In these two months, I’ve learned a lot about publishing and selling books. I’ve learned how the kernel of intention I had when I set out to write Kitchen Medicine was true and right, and the clarity I have about that has been enough to keep me steady through the things I’ve learned about book marketing that mean selling it is going to be harder than I’d thought. How publishers market to bookstores (or don’t), what kinds of discounts they give to make it financially viable for bookstores to sell books, how the supply chain affects online ordering for some digital booksellers — all of this was a surprise to me. We’re always learning. Continue Reading…
It happened: my book, Kitchen Medicine: How I Fed My Daughter out of Failure to Thrive came out on March 15, 2022. After all the years of this story being just pixels on a screen and memories in my heart, I held the hardcover copy in my hands and saw that it was real. It was a strange sensation; I thought I’d feel awe or joy or relief, but I didn’t. I felt a lot like I did after Sammi’s final cardiac surgery: wary. I had stood in the waiting room when the surgeon came in to tell us that Sammi was fine, that the surgery had gone perfectly, that her aorta was now clipped to her ribcage and would never, ever compress her esophagus again. My husband shook his hand, and so did I, and the surgeon moved on to his next case while my husband and I held each other. I felt him crying, but my eyes were dry.
They’d given us “good news” before, I’d thought. Let’s just see if this sticks.
All these years later, holding the book I’d written to tell the story, I felt a similar guardedness. I’d done all the things you’re supposed to do to publish a nonfiction book in a crowded marketplace: I’d written for progressively more prestigious magazines and newspapers, built a platform, engaged with other journalists and caregivers of children with eosinophilic esophagitis and congenital heart diseases on social media, got an agent, got a publishing deal, wrote and rewrote, and now, here it was, in my hands, the product of all of it. All I’d ever wanted was to share our story and get it in front of the people who needed it most. And now, the question remained:
When I was nine and a member of Mrs. Chase’s fourth grade class, the Scholastic book catalogs came home from school with me several times a year. They sold everything from chapter books and sticker books to scented erasers and crossword puzzles, and I wanted ALL OF IT. I pored over them for hours, circling and starring items and eventually presenting my parents with my wish list, organized by catalog. Though they were not wealthy, you wouldn’t know it from the way they indulged my bottomless desire to own more books. Though they sometimes limited the stickers and Hello Kitty pencils, I usually got to order whatever I wanted from the book section. At age nine, they bought me a book called ALL ABOUT ME.
ALL ABOUT ME was a fill-in-the-blank book, full of questions to answer. “What is your favorite color?” “Who are your best friends?” I deliberated, chewing my pencil. The most memorable question, though, the one I answered definitively and without a moment’s hesitation was “What will you be when you grow up?”
To protect the privacy of my family, I have to be vague, for which I hope you will forgive me. I’ve always been very open about the heartache of my daughter Sammi’s first eight years: the confusion and the instinct I had to push through it, the fear I had about her breathing and eating, the confidence I somehow found inside me to urge all of us forward to a real resolution to her challenges. As much as was age-appropriate, I have always asked Sammi what she felt comfortable sharing through this blog and through other writing. She wants the world to gain something from her journey, as do I.
But this last month, the heartache and the excruciating journey have belonged to my parents, and it has been dramatic, painful, and frightening on a physical level for them and on an emotional and spiritual level for all of us. It kept me away from home for most of the month, away from my husband and daughters and a million miles outside my comfort zone. It did not and cannot end well, but that is all I can say about it without betraying their privacy. Continue Reading…
Partially this is because I was writing elsewhere; the manuscript for the book I announced in my last post in (*gulp*) January was due at the beginning of June, and aside from the four chapters I wrote for the proposal, I was writing everything from scratch. Though I’d written a full manuscript already, chronicling my experience as my daughter Sammi’s advocate on our strange and perplexing medical odyssey, the COVID-19 pandemic squelched the publishing industry’s appetite for books about illness. Along with the proposal for a book on medical mystery went the entire 75,000+ word manuscript. In its place came a far more optimistic retelling, a story about my ambivalence for food that turned into a deep joy I found in cooking, feeding, and my own appetite. The story arc is the same, but — like in the parable of the blind men and the elephant — I’ve learned to tell it from a different perspective.
Writing the story from the trunk-end of the elephant, as it were, has helped me turn this even more into my own story and less of my daughter’s. Of course, she’s the key to revelation, but now that I have looked back with this lens — that food always held everything I valued, from nourishment to love to awe to compassion to delight — I can’t help seeing every meal I cook as an extension of that journey, the next chapter in the story. Continue Reading…