted to do that. I have a good friend who was a staff writer at the L.A. Times who started his own independent paper in the late ‘80s and recruited me to write for it. It was there that I learned how to be a journalist, how to report and be edited. I learned how to write columns and use a more personal voice to address big issues. Because of that experience, I was able to start writing for the Times in 1992. My friend Ed was and still is a great mentor.      

What exactly is an op-ed, and how is it different than an essay or article?

An op-ed can come close to being either one of those things. The main difference is length—they’re usually about 800 words at most, while traditional essays are longer and articles can be any length, from a 300-word news brief to a 5,000-word feature story. A newspaper op-ed is essentially a brief, focused argument or opinion about something, frequently but not always a current event or topical issue, written in the first person. There’s no set format—some read like essays, others like news analysis, still others like satire. But they all have to make a clear point, move from to A to B.    

You have written a lot of op-eds. How do you keep coming up with ideas for op-eds?

I used to write a weekly op-ed for the Times, and coming up with ideas was sometimes challenging; there were some weeks that I just thought I had nothing to say. Of course I was always wrong. I once asked my friend Ed about what made a good news or feature story, and he said, “Actually, anything that interests you can be a good story.” I think the same thing applies to op-eds—if it interests you, or makes you angry or passionate or excited, it’s probably worth writing about.

What qualities do you think save an op-ed from the slush pile?

The op-eds most likely to be published are those that are clear, well-argued and well-written. And they should be within the required word count—no editor is going to read 2,000 words, no matter how brilliant, when the paper can only run 500. If it’s that long, it’s a different kind of piece. Having some personal experience or expertise in what you're writing about is also helpful. In other words, having some connection to the topic raises the stakes and makes the op-ed more compelling and therefore more likely to be published.        

What advice would you give writers hoping to break into the field of journalism?

Print journalism has been downsizing for years, newspapers have been closing, and while virtually all papers and magazines have websites, they don’t tend to pay very much for pieces, if they pay at all. The good news is that journalism is something that will always be in demand and will always survive for that reason—it’s the only profession mentioned in the Constitution! So it’s one of those things that a democracy really can’t do without. All the websites and blogs in the world can’t substitute for reporters whose job it is to research, report, write and make sense of things. No offense to bloggers (I’m one!) but journalism is a big and important job that needs to be done well, with the backing of a news operation.    

Thanks, Erin! That was very helpful and interesting. We can't wait for your op-ed class in July!

Blog & Twitter Contest Winners

By Alana Saltz

We had a lot of great submissions for our March/April comment contest AND our Silly Personal Ad Twitter contest. A big thank you to everyone who participated. If you didn't win this round, you can submit a response to any prompt in May and June to be entered into our May/June contest for a chance to win a free one day class.

Our blog and Twitter contest winners are...Amber Hubert and Priscilla Leonard!

Amber Hubert is our March/April comment winner. We asked Amber a couple of questions about her writing process:

What's your favorite place to write?
My favorite place to write is in a coffee shop. Just not Intelligentsia! 

What inspires you to write?
I get inspired to write when I read great writing.

You can read her response to our "Favorite Place to De-Stress" writing prompt here.

Priscilla Leonard is the winner of our Twitter Silly Personal Ad contest.

Her ad read: "Dependable daydreamer seeks concert go-er for music and macaroni + cheese." You can read other clever silly personal ads here.

We also asked Priscilla some questions about her writing process:

What's your favorite place to write?
My favorite place to write is probably at a little local bakery, but my most productive place in at my dining room table.

What inspires you to write?
I have always been inspired to write by the complexities of our personal histories and relationships. I really like exploring the layers of why we behave the way we do; we're pretty fascinating and funny.

Congratulations, Amber and Priscilla! We're looking forward to reading your entries for our upcoming May/June contest.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Write, Write, Write: An Interview With WP Success Brandy Colbert

by Alana Saltz

Brandy Colbert is a Writing Pad alum who recently sold her YA novel "Pointe" to G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (an imprint of Penguin). Her book will hit the shelves in April 2014. We asked Brandy a few questions about her journey to publication and what advice she has for writers hoping to publish their own debut book.

Can you talk a little about "Pointe" and your path to publication?

"Pointe" is about a gifted ballet dancer who must come to terms with the role she played in her childhood friend's abduction after he returns home four years later, when they're 17. I began working on the novel in 2009, but four years later, it's been through many drafts and plot changes. With the help of critique partners, I polished the book and began querying in May 2011. I signed with my fantastic agent in August 2011, and after another round of revisions, we sold the book in October of that year. Since then, I've been working with my insanely talented editor at G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin, which will publish the book in April 2014.

Was it difficult for you to finish the book? What helped you push it to the finish line?

Actually, when I was only a few chapters away from finishing the first draft, I saw a blog interview with a debut author whose book was nearly identical to mine. Like, basically all of the same plot points. This isn't super uncommon, as no idea is 100% original. But I was devastated. This was the book that had been in me for years, and I couldn't believe someone else had gotten to it first. Luckily, I had amazing, supportive friends who convinced me to set it aside for a while and work on something else. I did, and when I came back to "Pointe," I had a lot of fresh ideas to revamp it and truly make it my story. After that, the new draft just poured out of me and I finished it in about three months.

What does your daily writing practice look like?

I am definitely not a "write everyday" sort of person. I admire people who can adhere to a schedule like that, but I've never been able to do it. That being said, I rarely go more than a couple of days between writing stints. And when I'm not writing I'm always thinking about my story, jotting down notes as plot points come to me, or looking over sections I've already written. This often leads to marathon writing sessions when I actually open up the Word doc. I'm a night owl, so my best work is usually done from 8 p.m. onward.

What was the first class you took at WP? How did it influence your writing?

I took the "So You Want to Be a Writer" class with Marilyn Friedman at Writing Pad, which ended up being perfect for me. I've been writing since I was seven years old, but decided at the age of 27 that I wanted to start writing seriously, for publication. I'd always been incredibly shy about sharing my work (I still am; go figure), and knew the class would push me to become more confident, which was obviously needed if I was going to be querying agents and (hopefully) approaching editors with my work one day. It was also a great way to meet other people who took writing as seriously as I did, which helped me view it as work and not just a hobby.

What advice do you have for aspiring Young Adult fiction writers?

Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Repeat till infinity. Read within your genre, but outside of it, too. Read anything you can get your hands on: poetry, essays, short stories, scientific articles, blogs. You never know what will inform your work. Personally, I rarely feel like writing if I'm not reading, so it's essential to the writing process for me. Also: Don't give up, always write what you love, and don't chase trends.

What did you like best about the class you took at Writing Pad?

Writing Pad was such a fun, supportive atmosphere. I felt safe there, and always knew the critiques offered (yes, even the tougher ones) were intended to help improve my work, not tear it down. And the delicious snacks were a definite perk, of course!

Congratulations, Brandy! We can't wait for the book to come out.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Writing Prompt: Silly Personal Ad

We need Wonder Woman's
special boots to get
through this week!
By Marilyn Friedman and Alana Saltz

Last week was a hectic and wonderful week for Marilyn! She got an essay published on Salon. Hooray! This week's prompt is inspired by her essay topic (a search for couple's friends in LA) and our Twitter class with Rob Gokee!

Rob has 8000 followers, gets 90% of his freelance work as a composer from Twitter, AND he met his wife on Twitter. He wrote the popular book "
In the Belly of the Fail Whale: How Twitter Changed My Life In One Year" about his experiences with Twitter and will be sharing his tips for leveraging this social media outlet on Wednesday, July 19th. We'll be there! We hope that you'll join us so you too can learn how to use Twitter to boost your writing, acting career or promote your business.

If you're looking for something thrilling to do this Friday night, join us at our 
TV Horror Panel with EP's and writers Tim Minear ("American Horror Story"), Lee Shipman ("Hemlock Grove"), and Angela Kang ("The Walking Dead) on June 7th. They'll talk about how they create scary TV shows that keep us on the edge of our seats (only $5, includes snacks and sangria)!

Classes June 3-10:
It's All About You: A One-Person Show Intensive
Memorable Memoir: Writing A Compelling Past (1 Day)

Other Classes:
    Creative Writing, Memoir, and Fiction

    Journalism/Web Writing

    Work The Room: Mastering The Power of The Cocktail Party Pitch

      Writing Prompt and Twitter Contest:
      In honor of our upcoming Twitter class (taught by Master Tweeter @RobGokee), we're having a special contest just for this prompt. The winner will get a free writing class AND a digital copy of Rob Gokee's book, "In The Belly of the Fail Whale: How Twitter Changed My Life in One Year." 

      Write a silly personal ad about yourself in 80 characters or less. You'll be adding a link and hashtag for the contest at the end, making it a total of 140 characters (the Twitter limit). It could be an ad for a relationship, a new friend, a couples friendship, etc. It could even be the ad you would have written to attract your current significant other. Have fun with it!

      Here's how you do it (it only takes 10 min., we promise):
      1. Write down one strong personality trait that you have
      2. Write down something that you love with a passion
      3. Write down a character trait or short description for your prospective partner
      4. Specify what type of relationship you're looking for
      5. Now fill in the blanks:
      __________    and _____________     seeks _________ for________.
      (personality trait)    (what you love)     (desired trait for desired relationship type)

      6. Write your ad in your own words, make it clever using only 80 characters total including spaces.

      7. Put your ad in quotes and add this at the end of it: 
      Write a silly personal ad: #wpcontest

      Tweet your ad (and post it in the comments of this blog) to be entered into the Tweet Contest for a free class and a digital copy of Rob Gokee's book! Be sure to include the link and hashtag to be entered into the contest. 
      The deadline to submit your ad is this Tuesday, June 4th at midnight.

      For example, this is what Marilyn did (but don't worry--she's not friendless anymore! The story in her essay took place almost 10 years ago.):
      “Neurotic hostess and stuffed pizza addict seeks artsy foodie couples friends.” Write a silly personal ad: #wpcontest 

      And here's Alana's ad:
      "Nerdy girl and Doctor Who fan seeks companion for love and time travel." Write a silly personal ad: #wpcontest

      If you had 80 characters to create a personal ad for yourself (or a fictional character), what would it say? 

      Tweet your ad (and post it in the comments of the blog) to be entered into the Tweet Contest for a free class and a digital copy of Rob Gokee's book!  Be sure to include the link and hashtag to be entered into the contest. The deadline to submit your ad is this Tuesday, June 4th at midnight.