You look like you could use a cocktail & carbs

I know many people are feeling a lot of emotions after the election. Maybe you’re feeling triumphant and excited, and you’re ready to celebrate with a gargantuan bowl of carbs, a rip-roaring drink, and a shiny new book. Maybe you’re feeling low and anxious and addled and need a dose of mellowing, homey food, a cocktail to take the edge off, and the hideaway of a book.

Viana La Place Recipe

Either way, we got you. Today, we’re pausing our regular programming to bring you all a nice, comforting meal and a stiff drink. Jarrett and I put together for you these two recipes: one of our favorite pasta recipes from a vintage cookbook and a new cocktail recipe inspired by an upcoming book.

Because, of course, both celebration and depression are improved by a good meal and a good drink.

So now that we’ve made it through, let’s all sit down to dinner together again, forget all the whacky stuff that happened this year, and focus on some really simple food, a great fall drink, and some uplifting reads. I know we can’t fix some of the hurt that’s happened this year, but if there’s anything on this planet that will heal us, it’s got to be spaghetti.

Viana La Place’s recipe for spaghetti with tomato and fresh ginger

Viana La Place Recipe

It’s so funny how we sometimes don’t know our own tastes. I was given Viana La Place’s Unplugged Kitchen by an author and didn’t quite know what to make of it at first. It doesn’t have a single photo in it; the jacket is pretty hideous (but it’s gorgeous with the jacket slipped off); and the author is very opinionated. Weirdly, I fell wildly in love with it. It’s so quiet. Quiet can feel good when you spend all day looking at food blogs and overwhelmingly gorgeous cookbook spreads.

That’s the point of the book: to unplug your kitchen and enjoy the hand-work of cooking. Viana tells readers to chuck their food processors (she says they mash rather than slice and that their sound is horrid in a kitchen); she advocates hand-tearing your lettuce and treating it more gently than we usually do with our spinners and knives; and she thinks we’re missing the point if we make simple food quickly, rather than simple food mindfully.

It’s a good distinction, and it’s a great book. It’s sadly out-of-print now (although still available used online), but here’s one of my favorite simple and slow recipes to make out of it. You’ll be done cooking in 20 minutes or so, and you probably have every last thing on hand already. So why not go ahead and slow down a bit with it, enjoying each little knife slice of garlic as it happens?

Viana La Place’s Recipe for Spaghetti with Tomato and Fresh Ginger

Viana La Place Recipe

Serves 4
Ready in 20 minutes

6 garlic cloves
1 large knob of fresh ginger
1 16-oz package of spaghetti
2 tablespoons of sea salt, plus more to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-28 oz can diced tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
10 fresh basil leaves

Place a large pot of water over high heat. While it comes to a boil, peel and finely dice the 6 garlic cloves, then peel and finely dice the ginger until you have ¼ cup of it.

Your water should be boiling about now, so drop in the package of spaghetti and 2 tablespoons of salt. Set a timer for 2 minutes less than the package indicates.

In a medium sauté pan over low heat, add 1/4 cup of olive oil, all the garlic, and ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes; add the ginger and stir for another minute. Add the entire can of tomatoes and stir, smashing the tomatoes if you like it a little less chunky.  (By the way, you can store any leftover ginger in a sealed baggie in the freezer. It’ll keep at least 6 months, but I’ve kept it longer and lived to tell the tale.)

Cook the sauce for about 10 minutes, until it begins to thicken. Sprinkle with more salt to taste and grind some pepper over it. As the sauce cooks, wash and chop your basil. A chiffonade is nice, but chop it however you darn well please.

Strain the spaghetti, add it to the sauce, toss, and top with basil. Drizzle a bit more olive oil and grind more pepper over each serving at the table. Or, just eat it on the couch, in a big bowl, in your jammies, with a strong drink.

Jarrett has a great one for you:

The We’re-All-Gonna-Be-Okay Cocktail

Pear Brandy Cocktail Recipe

This election year has been something—no matter where you stand, it was a stressful and trying year for us all. But now, at last, November 8th has passed, and we can finally get back to the important things: drinking together.

I’ve got just the thing to wash away any lingering bad tastes on your political palate—this drink is strong, it’s balanced, it’s got integrity, and it’s running for president in 2020. So sit down with it now, share it with a friend, put on some New Orleans parade music, and remind yourself that we’re all gonna be okay.

Makes one drink (but tripling encouraged!)

2 oz. pear brandy (We love Catoctin’s Pear Brandy, but you can also create your own!)
3 tablespoons pear preserve
1/2 oz. lemon juice
Splash of club soda

Combine the brandy, pear preserve, and lemon juice in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass. (It’s really important you double-strain this particular drink as the preserve creates a lot of undesirable clumps.) Top with a splash of cold club soda.

Recipe inspired by Maggie Hoffman’s upcoming cocktail book, Just One Bottle, represented by Alison Fargis at Stonesong and to be published by Ten Speed Press. Follow Maggie on Twitter here!

What to Read This Week:

15 Authors Running Fantastic Book Promotions on Instagram (Diana Urban for BookBub): I’m a big believer that authors shouldn’t try to reinvent the wheel for their marketing campaigns. Instead, just find a few people in your genre who are doing it well (like these 5 authors who are killing it with authentic marketing), then observe, analyze, lather, rinse, and repeat.

What Barnes & Noble Doesn’t Get About Bookstores (David Sax for The New Yorker): “The key question for Riggio now is figuring out what purpose Barnes & Noble serves today. Amazon dominates the industry with low prices and a vast selection, and is even flirting with brick-and-mortar bookstores, having opened two in the past year. Independent bookstores—once assumed to be on their way to extinction—own the romantic notion of a bookstore as a place, like a church or a social club, where communities are nurtured. Barnes & Noble is stuck in the middle, a giant saddled with hundreds of huge stores, and an image of corporate sameness in a market that has increasingly come to treasure defiantly independent bookstores.”

17 Literary Home Accessories Every Book-Lover Should Own (Sadie Trombetta for Bustle): Christmas is coming! If you love a book lover, I highly recommend the library-scented candle and the books-shaped plates. Also, that Kate Spade collection with the watercolor books? Be still my leaping heart.

The Making of the Sqirl Cover, an Illustrated Story (Ali Slagle for Food52): Ever wondered how many iterations of a book cover happen behind-the-scenes before it’s released? This is a great illustrated look at how covers evolve and how competing opinions can be carefully managed. (P.S. This cover is so eye-catching!)

Plenty of Room on the Island (Seth Godin): “…it turns out that the real competition is inaction. Few markets have expanded to include everyone, and most of those markets (like books and music) have offerings where people buy more than one. This means that if there’s more good stuff, more people enter the market, the culture gets better, more good work is produced and enjoyed, more people enter the market, and on and on. So encouraging and promoting the work of your fellow artists, writers, tweeters, designers, singers, painters, speakers, instigators and leaders isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s smart as well.”


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The 4 Platform Elements That Most Impress a Literary Agent or Editor

how to get a literary agent

Right about now you’re probably elbow-deep in pie crust, realizing you forgot to get thyme at the store, and wondering if you’ll ever get all your cooking done before hangriness sets in. If you still need recipe ideas, a few free Thanksgiving printables, and a plan for cleaning the wasteland that surrounds you, take a look at last week’s post.

And if you’re ready to transition into slothing on the couch and sipping a cocktail, here’s what to read and drink this Thanksgiving.


The 4 Platform Elements That Catch an Editor’s Attention (Maria Ribas on Scroll down to read this article, or you can also click above to read the full post on Carly’s blog! Carly and I first met when I was an editor and I acquired The Wellness Kitchen from her, and now it’s fun for both of us to be on the agenting side. Her blog is a seriously fabulous resource for writers–get it on your bookmark bar, or even easier, sign up to receive posts in your inbox. I consider it a must-read!

10 of Our Favorite Literary TED Talks from 2015 (Nikki Steele for BookRiot): If you’re too stuffed with turkey to pick up a book, turn on one of these TED Talks and collapse up on the couch. They’ll make you think, even through the haze of tryptophan.


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Read, Eat, Drink: How to Impress a Publisher in Half a Second, Plus an Announcement!

How to get published


5 Ways to Impress a Book Publisher in Half a Second (Chad R. Allen): Yes, you really can impress a book publisher (or Literary Agent) in half a second. And it all comes down to (you guessed it) Google. As Allen writes: “Book deals are business partnerships, which means authors are not only artists but business partners. I Google authors’ names because I want to know something about them. And Google can tell me very quickly–in about half a second, actually–whether to keep my interest alive or walk away forever.” I do this same thing. In today’s world, it is absolutely essential to have an online presence. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

The 4 Platform Secrets No One Has Told You (Carly Watters): “You’re not a satellite circling alone, you’re a compass pointing visitors to your brand. A vacant platform can be a sign of fear: are you afraid to follow other people because you’re afraid you won’t be any further ahead? It’s also a sign of disinterest: are you too “busy” for your brand? Then a publisher isn’t going to make time for you. Many of today’s success stories revolve around authors who have understood what their fans expect and want from them.”

Why Do People Share What They Do? Here’s What Neuroscience, Psychology, and Relationships Tell Us About Highly Shareable Content (Mridu Khullar Relph of Buffer): “If you want your content to be shared and shared regularly, understanding the “why” and “how” behind social shares can go a long way in showing you how to craft the perfect post for your audience.” This is a long post, but it’s chock-full of information that will help you dig deeper into understanding the social environment of the Internet. Plus there’s good news buried in there: positive content trumps negative content when it comes to shareability. So keep up the cheer!

“Don’t Read Books!” A 12th Century Zen Poem (Maria Popova of Brain Pickings): Another wonderful find from the ever-interesting Maria Popova: a poem called “Don’t Read Books” written by Yang Wanli in the 12th century. It’s just what it sounds like: a plea to avoid the brain-rot of book-reading. “It might seem like a ridiculous notion to us today, loaded with heavy cultural irony, but it offers a poignant reminder that if books, which we presently worship as the most meditative form of media, were in the twelfth century what video games or Twitter are in the twenty-first, then a few dozen generations into the future — provided humanity still exists — the very forms we dismiss as spiritually worthless distractions today may come to be seen as the strongest anchors to the fabric of cultural history.”

Eat & Drink:

I’m handing the writing reins over to Jarrett, for a very awesome announcement:

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Read, Eat, Drink: Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling and a Sumac Gin and Tonic Recipe


How to get published

Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling (Paul J. Zak for Harvard Business Review): “I advise business people to begin every presentation with a compelling, human-scale story. Why should customers or a person on the street care about the project you are proposing? How does it change the world or improve lives? How will people feel when it is complete? These are the components that make information persuasive and memorable.” This article is fascinating, and it explains the science behind a lot of what editors and agents know intuitively–that stories and a promise of transformation pull people in. And that’s exactly why I always tell authors to begin their blog posts, book proposals, and book introductions with a story. It’s the surest way to make people care.

Video: Michael Pollan on Cooking (The RSA): This little short is the most fun you’ll have in 2 minutes and 28 seconds all week! In it, Michael Pollan explains how corporations cook (hint: badly) and why there’s just one simple rule to eating healthy, without relying on fad diets or any deprivation at all (hint: a cookbook would help you with it!). I love this rule, and think it’s so true: no matter what you order at a restaurant, it will never be as healthy as the same thing cooked at home. That’s why cookbooks matter–they’re powerful tools to help people get in the kitchen and start living healthier lives.

20 Must-Read Books for Bloggers (Krystal from Bloggers Get Social): You can learn so much from books, and this list is a great start for bloggers who want to learn how to do everything better. Too many of the bloggers I see who are struggling are mostly just suffering from a lack of information–they’ve got their heads down, creating content day in and day out, and they’re not investing enough time in training and experimentation. So, even if it means you take a blog vacation for a week, set aside some time to do deep research. In the end, it’s much easier than trying to figure it all out yourself!

Worried About What You’re Not Doing (Leo Babuata of Zen Habits): “In any given moment, many of us are thinking about what we’re not doing. We feel guilty that we’re not doing more. Worried that we’re not as productive as we could be. Guilty that we procrastinate. We feel guilty that we don’t exercise more, eat right, have better bodies. We worry that we should be doing something better, something more amazing, doing what the amazing people we see online are doing. We worry about what we have to do later, what’s next, where we’re going.” A great contemplative practice to help creatives (and anyone!) combat comparison and anxiety.

Eat & Drink:

Over to Jarrett for a new spin on the classic gin and tonic:

Sumac gin and tonic recipe

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