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9- or 10 Christin Goetz Bio PicAs a new member to the Nebraska Writer’s Guild and a recent MFA graduate I am always on the lookout for new writing resources in Nebraska. The Guild provides so many great opportunities and I’m excited to be a part of the community here. So excited, in fact, that I wanted to contribute one resource to the group that I don’t think many Nebraska writers know about yet. It’s a writing school in Los Angeles called Writing Pad.

Writing Pad offers writing classes and retreats (with gourmet snacks!) in everything from fiction to screenwriting. They also hold storytelling events and mixers for writers in the LA area. The founders of Writing Pad, Marilyn Friedman and Jeff Bernstein, say their goal is to not only help students jumpstart writing projects but also to develop connections between students and high-profile teachers.

Marilyn said, “We go to great lengths to find these teachers. We want people to build relationships that will take their careers to the next level.”

The best part about Writing Pad is that it is available online, too. So anyone from California to Nebraska to Australia can make connections with Writing Pad’s network. This year alone they’ve offered the following classes online in video-conferencing format:
• TV Drama Pilot with Jason Grote (writer for Mad Men, Hannibal)
• TV Comedy or Drama Pilot with Gloria Calderon Kellett (How I Met Your Mother)
• Personal Essay with Natasha Vargas Cooper (New York Times) and Anna David (New York Times, Cosmopolitan)
• Memoir with Sara Benincasa (Agorafabulous, Jezebel)
• General Creative Writing with DC Pierson (Crap Kingdom, Captain America)
• Blog Writing with Natasha Vargas Cooper (New York Times)
• Travel Writing with Eric Hiss (Conde Nast)
• Sci Fi/Urban Fantasy with Amber Benson (9 published novels, Tara from Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
• Novel Writing with Amber Benson and Francesca Lia Block (30 novels)
• Twitter with Rob Gokee (How Twitter Changed My Life In One Year)

I recently took one of the general creative writing classes with DC Pierson. There were about six of us in the class. It was scheduled for 9 – 11 p.m. central. Each night I’d log onto GoToMeeting, which is an easy-to-use web conferencing tool. We learned that the sound was better if just one person was on video at a time. So DC was usually on-screen but we each took turns reading our work and accepting critiques throughout the class period.
Unfortunately, Writing Pad can’t offer its gourmet snacks virtually but the benefit of taking the class online rather than in-person was that I was able to participate from the comfort of my own writing space as I wrote and brainstormed with writers from all over the country. It was a fun experience and really stimulating for my creativity to be working with writers from other locations who were also in the comfort of their own studios and bedrooms. I had all my writing tools at my fingertips while I tapped into the inspiration and muse of other writers in different genres and locales whom I wouldn’t normally have met.

I haven’t taken one of the personal essay classes through Writing Pad, but according to the website they have helped at least 54 students get paid and published in publications such as Self, Marie Claire, LA Times, Salon, Spirit Magazine, and New York Magazine. It sounds like the journalism and the screenwriting classes would be good investments for any writer who wants to boost his likelihood of publication while also connecting with writers on the west coast in those genres.
I was excited to learn that Jeff and Marilyn are currently trying to expand their network to Brooklyn, New York, Chicago and the Midwest to find talent that is harder to access in LA—serious literary writers, publishers of literary books and writers without connections to the writing networks on the coasts.

Having received my MFA through a school in LA I was exposed to the literary community out there. It’s vibrant and, with the TV industry, very collaborative and creative. It’s a community that I think any Nebraska writer could benefit from connecting with. Check out the Writing Pad website at writingpad.com, and comment on this post with any other resources you know of to help connect Nebraska writers to the coasts!

My website:  http://about.me/cmerwald

rhonda hall pictHow do you write comedy? It’s hard to say, but there are certain rules that can help. Similarly, if you are not writing comedy and something isn’t working, consider the Rule of Three.
Wikipedia describes the Rule of Three as:
A writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.

The Rule of three often creates a progression in which tension is created, built up, and finally released.
I believe, this may stem from the root of our core, The Holy Trinity, The Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Other examples include: Three Blind Mice, The Three Little Pigs, and the Three Amigos. The Three Stooges, The Three Wise Men and Snap, Crackle Pop.
Here’s an example from one of my favorite books, Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns.

The main character, Will, a child, just barely escapes death after a train runs over him. (He ducked.)

By the time I got it loose, the clickety-clacks were plain as day and getting louder, louder, LOUDER!
And then it was “Thank you, Lord, thank you, God, thank you, sir…”
Boy howdy, boy howdy, boy howdy!
Still and all, that was what kept reminding me, I wasn’t dead.
But boy howdy, I was alive! Thank you, Jesus.
If you look at each sentence…. louder, louder, LOUDER! What if she had used two?
“By the time I got it loose, the clickety-clacks were plain as day and getter louder, LOUDER!” Doesn’t have the same emotional impact. Or the next sentence, if we used four.
And then it was “Thank you, Lord, thank you, God, thank you, sir, thank you, Jesus… It not only takes away from the sentence, and it’s not as funny.

Boy howdy, boy howdy, boy howdy, boy howdy! Four is redundant. There is a beat to three, not four.

Then she wraps it up by incorporating the entire paragraph.
But boy howdy, (one) I was alive! (two) Thank you, Jesus. (three)
In the movie, The Great Escape. Three characters taste their potato moonshine.

Steve McQueen delivers a surprising “Wow,”

James Garner delivers his affirming, “Wow,”

and Jud Taylor delivers an exasperated, “Wow.”
The scene is repeated when they drink a sample rather than just taste it.

There are countless examples, but I’ve only listed some. If you are trying to write comedy, avoid going overboard and stick to three. If you are not writing comedy, use the rule of three to create tension, build it up and then release it.
Visit Rhonda M. Hall  http://rhondamhall.wordpress.com/

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