Sunday, August 10, 2014

Potato salad and time

When you're getting ready to publish a book, you get involved in all sorts of promotional activities. Some of them are obvious: bookstore appearances, school visits, interviews about the book or the writing process. Then there are the less obvious. I've known writers who were able to tie in specialty nail polishes, craft activities, or charitable events with their books.

One thing I didn't expect, as a debut author, was the demand for recipes. At least five or six times during that first year, I was asked to provide a recipe as part of some promotional activity. And my main reaction was: Huh? I didn't write a cookbook. I wrote a book about adolescent love and loss. What does that have to do with recipes? Who says I can even cook?

I can cook, but I mainly use other people's recipes. I do not, as a matter of course, invent my own. I'm still mystified why anyone would think I would. (But maybe this is just one of those things that "everyone else" does, and the world is full of people whipping up their own recipes!)

I was thinking about recipes this weekend because I made the family-recipe potato salad, which takes two days and is more fun to eat than to prepare. Nevertheless, even as I complain about the work (mainly the peeling and chopping of all those potatoes and eggs), as I make it, I feel connected to my mother, and her mother, and my sister, all of whom have made this same recipe. I enjoy that aspect of it, and I enjoy putting my time and attention into something that will feed and nourish other people.

Every time I make it, I find little ways to do it more efficiently, but it is never going to be a fast process. Kind of like writing, which I was also thinking about today. We may be in the era of fast drafting, of NaNoWriMo and ebook serials and publishing multiple books a year. But I don't seem to be able to write well under those conditions. My books require a certain amount of time that has nothing to do with how fast I can type (and I type very fast). There is some sort of digestion or marination or slow-cooking that goes on as my stories develop, and you don't even want to know how many drafts I have to do to get a story looking like it was written by a sentient human instead of a feral raccoon.

But if I'm out of step, it won't be the first time. I've had a pretty good time in this world doing things my own quirky way, so I guess I'll just keep on. If my books turn out to be half as good as the potato salad, I can't complain.


  1. Aww, I love this post. I've never had anyone ask me for a recipe as part of my book promotion, but I have had people ask for recipes of foods that are included in my books, like the mushroom pasta Naomi learns to cook in The Breakaway. It's a memorable scene, I guess, and that pasta, I have to admit, is amazing. But it's not a recipe I made up, that's for sure. I have been able to publish 2 books a year for the past three years, but I'm so burned out now, I'm taking a who-knows-how-long break. I only kept up with that schedule because I'd had books written before I'd started publishing. I'm like you. Long periods of time are required to produce quality work I can be proud of.

    1. The well needs to refill, and everyone's well refills at different rates.