Tag Archives: how to

How To Read A Cocktail Recipe

Outside of writing, tutoring, and working at My Sister’s Closet at the YWCA, I teach bartending classes every quarter at the Homewood Library. Sharing my knowledge from bartending and writing research is one of the most fun ways to blend the two vocations together.

For every class, I batch the cocktails that attendees drinks, then demonstrate how to mix each cocktail on its own. All of the juices and syrups are made before the class begins. When I talk through making the cocktail, it looks easy. But without hundreds of hours of practice, many of the movements and practices probably don’t feel natural. That’s OK.

Next time you want to make a cocktail at home, keep a few things in mind to make the outcome more delicious. If you’re so inclined, you can apply these tips to the recipes in my book that’s due to come out in December.

  1. Be confident. Everybody looks silly shaking cocktails. Do it with confidence, and you’ll look more the part of the badass bartender.
  2. Avoid ingredients with artificial ingredients. Store bought syrups and juices
  3. Be precise. Use jiggers or other measuring devices. Yes, many bartenders don’t, but if they’re making craft cocktails, they’ve had a lot of training. At home, 1/8 ounce too much or too little of an ingredient can throw a drink way out of whack. Use the dang jigger.
  4. Read into instructions. “Shake vigorously” usually means to shake a cocktail for 10-20 seconds, 10 for pellet or chip ice, and 20 for huge cubes. Same goes for “stir vigorously.”

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How To Pitch An Idea: Honest edition

Creating article ideas is easy. Getting them to print is much more challenging. In my four years of freelancing, I’ve gotten better at framing ideas for specific publications and figuring out what would fit at what publication. What follows is my process for sharing my ideas with others.

1. Record a flash of brilliance. It doesn’t have to be perfectly formed, but if it doesn’t make it into one of my many notebooks, I’ll start playing with Tessie and it’ll be gone.

2. Google it. Before you even consider finding a market, search the topic. If my idea has been covered, I’ll try to find a more creative angle to us as an approach. If my exact topic has been covered, that item stays in my notebook, but gets put on the back burner until I can figure out how to tackle it.

3. List publications. If this article could fit at one of my bucket list publications, I’ll pitch it there first. If/when it gets rejected, I can restructure the idea and present it to one of my mainstays.

4. Draft the pitch e-mail. Obsess over every comma, word choice, and sentence structure. After the content is out of my brain, I reshape it (and reshape it and reshape it) until it blends the publication’s voice and style with my own.

5. Hit send. My usual ritual is to close one eye, stare warily at the screen, pray for minor errors, and click. Then I jump back and watch it leave my computer and freak out.

6. Wait. Now that it’s sent, what tiny and idiotic errors did I make in the e-mail? OH GOD, I MISPLACED A COMMA.

7. Keep waiting. Don’t give in to self-doubt. Editors are busy people, and if I don’t hear back within a week, I’ll send a follow up message.

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Five ways to catch your muse

lightbulbInspiration is one of the most difficult parts of writing. When your muse is present, the words flow like water and editing is a breeze. On the days s/he takes off, composition can feel like a Sisyphean task. For me, these days are frustrating, but they’re also an opportunity for organization. Here are five ways to pin down your muse.

  1. Make lists. Itemize everything that you have to do. Include transcription, brainstorming and research. Breaking down each task into manageable portions can make it seem less daunting. Document all due dates, freelance assignments and payments to make collections easier.
  2. Read and research. If you’re truly stuck, read articles dealing with the same subject. The poorly written ones can give you an idea of how not to address the topic, while the good ones can lend phrases and lede ideas. However, don’t copy them exactly. Plagiarism is as poorly regarded in journalism as it is in college. Don’t do it.
  3. Dump out everything in your brain. Seriously. Write it all out as stream of consciousness. Blow out all the insecurities, TV references and lingering misgivings you might have. Getting it all on paper will purge your mind of some of the distractions that are splitting your focus.
  4. Break up your routine. Get outside. Move around. Get your blood flowing — taking a break for physical activity can give your brain and body the chance to switch gears and relieve stress.
  5. Write at least one crappy first draft. Practicing writing every day makes effective writing much easier. Personally, I’ve found that writing for 30-45 minutes each day saves me hours of stress and decreased productivity during the weeks I have multiple deadlines.

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Six ways to build an editorial calendar

photo (7)In both blogging and running, I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. After a hiatus during a technical medical writing gig, I’m doing right by my writing. I’m in the habit of writing something every day, and I’m making sure to balance that work with physical exertion. Here are some tips for setting up an editorial calendar of your own.

  1. Choose your blog’s focus. Unless your blog goes viral or you have thousands of followers, your devoted readers will most likely be people you know. Pick a subject that you want to read about, and write posts that would education and challenge you.
  2. Set a schedule and put it on your calendar. If you’re only posting once a week, do it like clockwork. It’s easier for your readers to catch your posts if they have a general idea of when they’ll go live.
  3. Practice regularly. Find the time to write every day. Developing a voice and skill set requires regular practice, and with time, it will take less time to sculpt each word of a post.
  4. Write in advance. If you’re always scrambling to meet self-imposed due dates, come up with a list of posts for the week or month and write them all. That way, you have posts in reserve if a current event or other topic strikes your fancy.
  5. Schedule posts. Most blogging platforms allow users to schedule posts. This function can take the guesswork and variability out of an editorial calendar once it’s set.
  6. Link up social media. Want your posts to go up in the morning without waking you up? Link your social media accounts to your blog. Every time a post is published, so will a tweet or Facebook status with a link to the entry.
  7. Ask a friend to be your accountability buddy. Have them call you out if you miss a post. In any craft, having a support system can make all the difference, especially when you’re starting out.

Personally, I’ve still got some work to do. My non-negotiable editorial calendar goes into effect next week, and the order of my posts will change. Though I still need to ask someone to be my accountability buddy, I’ve been doing better with every other part of this list. For here forward, expect Cocktail of the Week posts to go live on Mondays, running updates on Wednesdays and writing on Fridays.

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Another successful interaction with a man!

From “Love Actually”

As a disclaimer, it takes a lot to keep my attention and I suck at flirting, so falling in love is a long process for me. Several friends have banned me from wingman duty after I got bored, started checking my phone and wandered off while on call.
Follow these nine easy steps and you just might fall in love. It worked for me.

1. Meet new people. Whether it’s through volunteering at a local film festival or through trivia, diversifying your friend group can lead to increased happiness on its own.

2. Take a chance. Did a cute guy just sit down across from you? Start the conversation. Is he interesting? Stay for a bit.

3. Judge their interest level. Is he smiling? Are there Lisa Frank stickers available? If so, aim for the forehead. Is he still smiling? Congratulations! You have just had another successful interaction with a man.

4. Connect on social media. Does he like Nickelback? If so, ignore. If not, proceed. Mention cephalopods, NPR and mixology.

5. Hang out with a group. Commandeer the hammock. Ignore everyone to discuss the Superman black bag issue and comics-based movie franchises.

6. Hang out one on one. Take over a six pack of stout. Watch R. Kelly’s “Trapped In The Closet.” Stay up til 4 talking. Sleep. Eat breakfast. Watch football. Repeat.

7. Plan a trip abroad. After a few months, you’re going to need a little space to cement your thoughts. When you’re dropped off at 5 AM, realize you don’t want to travel alone for three weeks. Bawl. Repeat when you get out of cell range and again when you find that your Internet won’t support Skype or FaceTime.

8. Come back. More importantly, share what you learned. Smile more. Flirt more. Sometimes it takes half a world’s distance to realize the value the person next to you holds.

9. Be kind. Slip that tiny bar of bacon chocolate into his bag. Expect excited text messages two days later when he finds it.

Title taken from a recurring phrase on “30 Rock.”

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