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Ashley

Netflix's Chef's Table
Food, Writing

Why Writers Should Watch Netflix’s Chef’s Table

By now many have seen Netflix’s Chef’s Table. Now in its fourth season, it’s a series structured around 45-minute episodes focusing on one notable chef each. Yes, they’re “food porn” worthy, with gorgeous, slow-motion segments highlighting minute details of particular dishes. But they’re also explorations of people’s journeys to pursue their passions, the hardships they overcome, the pressures of society and family to conform, the financial pitfalls they tumbled into … In short, the show is about the pursuit of dreams. It’s also about the creative process, and if you’re a writer, here are a few reasons you should watch.

They Fail

Every writer knows the sting of failure. It doesn’t matter if it’s the paragraph you can’t perfect no matter how many times you read it, the form rejection to a query you sent to your top-choice agent, or a publisher who decided against your project. If you write, you fail.

So do these chefs. They’re at the top of their games, highly regarded within their communities and worldwide—and yet, they speak emotionally and openly about their failures and fears.

And we, as writers, soak in the words. We find common footing with a profession we possibly felt was far removed from our own craft, and we find community in the shared failures we all experience on our creative journeys.

Netflix's Chef's Table

They Inspire

Creatives are constantly seeking inspiration. The well depletes and must be refilled. Chef’s Table inspires in many ways. Here are two.

First, it’s visually stunning. Plates are prepared in fast, then slow, motion and displayed to the camera in quick succession, showering you with vibrant colors and intricate arrangements. It’s visual overload in the best way, a way that leaves the mind packed with fresh inspiration to invent on the page.

Secondly, there is intense emotion in each episode. Family lives are tremendously impacted by the pursuit of greatness, and a single fleeting comment can speak volumes. Other times, the chefs speak openly about overcoming barriers within society and tradition. I often end an episode contemplating how each chef presented his or her journey. What did they gloss over? What did they dwell on? What motivated them? Why? These biographies are explorations of human nature, of sacrifice, and of love in numerous forms. These are people striving for something—exactly what every character we write should do.

Netflix's Chef's Table

They Don’t Give Up

Gear Patrol’s J. Travis Smith said it best: “It’s not a cooking show so much as it’s a show about failing to concede a limitation on what’s possible.”

And thus, we’re back to failure. If you’re a writer, you’ve been given a choice. Once, twice, many times. Do I stop bruising my ego and heart in pursuit of something that shows little promise right now, or do I hobble my broken creative soul through the muck a while longer?  Do I stop pushing myself creatively for something easier? Stop pushing for an agent? To sell a particular project?

Before you decide, watch Chef’s Table. Don’t binge it. Let each episode marinate for a bit. Then ask yourself what’s possible, and keep going.

Little Writerly Things (of note)
Little Writerly Things

Little Writerly Things

I’ve been brainstorming what I’d like to do with this space now that I have it, and one thing that came to me is to offer a some-what regular list of writerly and editorly things that you might find of interest. I’m not going to go as far as to say it’ll appear every Friday (let’s not get too ambitious), but I’ll strive to make it as regular as it can be. So without further ado, some Little Writerly Things.

  • An interesting peak into the rooms of a handful of writers, via NYTimes Magazine.
  • This fun article by Grantland, in which the staff lists what they would purchase for $20 (in leu of the recently launched music and “curated editorial” website Tidal). Staffer Katie Baker gets the gold star.
  • This post by Grammarly on tricks to improving your proofreading.
  • Author Julianna Baggott’s blog post about accidentally meeting a person of note. I love Julianna’s blog and writing, and I could pretty much link to every post she does, but you get just one instead, because that’s how things are done.
  • A post by Jami Gold on dealing with slow progress (via my awesome editing friend and critique partner Carmen Erickson).
Editing, Writing

A Brief Look at Reedsy

A couple weeks ago, I received an invitation to join a new venture called Reedsy. Reedsy is an organization that allows writers and authors to browse a curated marketplace of editors, designers, proofreaders…anyone they may need in order to get their manuscript ready for submission or publication. There are some interesting things happening and planned for Reedsy, and they’ve interviewed some great folks on their blog thus far (such as Nick Stephenson and Seth Godin). Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about it in their writeup:

Reedsy is a self-publishing startup that currently offers its users access to a marketplace of skilled freelance book-production professionals. Beginning in spring 2015, however, the site will debut an online collaborative-editing tool on the platform, and there are also plans for a curated Reedsy book imprint.

I’ve played with Novlr‘s online writing tool and found it interesting, but I’m a creature of habit and I like my Word. (Admittedly I also had a hard time trusting my words to the almighty Cloud. Not that my USB drive backup is any better…) I’m not saying I wouldn’t use it in the future (cloud-based writing can be handy; ideas come from everywhere and I’m not often at my desk to write a phrase down), but right now I’m keeping my writing based in Word. Reedsy is planning to offer an online writing platform, too, except this one would link up to their publishing marketplace, allowing writers a one-stop shop of sorts to write and publish their works, all through the Reedsy interface.

So if you’re a writer or editor, I encourage you to click over and give Reedsy a look. You can click here for the Publishers Weekly article.

Life, Writing

DOGGONE at Desert Island Supply Co.

Quick, fun news! I’ll have a small piece of writing (nonfiction essay) in the chapbook for an event here in Birmingham, AL, tomorrow night. More info:

DOGGONE is an event of words, food and letterpress about the food and culinary institutions of Birmingham’s diverse neighborhoods. Featuring artist Frank Brannon and his one-night-only letterpress hot dog stand, this event was inspired by Frank’s recollections of the now defunct Dino’s Hot Dogs and Hamburgers in Woodlawn. Other writers and artists will present their works, including poet Tina Mozelle Braziel. DOGGONE will also feature the release of a chapbook of writing from the event.

Are you in or around the Birmingham area tomorrow night? Brave the cold and come! I’d love to meet you and chat about my three loves: writing, food, and letterpress.
DOGGONE
February 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Desert Island Supply Company
5500 1st Ave N
Birmingham, AL 35212
Writing

Mary Oliver’s Interview with On Being

I recently discovered podcasts on my iPhone. I’m quite late to the podcast club, I admit, but now that I’m  here, I’ve been enjoying the resources it provides to writers. It’s not a surprise to any writer that the act of putting pen to paper is often isolating. Podcasts have given me an unexpected venue through which to feel the companionship of other writers and people contemplating things that I am also contemplating at the time. And it’s nice to hear this articulated aloud rather than via emails.

So it was that I stumbled upon the podcast series On Being this past weekend. On Being recently interviewed the wonderful Mary Oliver, poet extraordinaire. I won’t take away from the podcast by summarizing it here, but I will say that Ms. Oliver touches on topics like religion, writing as a discipline, writing as healing, wounds and how we deal with them, the family dynamic, and much more. If you, like me, are new to podcasts (and even if you aren’t), I suggest you give this a listen. Preferably somewhere where you can keep a pen and paper nearby to jot down all the things the conversation will bring to mind.

Editing

The Great Oxford Comma Debate

I once had someone ask me to please explain to him, for once and for all, what in the blazes this thing called an Oxford comma was. So, I did. But then I stumbled upon this nicely done video by Ted-Ed, and thought this was a much more thorough explanation.

As for me, I was taught to use a serial comma in college, and it’s become so natural that it gives me pause when I’m editing a project that doesn’t use it. (I do or don’t based on what an editing client desires.) How about you? Are you an Oxford comma subscriber?