How to Retire to a Beach

It was really lovely being at Lake Street beach in Gary with the kids. The weather was perfect, the water was perfect (a little cool, but fine once you were in, and gentle rolling waves that made it easy to practice swimming), the kids were so happy.

My only complaint is that it’s an hour away and I don’t love driving, especially when it’s a lot of driving through the city, changing highways, etc.

Note that there are minimal amenities here — a few port-a-potties, and that’s it. So bring your food and drink — you’ll drive past various restaurants when you’re almost there, so you can also stop and get something. (But who wants to stop when you’re almost at the beach?) $7 parking fee for out-of-towners, plus tolls to get there and back, no lifeguard on duty right now.

I admit, the temptation to pull the kids out of school for a day and go back next week is strong; usually we do 3-4 beach days at the end of the summer, and this is our first this year. We could go on the weekend, but I suspect it’d be too crowded for social distancing comfort.

Well, we’ll see how e-learning goes.

But I may have to start scheming how we could possibly retire to a beach somewhere.

Sea Fever

It was very very very windy. Very. I really love wind; there’s something about being buffeted by it that I find very calming, in a sensory kind of way. I wasn’t on a tall ship that day, but if I were — bliss. This was pretty good too.

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Clearing Out Photos

I was clearing out my phone photos, and realized that I never posted these photos, which I’d hoped to use to advertise upcoming book launch events at these Bay Area stores, sigh. That was such a nice day, walking around with Jed and having lunch and talking to bookstore people. (And later Alex in Sausalito…)

All three of these stores were enthusiastic about the possibility of carrying Feast and maybe doing an event with me. They may well have ordered copies in anticipation of that, so if you’re in the Bay Area and interested in my Sri Lankan cookbook, I definitely encourage you to call them up and see if they have (or want to get) a copy for you.

Oh, and Omnivore (cookbook store) definitely both ordered books and even scheduled an event, so even though I don’t have a photo of the store here, I’m including them in the list.

Some of these stores might be closed in person, but they’re likely doing online orders, like our local bookstore here in Oak Park. Shop small, shop local, support our bookstores!

Books Inc. in Mountain View

Kepler’s Books and Magazines, Menlo Park:

Omnivore, San Francisco:

Sausalito Books by the Bay


Rest of the standard Feast book info below:

Feast is now an Amazon bestseller! Woot! COOKBOOK DETAILS:

1) ORDERING: You can order A Feast of Serendib (signed / personalized, if you like) directly from me right now, at, or from my publisher, Mascot Books:…/coo…/regional/a-feast-of-serendib/. The limited release paperback can only be ordered directly from my website. If you’re in the U.S., you can also add on my hand-roasted Sri Lankan curry powder.

A Feast of Serendib launched officially March 6, 2020, and we hope it’ll be widely available in bookstores and libraries. You can request it from your local bookstore or library! Please do! It’ll also be available on Amazon US, UK, and Canada; you can order it online.

978-1-64543-275-3 Hardcover (distributed by Ingram)
978-1-64543-377-4 ebook (on Amazon, etc.)
2370000696366 (trade paperback; only available directly from me, at Serendib Kitchen site; you can also buy the hardcover or ebook there)

2) REVIEW OR BUY IT HERE (reviews are hugely helpful in boosting visibility!):


Barnes & Noble…/1135510523…


3) JOIN THE COOKBOOK CLUB: If you’d like to support the development of more mostly Sri Lankan recipes, I’d love to have you join the cookbook club — for $2 / month, you’ll get recipes delivered to your inbox (fairly) regularly: For $10 / month, you can subscribe for fabulous treats mailed to you! (US-only).

My personal FB page:
My Twitter:
Serendib Kitchen blog:
Serendib Kitchen Instagram:
Serendib FB Group:
Serendib FB Page:

5) PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY starred review: “Mohanraj (Bodies in Motion), a literature professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, introduces readers to the comforting cuisine of Sri Lanka in this illuminating collection of more than 100 recipes. Waves of immigration from China, England, the Netherlands, and Portugal influenced the unique cuisine of Sri Lanka, Mohanraj writes, as evidenced by such dishes as Chinese rolls (a take on classic egg rolls in the form of stuffed crepes that are breaded and fried); fish cutlets (a culinary cousin of Dutch bitterballen fried croquettes); and English tea sandwiches (filled here with beets, spinach, and carrots). With Sri Lanka’s proximity to India, curry figures heavily, with options for chicken, lamb, cuttlefish, or mackerel. A number of poriyal dishes, consisting of sautéed vegetables with a featured ingredient, such as asparagus or brussels sprouts, showcase a Tamil influence. Throughout, Mohanraj does a superb job of combining easily sourced ingredients with clear, instructive guidance and menu recommendations for all manner of events, including a Royal Feast for over 200 people. This is a terrific survey of an overlooked cuisine.”


Thanks so much for your support! Indie publishing is absolutely reliant on word of mouth and the support of friends, family, and friendly internet acquaintances. 

— Mary Anne

A project that crystallized last week

So, I think I’m ready to talk a little about this new project that crystallized last week. (Photo of dragonfruit chocolate bars ‘crystallized’ for inspiration.)


There are multiple elements coming together in this, things I’ve been working on and thinking about for a long time. I’m still not positive of what the final shape will be.

• the memoir: I’ve been working for a while on a project titled _Domestic Resistance_, a meditation on how we stay sane while under siege in the Trump presidency, how handwork and reclamation of heritage skills, appreciation of culture and diversity, celebration of community and the joys of making all came together to sustain me (as I worked on my Sri Lankan cookbook in the last few years) through intense work, deep political frustration, and occasional flailings of despair. Asking how we can work for change without exhausting ourselves.

• the makerspace: we may have found a place in Forest Park for the first stage of the writing / textile arts / tech makerspace that we started planning two years ago. Our hope is that it allows the community to share their knowledge, help each other over the initial humps of uncertainty and anxiety, finding our way to new skills and approaches that make our lives better in a host of ways. I have some legal and financial details to work out still, and then there’ll be a Kickstarter to help get us off the ground (looking for around $25K in initial funding, I think), but I hope we’ll be up and running soon, possibly by May.

(NOTE: the space won’t be wheelchair accessible, unfortunately; you’ll need to be able to navigate a flight of stairs to access it. My plan is that if people who can’t access it want to sign up for a class, we’ll find an alternate accessible location for that class. And then long-term, we’ll continue looking for accessible spaces in the area. Ideally, I’d eventually like to grow into a constellation of spaces in Forest Park, Oak Park, Austin, etc.)

• the magazine: this is the newest bit, and still a bit inchoate. For my memoir, I was already thinking that I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a traditional book — I was wondering what it might look like as a quarterly magazine, sort of a cross between Martha Stewart Living and Granta. Glossy, beautiful photos, a year in the life, combining running for office, the tail end of cancer treatment, the house and garden and parenting and engaging in local politics, and of course, cooking.

Last week, I realized that it would be SO GREAT to extend that into a broader publication. I’ve been increasingly frustrated by how balkanized communications media are becoming, and at least locally, we’re really splitting demographically, with some people reading the print Wednesday Journal, some people mostly on FB groups (often very private ones), some people mostly auditory listeners, and the kids are on TikTok and SnapChat doing god knows what…

If we had a publication that showcased progressive voices and conversations, in a variety of areas (garden, food, schools, etc.) and if we could push it out in multiple media (a print version, an online version, a podcast, TikToks, etc.), maybe we’d have a chance at actually talking to each other, actually listening.

So often when I was running for office, I found that with something as simple as getting rid of fines at the library, people I talked to were initially resistant, but all they needed was for someone to actually present the argument to them, and then they realized that yes, doing this would actually align with their values. And we could afford it too.


That’s where my head is right now. I have a lot more specifics, but I think the next stage is a whole host of conversations. I’m going to want to shape this very carefully, if it’s to do what I hope it’ll do, and I’m going to need a lot of community input.

But I think my own memoir would be interesting in conversation with a broader community magazine, and the magazine would be in conversation with what we do at the makerspace, and as Serendib Press develops, Stephanie and Heather and Darius and Emmanuel and Julia are learning more and more about the publication process, so we’re getting into a better position to do this well.

So that’s where I am right now. I’m about to go out of town, and much of March is super-absorbed with travel and Feast launch events. But I’m going to be talking to people, local and otherwise, about all of this. We’ll see where it takes us.

(We’re going to need a name.)

Hey, folks — here’s my schedule for FogCon next week in Walnut Creek!

Hey, folks — here’s my schedule for FogCon next week in Walnut Creek! I hope to see some of you there:

3:00 PM – 4:15 PM, Salon A/B “Food in Genre Fiction”
Inspired by Mary Anne Mohanraj’s latest publication being a cookbook, let’s think about food and its place in genre fiction! In stories where a stranger visits a new culture, we often hear about their food choices (Becky Chambers’s “Record of a Spaceborn Few” comes to mind). Food can be a marker of similarity or difference between people, and ultimately, it is a necessity. When our worlds change, what happens to the food in them?

M: Sasha Pixlee. Rebecca Gomez Farrell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Tina LeCount Myers, Deborah J. Ross, Juliette Wade

4:30 PM – 5:45 PM, Salon C, POC Meetup
Social gathering for members who identify as people of color (only, please). We’ll share questions, experiences, and solidarity. Coffee and tea will be provided. Anyone who wants can also bring their own snacks, from the Consuite or elsewhere.
M: Abie Ekenezar

7:45 PM – 8:00 PM, Salon A/B, “Opening Ceremonies”
We’ll start the convention off with a brief gathering to meet the Honored Guests and hear some words from the Honored Ghost.

8:00 PM – 9:15 PM, Salon A/B “Societal Defaults That Carry Into Genre”
Genre fiction allows us to imagine worlds and cultures completely different from ours, yet sometimes some cultural assumptions are so ingrained that we don’t consider them changeable. For example, Mary Anne Mohanraj’s “The Stars Change” is a book that challenges the assumption of monogamy. What other assumptions do we see carrying into the new spaces and cultures we create? How can we break out of those?
M: Lisa Eckstein. Karen Brenchley, Garrett Croker, Alyc Helms, Mary Anne Mohanraj

9:00 AM – 10:15 AM, Salon A/B “Archives and Genre”
Archives are science fictional: archivists have to anticipate climate change, the evolution of technology, and how historians will view the present day. Archives are fantastical: they involve a deep encounter with the past, redolent of parchment, leather, and the dust of vanished information. This panel will explore archives as an SFF-nal phenomenon, as well as portrayals of archives and archivists in science fiction and fantasy.
M: Michele Cox. Marion Deeds, Bradford Lyau, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Norm Sperling

1:30 PM – 2:45 PM, Salon A/B “Genre Nonprofits With Mary Anne Mohanraj”
Mary Anne will share what she’s learned about nonprofits and the field, discussing con-running and organizations such as Con or Bust, Strange Horizons, and her own Speculative Literature Foundation. Topics may include succession planning, professionalization (and its hazards), organizational growth, fundraising, inclusiveness / exclusion, and realistic enforcement of convention codes of conduct.
Mary Anne Mohanraj (This description and title got fixed and updated in the app but not the printed version of the program; my apologies, but we didn’t catch it in time.)

3:00 PM – 4:15 PM, Santa Rosa “Honored Guest Reading”
Mary Anne Mohanraj, Nisi Shawl

Saturday evening: No schedule — maybe run RPG of “Jump Space”?

Sunday morning: No schedule — maybe run RPG of “Jump Space”?

Planning 2020 with a big wall calendar

Jed was visiting this weekend, just a quick few days. Not long enough, but we’ll take what we can get. The scheduling gets a little complex, and we rarely can manage as much time as we’d like.

We’re trying something new which may help — I just got this big wall calendar, so that we can see all of 2020 at a glance. In the past, we’ve tried to do it all with shared Google calendars, which are helpful, but I can’t seem to see the whole board that way. So up on the wall it goes. And then we spent at least an hour, the three of us, sitting and trying to figure out how we can:

a) do a reasonable amount of book tour for Feast (me)

b) go to various SF cons for the SLF and for our own writing / editing (me and Jed, mostly, though I may bring the kids and possibly Kevin to WisCon this year)

c) see each other at least once a month, ideally (me and Jed)

d) go to math conferences and have research time (Kevin)

e) do a writing retreat for at least a week (me, tentatively going to a friend’s place in Hawaii in June, and hopefully severely limiting internet / socializing / etc., so I can make serious progress on a book draft — if it goes well, I’m hoping to do two weeks in 2021, either in Hawaii or Sri Lanka)

f) get the kids to / from their weekend soccer games all through the spring (me and Kev)

g) teach two weeks of writing summer camp for kids AND sign the kids up for the same place (but likely different actual camp) (me and kids)

h) not leave Kev parenting solo for more than one weekend a month (me)

i) visit relatives (me and Kev and kids)

j) allow enough travel time for international trips that we’re not a disaster doing the work we’re going to do, and also able to recover before we need to be working at home (me: Amsterdam / New Zealand, Jed: New Zealand, Kevin: Paris)

k) work all this around our teaching schedules (me and Kevin)

And there are probably some other elements I’m not thinking of! We managed to calendar through to August, and then gave up, as there are too many unknowns after that.

I have to do some more work to fit in some book tour cities that aren’t tied to specific dates yet (Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, D.C., Toronto) — it’ll require looking to see when people are available, what conventions I might want to try to match up with. But there was definite progress made!

The calendar portion was followed by the budgeting portion, to make sure we can actually afford all this travel. Probably, barely. Amsterdam depends on getting some extra funding, so I’m going to hustle on that next, try to set up some funded appearances, etc.

One sad consequence — it was clear that the spring was a little too packed, so I’m not going to make it to the Nebulas in Los Angeles in May. Sorry, LisetteIngridMargaret! I’m still hoping to make it to LA at another time this year for book tour, so I’ll contact you separately soon, to see when might work.

I think I love the big calendar. I also love my guys. 

(Please ignore the chaos behind Jed; I’m in the midst of an office reorg, and all the not-yet-organized stuff is piled up there…)



Feast: officially supporting SAMBAL Sri Lanka

As we’re getting ready to more formally launch Feast, I’m trying to think through what I want the cookbook to do in the world.

One thing I’d like to do is give back concretely in some way. I thought about directing a percentage of profits to Ajit George‘s wonderful Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project, but I think that’s primarily based in India, and I really do think it’s more appropriate that it be a Sri Lankan nonprofit this particular book supports.

My cousin Genisha Saverimuthu and my aunt Marietta Saverimuthu support SAMBAL, which does education work with disadvantaged children in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. (That’s my aunt in red at the head of the class in the second photo.)

SAMBAL seems like a really great fit with Feast — even the name is appropriate! And I know that I can trust them to do good work with any funds raised.

My aunt travels to Sri Lanka regularly to work with the children in these village schools. After all the heartache our country has been through, it’s good to see some smiles on these sweet faces.


Sponsor A Mind Build A Life (SAMBAL) was established to provide charitable assistance to children who are disadvantaged due to war, poverty, natural disasters and other calamities primarily in Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

We partner with organizations around the globe to identify children in need and develop coordinated efforts to nurture their physical, intellectual, emotional and social growth. Through sponsorships and program donations from individuals like you, SAMBAL builds lives and empowers underprivileged children to reach their full potential.

In many parts of South Asia, rice and sambal is a staple food–the Eastern equivalent of bread and butter. A spicy side dish made with chilli peppers, sambal is eaten from Sri Lanka to Malaysia by young and old and considered the bare minimum for a regular meal.

We believe that every child should be afforded a daily bit of rice and sambal but also the sustenance to develop socially, intellectually and emotionally despite their hardships. By feeding a mouth and feeding a mind, SAMBAL builds a child’s path to a better life.”

More about SAMBAL: