My book, Kitchen Medicine: How I Fed My Daughter out of Failure to Thrive, is nearly 2 months old now.
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.
Writing a memoir was hard and cathartic, and in many ways the intense drive I had to share our story was fed by the recent nature of the events I was describing. The nine-year-old girl from the last chapter of the book is now nearly seventeen. She is different. I am different. I will always want to hold up a mirror for families struggling with the diagnoses my daughter faced, and I will always hold out a hand to anyone in the midst of a diagnostic mystery, a new dietary restriction, or a feeling of medical isolation — but at the same time, my day-to-day life no longer includes these challenges. The immediacy of these issues for me is naturally lessened. Combined with the surprising challenges of the publishing process, I find less internal drive to push and push and push for more sales, more companion articles published, more events. I am going to keep trying, but not as hard as I have been.
At the same time, every summer I am reminded of the beauty and bounty of food that inspired me to write Kitchen Medicine, all the gorgeous harvest of summer produce that turned me into an enthusiastic cook. Last weekend I planted basil and tomatoes. In a few weeks, I’ll pick up our first box of produce from our CSA (community supported agriculture) farm. I can’t wait to smell the earth and sun in our food, to shred zucchini and mince chives and sauté fresh rainbow chard. I will forever and ever be grateful that this planet offers up such gifts, right from the ground, and that farmers are so determined and brilliant in their stewardship. All of that comes from the years of learning to appreciate food through my daughter’s challenges, and summer brings it all to the surface.
Too, summer brings me out to my front porch to work, and in a month or so, I’ll be able to complete my “perfect work day” environment. When the cherries start coming to the farmer’s market from Michigan, I’ll have a big bowl of them next to me on the porch and spit the pits over the railing into my front garden. That, to me, is a healing experience: a quiet spot with a cold drink and sweet fruit, the sounds of passing dog walkers and families, and all the possibility in the world on the screen in front of me.
Yes, I’m writing something new.
I have a novel written and in search of the perfect new agent, and my mind is eager to start the sequel. It’s a timely story that excites me more than anything I’ve written in many years. Writing my memoir meant that, of course, I loved the characters; I pored over photos of my daughters to remember their quirks and expressions and the way they moved and sat, just to be sure I got it all right. But what’s interesting is that I feel the same sense of responsibility and passion for the characters in this new story. They’re not real — not even based on anyone real — but writing their stories has felt like taking down notes from a movie playing in my head. I love them: the earnest, kind, young protagonist and her sharp, independent, compassionate mentor; the chatty and surprising friend and her dopey but well-meaning boyfriend; the quixotic pastor and the strict church pianist. I can see them. I know them. And I want their story told every bit as much as I wanted my story told.
So, this blog is likely to be written quite sporadically. I don’t have as much new story to tell about my Sammi Sunshine; at her age, any story about her that’s going to be told should be told by her. I will, however, likely have new things to say about food and care and caring for people using food — I remain me, of course. Please do check in here from time to time, and also on my author web site at www.debilewis.com. I’ll let you know what comes of all of this. I promise.
A little footnote: if you’ve read Kitchen Medicine and enjoyed it, could you leave me a review? The more reviews a book has, the more likely it is that the algorithms that online bookstores use will display that book to potential readers. Your review does not have to be long or clever. “I really appreciated this book” is enough. You can leave a review on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads, all of them or one of them, whichever you like. Thank you!