Is there a magical algorithmic threshold on Amazon?

Okay, here’s a question for all the indie publishers out there. I know that on launch day on Amazon (March 6 for A Feast of Serendib!), I’m supposed to encourage people to go flood Amazon with reviews (which they can’t publish there earlier), but also encourage people to buy books on Amazon.

My question is, is there a threshold I should be aiming for? A certain # that would = making it over some algorithmic magical threshold?

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Marketing is going to get intense

Guys, I’m a little worried that in the next six weeks, with the run-up to the Feast launch, that the marketing is going to get so intense that you’re going to get utterly sick of me. Um, you’ll tell me, right? Are the hashtags deeply irritating? (They make it easier for Heather to propagate appropriately, but I worry that they’re bugging people.)

I swear, I have to climb over an emotional / mental barrier every single time I post a blurb, or even a hashtag. Sigh.

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On food writing

I’m reading through The Best American Food Writing 2019, edited by Samin Nosrat, whom you know I adore. So far, it’s not quite what I expected. Five pieces in, we have:

– a little funny piece about how we describe food, v. cute: “Imagine the agony of a ghost who is too nice to haunt anyone properly, and yet he tries and tries and tries for all of eternity. If you captured his flop sweat in a jar and put it under a heat lamp, it would turn — unfortunately — into the fermented dairy drink kefir.”

– a long, excellent, reported piece about the biggest irrigated farmers in the world (the couple who own POM Wonderful and many many nut groves) and who owns / controls water in California; really nuanced portrayal of their lives and the complexity of their attempts at philanthropy / sense of noblesse oblige with their mostly undocumented Hispanic workers

– a poetic, emotional piece about the eggs the author is no longer able to eat, connecting obliquely to her Nigerian culture

– another reported piece about the subtlety of heirloom Mexican beans, how one should cook them (very simply), and why it’s a struggle making them profitable, even though they’re now coveted by high end chefs and bean conoisseurs

– an examination of Finland’s exceedingly salty licorice, with some cultural analysis thrown in

They’re….hmm….more analytical than I was expecting, I think? More restrained? And I’m not sure if that’s reflecting Nosrat’s editing style and selections based on her taste, or if I’m just not familiar with what’s typically in this series; I might have to jump back a few volumes to compare.

But it’s a very far cry from the kinds of writing you see in most food blogs, to be certain (which often have a sort of breathless enthusiasm and fondness for adjectives), and even from anthologies like Eat Joy, which I finished a month or so ago. Maybe it’s a New Yorker thing? (Several of these pieces were originally published there.) There’s definitely a sense that Nosrat and these writers mostly move in a different world than I do, a world utterly immersed in professional food.

Roshani and I have been talking a lot lately about food writing, and the thing is, even though I’ve written a cookbook, and have a host of food-related essays in the works, I’m not sure I’m actually a food writer.

I’m…something else, I think, that intersects at times with food. A memoirist, perhaps? A cultural…not critic, exactly. Not translator. Something I’m having trouble finding a word for. Synthesist?

But I don’t think you’re going to see me writing a long reported piece anytime soon, or going deep into a specific ingredient, like onions, no matter how much I love them. That kind of food obsessiveness isn’t where my passion lies, though I can appreciate it in others. It’s a nice place to visit.

At SALA, my friend Nalini told me that she thought my writing was about…hmmm…I don’t know that I remember what she said, exactly. Lowering artificial barriers? Something like that. It rung true, whether I’m talking about being bi & poly, or about cooking unfamiliar food (or just cooking being an unfamiliar practice to you), or about letting your garden go a little wild…

Well. I’ll keep reading. We’ll see.

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A request, my dears, for reviews for A Feast of Serendib

A request, my dears? If you’ve read A Feast of Serendib, and feel inclined to review it, even a few lines, it would be GREATLY appreciated, for both GoodReads and Amazon. Honest reviews are welcome.



(And if there are other review sites I should know about, please tell me more…)


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Serendib Kitchen redesign

Hey, folks. With Stephanie‘s help, I’ve spent a while updating the Feast page on the Serendib Kitchen site. If you feel like glancing at it and letting me know if you see any issues, that’d be great. It was a big block of text before; I’m hoping that it’s now more easily accessible and appealing! I’ve added in some background material as well.

I’m wondering if I should link at least some of the recipes listed there to pages on the cooking blog? Most of the Feast recipes aren’t on the site yet, I think, although many will likely be by the end of the year, esp. as I plan to start doing more and more cooking videos. I’ll be adding those videos too, as they get edited, at least as a link to the YouTube channel. (Not ready yet!)


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Seattle: Dinner at Wild Ginger

Dinner at Wild Ginger in Seattle with the Sri Lankan panelists for MLA. Funniest part — none of us thought the food was spicy enough, so we asked for some hot sauce.


They brought us a bowl of delicious house-made sambal. Perfect. Then we finished the bowl. So we asked for another one. Then we finished that bowl. We contemplated asking for a third one…but we were pretty stuffed by that point, so decided the leftovers would be okay without.

But as the person who ate the leftovers the next morning, we should’ve gotten the third bowl too. 

Good food (particularly liked the sea bass appetizer), best company. Could’ve talked with them for hours and hours and hours more. Thanks, Dinidu Karunanayake for organizing us.

Much love, Dinidu, Maryse Jayasuriya, husband Brian Yothers (who was the first to ask for more sambal), Sugi Ganeshananthan, and SJ Sindu. Come to Chicago ANYTIME. I will host you and feed you and try to set up something at my university so people can see how awesome you all are.

(My mango-lemonade soda with chili *was* appropriately spicy and also delicious, btw.)

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Seattle Bookstore: Book Larder

The other store I stopped in at in Seattle was Book Larder: A Community Cookbook Store, which I’d also love to do an event at for Feast. Look at this awesome space! I could teach a real Sri Lankan cooking class here. It’s so charming. I wanted to buy ALL the books, but restrained myself. Also ALL the dishtowels. Kevin asked me recently if I really needed so many dishtowels. Yes. Yes I do. Hush, love.

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Seattle, Elliott Bay Book Company

Seattle, Elliott Bay Book Company. I went by to drop off a copy of A Feast of Serendib, to ask whether they might want to do an event there if I came back. First of all, their cookbook section is very impressive — Seattle people must like to cook! (Long, dark winters…) And check out the big dedicated section on SE Asian cooking; that tells you where you should try eating out when you’re in town. 

But the funniest bit was that way back in 1997, twenty-two years ago, I did a reading here when I was a student at Clarion West. And amazingly, the programming guy, Rick, actually remembered me from back then! How cool is that? (What I would give for a memory that worked that well…)

Rick’s even going to Sri Lanka in a few weeks, and we had a great conversation about his travels there, and about other Sri Lankan American authors he likes, and it was just very cool. I hope I can manage to fit in a Seattle trip for the book launch this year!

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