Meet The James Patterson Co-Author Competition Semifinalists

Thank you to everyone who participated in the James Patterson Co-Author Competition and congratulations to the semifinalists! We had the opportunity to learn more about our 10 semifinalists. Check out the following selections from their written interviews to learn more about their writing experiences and inspirations (listed in alphabetical order).

Blake Northcott Ontario, Canada

What drives you to write?
Writing is in my blood! My grandfather was a bookbinder in pre-war Czechoslovakia, and my ancestor wrote one of the first books about settling here in Canada during the 1830s – her book is still taught at universities to this day.
Aside from my lineage, I just love the craft. I get a buzz of excitement when I read a great novel, and it inspires me to put words of my own on a page. I can’t read an exciting book without sitting down to write something immediately afterward!

What is the most important thing you’ve learned from James’ class so far?
That perseverance is ultimately the key to success. Hearing that he was rejected by publishers so many times and never let it defeat him was so uplifting. I’ve probably seen that lesson fifty times, and I still go back to it for inspiration!

Jack Mathers Pennsylvania, USA

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from James’s class so far? From the Passion and Habit lesson, it’s not even James Patterson’s quote, it’s his grandfather’s: “When you go (over the mountain) to work in the morning, you gotta be singing.” I think I actually teared up when I heard this. This is how I need to live my life. I need to sing. This was my favorite chapter. I have heard many people say many motivational things, but in this lesson, JP was speaking directly to me. I learned a lot of good techniques in the other chapters, but THIS one is the one that shook me.

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
My wife for sure. I would not have even thought of taking this class if not for her. She has continued to believe in me despite my own (nearly constant) self-doubt. She is my biggest cheerleader. Not only has she given me encouragement, but she is my number one person to go to when I am working out an idea. Sometimes she has input, other times, she just listens. It’s usually perfect, even if she gets me fired up about something, I probably needed it.

Javier Sanchez Ohio, USA

Which writers do you aspire to be like?
I’m not going for brownie points when I say James Patterson. I struggle with reading and the psychology behind making short chapters and the rush of endorphins that come from the “mini accomplishments” every 3 to 4 pages really works. I was thankful when I discovered his style. I also enjoy the writing of Malcolm Gladwell. Every time I read one of his books it’s like peeling back a layer to humanity and seeing a perspective you wish you would have thought of yourself, but are still thankful that you were exposed to it through him. I’d like my writing to do the same.

If you could take a MasterClass from anyone, who would it be?                          Tom Burrell. He is a marketing communications pioneer who revolutionized the use of positive and realistic images of African Americans in television advertising. He practically invented marketing to urban minority populations.

Jessica Goeken Illinois, USA

What drives you to write?   
What drives me to write is knowing the person that I want to be. I enjoy writing, I love the way words go together and create something beautiful. I like to think that I’m talented, and I can’t imagine not writing and wasting whatever talent I have. I don’t want to look back on my life and wish that I had pursued something that I was passionate about, rather than what was simply available at the time.

Which writers do you aspire to be like?
I aspire to be like Tolkien. The depth and complexity of his characters and the world that he created is, to me, unmatched. I want to be able to think like that, to weave that kind of a story.

Jule P Miller III Mississippi, USA

If you could spend 5 minutes with James, what questions would you ask him?
I would like to know what he dreams about, what he still wants to do in his life. I would like to know what he thinks of science fiction, and whether he would like to co-write a science fiction piece. Finally, I would ask him if he wanted to drop by and have a bowl of gumbo sometime.

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
In the more than 30 years of our marriage, my wife has always been encouraging of my desire to write. This past year and a half she has taken on the burden of being the sole breadwinner of our family so that I could develop my writing skills. Without that help, my writing would only ever be a hobby.

MaryBeth Yates Florida, USA

What drives you to write?
I’ve always had a love of telling stories. I write to share those stories with others, and hopefully bring them some entertainment/enjoyment in the process.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from James’s class so far?
OUTLINING!! I have always been horrible at this, and for some reason Mr. Patterson’s approach just clicked with me. It has really helped me on several projects already.

Matthew Trafford Ontario, Canada

If you could spend 5 minutes with James, what questions would you ask him?
Other than spoilers for what might happen in the next season of Zoo, I would want to hear about any times he thought he might have to give up on writing a particular book or story, and how he overcame that feeling.

How do you plan to keep readers engrossed in the story?
If you want to know that, I would encourage you to take James’s class and pay particular attention to lesson 13, Writing Suspense. In all seriousness, the best way to keep readers engrossed is to tell a fantastic story, the kind I would want to read myself. If I’m not bored, the readers won’t be.

Michael Jaoui New York, USA

If you could spend 5 minutes with James, what questions would you ask him?
Is there a story that got away? A story that’s great but you just can’t find the right way to get it on the page? I have a few of those, and I’m curious if a writer as accomplished and skilled as James Patterson does too.

What’s your favorite book?
That’s a tricky question. There are so many books that I love, and it’s hard to pick one. If I have to, I’d say All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, because it has something for everyone and is beautifully written. It’s got political intrigue, family drama, twists, turns, and action. It’s a timeless masterpiece.

Tammy Vaughter Nebraska, USA

What drives you to write?
There’s just this amazing feeling that comes with expressing, and creating a connection with my characters. I love creating characters in a world I can imagine, develop and control through words and scenes, and then watch a story unfold. This drives me to write. My parents shielded my siblings and I from television and influences they felt may steal our innocence and hamper our spiritual growth. Instead we were herded outdoors, into nature and traveled for a time in a gutted out school bus. We grew up poor, but I didn’t realize this until early adulthood. We lived along the flanks of the Verde River in Arizona in a tent. I feel like my parents decision to isolate my siblings and I for a time, fueled my creativity and imagination. This opportunity to live free inspired me to read and write at a very early age. And I must admit as well, acknowledgement in my writing is also a driving factor.

Who has been the most supportive in your writing? How do they help you?
My family has been the most supportive, especially my husband of 30 years, TJ. He has never let up with encouraging me to write. He reads anything I put in front of him and he offers honest criticism. I value his support. He is the one who gifted me the awesome James Patterson MasterClass and strongly urged me to enter the contest. I live in a very small community with a small circle of friends and family. My mother and my 4 grown children all love to write as well, and are very supportive of me.

Tucker Edward Axum III Louisiana, USA

What drives you to write?
I grew up in the heart of Louisiana’s Cajun country. Storytelling over delicious cuisine was a daily pastime for us. I learned early on that people yearned to be inspired and transported to other locales and eras, and writing has been my preferred tool for storytelling. Writing allows me to take loved ones and strangers on adventures around the world. Whether bringing a World War II soldier back to life, nursing an injured plane to terra firma, or walking the somber grounds at Auschwitz, words touch our hearts and minds. They remind of us our common humanity.

How do you plan to keep readers engrossed in the story?
People love a great story, and one with the right amount of suspense. I think of it as making a gumbo. Don’t worry about the recipe—just cook with your heart. Pour in a bottle of imagination, a hint of realism, sprinkle some humor, a dash of drama, and toss in some dialogue. Let it all boil together and stir it occasionally. The aroma excites you and makes you impatiently crave the finale. Your and my gumbo probably won’t taste the same, but they should both nourish the body, and make people wanna come back for seconds.


James Patterson’s 2017 Co-Author Semifinalists

Once again, we were blown away by the quality of submissions for James Patterson’s second co-author competition! As the enthusiasm within the student community grows, we are thrilled to make this opportunity possible for a second time.

After careful review and consideration of every submission, we’re excited to announce the following top 10 semifinalists. These 10 semifinalists will receive a prize valued at $1,000. Then, three will move on to the final round where they will receive a prize of $2,500 value and submit an outline for a chance to become James’ co-author.

.Top 10 Semifinalists (listed in alphabetical order)

  • Blake Northcott
  • Jack Mathers
  • Javier Sanchez
  • Jessica Goeken
  • Jule P Miller III
  • MaryBeth Yates
  • Matthew J. Trafford
  • Michael Jaoui
  • Tammy Vaughter
  • Tucker Edward Axum III

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the competition and congratulations to the our semifinalists! Remember to check back next week, as we will be announcing the top 3 finalists on April 13th.

New Investor IVP Leads Round to Accelerate Class Development and Expand the MasterClass Instructor Roster

MasterClass announces a $35 million Series C funding round led by IVP. Existing investors, including New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Javelin Venture Partners, Bloomberg Beta, Advancit Capital, Novel TMT, Yan-David Erlich, Matthew Rutler (MX Investments) and new investors GSV Acceleration and Sam Lessin participated in the round. This brings the total funding raised by the company to $56.4 million to date.

MasterClass plans to use the funding to accelerate class development, expand the roster of instructors, and build out the team to make it possible for anyone in the world to learn from the best. Eric Liaw (IVP) and Roseanne Wincek (IVP) will be joining the board alongside existing board members Rick Yang (NEA) and Alex Gurevich (Javelin Venture Partners).

“We are honored to lead the Series C round at MasterClass,” said Eric Liaw, General Partner at IVP. “From Serena Williams teaching tennis to Gordon Ramsay teaching cooking to Christina Aguilera teaches singing and soon Shonda Rhimes teaching television writing, they are delivering on their mission to make the knowledge of the world’s great masters available to everyone and it’s exciting to partner with them.”

“We launched MasterClass with belief that everyone should be able to learn from the best and a hope that if we could do that we had a chance to make the world just a little more equal. This round of funding will enable us to accelerate the sharing of knowledge,” said co-founder and CEO David Rogier. “We’re thrilled to be working with the IVP team.”

See additional press coverage to learn more:

IVP News

Steve Martin Joins MasterClass to Teach Comedy

Today we announced that actor and comedy legend Steve Martin will offer his first ever online class exclusively with MasterClass.

Considered one of the greatest standup comedians of all time, Martin is also an actor, writer, producer and musician. He broke out into the comedy business in the 60’s as a writer for “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” and later as a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show.” Since the 80’s, Martin branched off from the comedy realm becoming a successful actor, author, playwright, and banjo player who has earned Emmy, Grammy and American Comedy awards among others. In 2004, Comedy Central ranked Martin at 6th place in a list of the 100 greatest stand-up comics. He was awarded an Honorary Academy Award at the Academy’s 5th Annual Governors Awards in 2013. Martin holds the 2nd highest record for the most times guest hosting “Saturday Night Live,” 2nd only to Alec Baldwin.

In his first-ever MasterClass, Steve Martin will share insights from his 50-year career spanning sold-out arenas and blockbuster films. Students will gain access to the mind of a comedy genius and learn how to find their voice, gather material, develop an act, and take their writing to the next level.
“I’m so honored to be invited into your home, phone, or wearable.” said Steve Martin.
Pre-enrollment for the class begins today at


Announcing the Second James Patterson Co-Author Competition

When we first introduced the James Patterson Co-Author Competition, we had no idea we would receive such incredible submissions. We were blown away by your passion (and your writing)! We weren’t the only ones. James Patterson was so impressed, he wants to do it again. So, we are!

The competition is only open to MasterClass students. So if you haven’t already, enroll in James Patterson’s MasterClass.  After taking the class, you can submit a two sentence book hook for your idea (maximum 100 words) and a sample chapter (maximum 1,000 words). Patterson himself will hand-pick the top 3 proposals. There is no additional fee after enrollment and submissions are limited to one per student.  The competition opens February 1, 2017 at 9:00am PST. The submission period ends March 1st, 2017 at 11:59pm PST.

The top 10 semi-finalists will be awarded $1,000 and from there, the selected 3 finalists will be asked to provide an outline for the story by April 13th and will receive an additional $2,500. The final winner to co-author a book with James Patterson will be notified by May 31, 2017, and we will officially announce the winner in June of 2017.

You can find all the details of the competition at

Good luck!

An Introduction to MasterClass

What is MasterClass?
MasterClass was created to give anyone the ability to gain the wisdom and knowledge of the world’s best creators. The education platform offers affordable, engaging and inspirational online courses curated by world class instructors.

Through the MasterClass platform, instructors create engaging online classes with interactive assignments, course materials, student community and Q&A that creates a uniquely powerful educational experience.

What’s the format of a class?
We design the curriculum for each MasterClass with the instructor, so every class is unique. However, all MasterClasses include extensive pre-recorded video content, a class workbook, interactive assignments, and community activities.

Once you purchase the class, you can access the videos at any time. The video can be paused, fast-forwarded, and re-watched as many times as you’d like.

Students are also invited to use the class discussions below each video to share their thoughts, upload their work, and provide feedback on other student’s work.

How long is each class?
Each course consists of 2-5+ hours of video content. You can take the class at your own pace, so the number of weeks it takes to complete the course will vary. Specific class information can be found by selecting a class.

Do I have to complete the class within a specific time frame?
No. You can take the class at your own pace! Once you purchase your class, you have unlimited access to all the lessons in the class.

If you’re interested, the workbook provides a recommended pace for the class.

What does the enrollment fee include?
Once you enroll in the class, you have access to the following:

  • Access to every chapter in your course
  • A downloadable workbook with chapter recaps, important takeaways, and exercises
  • Membership to our active community of engaged students (upload your own work, or provide feedback on a peer’s!)
  • Access to any answers your instructor provides to any students’ work
    Class-specific tools to help you practice your craft (e.g., Christina Aguilera’s class features a range finder that allows you to determine your full vocal range)

Ready to enroll? Browse all available classes.

Continue reading “An Introduction to MasterClass”

Live Q&A With Werner Herzog: Ask Your Questions

Werner Herzog

MasterClass is excited to announce that Werner Herzog is holding an online Live Q&A for his MasterClass students on Thursday, September 8th, beginning at 11:15am (PT).

Werner will be answering select student questions and sharing lessons he’s learned while making over 70 uncompromising films. You can submit your questions during the live event or in advance. Werner will try to answer as many questions as possible.

The event will take place online in Werner’s MasterClass and will be available for students to watch after the event.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

“Ultimately, my own goal is to be a good soldier of cinema…if I can inspire one or two of you out there to become a good soldier, then I have done everything I should do here.” – Werner Herzog

James Patterson’s Co-Author Competition Winner

Today, we are thrilled to announce the winner of the James Patterson Co-Author Competition! After receiving the three finalists’ outlines for their book ideas, James chose Kecia Bal from Somerset, PA, as the grand prize winner based on her story idea and outline. Kecia will have an opportunity to co-author a book with James Patterson.

Thanks to all MasterClass students who participated in the competition and congratulations, Kecia! We look forward to seeing your book come to life.

Kecia 2


James Patterson’s Co-Author Finalists

Thank you to everyone who submitted their writing to the James Patterson Co-Author Competition! Today, we are excited to announce the 3 finalists who will be one step closer to becoming James Patterson’s co-author. The following finalists will receive a $2,500 cash prize and will submit outlines for their book ideas. We’d like to congratulate the following 3 finalists:

  • Kecia Bal
  • Theresa Schultz
  • Jacob Turner

Once these finalists submit their book outlines on May 9, 2016, James will review them and select one grand prize winner to be his co-author. Tune in over the coming weeks to meet James Patterson’s co-author!

Meet Semifinalists Sarah Smothers & Jacob Turner

Thank you to everyone who participated in the James Patterson Co-Author Competition and congratulations to the semifinalists! Today, we’d like you to meet MasterClass students and semifinalists Sarah Smothers and Jacob Turner!

Sarah Smothers
LaGrange Park, Illinois

Sarah SmothersWhat drives you to write?
What drives me to write is my need for it. Writing is a way for me to understand the world and my place in it, simultaneously satisfying my need for creative expression.

How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since i was about 12. I remember I was in 6th grade and we had to write a 5-page story for class. I got so involved in mine that I filled up an entire spiral notebook. I decided to make it my career if I could right then.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from James’ class so far?
One of the most important things I’ve learned in James’ MasterClass is to keep going and push through with your writing. If you face rejection, especially from yourself, do not give up on your work.

How do you plan to keep readers engrossed in your story?
I plan on keeping my readers on the hook by bringing the characters to life and making them care about what happens to them, and of course having surprises all along the way.

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
The person who has supported me most in my writing has got to be my friend Haley. Ironically we met in English class, and that was when I had started my series. She has read almost everything I’ve written and edited all 3 of my novels, currently working her way through the last one. She helps me by being my biggest fan.

Jacob Turner
Madison, Wisconsin

6. Jacob Turner-Headshot-James Patterson Co-Author ContestWhat drives you to write?
I love writing! I love spending time with characters and getting them into and (sometimes) out of hot water. Writing’s fun for me. Asking “what if” for jokes, twists, or touching moments keeps my mind in a constant state of possibility, and the practice of connecting seemingly unrelated ideas is a good reminder to pay attention to how everything does connect.

How long have you been writing?
The first novel I ever attempted lives in hopelessly smudged graphite between the pages of my 5th grade notebook.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from James’ class so far?
Outlines! I knew outlines were important, but before I took the class, they felt like the pragmatic opponent to free writing. But they’re not. Outlining is just writing out the story itself before deciding on the words best used for executing the story in prose. Understanding the importance of outlines makes me feel better about using them, and as a result, I write more efficiently.

How do you plan to keep readers engrossed in your story?
James says it best: hit your reader in the face with a pie, then while you have their attention, say something interesting. The 21st century presents so many new situations to explore in a story. By writing those stories in the context of the thriller genre, readers can expect an adventure that feels both familiar and fresh.

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
My family’s been endlessly supportive and encouraging: My parents, who have worked so hard for me and my four older siblings and ask only that we make the most of our time here. My siblings, who are always there for practical help and personal guidance. My best friend, my non-biological brother, who gives the best feedback I could ask for. And my kitties, who are snuggly.