A memoir, in its own way

Jeremy has delivered the final, indexed and fully designed, text of Feast of Serendib. I am feeling weirdly emotional about the whole thing. My cookbook makes me want to cry. I’m not sure that’s normal.

It’s a memoir, you know. In its own way, though not exactly the sort of memoir I learned to write in my creative nonfiction class. But I think I’ll send my professor a copy anyway…

#serendibkitchen

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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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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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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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Shrimp and avocado salad with borage blossoms

Shrimp and avocado on a bed of butter lettuce, with a tangerine dressing (no oil, no need), borage blossoms, and just-picked cucumber from Pam’s garden. Borage has a light cucumber flavor.

Fabulous for a fancy baby shower or bridal shower; I would even serve this at a fancy wedding with no hesitation. Though borage flowers don’t keep all that well; you can hold them for a little while in a fridge between layers of damp paper towels, but you still pretty much have to pick them that morning.

Probably best just to go out to the garden, pick some borage from the vegetable patch (remembering to remove the green fuzzy stem bit), and enjoy this for your summer dinner.

No need to share with anyone. 🙂

#serendibkitchen

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Publicist for Feast

I’m hiring a local friend with marketing background to serve as a publicist for Feast, but of course, I’m not a publicist, and she hasn’t worked as a book publicist. She asked me to put together a bullet-point list, and this is what I came up with — anything I’m missing? Thoughts?

– put together timeline for release (most urgent) — ARC (advance review copies) are ready now, and need to be shipped 2-3 months in advance of launch to big review sites like Publisher’s Weekly. So tentatively, launch can happen anytime after mid-September

– schedule local launch events, coordinating with Eastgate (if doing), Book Table / Beer Shop, Jake’s Place, SugarBeet, MA’s own party

– help brainstorm, plan, and host local events

– draft press release

– research and send out press releases to other relevant venues, like food magazines, shelter magazines that might feature it as fall reading, etc.

– work with MA to have her pitch articles she’d write to those same magazines; she has a list, just needs prodding to brainstorm article topics, and actually draft and pitch them

– brainstorm other publicity possibilities, such as blog tour, online giveaways for launch week, etc.

– schedule out of town events, sending press release to relevant venues (MA will help put together list of venues to contact) and following up to see if interested; make sure MA gets travel plans into calendar. Will mostly try to coordinate with other travel she’s already doing for work, but may add in a few more stops, if it makes sense budget-wise; may also do some road-tripping next summer with Ben Rosenbaum for joint event (possibly coordinating this piece with Heather)

– draft publicity flyer, coordinate with MA’s daughter’s friends for posting around town

– look at the PR materials MA already has, think about how best to use them — there’s a big stack of book promo postcards, book stickers, plus greeting cards and postcards that can be used for giveaways or for sale cheaply

How is that? I’m not sure of everything that goes into a publicity plan! But this seems like a lot. 

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Cooking does not have to be a speed sport

Had a slightly frantic hour this evening because I’d promised to make and drop-off dinner for 16-20 for a non-profit thing, and I meant to start cooking at 3, but was in the groove on writing and lost track of time, so it was almost 4 by the time I started, and I was supposed to drop it off at 5:15, and all the chicken was frozen so I set it thawing in the microwave and made the veg. poriyal (yams and cauliflower, new combo, good), then checked, chicken still mostly frozen, set it to thawing some more, put the rice on (mixed red rice and basmati with butter, cashews, and sultanas), then sautéed some onions with cinnamon and cumin seed and mustard seed, etc. for the chicken and let those keep cooking on low, then made the kale sambol (kale, onion, coconut, lime juice, chopped tomatoes, salt, sugar; I was a little short on lime juice, but it was okay), and finally the chicken was thawed enough, so with twenty-five minutes to go, there was some speed chopping and frying and sautéing and covering with a lid to make sure it was definitely cooked through (because worse than being late would be serving people undercooked chicken!!!), and dumping in a can of coconut milk and somehow it all got done in time and packed up and I added some naan and samosas and a few bags of leftover Halloween chocolates from the freezer because I had completely failed to provide dessert, gah —

— and THEN I couldn’t find my damn keys for ten minutes, so I was late after all, and panicking a bit because I had originally planned to make lentils too, and just ran out of time and WHAT IF THERE WASN’T ENOUGH FOOD???

I dropped it all off full of apologies and told the staffers that they should just order more food if they needed to and I would pay for it. But they assured me that it would be plenty, and even were kind enough to drop a note just now to reassure me that there had been plenty; enough that their clients could even pack up some leftovers. So okay then.

NOTE TO SELF: USE A CLOCK, DAMMIT.

#cookingdoesnothavetobeaspeedsport

#serendibkitchen

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