Uploading the official ARCs

Okay, we’re now uploading official ARCs, eep. Will order copies for big review outlets, and for ourselves, and then will have hopefully only minor proofing edits before we’re ready to actually go to print. One thing that might change is the back cover — I admit, I don’t love having a photo of me there, but I think that’s probably just self-consciousness and I should get over it?

But on the other hand, I’m kind of hoping we get a nice review or two from a big outlet (or maybe a blurb from a famous food person — do I know any famous food people, or people who know famous food people?), in which case, we’ll be editing the back cover to make space for them anyway. So maybe best not to fret about it now…

Kickstarter folks, my plan is that you’ll get your SPECIAL ADVANCE COPY as soon as we proof the ARC. This will be a limited edition run just for Kickstarter backers, so you’ll get it in August, barring unforeseen complications. Everyone else has to wait to official launch in October, the poor saps. Your edition probably won’t have blurbs on the back cover, but I assume you’re okay with that.  Again, thank you!

(Heather Rainwater Campbell! Today, can you go through the Kickstarter rewards list, and make sure we’re all set to actually fulfill all the rewards? I need to make someone a scarf, for example, and I’d love to ship it to them in August, which means I need to get the yarn and get cracking on that ASAP. I’ll need to make curry powder, etc., so may need to order more spices. And IMPORTANT, we’re supposed to list the backers somewhere, and I don’t remember where…in the hardcover? In the ebook? Both? On the website…?)

#feast
#blog

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Shed window curtains

Hm. Well, this is a semi-success. On the one hand, I needed curtains in the shed windows, because the sun coming in makes it too hot in the height of summer, and the lack of insulation makes it too cold in the depth of winter. And the curtains took 20 minutes to cut and sew, another 5 minutes to hang, and I do love the fabric I used for this, Robert Allen’s Folkworld pattern in the Aquatint color way, which I used a little under two yards of, at $15 / yard on remnant clearance at fabricguru.com.

BUT — I think maybe this isn’t what I want for this space long-term. I had waffled and waffled, thinking about map prints and space prints and finally settled on this one because I like it so. I do like it! We used the same print in his Admiral colorway for the backing cushions in our eat-in area, and it’s perfect there, we get so many compliments.

This is equally charming, and the animals are certainly appropriate to the garden. I particularly like how the gold thread I used picks up the gold of the flowers; I think it’s an interesting decorative element added to the curtains.

BUT, I think maybe I should’ve gone with my original plan and just stuck to off-white to match the interior monk-like paint job (or grey, the color of the chair and accent pieces). Because the star of the show in my shed really is the garden, and this fabric (which I bought 6 yards of, so enough to also do coordinating curtains for the long French doors AND probably the little single window on the opposite side) is sort of too pretty in its own right. It’s actually distracting me from the garden’s loveliness, rather than complementing it, I think.

Hm. I suppose I will leave these up until I have time and energy to go buy off-white fabric and re-do them, which may be a while. They can be functional, at least.

But that said, if any locals reading this has an interest in some 5′ long curtains (just covering a 4′ wide opening, without excess), let me know? I’d be happy to sell them to you for cost, so $25.

NOTE: They’re not perfectly sewn, because I was thinking it was just for my shed, and it didn’t matter if it wasn’t perfect — one end is a little long on one, so you may want to re-sew the bottom hem, though if you use clips, it’s easy enough to just hang one a little higher to achieve an even hem at the bottom; that’s what I did. ALSO, I think I didn’t really have the tension set right on the machine, as the thread doesn’t seem to be laying quite right. I mean, it’s fine, but not if you’re someone who actually knows anything about sewing. 🙂

Or if anyone’s interested in the remaining yardage (a little over 4 yards, 54″ wide), I’d happy to sell you that at cost too ($60). I’m trying to think what I can do with it other than sell it. It’d make cute playroom cushions, but I don’t really need anymore of those. It’s upholstery fabric, so a little heavy for a dress. Maybe someone with little kids (or a daycare?) could use it.

(Non-locals, if you want it badly enough to pay for shipping, that’s fine too. 🙂 )

And hey, if any locals coming to upcoming Maram’s Tea and Textiles meet-ups (Aug 3, 24, 31) wants me to show you how to hem basic curtains like this, it’s SO EASY, and I’d be happy to. You do have to either use my machine, or bring one you know how to thread. I can try to thread another machine, but I’m no expert, so no guarantees.

#marammakerspace
#serendibhome
#blog

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Keeping the writing shed minimal and uncluttered

Quick housekeeping note — I’ve been trying to keep the shed as minimal and monk-like as possible, to be free from writing distraction, but it does need a few items — some gardening gloves and tools for stepping out and dealing with some bit that’s bugging me, mosquito spray ditto (although mostly, closing the doors at that point in the evening + fan + bug zapper seems to work), candles and incense for putting me in the zone, and a bit of yarn work for thinking & dreaming time.

It was all getting a little cluttered on that corner shelf (wish I had a before picture, but I am too lazy to take it all out just to photograph it for you), but I was restlessly walking around a few nights ago, went to Target, and found these bins in that little front section.

$3 for a pair of the grey rectangles, $5 for the basket, which is totally a steal. They have them in a few shades of grey (and the rectangles in a few sizes), and now I’m trying to think if there’s anywhere else in the house where we need organization. The baskets aren’t really sturdy enough to stand up to heavy daily use, but for light duty, perfect. The bargain shopper in me is v. pleased.

#serendibhome
#blog

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Thank you cards: on emotional labor

(cn: This is a fairly gender binary post in my approach, but I want to acknowledge up front that I am sure these issues affect non-binary people in interesting ways; I don’t know enough to be able to comment on those aspects.)

On the back of my office door, I tape up cool cards friends have sent me. It’s accumulating nicely, a mix mostly of birthday and cancer-recovery cards. But I think a good half of them at this point are from Jed, who has gotten into the habit of leaving little cards for me to find after he visits. It’s funny, by this point I know he does this, but it’s often a few days after he leaves before I go into that office to work and find them, and so it’s always a delightful surprise.

I’m noting this because it’s a great example of emotional labor that men mostly don’t do. Why bother with leaving little notes, thank you cards, birthday cards, etc. and so on? I just received a birthday card in the mail, from a friend whom I didn’t expect a card from, and she and I had had a little bit of a difficult time some months back, and though we’d sorted it out, it was particularly soothing to get the birthday card with the nice little note on it. Reassuring that we’re actually okay.

I’m not as good with thank you cards as I’d like to be, and we’ve totally failed so far on teaching the kids to do them, and it bothers me that we’ve been so bad about it, because I think it’s important. Especially for our son.

Jed didn’t used to do this kind of thing, but he started at some point, I think as a deliberate effort to do the kind of emotional labor work that men mostly don’t do, and you know, it works. He has put in effort and time and care into doing something sweet for me. It actually makes me love him a little more.

I had a series of conversations / arguments with Kevin and my prior boyfriend, Paul, about giving flowers, and I think that falls into the same category. Back then (we were all in our early-to-mid-20s), I think the guys saw giving flowers on birthdays and such as inauthentic, as a formal thing that you were being coerced to do, and therefore meaningless. They thought if you gave flowers, it should be a spontaneous gesture of affection, to be worth anything.

But if you wait for the spontaneous gestures — well, they’re lovely, but life is busy, and we are all being ground down by capitalism, sexism, etc. and so on. The little ritual gifts of cards and flowers and cups of tea (which, sure, I could get myself, but it’s SO MUCH NICER when someone I love gets one for me) — in small ways, they build a little insulating warmth between our fragile selves and the cold.

It’s good for our relationship, that Jed leaves me these little cards. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy for a moment, and that warmth lingers. This is generally how friendships form, according to the research I’ve seen — lots of little pleasant interactions, and over time, they build and you bond. Kith networks. Kith = one’s friends, relationships, and acquaintances.

Women who drag themselves to their kids’ playdates and have coffee with strangers know this. Women who hang out at the kids’ birthday party at the bounce place, making conversation with the bored parents, helping them be a little less bored. Women who volunteer to set up balloons and cake at the PTO meeting. I can’t always bring myself to do this kind of thing; sometimes I just can’t cope with more awkward conversations with strangers. But when I do, it’s generally rewarded — not necessarily in the first instance, but over time. It’s a slow process; it helps to have a little faith in the overall structure.

Too much of the time, we don’t teach boys & men to do this work. That is a great failing of our society. The boys say it’s hard, and they don’t know how, and we let them off the hook. It leaves the labor of kith-building to the women, which is time-consuming and deeply unfair, but also, it betrays the men.

Because once those men are out of college and other environments that offer structured repeated interactions, they often don’t have the tools to make more friends. The thought of going to a meet-up group and talking to strangers sounds awkward and terrifying. Many men don’t realize that it is just as awkward for women; it’s just that at least some women were trained to do it young, and that helps a little. They have the experience that tells them that it’s worth coping with the awkwardness, because there’s a good chance it will lead to friendhship.

(To be clear, there are women who haven’t had this experience either — whether it’s due to their own perhaps introverted personality, or racism, ableism, geekery, mental health issues, etc and so on, there are women who have not been able to work through this process successfully, or if they’d done it a few times, not reliably. It just seems to me that on average, more women are perhaps forced to learn how to build kith networks, because society requires it of them to function. For better or worse.)

If people who don’t have the skills to build kith networks are lucky, they have close family as support. Many don’t.

And even if they do have close family, that’s a lot of leaning on a few people — as humans, we do better when we have a wider net of support, generally. If you look at the research on older men, and their happiness and quality of life, especially once they retire, the extent and strength of their friend networks is key to this.

And so here we are, in my late 40s, and half the age-mate wives I know are worrying about how few friends their husbands have these days, and it feels ridiculous that we are essentially trying to arrange playdates for them — “Does your husband like beer? My husband likes beer!” — but this is what we are left with…

#emotionallabor
#blog

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I’ve been so harried the last few weeks that all sorts of photos and video have been piling up on my phone, so I’m afraid you are about to get a flood of them, as I’m completely unscheduled today. So brace for it. 

These are some pics from Shojo, an airport restaurant in Boston, Terminal C — I am so glad that I thought to google for good restaurants at that airport, because I just could not face more Western food. I like it, but there comes a point when I hit my limit, and traveling can be wearying. Need Asian food to rejuvenate.

Amusingly, we had sat down in a lounge area to eat, and the woman at the table next to us was staring at our food, and then finally gave up, came over, and asked where I’d gotten it, if it was far. Then she threw away her quarter-eaten burger which she was sorely disappointed with, and went to get her own fabulous Asian food.

Weirdly, the airport overall seemed to have very few options with pasta, which I would’ve gotten for the kids. The dumplings, which Anand usually loves, were surprisingly spicy, so I consumed them happily, and he was happy with the ribs instead. The congee was huge and I could only finish half of it after eating the dumplings, but a fried egg soaking into rice with avocado and crispy onion bits was incredibly comforting after a long weekend of kid-minding on my own.
(It was a good weekend, but managing travel with kids is always a little bit of a challenge. They’re SO much easier now than they used to be, though! If I can’t feed them right away, they cope, instead of melting down into crankiness and tears.)

They had several items I didn’t get to try, so if I’m ever back at that terminal (or, I gather, they have other restaurants actually in Boston), I’ll be back at Shojo again.

#blog

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On the Anniversary of Apollo 11 and Space Exploration

I was honored to be on the Fiction/Non/Fiction podcast as part of their 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 celebration. We talked about all kinds of things — the role of science fiction in inspiring a better future, what happens when the real world outpaces your science fictional imaginings, the ways in which nationalism can fuel a space race but also make things terrible, capitalism and its discontents, etc. and so on. 

Season 2, episode 22 features me and Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, and is out today on iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and wherever else you like to get your podcasts.

To subscribe, just search for the “Fiction/Non/Fiction podcast”(with the slashes) in one of those apps. Their show page, where you can listen to the show and read a transcribed excerpt of your interview, is up on Lit Hub’s front page. Here’s a link to that:

https://lithub.com/jonathan-fetter-vorm-and-mary-anne-mohanraj-on-the-anniversary-of-apollo-11-and-space-exploration/

I had a great time talking with hosts Sugi Ganeshananthan and Whitney Terrell! I think my segment is about 30 minutes, but we could have talked for hours. 

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A big step forward for A Feast of Serendib

So, this was a big and scary step. I’ve just signed a contract with Mascot Books to publish Feast. Now, I’m still essentially self-publishing it. Mascot is what’s called a hybrid publisher, combining editorial, marketing, and printing services for indie authors. I’ve already done most of the editorial work and I have excellent proofreaders, so I won’t be taking advantage of that part.

What I do get out of this is a dramatically lower price point per unit than POD printing, a marketing team that will try to place the book in places like Costco, etc. (fingers crossed), and distribution services.

What will it cost me? Well, all the money from the Kickstarter and then some. Eep. Close to $20,000, to print 2000 hardcover copies, which is yes, very unnerving. I’m betting about $10K on being able to sell those books. I am not really a betting person!

A few hundred of those will go to Kickstarter fulfillment, leaving me with about 1750 copies (I’m being super-vague here, but Heather has the actual numbers, and I did go over them with Kevin before signing off on this) to sell. The cover price on the hardcover is $40. So selling them at full price, I need to sell 45 cookbooks to break even. I think I can do that. (Hopefully, we won’t end up with very many sad and dusty books in storage.)

Of course, that doesn’t take into account the other production costs (layout, cover design, original illustrations, indexing, advertising, book tour, etc.), and there will be sales and discounts for Amazon, etc., so the actual sale price will often be lower. So more realistically, maybe sell a few hundred to break even?

I’ll have at least a few hundred shipped to me (paying the shipping cost) for me to sell direct, keeping all the money from those, and Mascot will try to sell the rest, sending me the bulk of the money (I think 85%, if I’m remembering right, which is a big difference from a traditional publisher; I’m taking the main financial risk here, so my potential reward is commensurate). They’ll take care of shipping those out, which will make my life infinitely easier.

I know a lot of indie authors are doing this kind of thing these days, but I’m still enough of a traditional publishing person that I find it all kind of unnerving. But for this cookbook, at least, I think this is a pretty good approach.

My only hesitation is that I wish I’d spend a little more time talking to my publishing friends about other printer options; I’m still not sure I really understand that. But Mascot came highly recommended, and so far, our interactions have been very promising. Fingers crossed.

Again, huge thanks to the Kickstarter supporters. I don’t think there’s any way I would’ve bet the close to $30K it will take, in the end, to produce this book. So if the Kickstarter hadn’t funded, and funded well, I still might have created Feast, but it would have been a much simpler end result, and would likely have reached far fewer people.

Since my main hope with this is to share my love of Sri Lankan food with as many people as possible, I’m particularly grateful for your help.

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Have somehow been in meetings all day

 

Oof, tired. Have somehow been in meetings or running pretty much all day, and pretty soon I fall down go boom. But I did another round of edits on Feast and Jeremy implemented them and Heather is uploading it so that as soon as they approve it we can order ARCS, whee! getting very very close to done, and I got the kids to the new dentist that they really like and there’s nothing actually wrong with their teeth which is good, and we got lots done for Maram, including starting on our next grant application, and I had a library board meeting where we also got lots done, and I managed to post SOME of the photos that have been backlogged on which was bugging me and I didn’t write any fiction but I read some more feedback from beta readers who are loving the draft so feeling enthused about going back to it tomorrow and I cleaned up and organized the guest room and answered a bunch of e-mail and now I just have a few more things to do before sleep — start the Kickstarter conversation with the SLF volunteers, hang up some saris, and post a reminder about tomorrow’s writing retreat.

Sitting in a chair tomorrow for 4 hours and writing fiction sounds perfect.

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Coconut mallung with ginger garlic chicken

Just a nice, everyday meal from a few days ago. Trying to eat a little healthier, and this is a great Sri Lankan combination — coconut mallung (which has no added fat beyond the coconut) with a slightly spicy ginger-garlic chicken.

You could serve this with a little rice, or in a bowl on a bed of kale salad. I had it with Sri Lankan red rice (similar nutritional content to brown rice, but I like the flavor better) mixed with white rice (1/2 and 1/2), some brinjal moju (a sweet-spicy cooked down eggplant condiment), and a little kale salad. Mmmm….

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