Tomorrow is April Fools Day and, coincidentally, a significant day for SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH.
You see, SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH involves a baking contest. During copyediting, my wise editor suggested I include an original recipe as an epilogue. So I set about inventing a baked good that was not merely edible, but delicious.
Those few poor souls who years ago sampled my ill-fated vegan corn muffins, or my chocolate cake the time I forgot to add baking soda, might say inventing a dessert would be an insurmountable challenge for me. But thankfully I’ve made great baking strides since those long-ago days; the mini red velvet cupcakes I whipped up for Quick family Christmas a few years ago were a huge hit. (I also make a pretty awesome grapefruit sorbet, if I do say so myself!)
To perfect the epilogue recipe, I spent hours in the kitchen experimental baking while channeling the spirit of my fearless yet somewhat clueless narrator. (My mom was indispensable during this process. More than once I emailed her the not-quite-right recipe with the subject line, “don’t ask, just bake,” and she did, and gave me feedback — not enough pepper, lime instead of lemon, and so on.)
I’m proud to report that the end result — the epilogue recipe — is delectable, idiot-proof, and lends itself to variations.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting my editor and her colleagues in person. Another excellent suggestion was made: why not post really inviting, tempting photographs of the dessert on my website?
As luck would have it, my friend Dave Tavani is an amazing photographer. Because Dave is also a teacher, he has this week off, thanks to spring break. He and I agreed that April Fools Day is as good a day as any to have a food photo shoot.
So tonight I’ll bake the SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH recipe, and tomorrow I’ll set my kitchen counter as prettily as I can, with fresh flowers and a new tablecloth.
I’m not sure just when or how the photographs will be debuted, but … stay tuned to find out.
PS: For more on experimental baking, click here.
This is a really difficult post to write.
I’ve so enjoyed being a part of The Debutante Ball these past months. Getting to know my fellow Debs and the readers of this blog has been thrilling, which is why I hate to have to bow out now, instead of in August, as I’d originally planned. But the fact is, promoting The Opposite of Me is gobbling up every single second of my spare time. And even though we five authors started out with a great spirit of camaraderie, things have completely broken down behind the scenes. I wish my fellow Debs nothing but the best, and I’m sorry that from this day on, the Tuesday spot will be blank.
I wish it didn’t have to be this way, and I think our readers deserve a full explanation of exactly what has transpired, uncomfortable (and ugly) as it has been these past months. Many graduate Debs – including the founder of this site, Kristy Kiernan – tried very hard to smooth over the problems that have erupted. But things have gone too far; there’s no hope.
Maybe I could’ve overlooked the hair-pulling incident (not nice, Maria!) or the time Joelle knee-capped Alicia just before we were planning to have a big group photo shoot (it took two photographers to pull them off each other). But when Emily changed her book’s title to The Opposite of Me: This One Is Better, I knew I had to get out to save my sanity. Some might say that I allegedly started the ruckus, but in my defense, the only reason why I photoshopped mustaches on my fellow Debs’ publicity photos was because I thought it would look nice. Honestly.
But before I say goodbye, I’d like to know: what’s the best April Fool’s joke you’ve ever played?
The “Museum of Hoaxes” website has a delightful list of the Top 100 April Fools Day Hoaxes in history.
Here is a sampling of some of my favorites:
#15: Metric Time
“1975: Australia’s This Day Tonight news program revealed that the country would soon be converting to “metric time.” Under the new system there would be 100 seconds to the minute, 100 minutes to the hour, and 20-hour days.”
#31: Migrant Mother Makeover
“2005: Popular Photography ran an article titled “Can these photos be saved?” about how to remove unsightly wrinkles from photographic subjects. They chose, as an example of a photo that “needed to be saved,” Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” photo taken in 1936 during the Great Depression.”
[Yes, it's the photo you think it is.]
#80: Moscow’s Second Subway
“In 1992 the Moskovskaya Pravda announced that the winds of capitalism transforming Russia would bring further changes for the residents of Moscow. Apparently plans had been finalized to build a new Moscow subway system. Of course, there was nothing wrong with the city’s current subway. But in the spirit of capitalism, the second system would be built to promote ‘the interests of competition.’”
Oh, and number 30 contains this marvelous sentence:
“Eventually Riche broke down and admitted she hadn’t been abducted by Puritans.”
From my personal experience, I remember the magazine I used to write for, Games, debuting “Magic Eye” puzzles in what by chance turned out to be an April issue. Many readers were wrongly convinced that the puzzles were a hoax.
I love surprises in books too, the kind of satisfying revelation that’s so obvious in retrospect but rocks me back at the time. I’ve tried to pull off a few of those in my own book.
Who has fooled you, in a good way? In real life? In books?
In a review, The Washington Post newspaper praises The Opposite of Me for its “sharp-tongued zingers and Pekkanen’s spot-on portrayal of the existential dilemmas of young adulthood.” The Seattle Post-Intelligencer also runs a good review, writing, “Hats off to Sarah Pekkanen for painting such intimate portraits.”
The Opposite of Me will also be published in Germany this week under the title Frauen Sind So. Deb Sarah will be reading at Politics&Prose in Washington on Saturday, April 3 at 1 p.m. Check Sarah’s website for more details. And The Opposite of Me has a trailer! Check it out HERE!
Amy MacKinnon, author of Tethered, offers the following endorsement for Deb Alicia’s Simply From Scratch: “Readers will fall for the characters of this New England town who try to rescue the worn-through heart of one of their own. Told with equal parts warmth, hope, and humor, SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH is destined to be passed among friends who’ve shared in each other’s grief, and honored it with love and compassion. It’s a triumph of the heart.”
Founding Deb Mia King (aka Darien Gee)’s fourth novel, Friendship Bread, sold last week to Ballantine Books at auction for publication in 2011. Foreign rights have already sold as well. Join Mia’s Friendship Bread Kitchen (www.facebook.com/fbkitchen) on Facebook and join her community of friends and readers.
Julia Evarts is still healing from the loss of her son when she and her five-year old daughter receive the equivalent of a culinary chain letter: a plate of Amish friendship bread along with a Ziploc filled with the gooey yeast starter. They’re instructed to feed the starter over a ten-day period then bake two loaves of bread and share the remaining starter with three other people. As the bread and its starter make its way through Julia’s small town (including into the home of her estranged sister whom Julia holds responsible for her son’s death), the residents of Avalon, IL find their lives inexplicably changed. Friendship Bread is a novel about life and loss, friendship and community, and what endures even when the unthinkable happens.
Her debut was many books ago, but she’ll always be a Deb. Today we welcome YA author Deb Caletti.
Deb Caletti is an award-winning author and a National Book Award finalist whose books are published and translated worldwide. Her first novel was The Queen of Everything (Simon & Schuster, 2002),of which a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly proclaimed: “This marks Caletti as a writer to watch.” Although written for adults, its coming-of-age themes gained it acclaim as a YA book. It made the cover of the esteemed review journal The Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books (the first trade book to do so in the journal’s history), and then was chosen for PSLA’s Top Forty of 2003 and the International Reading Association’s Young Adult Choices for 2004. It is currently in its thirteenth printing. Deb’s second book, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Kirkus called it, “tender and poetic,” and the book earned other distinguished recognition, including the PNBA Best Book Award, the Washington State Book Award, and School Library Journal’s Best Book award.
Deb grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and earned her journalism degree from the University of Washington in Seattle. When Deb is not writing books or reading them, she is a painter and a lyricist, and speaks widely to audiences on writing and life as an author. Deb lives with her family in Seattle.
And now she’s here to answer some questions for us!
What’s the riskiest thing you ever did and how did it work out for you? The riskiest thing was attempting to make a living by being a writer. As John Steinbeck said, “The profession of writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable profession.” But I’m so glad I did risk it and put in the years of hard work to make it happen. There’s a sense of knowing I’m in the right place for me. Writing fits me like nothing else could.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that happened to you in high school? A club that I was president of lost a bet with another club, and I was made into guacamole in front of the whole school during an assembly. I’m pretty sure guacamole doesn’t have eggs in it, though.
If you could live anywhere for a year, where would it be? I’d live in a houseboat again, on Lake Union in the middle of Seattle. It’s all magic – seaplanes, twinkling city lights, ducks cruising by, sprinkled with an assortment of wacky neighbors and charming boats, barges, and kayaks. You don’t drive these kinds of houseboats – think “Sleepless in Seattle,” a home on top of water. I’m aiming to eventually live there again permanently.
Are you a sports fan? Who’s your team? Is reading a sport? Actually, sports and I have a rampant distrust of each other, ever since those days in P.E. where I tried to bounce a basketball and walk at the same time. Standing at home plate waiting/hoping/pleading with God to hit the ball was outright cruelty. Hurdles in track were nightmarishly high, too, and the P.E. teachers then had second jobs as sadistic prison guards. The only thing I could manage with any skill was badminton and the V-sit in gymnastics. Now, though, any sports I like revolve around the water – swimming, boating. My son races sail boats, and any team he’s part of on any given race day happens to be my favorite.
Do you make plans in advance when you travel, or just hope for the best? I’m a planner when it comes to trips, mostly because all that dreaming beforehand is part of the fun. I like it best when the place I stay is an experience in itself. I’ve stayed in a tugboat, in a castle with a moat, in a hotel that sits in the old Medici garden. I hope to stay in a lighthouse someday soon, as one features prominently in the book I am working on now, STAY, which will be released April 2011.
What’s the coolest writing-thing that’s happened to you since you sold your first book? Ah, easy – being a finalist for the National Book Award. What an honor. It still gives me shivers. I’m still in shock about it and probably always will be.
Go on, give us some writing advice. You know you want to! I worry about writers, because we are an anxious bunch in an impossible business. I hear the worry all the time, as well as the search for a magic key that will make it all (whatever “all” is) happen. Writers fret about finding time to write and writer’s block and finding agents. They worry about how to write and what to write. But I believe that if writing is truly who you are rather than some means to a different end, you will of course find solutions to all of these problems. You will find the answers and figure it out and become good enough over time to become who you are. You just will. So, relax. Work hard, but relax. And if it’s not who you are? That’s okay, too. Perfectly fine, actually. There are a gajillion places to put your drive and talents and energy. Don’t forget – there’s always horse racing.
Thanks so much Deb!
Please don’t throw any rotten tomatoes at me, but, and I know it’s sacrilege for a writer to admit this, but I generally don’t enjoy bookstores. I know, I know…now bookstores across the country are putting a big black mark next to my name, but WAIT, let me explain.
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE bookstores for other people, but after a few minutes in a bookstore, I begin to sort of panic. It’s just too much. Too many wonderful books, too many spots to sit and look at them, too many titles, authors, covers, displays, too much, ah, my brain might explode! AHHHH!!!
The truth is that I’m like this with all stores. Grocery, hardware, clothing, pet stores…all of them. The internet has seriously saved me from shopping. Maybe it was all my years in retail, but as soon as I walk through the door of any store, my freak-out clock starts ticking loudly. After 10 minutes, my pace picks up. After 11, I’m pushing people out of my way, at 12 minutes, things on my list become unnecessary. Bread? Milk? Who needs ‘em? By the 13 minute mark, I start throwing random things into my cart. At 14 minutes, I’m racing for the magazine stand where I yell at my husband, “Let’s go!!!” and we rush to the checkout line. I don’t breathe easy until the backpack is loaded and we’re walking home.
So you can imagine how it must be for me in a bookstore. For one thing, I can’t have everything I want. If I’m lucky, I can afford one book. And as the minutes tick by, it becomes a desperate search for the RIGHT one. Not to mention I have a standing policy against reading the jacket copy. How do you choose one book from all the millions without reading the copy? What if I choose wrong. What if I buy a sequel to a book when I haven’t read the first one? What if, what if, what if?
That’s why I love libraries. There is only one bookcase of YA. And if I choose wrong, I can just turn it back in and get something else. But in spite of my fear of retail, I do love bookstores for the rest of the population. And when we travel, we always go into every indie we can find. Luckily, my husband loves them, and so I just find one thing to look at and wait while he examines everything in the store.
While researching indie bookstores, I found something very cool that you all should know about. Island Books on Mercer Island (near Seattle) will ship your book purchase for free. That means while you have to pay retail (no chain discount) you can still come out about even because you don’t pay shipping, AND you can support an indie. The owner has been very friendly and seems excited about my book. I’m setting up an account with them (they don’t have a shopping cart, orders are done by phone or email so you can get real indie customer service). Any time I need to send a copy of Restoring Harmony for a prize or review in the U.S. they will send it for me and charge my account. And in May, I’m going to do a stock signing there, so if you want a signed book from me, you’ll be able to order one from them.
P.S. This whole fear of bookstores is meant sort of tongue-in-cheek. I actually love bookstores and I’m drawn into them like a moth to the flame. Like the moth though, I burnout pretty quickly from all the good stuff. I am looking forward to signings though because I’ll be able to be social and chat and everyone else will be the ones checking out the books. Social I can do!
As far as I’m concerned, all books should be FREE for everyone to enjoy. Hey, wait a second.. did I really just say that? I have honestly lost it. Here I am trying to SELL books hoping to make some extra cash, and my mouth utters the cruelest betrayal. Ok mouth you asked for it. You are officially on a time-out for the rest of this blog. What? (muffled complaining) Don’t argue with me young lady, I am DEAD serious! (more muffled complaining) Excuse me, was that more back talk? Not another word missy, or you’ll be going to bed without dinner!! (Long silence with threatening stare) Good, now getting back to the topic at hand…
I guess if books can’t be free, bookstores are the place to be. That “new book” smell is as intoxicating and addictive as “new car” smell. You get the rush of the unexpected; so much promise and possibility. Just think…the next book you pick up could change your life forever. Many have. Then again, many come in clever whimsical disguises with irresistible covers designed to catch your eye and capture your imagination, but leave you as empty as your pockets will be once you’ve paid the bill.
For the record, “old book,” or “ancient library smell” should be bottled as a fragrance in my opinion. It takes you to places long gone, conjuring up romantic memories of times when writers used quills, wrote by candlelight and there was no “word check” to correct human error. Would I have attempted to write back then? Hmm… I wonder. I’m pretty clumsy and would probably knock over those glass ink bottles all the time getting ink all over my precious petticoat.
By the way–did you know the U.S. Supreme Court still uses 1200 quills a year, upholding a tradition it began in 1801? Yup. It turns out times haven’t changed that much!
Anyhow, getting back to bookstores, I’ve been spending even more time in them these days since my book debut. I am amused with the social oasis bookstores have become. Pick up a best-seller -or my freshman offering for just 9.95- (shameless plug) enjoy some java, grab some grub, make some new friends, and stay until closing time. Sounds like the perfect day to me.