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Friday, July 29, 2011

My Gratitude Journal: Cooking

SPECIAL NOTE: Starting Monday, August 1, this blog will run its first ever book give-away, one book per week for six weeks. Check back Monday for details on how to win.

I'm not a great cook. I sometimes use short-cuts such as pre-bagged salad, pre-grated cheese and even bottled lemon juice. I once silenced a group of co-workers who were talking about how to make the perfect pie pastry by admitting that I use butter-flavored shortening in my crusts. Their embarrassment for me was palpable; I decided not to defend myself by mentioning I'm lactose intolerant.

That said, I have to admit I'm not bad, either. I seldom use pre-packaged meals and even in recipes that rely heavily on pre-canned foods, I often turn to the products of my own home canning. The meals I prepare are edible, even tasty, and while no one is nominating me for Gourmet of the Year, they aren't recommending me for the Bad Cooks program on the food channel, either.

Cooking is a necessary skill for one of moderate means who also likes to eat. Beyond that, it's a great way to express creativity. True, not all creativity is good. My sister may never forgive me for the stuffed cucumbers I baked one evening, but I was thirteen years old at the time. My experiments since then have generally been more successful.

Although the need to cook can become more chore than fun, I'm grateful for the creative outlet cooking gives me, and for the family members who are willing to try almost anything I create -- even baked, stuffed cucumbers.

Unlike a book which goes through multiple editors, marketers and art directors, a recipe can be 100% within the cook's control from beginning to end, and it's fun to see a project through, knowing that it's all on me.

So thank you, Cooking, for the fun you've given me and for feeding my family all these years.

What, besides dinner, has cooking done for you? Share?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Writing What I Cook

Since this is "write what you know" week, I've been pondering why I've made some of the choices I'm currently pursuing in my work-in-progress.

One choice is obvious: My current revision of A SECRET FAMILY RECIPE is full of recipes. It works, since recipes serve as a metaphor for other things happening among the Burnett family, but it also works because, as the mom of a large family, I've done a lot of cooking.

I'm one of those crazy folk who gets bored quickly with cooking and/or eating the same foods over and over again. Hence I've come up with all kinds of odd recipes and have tweaked them to fit my own and my family's tastes.

The experience as a mom, family member and cook has led me to a manuscript where every chapter begins with a recipe, and oh my, those recipes are varied! They range from naan (East Indian flatbread) accompanied by "yummy hummus" to non-vinegary tomato salsa to cool summer desserts to pasta carbonara.

My resident family members have had the fun of helping me tweak these recipes and taste-testing them all for me, too.

I'll keep you posted as to publication dates, but suffice to say, you too may soon get to cook and eat your very own American-style Goulash. Now, aren't you the lucky one?! :-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Writing What You Know

This week I'm looking a little at how we as writers can follow the advice to "write what you know."

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner has an excellent blog from last year that addresses this exact topic, so let me refer you to her.

Ms. Gardner examines literary truth in the same light I've always preferred to see it: not "true" (as in it happened) but "true" (as in true-to-life, verisimilitude, or it really could happen this way.)

I invite you to read, enjoy, and then do it: Follow your instinct and write what you KNOW.

Do you have thoughts on factual truth vs. verisimilitude? Please share!

P.S. - If you read yesterday's blog -- the one about anticipating a colonoscopy? -- it's over and everything is fine. Whew!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Anticipation

As I write this blog, I am sipping on a glass of ginger ale, fantasizing about bacon and eggs, and looking forward to tomorrow about the way I'd look forward to a colonoscopy.

Okay, exactly the way I'd look forward to a colonoscopy.

I understand the need for check-ups, tests, and a responsible approach to one's health, but really: It's difficult to imagine a procedure for an apparently healthy person that's more invasive, uncomfortable and just plain embarrassing.

I almost decided to forego this privilege -- just say I'd sign up for it and then neglect to do so. My doctor wouldn't really notice, would he? Turns out that yes, he would and he did. Turns out doctors can nag as relentlessly as three-year-olds.

Then too, everywhere I went I started seeing billboards: "My father would still be with me if he had just had a colonoscopy." Turns out billboards can nag, too.

I'm scheduling this blog ahead, so by the time you read this, the "procedure" will be... uh, well, behind me. I'm still willing to accept your retroactive sympathy. Despite all the sympathy I already have for myself, I can always use more.

Just let me know when you need some med-test empathy. I'll be right there sympathizing, grateful it's you and not me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Writing What I Know

You always hear it said, “Write what you know” and certainly, that is excellent advice. So why am I writing a book about a psychic reader? Good question!

In fact, Maggie is the kind of psychic I would be if I were to hang out my own shingle as a psychic reader. In other words, she doesn’t believe in psychics, doesn’t think she is one, but recognizes she has a certain talent when it comes to reading and understanding people.

I do read auras, just as Maggie does. I discovered the ability quite by accident. My dh and I were visiting with some very odd friends once years ago when the woman said she can teach me to read auras. She had her husband stand against a light-colored wall. Then she said, “See the light around him?” When I said, “Yes,” everyone else in the room responded, “You do?” I’ve always seen that light around people. I thought everybody did.

So our odd friend taught me how to recognize and “read” the colors in the light around people.

The other part of Maggie’s talent (the part she is just discovering) comes from a long-held wish. When I hear about missing children or missing adults who are likely the victims of crime, my heart goes out to their families. I always wish I had the ability to know where they are and lead people to them -- save them, if possible.

I don’t, so I’ve created Maggie, who will learn from forces beyond the reach of most of us how to find the missing and comfort their loved ones. Maybe psychic readers aren’t really “what I know,” but I’m having a mighty fine time discovering Maggie.

How do YOU write what you know?