Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Thoughts of Writing While Baking with Devon O’Brien of Five Nights, Five Tarts

Tarts from Five Nights, Five Tarts will accompany local writers Tuesday night at Chevalier’s Books on Larchmont Blvd.

This Tuesday evening writers in the  Five Nights, Five Tarts program, developed by Buzz contributor and local writer Devon O’Brien, will be at Chevalier’s Books for their second annual visit. We checked in with O’Brien about the upcoming reading.

“All the writers are excitedly preparing their work to present tomorrow night at the oldest and best bookstore in Los Angeles, our neighborhood Chevalier’s Books,” said O’Brien. This is our second annual visit, and reading there is an honor and a milestone for us.

“We meet each week of the year and every Sunday I send to the writers a request for pages. I encourage them to send me ten pages so that I am very familiar with their project. The more I know, the more I hope to be helpful.

O’Brien said she often shares her thoughts on writing while baking with her writers. Here’s one she shared with the Buzz after “an unholy struggle” with a Pear Tarte Tatin:

The dough last week was a catastrophe. I’ve attached a picture of it to prove it. I have made over 350 tarts for writers; this was not the first time that dough — allegedly “fool proof” — turned out not to be.

Wednesday nights, while writers toil with words while I toil over a tart, I sometimes ponder the parallels between our activities.

Each of us is utterly on our own and absorbed. All of us have a concept or an idea — or the tendril or wisp of one — which we hope to cajole and coax into something wonderful, something others will see the value in, enjoy and savor.

And I felt about the crumbling, dry dough exactly how I feel about a rough draft: Thoroughly dispirited. “This isn’t what I meant at all!”
Inwardly, I wailed, “How, oh how?!  How can I make this become what I mean for it to be?” I was tempted to bag it, toss it in the Simple Human and say, “Sorry, guys, tonight? No tart.”

Only that is not our deal. The premise of Five Nights, Five Tarts is the promise of a reward for your struggle and lonely labor, a coming together to share words and a warm tart.

I had no choice. I had master it. I had to make the messy dough into something. I flattered it with flour, I slapped it with the rolling pin, then caressed it, rolling back and forth. Still it was hole-ridden, ugly. I patched it, pinched it and pressed it into shape. I transferred the now-flat bad dough onto the hot pan – already fragrantly simmering with sugar, pears and butter — pushed the frayed edges against the rim and shoved it into the hot oven, muttering, “I never said I was Martha f***ing Stewart!” 

That’s writing all over: A lonely yet determined and oft-times curse-filled struggle to somehow, anyhow, imperfectly realize an idea and produce something that might nourish others — their palate, their belly, their imagination.

The Pear Tarte Tatin tasted pretty good.  Send me ten! Write on!

O’Brien and her writers will be at Chevalier’s Books on Tuesday, December 3 at 7 pm. at 126 N. Larchmont Blvd. And, there will be tarts!

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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