The Publishing Specialist

Yesterday I had a phone call from a Publishing Specialist at a fairly well-known and prestigious (as these things go, at least–although I confess I’m not sure I know really how these things go) self-publishing company. My impression is these companies run the gamut between self and publishing, and the more self is involved, the less it costs, but the more publishing happens, the better-looking and marketed your product. Someone correct me if I’m wrong here.

Anyway, these particular self-publishers, though you pay them for the service, actually evaluate your manuscript–at least, under certain publishing packages–and so even though it isn’t exactly like traditional publishing in which you only go to print by virtue of merit and/or marketability, there is still some sort of literarily evaluative process going on. This might work, I thought to myself, when I filled in the little on-line questionnaire with self-revelatory information like my phone number, for the express purpose of receiving a phone call from a Publishing Specialist. Maybe I can Kickstart this thing to self-publication, and get the process going in time to resume seminary courses in the fall, so that by next year, I can fund my courses almost all by myself with the royalties.

I know. I’m such a jokester.

But even when I’m telling myself jokes, it doesn’t mean I’m not dreaming a little bit, too. So when this dude called, I was kind of excited to learn what I needed to do next. Here’s what didn’t occur to me: I am really Phone Awkward. (Actually, I’m pretty Generally Awkward, but I’m usually mostly enjoy interacting with people in person or in writing, regardless, whereas I dislike the telephone.) The thing is, if you’re about to pitch a book–even to a company that will accept money from you to publish it–you want to be able to do so compellingly.

At this point, I’m fairly convinced even my written queries and book proposals and synopses for Favored One are sub-par, and the reason they are is because until maybe two nights ago, I wasn’t completely certain it was all that good a book to begin with. Two nights ago I started rereading and tweaking it from the beginning, and, as happened with Trees in the Pavement, it dawned on me, This isn’t half bad. It might be more than half good, even. But yeah. You see what I’m saying. Even that much positivity–which, for me, is a heck of a lot of positivity–doesn’t exactly a riveting book-pitch make. (Nor does Shakespearean syntax randomly thrown into postmodern prose, but I do that, too, evidently.)

Book Anxiety added to Phone Awkwardness is a really bad combination, let me tell you. On top of that comes the fact that I’m also fairly low-energy, particularly when I’m feeling Anxious and Awkward, so when the Publishing Specialist and I finally managed to have a conversation (which was a feat in itself, given a pretty strenuous game of phone tag as well as decisive cell phone reception failure right when he called and actually got through to a real person (i.e., me)) and he asked me to “tell him about my book,” I said,

“Um . . . well . . . um . . . it’s, I guess the closest thing you might say it fits into is . . . historical fiction? Um . . . Biblical historical fiction? Um . . . it’s um, about Mary, the mother of Jesus.” (I didn’t even call her Miryam. Then again, if I had, would I have sounded pretentious? Maybe not, after all those ums.)

“Oh,” he said. “Uh huh.”

It wasn’t a Go on! I’m riveted! Tell me more! encouraging “Uh huh.” It was a That sounds horrendous. This conversation is so almost over kind of “Uh huh.:

I was afraid things were only going to get worse if I said anything else–how bad is it if people won’t even let you pay them to publish you? Then it did get worse, because he said, “So . . . did you do a lot of research, or is it mostly . . . all . . . fiction?”

I’m not even sure what kind of question that was. Come to think of it, he may not have been totally sure what kind of question it was. He probably had a wordless mind-jam in which he considered all those things I pointed out in an earlier post–that lots of people don’t believe the stories in the Bible to be historical actually, and how much research could you possibly do to make a historical novel about people who may or may not have existed? Or maybe he was being gripped by the possibilities, but that wasn’t the vibe I was getting. Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out how honest to be without simultaneously tangenting and digging the book’s grave deeper by explaining the whole lectio divina spiritual exercise thing.

Finally I said, “Not much research, honestly. I mean, I did some, but I don’t think it’s possible to recreate the actual Mary of that time period, so it’s kind of a . . . psychological experiment where I imagined how I would have reacted had I been her and had things happened the way the Bible says they did.” I hoped the phrase “psychological experiment” would help. Be intriguing. You know.

“Uh huh,” he said again, with about the same degree of encouragement as before. But he forged ahead anyway; he probably has certain prescribed questions he has to ask anyone before he can justifiably hang up on them, and it was sometime during the part of the interrogation surrounding publishing goals or something that I mentioned I already had a book published.

“Oh!” he said, “So you actually have an advantage over a lot of writers.”

I do? I–well, I was kind of hoping I did, but you never know, do you?

We talked about my “advantage” a little bit and by the end of the conversation, although he still didn’t sound personally sold on my book idea, he did sound a little less resistant to the idea of my name being linked to his company. He promised to send me an email via which I could learn about their publishing packages and ask further questions before we decided on which package would be “right for me.”

Even the least expensive package seems pretty good, although the editorial input ramps up considerably with more financial outlay. I checked out a few other companies today to do a little comparison shopping. There are Christian ones. They might like my storyline a little better. In any case, it appears there are some good options out there, but none I can finance myself. So, I either keep flogging my book to uninterested agents, or I see what Kickstarter can do. I’ve asked before. I’ll ask again.

Pretty sure there’s always more than “self” in publishing

What do you think?

Incoming

My parents used to live in Ireland.

Yesterday Pastor Ron preached a sermon about how, once Memorial Day became a moveable feast, as it were, so that everybody (except people working in churches, by the way) could have a long weekend, people stopped remembering what it was really about. He cited car and mattress sales as evidence, and I tend to agree with him. Yesterday I spent a little time remembering a fallen hero and his family. But I still have to say that, since we haven’t had any servicemen or -women in my known family in a very long time, if ever, Memorial Day often means different things to me. Like, five years ago my lovely cousin Phill was killed in a motorcycle accident. This year, it means my parents don’t live in Ireland anymore.

First I myself lived in London for five and a half years, and when I moved back to the family Homestead, TheBro and his then-relatively-new bride were staying in my parents’ house with them. I moved in and there were five of us–all adults, and it’s a decent-sized house, but not that decent-sized. So I moved into an apartment in a neighbouring town, but evidently that wasn’t enough for them, because it wasn’t long after that that TheBro and Sister-in-Lu moved to the Midwest and my parents hopped back over the Pond in the direction from which I had returned, and suddenly, there was the family Homestead, all empty-like, so I moved back in there myself. (In case you don’t know them, I should tell you I feel loved by my family and like to joke about their abandoning me, but I know they didn’t really on purpose. Right? Right?) For a while there was Roommate-Sarah, too, but then she got married, and so for the last four or five years, it’s just been me.

Now I’m married myself, and living somewhere near, but “else,” and although technically it’s not because I moved, within the next few hours (if they aren’t already), my parents will jet across the Atlantic and, at least for the time being, move back into their own home. I’ve been going back and forth between their home and mine for the last two and a half months, trying gradually to incorporate  my stuff from the Homestead to the established digs here. At one point I emptied out the Homestead fridge, and, at my parents’ very sensible request, unplugged it.

“Did you unplug it?” asked Mom-Elizabeth (not my mom) when we were hanging out a week or two ago, “If you left the doors closed with the fridge unplugged, it will get mouldy.”

Let it be known: she was not wrong.

I opened the freezer with not a little apprehension, and discovered dark, multi-coloured blobs all over the interior. It smelled really . . . interesting . . . as well. Kind of like old fish. I wiped at a blob and a cloud of spores floated away. Great. I fought the blobs, and I won, but it sure took awhile, and I’m not convinced that the box of baking soda I threw in there with the meal’s-worth of food I had bought them will have fully deodorised the fridge by the time they open it this evening. But I tried to tidy things up a bit, and I hope they know and can tell, somehow, that I’m glad they’re back. It took me three years to readjust to the US after London, so I expect they’ll have some significant readjustments to make, too. But at least there’s some family around for them, just like there should be on Memorial Day.

More Boxes

El Greco meant this to be Mary Magdalene, evidently, but I liked it way better than all the Virgin Mary public domain images I found.

As I was telling you earlier, I’ve written three novels. (I actually got about halfway through a fourth, and then it completely escaped me. Plus I was telling it from the point of view of a 20-something guy, which I am not nor have ever been, and for various reasons I began seriously doubting my ability to write in such a voice.) The youthful dreadful one, the one that got published, and (the perhaps ironically named) Favored One, the one I can’t decide whether to keep hurling at agents or to self-publish.

Stephen King says writing is like an paleontological dig, and you just tell the story that’s already there (like an paleontologist uncovers the fossils already there). I take this to mean you write with the style that you have (not that it can’t and shouldn’t be honed) and the story that comes to you. He also talks about writing for a particular person, but I don’t seem to remember him saying a whole lot about otherwise knowing your audience. In my reading, however, almost all other writing-advice-givers admonish writers to know their audience.

This is a problem for me. Even with Trees in the Pavement, though I could place it at an upper-elementary-school reading level, is hard for me to classify as strictly a children’s book. This is not because I feel any shame in having written a children’s book–children’s literature is actually my favourite–but it is because a) people who don’t know children’s literature often assume “picture book” when I say I’ve written a children’s book (a type of book I also love, but that is not what Trees is) and because b) most of my adult friends have read it and really like it–even the adult friends who don’t normally read children’s literature.

Turns out I also have genre-boundary issues. (I said genre, by the way. In case you weren’t paying attention.) I subscribe to a few different Writer’s Digest emails, and once they made available a handy little download of fiction genre types and descriptions. It was an excerpt from theBeginning Writer’s Answer Book and it listed and described such genres as Action/Adventure, Historical Fiction, Gothic, Fantasy, Mystery, and so on. In case that wasn’t good enough, they also included a few sub-genres, like Historical Romance (complete with sub-sub-genres) and Romantic Comedy and Romantic Suspense.

I read with interest the ones I thought might be closest to whatever genre Favored One is–kind of the way you read through your results when you take a Facebook quiz which purports to tell you which Downton Abbey character you are. (I’m Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, in case you were wondering. With Lady Sybill as a close second.) But, just as I always had inner caveats to my multiple choice quiz answers in school, I couldn’t quite seem to find a genre that I felt Favoured One really fit.

Here is why I might be confused (and maybe some agents are, too):

Back in London–I don’t know, maybe halfway through my time there (though I didn’t know it was halfway), I started experimenting with lectio divina. I was going through a mystical phase, remember? Somebody there once (or maybe more than once) led us through an exercise where you put yourself into the Bible story being read, as one of the characters, and tried to experience the passage for yourself in your head. I kind of liked this–as a kid I was always acting out songs and stories and story-songs–so I began to do this on occasion by myself, and to write the experiences down like short stories. (Maybe one of these days I’ll transcribe a few of them here as blogposts.) After some time of doing this, I began to feel like I wanted to do this “as” Mary, the mother of Jesus. But I didn’t just want to pick an anecdote she was in. I wanted to do the whole story.

I guess I was exploring the idea of Mary as “God-bearer,” and then thinking about how Christians are supposed to be essentially possessed by the Spirit of God (I’m sorry that this is often the opposite of what it looks like), and so, though hoping to avoid any sort of self-aggrandisement or blasphemy, I was kind of mulling around the idea of what it means to be a God-bearer–and more particularly a woman God-bearer. This idea batted around my head for a long time, and then just before I left London, I started the process. By this time I had been given a copy of the Complete Jewish Bible, with it’s complete Hebrew-to-English transliterations of the names, and so I began writing as Miryam.

The upshot is a story that just doesn’t seem to fit anywhere. It’s not biographical fiction, because I’m not particularly bothered about trying to discern who the real Miryam was. I don’t think that’s remotely possible. This isn’t an attempt to imagine how the real Miryam would have acted and reacted in the Biblical accounts, but more an attempt to imagine how I would have, had I been Miryam, and had all those things in the New Testament happened the way the Gospel writers say they did. (Was it tricky “harmonising” the Gospels for this project? Yes. But it was possible.)

It’s not a romance novel, because although there is some subtle romance between Miryam and Yosef, he’s not around for most of the story. It’s sort of women’s fiction I think, because it’s about one, and because Jesus’ female disciples blasted through a whole lot of stereotypes and cultural mores to follow Him around, but that was the first century and this is the twenty-first, and I’m not sure people who snatch up women’s fiction would necessarily put it in that category. Because enough people don’t actually believe the stories literally, it could be fantasy because of the miraculous, or it could be paranormal because there are demons as well as a Spirit impregnating a teenager . . . It could be multicultural like Trees because it takes place in a country where I’m not, in a language I don’t know, among a people group I’m not a part of.

In my opinion, the closest genre it comes to fitting is that of historical fiction, but . . . I just listed a bunch of reasons many people wouldn’t consider it historical. The people who would are conservative Christians, but I’m struggling with that one. I guess I just don’t really believe there should be “Christian” art. I know I’m probably shooting myself in the foot and losing all opportunity to ever be published again, but I guess I just wish there was no specifically Christian fiction publishing industry (I concede it may be different for strictly devotional material), or Christian music industry (same concession goes for music specifically designed to be sung in worship), or Christian movie industry. I wish there were just Christian writers and musicians and movie-makers and artists who made good enough art that people would take notice, even if they didn’t agree with it.

I’m not saying my art’s that good. I wish it were, but I’m not delusional. At least not about that. Meanwhile I think I just shut down my Christian publishing opportunities, and it’s pretty tough to try to sell a book to an agent when you can’t even put a genre to it. I completely resonate with Satis’ and the Bitchy Bride’s comments on this post, and maybe I should just taste my own medicine and keep working to write a good enough piece of literature that people outside of my subculture would want to read it. Or maybe I should do what the Blue Like Jazz guys did, knowing that there isn’t–and may never be–a mainstream market for what we’re into, but that at the same time the “Christian industry” isn’t what we’re into, either. Maybe the first few attempts will be a little rough around the edges, but I may just go the self-publishing route one of these days after all. Either that, or someday the future generations can dig through the boxes, both literal and metaphoric, and maybe they’ll see something in there that they like.

There Is No Room Inside a Box

Here’s an evidently home-made YouTube music video with which I digress before I even start talking, so you’ll know that I didn’t make up that title myself. But I do think of it a lot. When I am feeling boxed in, I guess.

Back in my early 20’s, I went through a “Christian mystic” phase. One of my grandmothers is really into the mystics, and then I went to London and worked and worshiped in a church which ran the gamut from charismatic to contemplative (not necessarily opposites, as it turns out), so I read a lot of books by and about people who seemed to have stunning revelations from God and who did sometimes really socially awkward things in the name of Jesus and . . . oh. Kind of like Christians often still do. A lot of times they were sickly. They seemed to have trouble with relationships. But the best of their writings are bracing and inspiring and made me want to be the best kind of Jesus-lover I could be. Even though it kind of sounds like it, I’m not making fun of them. I could (and maybe sometime will) tell you stories about how their stories messed with my head at times, but for now suffice it to say there is still a genre of literature that could probably best be described as “Saints’ Lives.”

In the early days of that phase, I remember asking my mystical grandmother (whom I had taken on as kind of a mentor) whether she thought it was ungodly to read other types of literature than Christian-religious. I was probably hoping she’d say no, but expecting she’d say yes–and maybe hoping for that a little, too, as it would give me the chance to do something difficult and self-sacrificial. She didn’t really say either. She kind of hemmed and hawed a little bit and then said something about how it was certainly acceptable to read novels (which were, of course, what I was really asking about), but probably not very beneficial, like reading Saints’ Lives would be, for example. I came away with the feeling that reading novels (“good” ones, of course–there would be scandalous ones that should be avoided, but I’m sure it never occurred to Grandma–or me, at the time–that I would ever consider reading any of those) was like eating iceberg lettuce–it wasn’t going to have any effect on my emotional and spiritual nutrition–unless that was all I read–but it was kind of pointless.

I wasn’t sure whether to feel disappointed or not.

Now I think I disagree–and I’m reading novels, so I guess you can tell which side of the issue I came down on. I still enjoy reading theology and Saints’ Lives, believe it or not, but if a book is a really good one–no matter what the author’s personal philosophical bent, I still feel like I’m “getting something out of it.” I’m a fairly standard Evangelical when it comes to the Bible–though I wouldn’t consider myself “fundamentalist.” I think it is a book unlike other books and that God really did inspire all of it (though not by, say, hypnotising the scribes–I believe they were actual writers) in a way that other books are not inspired, even if they are. When it says, in the book of Hebrews, that the word of the Lord is “alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4.12, NLT), I agree. I can’t think of any other book I have or would reread as many times as I’ve read and reread this one, nor one out of which I would ever get as much.

After that, though? Other books are just books, and I really don’t think it matters what genre it is, whether or not it’s going to “speak.” It has more to do with the author (whether writing is actually a gift of his or hers, or not) and the reader (whether the style is something I can resonate with). I realise I might be (definitely am) in the minority here, but I guess I believe that God, being, you know, kind of creative Himself, and creating with a Word, invented the arts, and that when they are operating most truly, they express Him in the end. I absolutely love it when I am reading something, or–to touch on the other arts for a minute because it applies to them, too–watching or viewing or listening to something and discover something somehow Redemptive in it, whether that was the artist’s intent or not. (Actually–I kind of love it more when I “see Jesus” somewhere when the person precisely didn’t intend it. Evidently I’m not the only one.) I don’t go around consciously hunting for that–anymore–but I guess after a lifetime of playing Hide-and-Seek with Jesus among the arts, He’s probably just going to keep on jumping out at me even when I wasn’t quite paying attention. Thank God.

As for “God’s favourite genre,” it may well be the lives of saints (understood more broadly), but not necessarily written down. Other than that, all due respect and love to my really quite amazing Grandmother, but I think pinning God and His ability to communicate down to one genre is really quite foolish and limiting. As the Bible itself would indicate, since it’s full of just about every genre out there.

All This

Lately I’ve been sort of overwhelmed with gratitude for where I am right now. Our house is small and fishing may not yet be remotely relaxing for me (and I may therefore be making it stressful and irritating for my Paul–partly because he doesn’t naturally find it stressful and irritating), but I still can’t get over that I live in a house that is sort of mine, on an actual body of water, with a garden with raised beds and home-made stone walls . . . and a loving husband, too.

I took these photos a month ago, so there are more and somewhat taller things growing out of the garden beds, but I’d just like to show you where I am these days.

Photo by jennwith2ns 2012

Out Back

 

photo by jennwith2ns 2012

Forsythia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflecting the local light

photo by jennwith2ns 2012

Sundown every night

photo by jennwith2ns 2012

All this and a man, too . . .

Weight–What?

They say when you are crossing cultures, one of the last things successfully to translate is humour. Maybe that’s why I never really minded when, during every potluck dinner at my London Church, a Brazilian friend would tease me when I went back for seconds saying, “One for you, one for the worm,” and everybody else in the multicultural group would laugh. Everybody got it. I guess tapeworms are universal? I don’t know, but I could really “put the food away,” as they say, and I never gained a pound. Along with a naturally high metabolism, probably partly triggered by an uptight personality, I had no car and so I walked for miles every day. Really really fast. There was no way I was getting fat–the food couldn’t catch up.

When I moved back Stateside, I wasn’t overly happy about it, and my intense personality internalised a lot of the culture shock so that eating became a problem. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to eat. I just couldn’t. I’d feel ravenous, start eating, get to maybe the fifth bite, and then not be able to stomach another thing. I spent the summer drinking Ensure (which is really not how you want to spend a summer, believe me), and that may be what kept me from wasting away entirely. I was at least ten pounds underweight at any given time. I didn’t realise how gaunt I was until some years later when I had filled out to a more healthy weight and looked at photos from that period of time. They’re kind of alarming, really.

Sometimes it’s a little irritating when one’s weight troubles are the opposite of most people’s, because nobody can understand that they’re troubles. Also, there’s not much sympathy out there for people who feel like whining, “Woe is me–I’m ten pounds underweight.” Nobody ever joins in the pity party–except to start their own: “I wish I had your problem!” Sometimes people would say, “Just wait ’til you hit thirty. Your metabolism will slow right down.” Thing was, I was already thirty-five.

I don’t know the science behind it–maybe there isn’t any–but I promise you that I was physically incapable of getting up to my optimum BMI until I had cancer surgery. Tumour out, and all at once my weight rose and rose and what do you know? I weighed what any six-foot-tall woman should expect to weigh. And I maintained it. I was very excited.

Four years later, though, and I’m pushing forty, and now suddenly I’m saying to myself, “I wish I had that other problem.” I think I really kind of smugly thought I was going to get away with a high metabolism and a svelt figure for as long as I lived. Guess not. The upside? Trousers that were always slightly in danger of falling down around my ankles fit much better now. Or they did. They might be getting a little tricky to button and zip as of the last month or so. The downside(s)? 1. All the buttons in my blouses and sweaters are starting to look a little strained. 2. I can’t just chow down on whatever item I fancy whenever I feel the slightest bit peckish. 3. Suddenly aerobic exercise seems a bit more necessary than, “Skinny people can be out of shape, too”–and I have less opportunity to do it. 4. I’m not a heavy drinker, but I feel sort of wistful when I think of cutting back on the beer.

Public Domain Image

One for you, one for the tape . . . measure.

Some people might posit that all this happened since I got married. Actually, I think the metabolism and all that started to go downhill beforehand. All the same, though I will probably never totally lose my uptight edge, I do think I’m getting a little more serene since merging lives with my Paul. I don’t think it’s accurate to blame him if my figure disappears within the year (I suspect we’d both be disappointed). But after all, I guess marriage pleases me, and there are way worse things in life than being fat and happy.

The Quest for the Tasty Kale

Instead of the “Holy Grail”–get it?

I know. It’s not funny if I have to explain it. Or even if I hadn’t.

I feel like I should be explaining why I haven’t posted anything in so long, but . . . I have no idea, so I can’t.

For last the four or five weeks in our weekly box of veggies, we’ve been getting bunches of kale. This is good because kale is really good for you, but kind of bad because we’ve been having a little trouble finding ways to eat it that we like. It’s kind of leathery, and the flavour is strong and somewhat bitter. I don’t mind it so much; sometimes I eat it off the plate when it’s a garnish at a restaurant. (I like eating garnishes because I can.) But my Paul isn’t a big fan of it in any form, so I’ve been experimenting, trying to find a recipe that makes it palatable.

First we tried boiling it up with some collard greens. I couldn’t really distinguish the kale taste, but Paul could. Then I went online and looked up kale recipes and found a few for kale chips. That sounded intriguing, so last Friday I spent part of the morning of my day off de-ribbing kale leaves, coating them in olive oil and salt, and then spreading them on a tray for baking.

They seemed to take a long time to bake. Not long enough, however, for me to take a shower while they were finishing up, evidently. They were more than finished up by the time I got out of there. They were also completely inedible, even to me, and I eat most things. Except chicken livers. (Long story.) I tried munching on a few of the chips just to see, but they were really, really bad. I pitched both baking sheets-worth into the trash and then the house smelled like I had really wretched indigestion for the rest of the day until I had the sense to tie up the bag and put it outside.

So far the good-tasting kale enterprise was not going so well, but then we got this week’s farm newsletter. Not only does Former-Roommate-Sarah’s family provide vegetables every week, but they also, in their weekly email, compile a recipe or two from various recipe websites. This week, they included this one:

Kale Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale, stalks removed and discarded, leaves thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 mango, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • Small handful toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), about 2 rounded tablespoons

Directions

In large serving bowl, add the kale, half of lemon juice, a drizzle of oil and a little kosher salt. Massage until the kale starts to soften and wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside while you make the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk remaining lemon juice with the honey and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Stream in the 1/4 cup of oil while whisking until a dressing forms, and you like how it tastes.

Pour the dressing over the kale, and add the mango and pepitas. Toss and serve.

photo by Jennwith2ns 2012

Kale and mango. Who knew?

I didn’t have any pepitas, so I threw some sunflower seeds and chia in there, mixed it all up . . . and loved it. My Paul tasted it, but still didn’t like it. But it doesn’t matter anymore. I could eat kale like that every day.

The Quest for the Tasty Kale

Instead of the “Holy Grail”–get it?

I know. It’s not funny if I have to explain it. Or even if I hadn’t.

I feel like I should be explaining why I haven’t posted anything in so long, but . . . I have no idea, so I can’t.

For last the four or five weeks in our weekly box of veggies, we’ve been getting bunches of kale. This is good because kale is really good for you, but kind of bad because we’ve been having a little trouble finding ways to eat it that we like. It’s kind of leathery, and the flavour is strong and somewhat bitter. I don’t mind it so much; sometimes I eat it off the plate when it’s a garnish at a restaurant. (I like eating garnishes because I can.) But my Paul isn’t a big fan of it in any form, so I’ve been experimenting, trying to find a recipe that makes it palatable.

First we tried boiling it up with some collard greens. I couldn’t really distinguish the kale taste, but Paul could. Then I went online and looked up kale recipes and found a few for kale chips. That sounded intriguing, so last Friday I spent part of the morning of my day off de-ribbing kale leaves, coating them in olive oil and salt, and then spreading them on a tray for baking.

They seemed to take a long time to bake. Not long enough, however, for me to take a shower while they were finishing up, evidently. They were more than finished up by the time I got out of there. They were also completely inedible, even to me, and I eat most things. Except chicken livers. (Long story.) I tried munching on a few of the chips just to see, but they were really, really bad. I pitched both baking sheets-worth into the trash and then the house smelled like I had really wretched indigestion for the rest of the day until I had the sense to tie up the bag and put it outside.

So far the good-tasting kale enterprise was not going so well, but then we got this week’s farm newsletter. Not only does Former-Roommate-Sarah’s family provide vegetables every week, but they also, in their weekly email, compile a recipe or two from various recipe websites. This week, they included this one:

Kale Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale, stalks removed and discarded, leaves thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 mango, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • Small handful toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), about 2 rounded tablespoons

Directions

In large serving bowl, add the kale, half of lemon juice, a drizzle of oil and a little kosher salt. Massage until the kale starts to soften and wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside while you make the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk remaining lemon juice with the honey and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Stream in the 1/4 cup of oil while whisking until a dressing forms, and you like how it tastes.

Pour the dressing over the kale, and add the mango and pepitas. Toss and serve.

photo by Jennwith2ns 2012

Kale and mango. Who knew?

I didn’t have any pepitas, so I threw some sunflower seeds and chia in there, mixed it all up . . . and loved it. My Paul tasted it, but still didn’t like it. But it doesn’t matter anymore. I could eat kale like that every day.

Kicking It to the Man

There’s this Kickstarter frenzy going on these days. College-mate Jason Harrod‘s got a new CD coming out and is Kickstarting it. You should check it out. Also check out his CD that Uncle Phil produced some years ago. It’s one of the ones I keep in my car because I don’t mind listening to it straight through since I only have a CD player in there and no way to listen to my iPod while driving.

Evidently Neil Gaiman‘s wife Amanda Palmer (who I’m sure I should have heard of before, but hadn’t until I joined Twitter) is Kickstarting a new album for her band, too. I think she funded in like a day, and she, and he, and plenty of other people were tweeting jubilantly about how “This is the future of music!” In her intro video to her Kickstarter site, she mentions being glad not to be under a record label anymore.

What do you think?

Kickstarter funds other artistic projects, too, including books. Right now numerous blogging friends are publicly wondering about the various publishing avenues open to writers these days. There’s the traditional route, which I went down before, and check it out! I got published! However, given my publishers’ size, and niche market, and obscurity (they’re in Scotland, for goodness’ sake), and probably relative budget, marketing seemed a bit minimal, there was no advance, and I haven’t seen any 10% royalties since the year it came out. I never planned to get rich off of writing (or in any other way, really), and at the time I was mostly grateful to get published. On the other hand, if you’re going to write a book, I guess you naturally want as broad a readership as possible, and being on the receiving end of a little bit of money at least, would be nice.

Blogging friend Jasdye has recently self-published two ebooks through Amazon. (Why am I not getting a commission from all these people the last month or so?) Amazon has various package options, priced according to services rendered. Back when Trees got published (and when I “met” Jasdye), self-publishing was like signing your own publishing death warrant; if you ever hoped to go mainstream, you could just forget about it when you self-published, you self-aggrandizing, attention-seeking wordie. But it’s not like that anymore. Now, if hearsay and even Writer’s Digest are to be believed, it’s almost like you gain some credibility (as long as people actually buy your self-published book) if you go that route. And it’s sure a lot quicker and easier than trying to get some agent or publisher to notice your work in the morass of words that flood their desks and/or inboxes.

The thing is, there’s still a part of me that feels like, if an agent or publisher does notice your work first, it provides some validity to your writing. Right? I’ve read some self-published books that would never have gotten published by a traditional publisher, and shouldn’t have been. I don’t want to put another book like that out there. And, well–that third book I mentioned having written? I’m happy with the ideas. I’m happy with the voice. I’m happy with the way the story and the character progresses. But something’s off. I think it has something to do with my difficulties in “showing, not telling.” I don’t know. I think I’d be okay with self-publishing it (for many reasons, some of which will be highlighted in another post), but I really kind of wish I had a professional editor who could read it and advise me on it first. I don’t want it facing the rest of the world until it’s absolutely the best it can be. I did have The Item read it for me once, and while he’s a good writer whose literary opinion I respect, he’s also my friend and I just can’t feel sure he’s entirely unbiased. And our respective writing styles are so different, that when he offered stylistic suggestions, I couldn’t quite bring myself to agree with him because I don’t express myself the way he expresses himself. And it would be boring if all books sounded the same.

But maybe I could start a Kickstarter project. Maybe I could find out what a reasonable self-publishing package (with both electronic and hard-copy book options, and decent marketing) cost, and what it would cost to hire an editor to vet my story, and see if my next book could hit the shelves (and people’s Kindles) that way. I don’t know. I’m not famous. Could I? Would you back it? And what do you think would make good incentives?

The Unexpected

Visible wisdom. Yeah, that’s it.

London gave my my first grey hairs. Or the flight to London did. Or something. All I know is, at age 24 and a half, I arrived at the house I would be staying in the first three months of what was to turn into over five years, looked in the mirror, and there they were. There were four of them. Knowing better, and also because of being a contrarian, I did not pull them out. It was tempting, but . . . everybody freaks out about grey hair. Therefore, I wouldn’t.

Since then, the number has been steadily growing and as recently as just before the wedding, I discovered I was starting to get a concentration of them at the right and left of the top of my forehead. If my hair were black, it would be very Addams Family. I decided I liked it. Still, it came as something of a shock to find what can best be described as a stripe of grey/white in my hair when I pulled the front back this morning.

I guess my hair is trying to tell me something.

I knew, when I said yes to my Paul, that there would be some adjustments. You don’t go from being single and either dating or not dating (mostly not dating) for your entire adult life, and then suddenly promise yourself to someone for the rest of it and move in with him, and not expect to face some adjustments. There are some. Like–I have discovered my inner neatnik. I didn’t even know I had an inner neatnik. Compared to Mom, I still don’t. But let’s just say I’m acting a whole lot more domestic than I used to. All that was more or less to be expected, though. It’s going fine. But let’s be honest. They’re still adjustments. This, however, is the part I kind of forgot to think about:

My Paul is a youthful some-years-older-than-I. I guess I might have thought about that in terms of the potentially-having-to-take-care-of-him-when-he’s-old kind of thing. (On the other hand, I have a cancer history, so the chances of one of us taking care of the other are probably pretty even.) What I didn’t consider was the relative ages of the extended family.

Here’s what I mean:

TheBro and Sister-in-Lu have, as you know, two young and very beautiful children. (No, I’m not biased.) Paul, as one of the younger three of seven siblings, has bunches of nieces and nephews (some of whom I’ve still not met)–and they’re all adults. (They’re not bad-looking either, but it’s kind of weird to talk about them like that when they’re adults.) One of the nephews is, apparently, older than I am. On Sunday we went to the birthday party of one niece’s son. He’s a year younger than Smiley-Guy. I have a grand-nephew. My 40th birthday isn’t until July, guys. Can we slow this down a bit?

While I was processing this thought, my Paul and a few of his siblings were chattering away and following the sun’s movement on the porch. One of his brothers has bought a condo in their mother’s retirement community in the South. That didn’t really strike me as so alarming until they all started talking about it together–about retiring, and where they were planning on moving, and driving around in golf carts. I feel relatively safe because my Paul has enough plans for our house that I feel like we’re probably settled here for a while. But still! My nieces and nephews are my age, and my siblings are retiring? When did this happen? I was the oldest! I started imagining relocating to a community of white-haired people I don’t know when I’m only a little older than my Paul is now. I think I had got so used to being single that when I thought ahead to retirement–well, I didn’t expect ever to be able to retire, for one thing, but I guess I visualised turning into one of those snarky-yet-warm, independent New Englanders who lives on their own until someone finds them dead in their house a week after the fact.

Wait a second. That’s not such a cheery thought either.

Arizona with my Paul when I’m still too young to move there might not be such a bad idea. Maybe my hair knows the future, and is just trying to help me to catch up.