About Claire Webb

Content Manager at Demand Media.

Featured Contributor: Debra Barracato

Deb bio picYou may have become acquainted with writer/editor Debra Barracato when we profiled her back in 2013, but we’d like to introduce her again as our new expert in the food section. We also took this opportunity to ask her some delicious questions about her relationship with food –eating it and reading about it. Read on to see what keeps her inspired in the culinary world.

School: University of Maryland at College Park (fear the Turtle!)
Degree: B.S. Journalism
Years at studio: 4.5

Your life in a Tweet (140 characters): Just departed on a private jet. Headed to France, Spain and Portugal. Plans: Surf. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Rob to meet us there.

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A Toast to E.B. White

lime-twistNot only is today Friday (woo-hoo), it’s also the day we get to celebrate the birthday of a literary icon: E.B. White. As if the end of the week isn’t reason enough for a cocktail, let’s all raise a glass (preferably with his favorite cocktail; a martini) and toast to the author of Charlotte’s Web  and co-author of the essential writing guide Elements of Style is a worthy event.

Let’s take a moment and reflect on E.B. White’s monumental life.

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Get Your Meez On


Image credit: abbeyscalia.wordpress.com

I love to cook. I love it because it challenges me to focus and use my creativity and skills to make something delicious. It also allows me to eat, clearly my primary goal. Since my early days of trolling recipes online and teaching myself to execute them (and make a mess) in my mom’s kitchen, I learned a very important lesson about cooking: make a plan.

The only times I really got myself into a pickle (and ordered a pizza in the absence of an edible meal) was when I failed to read the recipe and prep my ingredients, or mise en place. It didn’t occur to me that a successful cooking strategy could directly correlate to my workday as an editor until this Business Insider article reminded me of outspoken celebrity chef and travel host Anthony Bourdain’s 10-minute ritual.

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Book Therapy for Writers

Credit: dicaspremiadas.blogspot.com/

Credit: dicaspremiadas.blogspot.com

While your living room might not look like this literary hoarder’s heaven (and frankly, we hope it doesn’t), it’s still important to keep some helpful books on hand. There is a wealth of information on the Internet about perfecting your writing and editing skills. But there are some folks who have, literally, written the book on this subject. Why not take advantage?

We like the practical books about structure and grammar (you know, the ones you grab in those mid-sentence moments of frustration), but we also love hearing from famous authors (like Ray Bradbury and Stephen King) about their literary lives. And, you know, the proverbial moaning about life as a writer is always a good read.

Every self-professed writer should have a copy of The Elements of Style lying around or propping up the desk (kidding, mine is always at my side). But if you want to enrich your resources even more, check out these handy lists:

The 10 Best Books About Writing This list includes sage advice from Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, as well as the practical advice from Roy Peter Clark’s Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.

9 Essential Books That Will Transform Your Writing Forever This list has got some interesting picks, like Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder, which breaks down the structure of writing screenplays. And then there’s the title that ate all other titles: CA$HVERTISING: How to Use More than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone. Recommended for any writer with aspirations of becoming a full-time blogger.

Picks that show up on both lists (so you really know  you should read them):

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

On Writing by Stephen King

Do you have a go-to writing reference when you need some inspiration? Tell us!

Why You Need to Take a Vacation

In honor of the upcoming World Cup Games, Rio de Janiero is on our vacation wish list this summer. Image credit: www.fancyholidays.com

With the upcoming World Cup on the brain, Rio de Janeiro is on our vacation wish list this summer. Image credit: http://www.fancyholidays.com

Even though the three-month summer break is a thing of the past (for most of us anyway), you shouldn’t ignore the urge to drop everything and hop a flight to Brazil. Especially if you’re a soccer fan.

In fact, if you’ve been just lusting at pictures of sandy beaches and chic metropolis destinations on your desk instead of buying a ticket, you may be be stifling your productivity (and creative thinking for that matter) at work. Enter the numbers to back up this theory: An Intuit study showed that the majority — 82 percent to be exact — of small business owners who took a vacation saw a spike in their performance when they returned to work, so we learned in this Fast Company article.

Taking a vacation –we’re talking longer than a three-day weekend– can help you get a fresh perspective, recharge your batteries, stimulate your brain, go outside your comfort zone, and any other euphemism you can think of to describe self improvement. Check out the article to learn about the full benefits of checking out for a few days.

So don’t delay in planning that next break, whether it’s a whirlwind European tour, relaxation on pristine beaches in Southeast Asia or just a good ol’ U.S. road trip. And, since we did a bit of travel lusting after learning about how vital our vacation time really is, here are a few resources we found to help inspire our next trip. Bon Voyage!

Image credit: www.tlnt.com

Image credit: http://www.tlnt.com

If you can’t decide where to go….

Take a quiz!

Flip through a slideshow of the 27 best places to visit in 2014.

Listen to other Trip Advisor travelers, who rated the top 25 destinations in the world.

If you can’t decide what to pack….

First, figure out what not to pack.

Listen to the experts. World traveler and guidebook author Rick Steves who shared his personal packing list (And an adapted version for the ladies).

If you can’t decide what to read when you get there….

Here’s a list of 143 books to start with.

Or follow this flow chart that will route you to some classics:
The Summer Reading FlowchartHave a great trip planned? A destination you’ve always wanted to see? A great summer read? An entertaining travel tale? Do tell!


Format Frenzy: Quiz Edition


Image credit: Huffingtonpost.com

Quiz time! For our next installment of Format Frenzy, I’m going to show you a few things we’re cookin’ up with quizzes. If you have yet to take an online quiz, such as Buzzfeed’s viral “Which ‘Game of Thrones’ Character Are You?” quiz, you’re missing out on a fun online phenomenon. Take a coffee break and click through one. You might find yourself becoming addicted to seeing that verdict pop up (we know we are), and millions of online readers feel the same way. Here’s a little sneak peek at what we’ve been working on to bring our Studio expertise to the quiz format.

What is a quiz?

It’s essentially a series of about 8-10 questions to test a user’s knowledge in a lighthearted yet informative way. Quizzes offer readers an entertaining snapshot of a specific topic while testing their knowledge.  A great quiz should be a fun, engaging experience allowing readers to feel validated and possibly gain some personal insight. The insight should act as a springboard for social conversations and further exploration.

How are we using quizzes?

Right now we’re still testing the waters in sections that are visually driven, like travel and home decor, and we hope to make this format a part of many more sections. Stay tuned.

What makes a great quiz?

The results! You know you’ve got a great quiz when the reader wants to share the results on social media (maybe because they did well or were surprised by the outcome). A great quiz usually comes from a writer/editor who really knows the topic and lets the reader know how they measure up. A reader should also walk away from a great quiz with a few “aha” facts they may not have known before.

What will a quiz look like?

Well, that’s still in development, but here’s a mock up of a travel quiz. It’s going to be a super visual and interactive experience for the user, so we’re very excited about them becoming live soon. For now, feast your eyes on these:
usat quiz stagingQuiz question

(Note: If you answered “Maintain core body temp” on this sample question, give yourself a pat on the back camper!)

Ok, now it’s our turn. Post your questions about quizzes below (I hope we pass).

13 Ways to Enjoy Cinco de Mayo

Image credit: eHow.com

(Photo: Martin Baek)

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Truth be told, we were in the mood for a margarita anyways. It is Monday after all. But the fact that today is an official celebration, well, makes it all the more important to incorporate some tequila into our day.

Enter this snazzy eHow list of 13 Fiesta-Ready Margarita Recipes for Cinco de Mayo, in the event you’re feeling fickle about your margarita choice. Shout out to eHow contributor Garineh Magarian for compiling these fine recipes all in one place, and photog Martin Baek for showing us just how beautiful a well-made marg can be. We think the strawberry-infused thyme, cucumber jalapeno and gingerrita sounds so refreshing (especially in the sweltering Southern California heat we’ve been enduring).

But tell us, which margarita variety would you consider adding to your Cinco de Mayo menu? Or do you have a concoction of your own that should have made this list?

Want more ideas for celebrating Cinco de Mayo? Check out our Pinterest board with plenty of recipes for food and drinks!

What We’re Reading (Could Help You Write)

golden rule

In order to write well, you have to read. At least that’s what we take away from Mr. Gaines’ poignant saying. We make it our goal to do the same over here at DMS,  and at the same time keep tabs on what’s happening in our established literary community. Since we want to impart as much knowledge on to our community as we can (hey, it might help get you out of that writer’s block on your next article) here are five sites we keep bookmarked on our browsers:

What are some blogs/websites/social media personalities you follow to keep your self inspired? Please share with the entire class.