One-pot harissa pasta

How many hours have you been staring at the computer today? Spring is so busy, and sometimes it’s hard to shake off the glow of our screens and step out of the tunnel of the Internet.

We’re doing just that in Greece for our honeymoon right now, and oh man, does it feel good. Fresh air, new scenery, SO much to eat. After an insanely busy past few weeks, Greece feels like breathing deep again.

I’m just so happy to be spending some time outside, away from the computer. A lot of folks think us book people are introverts who’d rather sit inside all day reading a book rather than socializing. Which is totally true. But I’m also willing to sit outside all day reading a book. I think that makes me adventurous.

If you also want to try something new tonight, and you’re bleary eyed from staring at your manuscript or the computer screen for hours, then come over here. Back away from the computer, tiptoe into the kitchen, and make this really, really slowly. Isn’t it nice to remember what unrushed cooking feels like?

harissa pasta skinnytaste recipe

This pasta is:

  1. Cozy, comforting, reassuring, and all those other words you want to come home to after a long day
  2. Excellent when paired with a book or ouzo
  3. Spicy, and just a little bit adventurous. Like reading outside.

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The one word that should guide all your marketing

We’re having rain after rain after rain here, and that’s led to a lot of staying in and cooking and gin rummy playing. We recently got addicted to gin rummy after finally figuring out that we could play just the two of us, and now the competition has become fierce. Pepper has had to referee a few “disagreements” about the rules. I think that makes her the level-headed adult in the house.

(In unrelated news, here’s Pepper ready to hit the pavement for some job interviews. We had to stage an intervention last week and tell her that her free ride is up, and it’s time to start paying rent. Let’s hope someone else finds her more employable than we do!)

literary agent blog

We also spent a few days in Michigan this past weekend, and all the rain there brought up a crop of morels on the farm. We picked nearly 7 pounds of them, and now we’re going to cook them every which way we can think of.

literary agent blog

literary agent blog

Speaking of windfalls, I wanted to chat today about a word we don’t hear too often in the world of blogging and publishing:

Generosity.

Generosity doesn’t get talked about much, but it’s really the business we’re in as book people.

It’s the train car that’s pushed along by the engine of purpose—it’s essentially the outward expression of inward compassion for readers.

Generosity in writing means keeping a single-minded focus on bringing joy to others and feeling deeply, monumentally grateful that they’ve given a few precious minutes of their lives to your words. As Elizabeth Gilbert puts it in Big Magic:

“Learn to share things with an open heart and no expectations. Live out the existence that best suits your nature.”

There’s a magic that happens when you push all your cells in the direction of serving others, even if you haven’t had nearly enough coffee yet, even if you can only eke out a few moments of big-heartedness each day, even if nobody will notice or appreciate it.

That, I think, is one of the most important traits all successful bloggers and writers have: they start with giving and they end with giving, and in between they give a little more.

Effective Book Marketing for Authors

I am so, so lucky that my authors start there. They’re already at the top of their fields, running successful businesses, and well-known for the quality of their work. They have it all, and they want to share it all. That’s the kind of heart I look for when signing an author.

Which brings me to a related and important point that few people talk about:

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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.”

Cheers!

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How to Handle a Writing (or Kitchen) Disaster

Laurie Colwin Potato Salad recipe(short)

But first, the stories worth reading this week:

All the Food That’s Fit to Print: How Culinary Scientists are Building the Meal of the Future, Layer by Layer (Susie Neilson for The New Yorker): This is an absolutely fascinating look at what 3-D printing can do in the food world. If you don’t have time to read the full story, watch the 2-minute video here.

What Makes a Bestseller? Two SMP Authors Say They Know the Formula (Jim Milliot for Publisher’s Weekly): “What are the components a manuscript needs to become a bestseller? According to two St. Martin’s authors, Dave Eggers knows.” It’s also worth reading Mike Shatzkin’s rebuttal on The Shatzkin Files: “The idea that the odds a book will make the bestseller list can be calculated from the content of the book alone, without regard to consumer analysis, branding, or the marketing effort to promote the book, is ridiculous.”

Webinars & Summits: An Author’s Guide to Selling Books through Online Events (Chad Cannon): “Secret ingredients to sell books: win someone’s email address, demonstrate your authority and teach valuable content, strategically get in front of a captive audience. A killer way to do these three things online… for free… all in one fell swoop? Online events.”

Dissecting the Success of Malcolm Gladwell (The Tim Ferriss Show): A great listen for any fans of Gladwell who want to learn more about his writing process. One sneak peek: “’For every hour I spend writing, I spend three hours thinking about writing.’”

11 of Our Best Potato Salads (Sam Sifton for New York Times Cooking): This has nothing to do with publishing, but everything to do with your happiness this weekend. Seriously: do you have your potato salad game on lock for this weekend? Jarrett and I are ready–we special ordered Duke’s Mayo off of Amazon just to make the potato salad recipe you’ll see below. This is both something to be ashamed of and something to be very, very excited about. We’ll be making it tonight, so follow me on Twitter to see how it turns out!

How to Handle a Writing (or Kitchen) Disaster

Laurie Colwin Potato Salad recipe

Here’s something I hear myself saying to authors a lot: “It’s going to be okay—don’t worry!”

That’s because disasters happen. They always do. And that’s okay. There’s no good challenge you’ll take on that doesn’t experience a hiccup, change of course, or outright fiasco along the way.

It’s just like being in the kitchen—sometimes you perfectly poach that egg and other times you end up with egg on your face.

Which has happened to me. I tried to poach an egg in the microwave once, and it exploded in my face. At work. In front of other people. At a publishing house.

After a good cry in the bathroom and many, many paper towels to wipe the shell and yolk and mild burn marks off myself, I got it together and went back and sat at my desk like nothing had happened. And it was okay. And I laughed about it.

It’s the same thing with your manuscript or your book. Yes, it’s much more important, and deeply personal, and it’s your life’s work. There is no contesting that.

But it’s also all very fixable. What’s not fixable? Losing your health. Losing someone you love. Losing a part of yourself that guided you.

But plot tangles, photo shoot fiascos, endless rejections? They can’t really hurt you.

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