Rain has been pouring off and on for two days. My driveway is a small pond, the backyard is more than saturated, all of our plants look perky and happy, and so am I. As long as I know that my guys are all safe, and I don’t have to go anywhere, I love a rainy day. When I was a little girl, cold rainy days meant that my mother probably had a simmering pot of soup on the stove, meatball, chicken noodle or navy bean…meatball was my favorite… and more importantly, there would be warm cookies waiting when I got off the bus from school. My boys could count on much the same when they were growing up.
It’s funny how a rainy day makes me think of my mother’s cookies, or my own little boys walking in the door inhaling deeply hoping for the aroma of their favorite chocolate chip, peanut butter or snickerdoodle cookies.
I just finished a Valentine’s novella, that will be releasing next month, and I’m working on my 1920’s historical women’s fiction novel, and even while I’m writing, food comes up. Some of my characters love to cook, others eat in fine restaurants, others eat absentmindedly at their desks while they work.
As a former food writer, it’s not surprising that I love to write about the dishes my characters enjoy…or not. Some of my favorite research is looking for recipes in antique cookbooks, new cookbooks, online or perusing restaurant menus. Old restaurant menus can give you a real taste of the times, great descriptions and even prices. And antique recipe cards or cookbooks can tell you how differently we cook today. The ingredients, cooking tools, and terminology all can be clues to the era or region of a story.
Since I love both books and cooking, I have a ridiculous number of cookbooks. I have culled the number after a couple of recent moves, but I look for them whenever I’m in used bookstores, and people often give them to me for gifts. One of my favorites is The One Maid Cookery Book, printed in London in 1913. I found this in an antique store. The minute I saw the title I knew I had to have the book. One maid, I have no maid! Oh, wait, I might be the maid!
Another is The American Woman’s Cook Book edited by Ruth Berolzheimer, and published by Garden City Publishing Company in New York, 1943. This book was left behind in a house my husband and I rented years ago. It’s filled with information on table setting, entertaining, menu planning for every day, holidays, or a limited budget. The pictures are wonderful and set a real flavor for the time.
The rain seems to have slowed outside, and my husband and youngest son will be home soon. I think I’ll go get something warm in the oven. Today I think I’ll go with the chocolate brownies that are loved by Lucy, the main character in my Valentine’s romance #PleaseSayYes.
What are your favorite food memories? Do you use food to set the scene or add to the story when you write? When you read do you skip the food descriptions or do they speak to you? Can you be found sitting in the bathtub reading a cookbook like a novel? Or maybe that’s just me…
Small mobs of kids surrounded our garage every Halloween when my husband carved pumpkins, not because he was especially artistic, but because he used a sawzall to carve them, and pumpkin insides and seeds sprayed everywhere while he worked. Our sprinkler system had “more power”, and when my mixer broke while I was making a birthday cake, Hunky Hubby came to the rescue by inserting a mixer beater into his electric drill. For years our three boys, took turns hiding a large plastic rat…in the dryer, in the pantry, wherever they thought it was most likely to scare me. If I left my phone unattended they would change their brother’s names on my contact list to things like ‘Ugly’ and ‘Creep’ and their own names to things like ‘Mom’s Favorite’ or ‘The Very Best Son’.
If this sounds like a season of Home Improvement, I thought so too. Hunky Hubby and the boys would prefer to eat meat off the grill and watch Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, while I wanted to see manners at the table and watch The Sound of Music. I could have written several seasons without making anything up.
In fact, of all my writing regrets, I most regret not writing an episode of Home Improvement and submitting it before the show ended.
So what is your biggest writing regret? Do you have one? Have you ever felt like your life was a sitcom, or tv drama and wanted to write a script?
Bored, twenty-one, living in Sunnymead, California- when there was nothing there but the Riverside Raceway and Naugles… and I had a baby. I was a brilliant parent. After all, I’d been a mother for all of nine months, had a perfect baby, and had gotten married at nineteen instead of going to college. I was more than qualified to give parenting advice to other people.
So, I decided to write a parenting column.
I wrote several sample columns, and without even thinking that I should call and make an appointment, I dropped by the office of our local newspaper, The Butterfield Express and asked to see The Editor.
Yes, I did.
The Editor came out, quickly reviewed my samples and said “Sure we can use this.” Well of course she did! The newspaper paid $5 a column. Wow, they were actually willing to pay me!
A few years later I’d returned to school, divorced, and decided I wanted to be a lawyer. And, I’d started dating a lawyer. Obviously the smart thing to do was to write some sample law columns, take clips of my parenting column from the Butterfield Express, and march straight into the offices of the brand-new Moreno Valley News…without making an appointment. Yes…I did.
The Editor did see me, he looked over my samples and said he’d get back to me. When my lawyer boyfriend heard what I’d done, he thought it was hysterical, and made sure that I knew that I’d never get that law column. I wasn’t qualified, and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. He was right of course.
But one Monday morning bright and early the telephone rang. It was not The Editor of the Moreno Valley News. No, it was my lawyer boyfriend. “What have you done?” He shrieked into the phone. He ranted for several minutes before I figured out what had happened.
Apparently, The Editor at the Moreno Valley News had decided to publish my column, only he didn’t tell me. He’d published a sample column on Planning a Will. The problem was that I’d cleverly added a note to the bottom of the article that said “for a free will planning guide, send a self addressed stamped envelope to the Law Offices of H & B”, my boyfriend’s law office. Mr. H had come in to work that morning to find a pile of envelopes all requesting his non-existent free will planning guide.
Don’t tell me that I can’t write a law column.
So, I wrote a Will Planning Guide, and the Moreno Valley News paid me $20 a piece for my little law column.
A year later, while working full time at a car dealership as a cashier in their service department, I mailed a query for an article on ‘how to get people to listen to you’ to The Toastmaster. Keep in mind, writing was a hobby. I never considered it a career. I hated numbers, and back at the car dealership, my register never balanced. It was never off more than some change, sometimes over, sometimes short..whatever it was, the numbers didn’t add up. Of course there came a day when my manager who liked me and knew I was a single mother, reluctantly called me into the office and told me he had to let me go.
The phone rang insistently as I arrived home that night with my little boy. It was the editor of the The Toastmaster. Could I could get my article to her by Friday? It just so happened the theme of her current issue was ‘listening’ and all of the article submissions she’d received were on improving your listening skills, but Toastmaster’s is, of course, a public speaking organization, and she loved my idea to write an article on how to get people to listen to you. The assignment paid $75 for an article that took my about four hours to write, and I didn’t have to pay for child care.
I never looked back. I wrote articles and columns, press releases for products, for magazines, newspapers, catalogs and more. But it wasn’t a job. I never considered myself a writer.
In fact, when I met my Hunky Hubby- no, not the lawyer, that didn’t last long- and he asked what I did, I told him I was a student (I had returned to school) and that sometimes I wrote freelance articles. He said “Oh, you’re a writer.”
I said, “No, I just write to earn a little money.”
We fell in love, got married, bought a house in the Antelope Valley and had two more little boys. I continued writing my little articles, though not as frequently and then one day the phone rang. The editor of the food section for the Antelope Valley Press Enterprise was looking for a Lori Jewett. Now Jewett is an unusual name, and when she asked, I assumed it was me she was looking for because when I write Tari in handwriting it sometimes resembles Lori.
“Did you submit a recipe for Cook of the Week?” She asked.
Now this was weird. I had NOT submitted a recipe for cook of the week, in fact, I wasn’t much of a cook, but I had one good recipe, Flemish Beef Stew, and I’d filled out the form for Cook of the Week, including that recipe and stuck it to the refrigerator with a Thomas the Tank Engine magnet. I turned around to look. It was still there.
After a good laugh and a long conversation with the food editor, I ended up with my recipe and a half page article about our ‘wrong number’ phone call in the Antelope Valley Press…and a new cooking column. Later, I used those clips to get a cooking column in Quick ‘N Easy Country Cooking Magazine. Did I say I couldn’t cook?
Although I wasn’t ‘A Writer’, I wrote freelance for magazines and newspapers for over fifteen years.
My boys are all grown, and things have changed. I would never show up at an editor’s office without an invitation, I’ve raised three boys to adulthood and know that I’m not qualified to give parenting advice, and I have more than one decent recipe. But more importantly, now I’m writing because I want to be a writer. Yes, I write because it’s my passion, but I also take it seriously. It’s a career.
So, I guess I’m no longer an accidental author.
I’m an intentional author