06/19/2008 10:46 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Culture Zohn: My Sneaky Uncle, A Soon-To-Be-Hot Young Writers Collaborative Debuts


Do you believe that writers are born not made? Do you believe that people have some kind of innate gift for storytelling, for stringing words together, for capturing dialogue, for getting under the skin of their characters and readers at the same time?

Or do you realize that writers go to writing workshops (guilty), take classes (guilty) and hang around with other writers (guilty) all in hopes that something is going to rub off?

Like the nature/nurture arguments that roil the genetic conversation, the opinions about writers are sharply divided. But even with masses amount of innate talent, the gift must be honed and whittled, the precision of each word and sentence inspected, the cadence of a sentence adjusted, just so, to please the auditory palate.

It's total agony. Do not imagine for one second that your favorite author just rolled out of bed one morning in a fit of invention and wrote that book you love. Chances are, years of torture are behind every, single word.


Five young writers have banded together in a kind of mini-collective, not only to palliate this arduous journey but to be each other's first readers, and then to watch each other's backs as the work makes the leap into public view. Absent agents or editors, they have fallen back on their own resources. One day, they will have people to hold their hands: right now, they are holding each others and jumping off the cliff.

We are lucky that they have landed at the Huffington Post.


My connection to this group is Liza Kaplan who grew up with my son Patrick (soon to be a HuffPost Green blogger). Liza always knew she wanted to be a writer, but she had other ambitions, and she has meandered through show biz a little too, to pay the rent and buy some time to figure it out, to learn how to stop sweating the smaller stuff (rent, parents opinions, peer pressure) so she can tackle the really big stuff--the ability to put words on a page and get somebody excited.


As Liza says:

While the aspiring Apatows and Reitmans of the world have YouTube, and the blogosphere is often used as platform for self proclaimed "celebrity experts" to comment on everything from Lindsay's latest DUI to Mischa's cellulite, there is no place in the vast forest of the internet for the fledgling fiction writer to tell their version of Once Upon a Time. Well, there was no such place, until we created our ideal short storybook hero, SneakyUncle.

About a year and half ago, I casually contacted Estella Soto, a former USC classmate in Marianne Wiggins' Advanced Fiction Workshop, to see if she would consider giving me some feedback on a short story I was writing. We traded fiction, notes, and emoticons until one day I asked her, "Are you in a writers group or workshop? Maybe we should start one..."


Luckily for me, she said yes and had more writer friends from Aimee Bender's and T.C. Boyle's workshops. With an inaugural meeting at my West L.A. apartment, the seeds for SneakyUncle were planted. We are now five aspiring-to-be-published-writers who get together once a week to hash out our opinions on contemporary published writers and workshop our own pieces. In the cozily eclectic setting of Stella's downtown apartment, right in the middle of Art walk, we guzzle diet coke or wine depending on what induces creative inspiration in each of us, and we recover our voices that have been stifled by the tedium of day jobs and long hours spent staring at that eternal nemesis: our computer monitors. To mix it up, we go on "cultural" excursions to the MOCA, LACMA, art walks, and book readings in order to be students of the world, one of the most essential aspects of Being a Writer. Since beginning our Thursday night "Party of Five" meetings, we have seen each other's writing grow immensely as we continue to challenge and push each other to the next level. was born because I was reading daily in The Hollywood Reporter about some movie or TV show picked up off someone's blog or other online post. I knew that in order to jump start our literary careers, we needed to get our fiction and our names out in cyberspace. The short videos are Generation YouTube's (link to you tube video) version of the book reading. Instead of just reading straight from our written words, we've created highly stylized short films/marketing promos to entice the average internet video junkie to actually sit down for a full read. Five samples of what goes on in our crazy, angsty, funny, sweet, sad, ironic, paranoid, confused twenty-something minds are now on our site.


Take a look at the website Liza and Co have developed with their short stories and the edgy video that has just gone up on You Tube.

Writers are just as cool as musicians or visual artists, every bit as talented and have way fewer venues to get their stuff out to you, unfiltered. Let's support the fledging efforts of My Sneaky Uncle by visiting with them, first, online, and then by buying their stuff when it eventually gets published.

Which I know that it will.

My Sneaky Uncle can be found at