Monday, September 19, 2011

Piece of Cake

Photo by Carol Newman

Yes, we eat chocolate at the life story writing group meetings. You can too. Jane is starting a group in Montanna, and Margaret has found a group in North Carolina. Is there a life story writing group in your area? Ask at your library. Read the book section of your local newspaper. If you find a group, join it. If not, start your own. Create a flyer and post it at the library or at your church  or community center. Soon you will have fun, friends, and find your life newly affirmed.

Jerry found affirmation by writing about two Berlin trips and having his story published in his local newspaper. Last week we talked about Jerry taking the initiative to go in person to visit the newspaper editor. This worked for Jerry, but, of course, we don't want flash mobs in editors' offices so use some common sense and courtesy.

What else did Jerry do to get his story published? Let's look again at what he said: (Jerry's comments are in blue.)

I wrote the article to have something for our writing group meeting.

Aha! There's one important reason to join a group. It keeps you motivated and writing.

It wasn't until I got started that I realized that this was a milestone anniversary of the event.

If he had not started writing, he wouldn't have had the insight. Writing is a process. Revelations come through the writing. 

Over the weekend I did some editing and touching up to round it up and to make a point.

Jerry didn't settle for that preliminary draft he brought to the group. He continued to polish and he made sure there was a point to the article. We don't want the reader to come to the end and say, "So?"

I expressed some disbelief that the paper would overlook such a major historical event,

When Jerry talked to the editor, or when you have a telephone conversation or mail conversation with an editor, be prepared to "sell" the story. Why is it important? Why would the publication's readers be interested?

and asked if it could be printed as a feature on Saturday.

Jerry suggested when and where the story would fit into the newspaper. This shows the editor you are familiar with the publication and that you have saved the editor some work by thinking about placement. A basic rule of selling: ask for the order.

Good work, Jerry. Thanks for the reminders for all of us. And for those of you without a life story writing group, keep joining us here, find a group, or start a group. It's a piece of cake. (Sorry, couldn't resist trying to tie this all together with chocolate.)

To see all of Jerry's comments and a link to his article, see the Sept. 12, 2011 post.


Why fight it? Let's just go with it as the Launching Pad? Piece of cake.  What has been easy for you? What did you think was going to be easy, but was not? What is the most delicious piece of cake you have ever had? The worst? One time I was a bar-b-que sauce judge at the American Royal in Kansas City, Mo. Sounds easy and fun, right? I love bar-b-que sauce so much I could drink it. But not this day! What were the contestants thinking? Was it some sort of "punked" routine? One sauce was truly gag-worthy.  What's your piece of cake story?

CHOCOLATE INKWELL - Have you seen the new Food Channel show, "The Pioneer Woman" on Saturday mornings? I love it. It's unlike any other show on right now. On a recent show, her young teen daughter made a sheet cake in the background while The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, made the main meal. This cake is sometimes called Texas Sheet Cake. Whatever it is called, it is easy to make and super-yummy to eat. And, it contains the magic ingredients -- Eagle Brand Condensed Milk and chocolate. This recipe is from

Chocolate Sheet Cake
Photo courtesy of

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Crisco® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray
1 1/4 cups butter, divided
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, divided

1 cup water
2 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk, divided
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts


HEAT oven to 350°F. Coat 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pan with no-stick cooking spray.

MELT 1 cup butter in small saucepan. Stir in 1/4 cup cocoa and water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in large mixing bowl. Add cocoa mixture, beating well. Stir in 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk, eggs and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan.
BAKE 15 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.
MELT remaining butter in small saucepan. Add remaining cocoa and sweetened condensed milk. Stir in powdered sugar and nuts. Spread on warm cake.

For a mocha chocolate sheet cake: ADD 1 tablespoon instant coffee with cocoa to cake and 1 tablespoon instant coffee with cocoa to frosting.

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