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A Productive March

Is the month really almost over? Wow! It seems that March has come and gone as quickly as January and February. Loss of time seems to be a common theme with writers which is why we like to stop and reflect every month to see where the time went. Here’s a sampling of what we’ve been up to this past month.

We explored of some of the writing nooks of our northwest neighbors with Sterling Coffee Roasters in Portland, and enjoyed some Nordic inspiration at Scandinavian Specialties.

Scandinavian Specialties Smorrebrod

We shared more about our writing retreat to Chelan and dabbled in a game of “what if” at the Barrel Feast at Tunnel Hill Winery. We also discussed what some writers have been doing to possibly upset the world of publishing in our Friday Forum.

Chelan Horizon

In the Writer’s Kitchen, we looked back at some of our favorites and shared a great Post-Flight Dinner idea to satisfy the family after an exhausting journey.

Saffron Risotto

All in all, a very busy and successful March! We hope your month has been just as productive. Cheers and happy writing!


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Writer’s Kitchen: Words and Wine During Travel

Harbourside Seafood Grill Bar Area

Developing a writing ritual or routine is a feat to be celebrated. So what happens when one travels, and as a result uproots all of that progress for a moment in time? For me, traveling is a time of suspension, a hiatus of sorts when all of the routines of life get put on pause and one simply focuses on enjoying the experience. Finding time for things like writing becomes a treat rather than a necessity, and as a result those times of engaging in that activity are often more profitable and enjoyable than they otherwise might be.

Sauvignon Blanc at Harbourside

While traveling to New Zealand earlier this month, I found little time to write. On a whirlwind trip for a travel story I’m working on, there was little opportunity to open my laptop for any purpose aside from planning the next day’s schedule. However, I did manage to slip away to a lovely little bar attached to a fancy seafood restaurant in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbor area for some wine tasting and writing. It was totally by accident; I had caught a cab to the area to meet up with the group I was traveling with, but finding that the event had been canceled due to weather, I found myself with a free hour and a half until dinner. I climbed the stairs up to the Harbourside Seafood Bar and Grill and settled in for some reflection. Harbourside Sign Harbourside Seafood Grill

I always carry a notebook and pen with me, which is a practice I’d encourage every writer to do without fail. Because of that, I was able to find what felt like stolen moments in which to write. I opened the notebook with no expectations other than to allow words to flow freely onto the paper. I chatted with the bartender about New Zealand wines and ordered a Sauvignon Blanc to try. He brought out my glass plus a sample of another of his favorites, and noting my interest in the wines he printed out for me a guide he uses for training the staff on the country’s grape-growing areas. I made notes of the Sauvignon Blancs I had tasted thus far in the trip, marking them on the map the bartender had given me, and I wrote in my notebook.

Harbourside Seafood Grill Stairwell

Nothing I wrote that day–neither the wine notes nor the words that flowed on the pages of my notebook–will make it into published works. Rather, I took the opportunity to synthesize thoughts that have been swirling around in my head and I processed them through the act of writing. The result was the beginning of a weeks’ long journey into discovering my ideals of the writing life and how I might begin to execute them upon returning home.

Those unanticipated moments can be as productive as the ones that are scheduled, if the writer allows him- or herself to take notice. The time I spent that afternoon are still guiding my thoughts as I work through how I want to orchestrate my schedule and time this spring.

How do you utilize those unanticipated moments when they occur? What comes out of them as a result?

Harbourside Seafood Grill Bar

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Destination Inspiration: Chocolati Café, Greenwood

Chocolati Croissant

With tasty food and plenty of nooks to tuck away into with a book or laptop, Chocolati is like a home away from home for writers. Take your pick of a large table and chairs by a window or overstuffed chairs by a little fireplace, with plenty of space and an outlet around just about every corner, it’s easy to nestle in and get to work. You may find several hours have passed before you know it!

Food and Beverages

While most people probably come for the chocolate, it would be a shame to stop there. From filled croissants to a delectable zucchini tart, the savory items should not be overlooked. That said, do feel free to order a cayenne hot cocoa or any of a number of artisan truffles. They are, after all, among the items that make this café worthy of its moniker.

Location and Atmosphere

Set on a corner just south of the major intersection of 95th and Greenwood, this café in the heart of North Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood is easy to get to, and it’s in a neighborhood that’s extremely walkable. Chocolati has an atmosphere of a study group taking place in a friend’s apartment. It’s not uncommon to find small groups meeting for business or students gathering to study, in addition to the lone writer or friends chatting over their warm mugs.

Chocolati Zucchini Tart

Writeability and Purchased Presence

This place seems made for writers. Having undergone an expansion in the past few years, Chocolati is like a really big apartment with an open floorplan that’s somewhat segmented. The main room is where you’ll order and perhaps grab a window seat if you’re only sticking around for a few minutes. But keep walking through and you’ll find more seating than you ever would have expected just walking by the storefront.

Price: $$

In addition to the usual $3 latte, you can also find a variety of wines for $7 a glass. On the sweet side, truffles run from $1.45 and up and savory treats starting at $6.


Between a major neighborhood road and a residential area, you’re bound to find street parking within a block or so.

Writer’s Tip

Bring your laptop and a charger and plenty of tip money–you’re going to want to stay here a while. Before coming, make a list of projects to work on, in order of priority, and start writing!

Find it:

Greenwood Chocolati Café
8319 Greenwood Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98103

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Daily Writer’s Fix: March 25-29

Powell's Bookshelves

Did you enjoy the Daily Writer’s Fix from a few weeks ago when we encouraged you to go digging in your beloved writing books? We’re doing it again this week!

Do you ever read through books about writing and dog-ear the pages with writing exercises, telling yourself you’ll go back to them soon and actually complete them? If so, do you return to them? This week is when you will. Each day this week, work through an exercise in one of your favorite writing books. If you have a vast collection of books, try one exercise in a book, then move on to the next book. Or if you have a particularly inspiring book, work solely with that one’s exercises. Finally, if one exercise particularly speaks to you, consider repeating that one with different topics or themes each day. Finally, if you have a particular favorite among the exercises, make a note of it and return to it whenever your writing or idea-generating needs a boost.

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Friday Forum: 3/22

Image from
Image from

An author has made major headway for writers on the publishing scene. Hugh Howey has managed to become a millionaire from his science fiction series which is available on Amazon. “Wool” sold more than 400,000 ebooks and was optioned for Hollywood, and all well before the first print edition rolled off the press! What makes this story a special example of hope for writers everywhere is this: the average author gets about 12% of the profits from a book sold through a publisher, with Hugh’s contract with Simon & Schuster he has managed to arrange for 70%. (You can listen to his interview with KIRO radio). Could this be a new trend allowing authors to benefit more from their hard work? Check out what Hugh Howey has been up to with his series Wool.

As a writer have you considered how you are going to get your work into the hands of your readers? Through a publisher? Through independent publishing? Amazon? Here’s hoping this is a new dawn for aspiring authors everywhere.

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Scraps to Scrumptious: Post-Flight Dinner

Spicy Tomato Pasta

A few nights ago, after returning home from a trip for a travel piece I’m writing, I needed to make a late dinner. Rummaging through the refrigerator, I threw away remnants of meals from the week before consisting of leftovers we didn’t have time to eat. Virtually all that was left–aside from the food that belongs to our live-in guest–were the typical fridge staples: jams, cheeses, flours, and the like. In such circumstances, however, a well-stocked pantry means that with a little creativity, there’s no excuse to say there’s nothing to eat.

I had half a box of rigatoni, a can of diced tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and chili flakes, and that was almost all I needed to put together a satisfying late-night dinner, a veritable midnight snack.

What are your favorite pantry creations?

Spicy Post-Flight Pasta
A Nooks & Cranberries original

1/2 pound rigatoni
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
6 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
Small handful of Kalamata olives, sliced lengthwise
4 garlic cloves, pressed
Generous sprinkling of dried chili flakes
1/3 stick butter
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, bring diced tomatoes to a simmer in a medium saucepan, then add sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and garlic, and continue to cook, turning up the heat to bring to a light boil. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the liquid reduces slightly. Stir in butter and allow to melt, then add garbanzo beans and cook until heated through. Drain pasta and add to the tomato sauce, stirring to combine. Serve.

Serves 3-4.

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Destination Inspiration: Sterling Coffee Roasters

Sterling Coffee Roasters Sign Portland holds a soft spot in our hearts. Just a few hours away from Seattle, it’s easy to drive there for a weekend, and it’s a perfect urban getaway for people who like books (one word: Powell’s!), good food, the Northwest lifestyle, and–of course–coffee.

Sterling Coffee Roasters

Food and Beverages

Let the flavors shine by keeping your coffee order simple: an espresso or macchiato if you like your coffee mostly straight, or a cappuccino. The flavors are incredibly smooth, while being distinct and bold. This is the way coffee should taste. As for the food, the chocolate-coffee loaf had a moist, spongy crumb, a delicate and not-t00-sweet flavor, and a color as deep as espresso. In other words, it was an ideal accompaniment to the showstopper coffee.

Sterling Coffee

Location and Atmosphere

Described on the website as “Coffeehouse Northwest’s darling child,” Sterling–which is located on Northwest 21st Avenue in the Alphabet District–is a lovely little cafe that’s “afforded every luxury, from the nicest clothes to the best finishing school.” That essence is carried throughout the entire production, from the white tablecloths to the well-dressed staff.

The Alphabet District has a distinct charm in itself. An area zoned for historic preservation, the district is named for the alphabetical progression of street names. With beautiful classic buildings lining the streets, after you’ve enjoyed your visit at the cafe, it’s worth a walk to admire the historic scenery.

Writeability and Purchased Presence

To be honest, you probably don’t want to come here with your laptop–there’s simply not enough room for a computer and your order on those charming little white linen-wrapped tabletops complete with centerpieces. But you will want to have a tiny notebook on hand to jot down all the ideas that come to you as you sip your cappuccino in such an inspiring setting.

Sterling Coffee Roasters Interior

Price: $$

Coffee and pastries cost the standard handful of dollars. Bring a $10 bill and you’ll be set for a drink and pastry.


The only complaint about this place is the parking. For a city that–like Seattle–is so focused on bicycles, everyone seems to be driving around here, and street parking seems to be in high demand.

Writer’s Tip

As the space in the cafe doesn’t really afford room for much more than a notepad, try a notepad-sized exercise to get your brain churning on your current project. Whether your project is fiction or non-fiction, see if you can boil the content of your piece down to one or two sentences. The idea of the exercise is to sharpen the message behind your piece and give focus for further critique. If you don’t have a current project, perhaps use the notepad method and work backward to develop a short story from a single nutshell sentence. Happy writing!

Find it:

Sterling Coffee Roasters
417 NW 21st Ave
Portland, OR 97209

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Daily Writer’s Fix: March 18-22

How to use Daily Writers’ Fix



 Royal Hawaiian Lanai

If photography is painting with light, then writing is painting with words. Write a long paragraph today–about anything–being as descriptive as possible.



Ferry Rope

Take your character on a boat ride. While you’re at it, feel the breeze on your skin, listen to the sounds of the engine and the water, and smell the briny air. Write exactly what your character experiences and the significance of each of those sensations.




Where does this staircase lead? What does your character hear as he climbs? Silence? A raucous party?




Today, take one of your favorite scents–it could be an herb or perhaps a perfume or your favorite food–and write about it not mentioning the way it smells, but through the lens of touch instead.



Outdoor Seating

Practice dialogue today by taking a couple of characters and placing them at a table together for drinks or dinner and seeing what happens.

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Writer’s Kitchen: Our Favorites So Far

Saffron RisottoJust a few nights ago Sarah and I cooked a special dinner for our husbands to say thanks for all their help so that we could go away for a writers’ retreat. The results–saffron risotto with scallops–was pretty amazing, I have to say, and I only wish we had snapped up some better-quality photos to share with you here before it was all gone! Oh well, we’ll just have to make it again so that we can share it with you here at Writer’s Kitchen. In the meantime, here are some of our favorite Writer’s Kitchen entries to date:

Tea & Cookies for Your Writing Ritual

Last-Minute Holiday Appetizers

What We Eat When We’re Alone

Homemade Chai

Homemade Marshmallows

Absinthe Cake