Introducing a new book to the world brings a shift from the solitude of writing.
Cookbook writing, like most writing, is done in isolation. For stretches of months and months, it’s just you researching, you in the kitchen developing recipes, and you typing at the computer. True, there is the tremendous satisfaction of serving recipe-tested results to guests — receiving feedback and usually praise — but the next morning it’s back, once again, to that one-person endeavor.
After a manuscript is submitted, the editing process begins. Editing is collaboration between author and editor, but it’s done electronically — never face to face.
Then, finally, one fine day, it’s a book! Lovely food-styled, photographed, illustrated, and designed pages bound between two covers! Now a publicist steps into the frame, and you suddenly find yourself scheduling book signings, demonstrations, talks, and interviews, abruptly forcing you out of isolation into a public world full of passionate fellow cooks and cookbook enthusiasts, gift buyers, and even some bona fide fans. It is the absolute antithesis to, and perfect antidote for, all those solitary working days, weeks, and months.
At a recent signing for Chowderland at Left Bank Books, a wonderful independent bookstore in Belfast, Maine, I first gave a little talk about the cookbook writing process, while the shop owners offered samples of Boston-style Creamy Clam Chowder, along with iced tea, sparkling water, and wine. I then signed about thirty books, chatting with each customer for a few minutes. There were local Mainers, year-round “from aways,” and summer visitors from California, Texas, Atlanta, and New York. Each had a story about their cooking enthusiasms (or lack thereof), or family cooking traditions, or experiences with my previous books. By the end of the two-hour session I was tired, but had derived so much pleasure from the interactions and drawn so much energy from those lovely book buyers, that all the front-end labor felt entirely and utterly worth it.