Four Writing YouTubers You Should be Watching

I watch lots of YouTubes. Makeup reviews, productivity…hell, sometimes I end up watching people clean their houses. But one of my favorite categories to watch is writing. For whatever reason, the bulk of writers I’ve come across on YouTube work in the Young Adult Genre, but their advice on story structure, character development, marketing and more is relevant for virtually any fiction writer.

Kristen Martin. I look forward to these blogs every week (normally twice a week!) She’s super productive and organized. Kristen has a Girlboss vibe, which I’m always a big fan of. She talks a lot about the business of writing and how to fit writing into your busy day. She also offers a webinar series, provides critiquing services and hosts a blog.

Rachel Stephen. She’s an endearing Scottish writer/barista. Rachel has lots of good info on story structure, outlining, etc. If you are planning to participate in NaNoWriMo, don’t miss her Preptober series. She would be my number one if she posted more consistently.

Jenna Moreci. Irreverent and knowledgeable, Jenna is loaded with expertise on all aspects of writing and marketing, but she is particularly strong on topics like character development and worldbuilding. Listen with earbuds if there are little ears around because she’s as generous with f-bombs as she is with advice.

Vivian Reis. Vivian is particularly helpful when it comes to goal setting strategies and she provides some really thorough scrivener tutorials. She’s got an engaging, approachable presentation. Vivian is another one I wish would post more frequently.

One feature I’d love to see from these YouTubers and many others is a “Just found me? Here’s where to start” playlist.

Do you watch writers on YouTube? Who are your favorites?

Literary Resume


Proficient in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres including articles, press releases, play writing, blogs and greeting cards. My work has also appeared in The Buffalo News, Oatmeal Studios, Buffalo Rising,,


Employed full time as a copywriter for an marketing firm since 2013.

More than 20 years freelance writing experience. Most current publications include:

Demand Studios – 2009 – 2012

Thrive Magazine – 2010 – 2008 -2009

Buffalo Rising -2007


Produced Plays

One Act Play – Love and Landmines – Performed by Williamsville South High School 2009

One Act Play – Mixed Signals – Performed by Amherst Players 2007.


Other Plays

Full Length Play – Unwelcome Guests – currently under development as part of Road Less Traveled Production’s New Play Workshop.

Ten Minute Play – Tastefully Stuffed – appearing January 2016 as part of WNY Playwrights Celebrate the Work of Charles Burchfield at the Burchfield Penney Art Center


Graduated Cum Laude University at Buffalo, State University of New York

Bachelor of Arts in Communication with High Distinction

Honors and Awards:

TANYS Awards – Mixed Signals received the 2007 Meritorious Award for Ensemble work and director.

Jamestown Gals Delights Full House at MusicalFare

Jamestown Gals, a playful revue of the careers of Lucille Ball and Peggy Lee is the latest creative effort from veteran choreographer Michael Walline. The show is now playing at MusicalFare at Daemen College in Amherst.

Kathy Weese and Kelly Jakiel played Lucille Ball in her various incarnations while Terrie George and Arin Lee Dandes appeared as Peggy Lee. John Fredo and Marc Sacco played Desi Arnaz and most any other male roles called for.

Walline cast the actors as the “essence” of Ball and Lee, his goal being to capture the spirit of the performers without impersonating them exactly.

“By the Waters of the Minnetonka” will delight fans of “I Love Lucy”. It’s the familiar shtick of Lucy trying to weasel her way into Ricky’s act at the club. Fredo, as Ricky, manages to capture Ricky Ricardo’s accent and attitude without being campy.

Those only familiar with Lucille Ball’s comedy may be surprised by her musical background. Jamestown Gals features songs from her starring role in the movie version of Mame and her Broadway performance in Wildcat.

Peggy Lee received an Oscar nomination for “Bye Bye Blackbird” from Pete Kelly’s Blues and won a Grammy for “Is That All There Is?”

Walline’s father, who served as the catalyst for this musical once mused to Michael that these two talents were both from Jamestown- Lee was from Jamestown, ND and Ball from Jamestown, NY.

With his father’s inspiration, Walline studied the musical histories of the two legends and put together this revue.

Walline said that he “tried to be true to the original choreography” which runs the gamut from samba to cha-cha to waltz.

The performers were accompanied by a five-piece band led by saxophonist Jim Runfola under the musical direction of Allan Paglia.

The costuming was a collaborative effort, according to Walline, with Loraine O’Donnell and Olivia Ebsary. “I tried to give them a silhouette and a color (red for Ball, yellow for Lee) and trust Loraine creatively”. Each female character had five dresses; each male had two tuxes and six vests, Walline said.

“It was really hard to let go after living with it for a year,” Walline said. His biggest challenge was “staying true to my dad’s vision while still making original entertainment.”

The closing of act one is priceless. It seems that it can’t get any funnier that the duets “Friendship,” “Sisters,” and “Bosom Buddies,” but “I’m a Woman” is worth the price of admission on its own.

The show continues through December 7. Performances are staged Wednesday through Sunday with “meet the cast” talkbacks after Wednesday performances. Tickets are available at or a by calling the box office at 716-839-8540

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Love Triangles Span a Century at RLTP

Jon Elston’s Elliptical, the highlight of Scott Behrend’s concept production, Triangles, is now playing at the Road Less Traveled Theater in Buffalo’s theatre district.

Elliptical is a fast-paced journey thorough the lives of three twenty-something friends who began their relationship in high school.

The dynamic, ever-reconfiguring friendship between Ches (Todd Benzin), Michelle (Bonnie Jean Taylor) and Camille (Kelly Meg Brennan) begins during high school drama club. Here the awkward Ches has finally found his home away from the jocks and popular kids. Lifelong friends Michelle and Camille compete for roles and boys, with Camille the usual victor.

The relationship takes unexpected twists and turns over the years that are alternatively intriguing, funny and cringe-worthy.

Triangle opens with the haunting guitar chords of Buffalo’s local musician, Alan Kryszak from behind the dark scrim. The actors enter through three triangular openings recite a series of monologues that tie the trilogy together. This triangle theme is repeated throughout the show.

The first one act play is The Stronger by August Strindberg set in the late nineteenth century. Lisa Virtanen plays Madame X, who alternately harangues and cajoles Madame Y (Kristen Tripp-Kelley) who remains stubbornly silent. Madame Y boasts about winning her husband away from X, but who has struck a better bargain?

Emanuel Fried’s Triangle follows, a fifties era piece with Tripp-Kelley as Mary Ann, the other woman, and Vitrano as Jackie, the long-suffering wife. Mary Ann tries to convince the wife she should give over her husband and return to New York. Like Tripp-Kelley in the previous sketch, Vitrano frequently says more with stony glares and rolling eyes than her pacing co-star does with rambling monologues.

In both plays the third character is the conspicuously absent husband.

Jon Elston’s contemporary Elliptical closes the trilogy.

The grouping of the three plays was the brainchild of Director, Scott Behrend. According to Elston, “Scott gets the credit for conceiving of the trilogy. Manny wrote Triangle as a response to The Stronger, and Scott suggested a third, modern piece to give the evening its third angle.”

The show continues through December 7th. See or call (716) 683-1260 for more information.

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Old School Punkers Rock The Town Ballroom

NOFX fans packed The Town Ballroom in Buffalo Thursday night, many of them younger than the twenty-five year old band.

Fans sported facial piercings and black clothing and hairstyles ranging from mohawks or spikes to the classic emo bowl-cut.

Ontario punkers Ceremonial Snips opened the sold-out show followed by The Toronto-based Flatliners. The Flatliners signed last year with Fat Wreck Chords, the independent punk label founded by Mike Burkett of NOFX in 1991.

Chris Cresswell, The Flatliner’s lead man on guitar, performed as the crowd erupted into an awkward mix of skanking and slam dancing, some skank dancers shuffling off after a few slams too many.

Cresswell, backed by Scott Brigham on guitar, John Darbey on bass and Paul Ramirez on drums, spoke about a recent trip home to Toronto. After a brief stop at a local Tim Horton’s, the band headed to the border where they were pulled over by customs for inspection, “They didn’t find any drugs,” said Cresswell, “but their dog ate Jon’s bagel.”

Minnesota-based Dillinger Four appeared next. Vocalist Patrick Costello did everything he could to keep the audience’s attention, from fellating the microphone to invoking the name of Joe the Plumber, but the crowd began chanting “NOFX” only fifteen minutes into the Dillinger Four performance.

Band mates Erik Funk and Bill Morrisette on guitar and vocals, and drummer Lane Pederson also shared the stage.

Much of the audience remained in Town’s bar during the set, watching the Buffalo Sabres defeat the band’s home team Minnesota Wild on the big screen.

Security was beefed up considerably before NOFX took the stage. A total of seven bouncers lined the barrier, prepared for the enthusiastic crowd surfers who lunged for the stage.

NOFX Front man and Fat Mike (Mike Burkett) joked that guitarist “El Hefe likes playing here even better than selling oranges” but he was “lonely because there are no Mexicans” in Buffalo.

The band, including founding member Eric Melvin on guitar and drummer Erik Sandin, played a mix from their considerable play list featuring both older music and songs from their latest CD, released in November 2007, “They’ve Actually Gotten Worse Live”.

NOFX next heads to Baltimore and Richmond before beginning their European tour.

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Green Builders Come Together at Buffalo Forum

The Heart of the City Neighborhoods, Inc. hosted the Green Building Forum: A Blueprint for Change at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum Wednesday. The forum brought together nearly one hundred local building professionals interested in learning how to create green and affordable housing in Buffalo.

Sam Magavern, an instructor who teaches who teaches Affordable Housing and the Environment at University at Buffalo Law School said, “If we are working in the building field already, we need to see how can we take it to the next level and build green.”

The Keynote Speakers, Ann Petersen, Home Ownership Coordinator for the City of Schenectady, New York and David Sadowsky, architect, discussed their Schenectady project which created a prototype environmentally friendly home which was designed for low income buyers.

The home was awarded the Best in American Living Award by the National Association of Homebuilders. It was the first home in New York state to be certified by the United States Green Building Council to meet national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

The home which was built for forty dollars less per square foot than typical Schenectady construction costs and was designed to fit the historical character of the community, Sadowsky explained. Operating costs are also kept in mind. The twelve month average combined utility cost was less than half that of a typical Schenectady home of that size.

The home was created using the principals of Universal Design, Sadowsky said, “Universal Design enables people to age in place by building in flexibility. Wider doors, a first floor bedroom, first floor laundry, accessible or adaptable bathroom, on-grade access” are among the features that allow for adaptability for an aging or disabled resident without ” looking like an institutional space.”

“HUD Subsidies are essential to building these homes,” added Ann Petersen, “because we don’t have private developers coming into these neighborhoods and building homes that cost $200,000 to build when they can only be sold for $100,000 due to neighborhood market conditions.” Using real costs from prototype, the partners applied for grant funding to develop more homes.

Kevin Connors of eco_logic STUDIO, a design studio which focuses on ecological architecture and design, worked with University at Buffalo architecture students to build a straw bale project in Depew. Green Building, according to Connors includes, “Super insulation, utilizing natural daylight and ventilation, locally renewable and recyclable products and systems which conserve water and green space.”

Nathan Rizzo, Vice President of Solar Liberty Energy Systems seeks to make solar energy a ” rewarding and viable alternative.” Several Buffalo buildings including St Gregory the Great, Erie County SPCA and the Chautauqua Institution are able to generate sixty to one hundred percent of their energy through passive solar technology.

Sam Magavern states that all housing is pollution, the key is how much we can eliminate the impact on the environment. Concerned that there would be a “value conflict between affordable housing and environmental protection,” he has found green buildings cheaper to operate, healthier and more likely to prevent global warming. Magavern says the best strategy for Buffalo is rehabbing existing housing stock and taking a block by block approach to turn Buffalo’s supply of vacant lots into “assets instead of eyesores”.

The next step, according to Stephanie Simeon, Executive Director, Heart of the City Neighborhoods, is to “get the word out to the public so that people who are looking to build or renovate will have a resource.”

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NYSCAR Unveils New Software Program

The New York State Commercial Association of Realtors and the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise hosted a presentation of a new commercial listing software program at Harry’s Harbor Place Grill Thursday.

The program will help commercial realtors to work together and centralize their listings with Commercial Listing System (CLS), similar to the Multiple Listing System (MLS) that has been used by residential realtors for years.

The challenge surrounding commercial real estate in Western New York is that the “information is scattered. There is no centralized location so you need to go to the individual commercial real estate sites,” according to Paula Blanchard, Commercial Realtor and Marketing Committee Chair of the Western New York Chapter of the New York State Commercial Association of Realtors.

The goal is to “create a more synergistic organization” among Western New York commercial realtors, says Kristin Badger-Bach, Past President of the Western New York Chapter of NYSCAR and membership chair. Buffalo is the home of “smart people, the 20-minute commute and one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply. We need to tell people our story, leverage marketing and spread the word.”

Catalyst Real Estate software, according to Nancy McKellar, Vice President of Regional Sales will help realtors “save time, save money, make money by creating relationships and working together.”

Patricia Collins, President of the Western New York Chapter of NYSCAR stresses the importance of getting people to work together and utilize the system. “It’s like the chicken and the egg, until people are using it, it’s not recognized as a resource,” she said. “The purpose is to bring people together.”

Thomas Kucharski, President and CEO, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise says that commercial real estate is one of the pieces of the puzzle that attracts people to do business in Buffalo, which has “low cost power, a high quality work force and affordable real estate. We are recognized nationally as a college town with a high quality of labor,” Kucharski says of Buffalo, “we are going to come out of this economic downturn as one of the places leading the way.”

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Eclectic Improv Electrifies Opening Night Crowd

“When you’ve been together as long as we have, you learn to trust each other,” said Don Gervasi, when he was asked about his ten plus years of working with the members of the Eclectic Improv Company. Todd Benzin, who has known Gervasi since college said that they have to be ready to do anything. “It helps that we share the same pop culture references.”

The Eclectic Improv Company opened their season Saturday night to a packed house at Shea’s Smith Theatre. The troupe started the show with an improvised sermon by Peter Cumbo. They said they begin the show with the sermon to promote audience interaction and drive up the energy that is crucial to a good perfomance.

After sequestering Cumbo offstage, Don Gervasi and Todd Benzin asked the audience for a multi-syllable noun, verb and adjective. When Cumbo returned, he discerned, with help from Gervasi and Benzin, that he was to perform a sermon about an organic, filibustering parallelepiped (a geometric shape not covered in fourth grade class).

The structure of the show is short-form, game-based improvisation, according to Cumbo. They can’t prepare jokes, but Gervasi writes down a list of the gimmicks or games on a white board prior to the show. “It’s like a set list you would see musicians with at a concert,” Gervasi explained.

Basic principle of improv is “yes, and?”, meaning that you have to accept whatever premise you are given (in this case by the audience) and build on it. You can’t say no or the scene dies.

Cumbo noted that you can never just relax back stage like you might in a conventional stage show. “In a regular ongoing stage show, you might see people backstage reading, but in improv you have to always be aware of what is going on onstage, even if you won’t be in that scene.”

The audience laughed their way through a song about eggplant, accompanied by pianist Mike Hake and a Spanish version of Goldilocks. The group also performed a musical about foot augmentation in which Todd Benzin spontaneously created a character named “Mr. Galumpers” a funny/creepy clown who taught Peter Cumbo that his tiny feet made him special.

The Eclectic Improv Company will be performing at Shea’s Smith Theatre the last Saturday of every month through June. See www.eclecticimprov.comfor tickets or additional information.

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