Well, it's official -- I've written a book. It seems a little unbelievable that I pulled it off (with a lot of help from my editor, Kate Thompson) but I did and I'm incredibly excited to share it with you in September 2017!
Like most of the good things in my life, the book wasn't exactly planned but was the result of a 'what the hell, let's go for it' decision. My friend, Demaris, owns Apostle Islands Booksellers in Bayfield and she suggested I pitch a cookbook based on my blog to the Wisconsin Historical Press. After a few gentle reminders, I finally agreed and sent an email in October 2013 with a subject line of "A Cookbook, Of Sorts, From Bayfield" and a helluva opening paragraph that included, "I'm not sure what goes into writing/publishing a cookbook but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?" Needless to say, I was shocked when Kate got back to me with a request for more information...in the form of a book proposal with five or six pages of questions.
Paperwork and Mary D is not a recipe for success, on a good day, and it was particularly intimidating to sit down in front of a bunch of questions about a cookbook (of sorts) that I hadn't planned on writing. So, I did what I always do and plowed through it, answering the questions as best I could....except for one VERY important question, "percentage of manuscript now completed". I figured any author worth their salt would have at least 50 percent of a manuscript completed before pitching a book, so I answered 50 - 60 percent -- never dreaming they would ask to see it. But they did and I had to come clean in January 2014 with an explanation that, "50 percent of the book is done but it's in my blog format and I would like to tighten it up before I send a manuscript version your way. What if I pulled it together and sent it off in two weeks?"
That's where the wheels fell off my book-writing wagon and two weeks turned into five months. The thought of trying to cobble a manuscript together from my disjointed blog essays and recipes seemed like a huge task and I found all sorts of reasons not to sit down and do it. Until Kate emailed me on May 23, 2014 and asked, "Are you still thinking about doing a book project? I’d love to hear more about it." Like most of the good and unplanned things in my life, Kate's email came at the perfect time.
That morning, Ted and I decided to take the Karl out for a quick spin before the kids came home from school and we cruising between Basswood and Hermit Islands when I saw Kate's email. I was still thinking (every now and then) about the book but, to be honest, I wasn't sure if I was up to the task of writing an entire book. I have zero experience in anything author-related and the thought of throwing my inexperienced hat into the writing ring seemed far outside my area of expertise. These thoughts were bouncing around in my head as we were walking on the beach (self-doubt can be so damn persuasive when you start to feed it) and as I turned back towards the boat, those self-doubting thoughts were drowned out by another voice who told me to write the book because I'll be given the words. It was settled, I decided to try my hand at becoming an author.
I sat down the last week of May and extracted, re-worked, and cobbled together 14 essays and 43 recipes from my blog and emailed it to Kate. At the beginning of August, another email from Kate arrived in my inbox with the sentence that marked the beginning of Life in a Northern Town, "We would like to offer you a book contract!"
The writing and publishing process reminded me a lot of becoming a mother. It’s all good when that baby is safely tucked away in your belly but shortly after the birth, it becomes apparent there is more to motherhood than picking out cute little onesies and agonizing over the perfect name. And there certainly was a lot more to authorhood than I would have guessed when I signed my book contract during the summer of 2014.
It was a long process: full of deadline extensions, photo disasters (I accidentally deleted about 17,000 photos right before my manuscript was due in September 2015), revisiting grammatical nuances, realizing that consistency and brevity are not traits I naturally possess, appreciating why some authors drink (all that word nit-picking creates massive self-doubt that only a double tequila on the rocks can fix) and how a good editor is a writer’s best friend. In the end, the process of writing forced me to distill my thoughts and feelings about food, feeding people and why it matters where my food comes from.
Food is love -- something I've always believed and experienced in my life. However, I never realized that more than when we were headed out to the BWCA in May 2016. Our dog, Seamus, had lymphoma and was nearing the end of his life but our trip had been planned for months and, after a consult with our veterinarian, we decided to leave him in the very competent hands of our good friend, Amber. My heart was heavy and I wanted to make sure Seamus knew how much I loved him while we were gone. So, I found myself where I often go when I'm sad, happy, worried or content.....at the stove, in my kitchen.
I poured every bit of love I could muster into that pot of homemade dog food and it was at that moment I realized the power of cookery. The food I made for Seamus would nourish him, physically and emotionally (I hoped), until we returned home. It was a small thing but making his dog chow was a way to be present, even when I was away from home. Cooking is my currency; it's the way I connect, nurture and love the people and animals in my life....whether it's dog chow for a sick pup, cookies for a friend, or roasted chicken for my kids when I can't be home for dinner.
And that's what I'm hoping to share with you through the words and photos in the book -- for me, it's all about home, love and connection. For more information about Life in a Northern Town, click here. I'm so excited to share the book with you in the fall!!