the chef and the perfect pitch

image by jvvaldzenj via flickr

My fingers hurt, from too much writing, I suppose. I am finally peering around the corner in search of an agent for novel número uno which is ready to spread its wings and fly (or crash, more likely, but may its brief flight be glorious and free). I’m anxious to move on to another round of edits on novel número dos which I’m quite passionate about.

Surely I am the absolute worst marketer of self, and find it quite disturbing that a writer (and I’m not vain enough to think of myself in this example) may write the most incredible work of literary genius but if he or she cannot sell it in a pitch, a one-page query letter, then it may forever remain locked as bytes on a computer or in the digital wasteland of ebooks no one even knows about. Kind of like the land of forgotten toys. So tragic.

Fortunately I write for pleasure, not food on my table, a luxury not lost on me, and while I do hope to succeed in publishing at least one book before, well, that… I have no delusions of grandeur. I’m prepared for rejection, I think.

It brings me back to the days when I would visit my friends in Williamsburg, painters and sculptors all of them. They would sit and stare at one another’s work for hours on end, tossing out critiques which at times would make me wince at their bitter bite. Then they would embrace and laugh and go out for the rest of the night, arm in arm, the best of friends.

Jhumpa Lahiri in an interview said in a rather brusque and seemingly cold way that once she’s published a work she moves on to the next, that the first means little to her anymore, that it is dead to her. (I paraphrase, clearly she said it with greater finesse.) I get that now. There is a separation, a necessary one, from one’s creation once it is “born,” which is heartless but healthy.

image by what makes the pie shop tick? via flickr

My work is still unpublished, and hence not quite dead, so meanwhile, among other things, I cook.

Today I made this amazing curry with nan bread. My first attempt at making nan (delicious, but a bit sweet). Cooking is one of my passions which I embrace with abandon and relative success (note that baking, with its need for precision and exactness, is not my forte, perhaps for the same reason I grow weary and overwhelmed with endless rounds of editing, yearning for a perfection which does not exist).

One of my most delicious friends suggested that we cook together, and we did, once so far, but hopefully will again. How odd it is that something that was once so normal now must be scheduled and planned. She grew up with sisters and misses that casual interchange of women in the kitchen, where the aromas and colorful palette of ingredients magically blends with the laughter of tales told and the whispers of secrets shared. My time spent in developing countries is really my only taste of such magic, so I’m pleased to fill in for the absent sisters.

Writing this post made me recall two food-related sites/ventures worth noting.

The first is Culture Kitchen SF. It is no coincidence that some of my favorite people come from the city on the Bay, and if I were there I would surely sign up for a class. Their mission is to spread culture through food, and one of the ways they do so is via classes which pair participants with master cooks from other cultures who cook together with them for—in their words—we believe more than food gets made in the kitchen. How very true. Collaboration is not something developed in marketing studies, it is basic and natural, and cooking is one of its most beautiful displays.

These master cooks include Aminah, Aradhita, Baraka and Dang, Letty and Linh, Paloma and Patty, a veritable United Nations of women, none of whom went to culinary school, all of whom were taught by their friends, their mothers, aunts and grandmothers (with a smattering of men in there, I imagine, although most are from traditional cultures where men are not commonly active in the kitchen).

The other site is that of The Perennial Plate…Adventurous and Sustainable Eating which I heard about via their video about the tomato pickers in Immokalee, Florida (where 1/3 of our tomatoes come from). Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine documented their six-month Real Food Road Trip, the itinerary for which was guided and followed by viewers using all forms of social media. Their site is replete with bytes of cooking and advocacy, of the joys and sorrows of food and its production. Theirs is a beautiful marriage of culinary and visual arts, with a clear savvy-ness of production and marketing. Oh, and their mission is to help others to appreciate and understand where good food comes from and how to enjoy it. Indeed.

Passionate creation, in all its forms, is never perfect, is it?

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6 thoughts on “the chef and the perfect pitch

  1. I’m right there with you. It’s such a terrible dilemma, isn’t it? To write and realise that, most likely, this won’t get published or ever see the light of day. It gets to me some days, but I know there’s nothing I can do about it. All you can do is write the best you know how, pour yourself onto the page and hold nothing back, and let fate decide the rest. If it’s meant to be, it will be.

    What’s your book called? I’ve heard a lot about self-publishers these days that suggests all hope isn’t lost. The e-book business is booming, and traditional publishers are going through a transition into the new digital realm.

    Best of luck to you

  2. I know the feeling only too well of putting the novel ‘out there’, the underlying distress re: reducing all those hours/month/years of work into one oh-so-smart pitch of a page. Hope is indeed ‘the thing with feathers.’ Whether we write for pleasure, as you put it, or need, it takes a great deal of courage, tenacity, and, yes, creativity. Speaking of which, I love the way you segue from writing to cooking, which is nothing if not a metaphor for the creative process. When I began knitting again last year, it struck me as a very tangible outlet for my need to create when I’m not writing. Challenging myself to try new recipes (no baking for me either) is something I love as well. The bottom line: you’re right — it’s never about perfection. btw, Don’t know if you ever saw this post of mine — ‘Just Like February’ — but it touches on a writer’s tenacity. http://amwriting.org/archives/9644

    1. Loved your piece “Just Like February.”

      As for my pitch, I’m not much of a pitcher but will keep revising to see if I can find a way to grab the ever elusive attention of the exotic species called an agent. So far I’ve had a couple of responses which have been, although “rejections” of sorts, actually very encouraging…it’s all good really. No angst here.

      Creativity is indeed a boundless thing, like flowing water always finding new outlets. I love to knit almost as much as I love to write, and I’ve embraced both with equal zeal and often messy devotion (see chapter 3, page 5 of my manuscript and that row in the purple sweater where I K3P2 instead of K2P2). I think though, that perfection is not only rarely if ever attainable, but also highly overrated! 🙂

    1. Officially revived (your post, that is). The first thing I knit in years was a scarf my mother had completed midway then tucked in a bag in her closet. I found it after she died and it was sweet, somehow, to finish it, if only so that I might hold in up to my nostrils and inhale her once again. There are so many aspects to knitting ripe for interpretation, the comfort in repetition, the challenge of creation, the sensual pleasures of fine wool sliding over skin.

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