Thursday, October 8, 2009

Just Write! (and I found it!)

Although you might be solely working on writing fiction, keep an open mind to opportunities that come your way for other writing projects. I’ve discovered that writing is like exercising (if only typing on a keyboard could burn as many calories as running on a tread mill). When you cross train (weight lifting, cardio, stretching) your body optimizes the metabolism. When you “cross write” your mind sharpens its focus on writing fiction with well researched facts and writing non-fiction with the flowing prose of a novel.

This past week, my dear friend Vicky Wauterlek, founder of Hands of Hope asked me to write an article for the newsletter to share the story of Ariik, a Lost Boy of Sudan. First of all, I must say this was an incredible blessing in my life to actually have the opportunity to interview Ariik and hear firsthand his heartwarming and heart wrenching story. Mere words on a page can never accurately capture the life experiences of such a brave young man. However, I hope that my article can at least provide a peephole into what Ariik’s life was like as one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Read the article here.

Take-away Tidbit
This week, as we step deeper into the forest of fall, perhaps you might wish to sample the harvest. You might remember that in my last post I lamented the loss of Waterbrook/Multnomah's (a division of Random House) Ken Petersen's Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe ... well, I'm happy to report that I found it!


(Oh, and I'll be announcing the winner of the signed Donald Maass book, Writing the Breakout Novel on Monday, October 12! You still have time to enter to win!)

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake



18 whole graham crackers, broken into large pieces

6 Tbs sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cloves

12 Tbs unsalted butter, melted


1 1/3 cups sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp salt

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin, (see prep below)

1 1/2 lbs cream cheese, three 8 oz. packages, cut into 1-inch chunks, softened

1 Tbs vanilla extract

1 Tbs lemon juice, fresh squeezed

5 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup heavy cream

Cream Topping

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup sour cream

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/8 tsp salt

2 tsp rum extract, (or to taste)



(Note: This crumb crust recipe below is likely more than you will need, but this amount makes it easier to work with along the sides.)

1. Adjust oven to middle rack, preheat to 325 degrees. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan with non-stick (butter) cooking spray.

2. In food processor, pulse crackers, sugar, and spices until finely ground. Transfer to medium bowl and drizzle butter over. Mix with spatula, until evenly moistened.

3. Turn crumbs into spring form pan, and press evenly into bottom and sides. TIP: Use slightly smaller bowl or ramekin, inverted, to press crumb crust evenly and firmly.

4. Pre-bake until fragrant and browned, about 10 minutes. Caution: Watch this carefully so it does not brown too much or burn. Cool on wire rack.


(Note: It's important to remove as much excess moisture from the pumpkin as possible. This procedure prevents the cheesecake from becoming soggy):

1. Line baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels. Spread pumpkin on paper towels in even layer. Cover pumpkin layer with a second triple-layer of towels. Press firmly until towels are saturated. Peel back top layer of towels and discard. Grasp bottom layer of towels on one side and fold pumpkin in half. Peel back towels.

2. Repeat.

3. Flip pumpkin onto baking sheet, discarding towels.


(Note: Using a bath keeps the top crust of a cheesecake from cracking, adding moisture into the oven during baking):

1. Boil 4 quarts of water as you make the filling (below).

2. Set spring form pan on double-layer of heavy duty aluminum foil. Wrap bottom and sides with foil. Make sure the wrap is tight and won't leak water into the pan. Set wrapped spring form pan in roasting pan.

3. After filling is prepared (see below), pour into spring form pan.

4. CAREFULLY pour boiling water into the roasting pan, filling it until water comes halfway up the sides of the spring form pan. CAUTION: Be careful not to splash water into the filling in the spring form pan. (I've done it!)


1. Whisk sugar, spices, and salt in a small bowl.

2. In large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until softened. NOTE: You can do this in a mixer, but the danger is to over-beat throughout this process, which can curdle and lump the cheese. I prefer hand mixing. You don't need to mix much.

3. Add about one-third of sugar mixture. Mix until combined, about 1 minute. Repeat twice until all of sugar mixtures in combined. Scrape sides of bowl.

4. Add pumpkin, vanilla, and lemon juice. Mix until combined, about 45 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl.

5. Add 3 eggs and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute. Scrape sides of bowl.

6. Add remaining 2 eggs and beat until incorporated, about 45 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl.

7. Add heavy cream and beat until smooth, about 45 seconds. Scrape bottom and sides and give a final stir.


1. Pour filling into spring form pan, and prepare the bath (above).

2. Set roasting pan containing the spring form pan and bath in center of oven. CAUTION: The pan is heavy and the water is hot. Bake about 1 and 1/2 hours. Cake should be slightly wobbly in center when you remove it from oven--145-150 degrees temp in center of cake.

3. Run paring knife around sides of pan.

4. Allow spring form pan to rest in roasting pan and cool until water is warm, about 45 minutes. Remove spring form pan from water bath. Discard foil. Set on wire rack. Cool until barely warm--2 to 3 hours. Wrap with plastic wrap, refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.


(Optional, but good)

1. In bowl of standing mixer, whisk heavy cream, sour cream, brown sugar, and salt until combined. Add rum extract, whip until fluffy and doubled in volume.

2. Spoon generously onto servings of the pumpkin cheesecake.

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