Our wedding photos!

At last, they’re here! Well…truthfully we saw them a few months ago, but now we finally have the shareable files! Many of you were so sweet in asking to see photos of our wedding, and I didn’t want you all to think I wasn’t going to deliver on that promise.

Looking back on them now, almost 5 months after our wedding, I can barely believe it all happened and whirled by so quickly. I didn’t think I could feel more grateful, but each time I look through the photos, my heart grows two sizes.

I know everyone says this about their wedding, but honest to god, we know the best people. They hauled and sewed and ironed and cleaned and arranged and sweated and saved the day about a thousand times a minute on our wedding day, and all the months before.

Thank you, every one of you. The gift you gave us is one we can never repay.

As I mentioned here, we had planned for an all-outdoor wedding from the start (one of the few things I felt strongly about, not having been a planning-since-I-was-five type!). The forecast was clear, clear, clear right up until the morning of, when, I kid you not, a monsoon suddenly swept through Ann Arbor. I just remember looking out the floor-to-ceiling window at the salon and watching these huge raindrops smacking the pavement. My makeup artist turned my chair around quickly so I wouldn’t have to look at the rain anymore.

So what to do? Step 1: have a good cry. Step 2: fix it. After my salon appointment, I trekked through the mall, dead-set on buying myself a very cute, very expensive pair of rain boots that would work with my dress. Jarrett was a nervous wreck, too, and as soon as he texted “Want me to come to you?,” I felt better. He picked me up, and we sat in the mall parking lot, laughing, crying, laughing some more over how caught up we’d gotten in making the day “perfect.” We were definitely those people that got buried in the details.

It was kind of hilarious that it was our wedding day, and we were sitting in our sweats in a mall parking lot. I think that’s what made me feel better–that I could spend a few minutes alone with this guy and not have to give a hoot about all the fuss of the wedding, because we were getting married that day no matter what fell out of the sky.

So, when people ask me what my favorite moment of the day was, it was that very unglamorous moment in the parking lot. It’s not in these photos, but it’s still one I’ll never forget. And after all that, the rains ended up passing and we were able to have most of the wedding outdoors anyway!

Now, enough with the cheez whiz, here are the photos! As you’ll see, we had to move the ceremony into the barn on account of that rain, but we still got to have dinner outside after the skies cleared, which made me very, very happy. All of that was thanks to the unstoppable force of our friends and vendors who were hauling our entire wedding around while Jarrett and I sad-giggled in a parked car.

And before anyone asks if I’d have an outdoor wedding again: yes. One thousand times yes.

A huge thank you to Dustin Stockel of Dustin Francis Photography, for capturing the memories of our day!











































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And that’s a wrap! 🙂

What I’m Reading This Week:

Two Bloggers Who “Burned It All Down” with Risky Writing (Dianne Jacob): This is such a fascinating topic for discussion–Dianne shares the stories of two food bloggers who got deeply personal and asks whether there’s a place for that rawness in blogging. I couldn’t resist and left my own comment on the discussion, but I’m curious to hear how other blog readers feel about highly personal writing!

Book Marketing Resources for Authors: The Best of 2016 (Jane Friedman): A fantastic roundup of book marketing basics, updated for the here and now. Bookmark it and come back to it whenever you’re feeling stumped.

What It’s Like to be a Cookbook Ghostwriter (Katherine Martinelli for Bon Appetit): There’s a lot of shrouded mystery (couldn’t help the pun…) around cookbook ghostwriting. But I get asked about it all the time, by chefs and writers alike, so this is the piece I’ll start pointing them to.

Paying Rent with Words (Susan Shapiro for City Lab): “Departing from a focus on pure craft, more schools are helping students learn how to turn a profit.” Hallelujah. The less you need to do other stuff to pay the rent, the more you can write.

Publishing a Cookbook: Photography (Part One) (Thriving Home): My lovely authors Polly and Rachel have been writing a fantastic behind-the-scenes series on publishing their cookbook, From Freezer to Table. This post will not only tell you what to expect when staging a cookbook lifestyle shoot, but it will also make you smile at how cute their families are.

How Much Does Facebook Advertising Cost? The Complete Guide to Facebook Ads Pricing (Alfred Lua for Buffer): Thinking about taking out a few Facebook ads for your book or other product? Here’s a handy primer to lead the way.

Building a Platform to Land a Book Deal: Why It Often Fails (Jane Friedman): “Platform building doesn’t stop if you do land a book deal. Your journey has just begun. The good news is that authors can build a platform by engaging in activities that are most enjoyable to them—because if they’re not enjoyable, you won’t continue doing them for the time required to see any kind of pay off. If you build platform only as a means to an end, it generally fails, and that’s why I tend to get cynical when authors try to do it only in service of securing a book deal. It doesn’t reflect an understanding of the much bigger picture: the tremendous value of being visible to your audience.” Amen.

What We’re Cooking This Week:

It’s a NYC week for me, so here’s the gritty truth:

Monday: Burrito bowls (made by Jarrett!).

Tuesday: Rice and beans at my Yaya’s!

Wednesday: Scavenge.

Thursday: Soup on the train, if I’m really lucky.

Friday: Jarrett’s been left very specific instructions to make BBQ chicken drumsticks and brussels sprouts for us to eat before we takeoff to the airport. (We’re in Ann Arbor for the long weekend!) Let’s all send positive thoughts his way.


The only new year’s resolution writers should make

Jarrett and I had the most fantastic staycation between Christmas and the new year. It felt so, so good to relax and get a few long-standing projects done around the house. The week was full of crazy exciting things like gift-wrapping and Costco shopping and house cleaning. We’re a wild bunch here.

There was also, of course, a lot of reading. I’m reading about four books at the same time right now, and while I’m not quite sure how I get myself into this love rectangle, it’s been magical.

Once again, one of my new year’s resolutions this year is to read more. To read well. To read where my interests lead me and explore new kinds of relationships with new kinds of books and new ways of thinking.

I will always believe that reading well is the single most important commitment any writer, creative, or curious person can make.

new years resolution for writers to get published

Here’s why:

When I started out in publishing I had a sort of weird job: I was the editorial assistant for both a nonfiction imprint and a genre romance imprint. It was incredible—one minute I’d be writing a tipsheet for a bestselling author’s next cookbook and the next I’d be editing racy copy for a romance novel. My desk was equal parts “Lose 20 pounds in 20 days!” and “Has the billionaire cowboy finally met his match”? It was fun.

Working on series romance was a huge stroke of luck since it meant I got to edit manuscripts and build my own author list right away. I will never forget the day a Senior Editor handed me a manuscript and asked if I wanted to take a crack at editing a book. I ran back to my desk, grabbed a red pen, and started reading—I had officially made it! I was editing A BOOK. A real book. People were going to read this book I was editing. I would edit it until it was the best book that had ever existed. My comments would be profound yet kind. My edits would be impeccable.

Two paragraphs into the manuscript, I hated my life. The book was awful. It was boring, clunky, empty words, one after the other after the other. Words plodding along for two hundred tiresome pages. I began to fantasize about quitting. It seemed the only humane thing to do, for the author and for myself. I would write a brilliantly worded resignation letter, and it would show them my true genius and talent. Genius and talent that shouldn’t be wasted on this drivel.

Instead, I gave myself a mental slapping around, pointed out to myself that there isn’t a speck of genius or talent to be found on me, and kept reading. I edited one such manuscript every month for the next nearly 3 years, and I learned something very important:

The mere act of writing will never make you a better writer.

Not ever.

You can pound away at the keyboard for the next infinity years and never have output that’s any good.

Because to output good writing you need to input good writing. It’s that simple.

If you don’t read outside of the echo chamber of your genre or category, it won’t matter how disciplined you are about sticking to a write-every-day resolution. You won’t one day emit good writing just because you’ve hit some imaginary threshold of word count or books completed. Good is honed, and to hone a precision edge you need to scuff up against something that’s stronger than you.

You need to read good writing.

That’s the first thing I tell every aspiring writer who asks me for advice on getting published. And it’s the first thing every writer—no matter where they are in their career—should put at the top of their resolution list. It’s non-negotiable.

Read The New Yorker; read books on the New York Times bestseller list; read critically acclaimed books in your genre; read The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times; read Pulitzer winners and the best books of the year. Just read good writing.

And don’t ever read bad writing.

The process of reading is the process of listening, and developing an ear for fluid prose is how you learn to write fluid prose. Every input you give your brain adds another data point for the rhythms and sounds of written language. Essentially, what you put in is what you get out.

So don’t put bad writing into your brain. Just like eating low-quality food is bad for your health, consuming low-quality writing is bad for your writer’s ear. The clichés, the lazy phrasing, the pompous reaching, the empty fluff will vibrate in your writer’s ear just as much as a perfectly turned sentence. Curate your inputs, and your mind will become attuned to the rhythms of good writing.

Once the sound of good writing is lodged inside you, then you can tackle all the other resolutions that have to come next: sticking to a writing schedule; connecting with readers; networking with other writers; learning how to market your work.

But start with reading. Each and every year.

This post was originally published one year ago, on January 5, 2016.

What I’m Reading

What Writers Know About Paying Attention (Stephanie Smith): I recently stumbled across the Slant Letter newsletter from Stephanie Smith, an editor at Zondervan, and I loved what she had to say this week about reading well: “Every novel, every narrative, every thesis or thinkpiece, all of these churn together like coffee grounds and kitchen scraps in the same compost pile. And slowly, with patient turning and over time, a nutrient-rich soil is created. If your sources are good, your soil will be good, and any seeds that are planted in it will absorb their richness and health. The reverse is also true: if your sources are lacking or anemic, chances are you won’t germinate that brilliant idea you were hoping to hatch.”

The 24 Best Longform Food Stories of 2016 (Eater): Well, look-ee here. Some great writing to read!

The Sixteen Most-Read New Yorker Stories of 2016 (The New Yorker): And some more.

The Most Popular Food News of 2016 (The New York Times): One last serving of good reads. (That Per Se review really was killer.)

A Literary Agent’s Guide to Publishing Terms Authors Should Know (Mark Gottlieb for The Write Life): If you’ve ever wondered what “D&A” means, this is the year to get your publishing jargon down pat.

What We’re Eating

We had good intentions. Good resolutions. Good plans. In fact, my health resolution this year was to cook vegetables in bulk and cram myself right full of them. But then we got home late from the cabin we rented for New Year’s, and our Peapod order was delayed, and we had nothing fresh in the fridge. Here is a true accounting of what happened from there:

Monday: Leftovers

Tuesday: Leftovers

Wednesday: Takeout, wine, friends at our house

Thursday: Finally back on track! A shrimp greek salad. Dinner of the resolution gods.

Friday: White Chicken Chili. I became obsessed with white chicken chili after having a dynamite bowl of it last week at a volunteer event. Luckily, my authors have a few knockout recipes: I’m trying Robyn’s white chicken chili recipe this week and Jenn’s recipe after that. 2017: the year of bathing in white chicken chili.


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printable bookplates for gifts & book donations

I hope you’re surviving these last few crazy days before the holidays. I just finished my Christmas shopping yesterday, and it felt great to get it done.

Except that as soon as I thought I’d finished, I realized I needed to buy one last thing. And then I remembered I also have to wrap that giant stack of packages that’s going to show up on my doorstep tomorrow. And I hate wrapping. Hate it really deep.

I’m not good at it; it takes forever; it never comes out right; it seems like a big waste of paper. (Says the girl who pulps trees into books for a living.)

But you know what’s really, really easy to wrap? Books. They are always rectangular. Let’s just take a moment to reflect on how magical that is. A rectangular item is a glorious reprieve when we’re elbow-deep in tape and trying to figure out how on earth we’re supposed to wrap a burlap bag of Virginia peanuts (tip: make Jarrett do it).

free printable bookplates donate

The other wonderful thing about books is that you can still get them in time for Christmas without having to even leave your house. Yes, right now! Even on the Thursday before Christmas! If you have 2-day shipping with Amazon Prime, you can drop a few books in your cart, check-out, and still get them Saturday morning, in time for some panic-wrapping. Or go for that next-day shipping, if you’re not into the adrenaline-chasing high of leaving things to the absolute last minute.

Photo credit: Chronicle Books
Photo credit: Chronicle Books

Of course, if you can buy a few minutes off today or Friday, you could hop over to your local bookstore and pick out a book for each person on your list. No shipping wait time there! Even better, you’re supporting a local business. Even, even better, they might have little elves at the store who’ll wrap up the books for you. Ahhh, heaven.

In my dream world, I’d have an unlimited budget to buy a giant stack of books, and I’d sprinkle them over everyone I know like fairy dust. A book for you, and a book for you, and a book for you. (I hope you can hear me doing that Oprah thing!)

But of course, people need “practical” things like socks and kitchenware and vacuums and alcohol. Even so, it never hurts to check off someone’s list and then add a little book in there for fun. Books make especially fantastic stocking stuffers, and they’re the perfect little something extra for that person you want to completely delight.

Another life hack? Buy a few extra copies of that one book you know that everyone would love, wrap it up, and have it in your back-pocket for that person or two who got you something unexpectedly. You’ll be giving them the gift of an afternoon spent in one of your favorite worlds, and it’ll give you two lots to talk about next you see each other. What’s better than that?

Here are the books I’ll be gifting this year:

Laurie Colwin Home Cooking book cover       more home cooking laurie colwin book cover

Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

For: A friend
Because: She hasn’t read any Laurie Colwin yet! I can’t think of a better treat to give anyone who loves food & writing.


how to relax thich nhat hanh book cover

How to Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh

For: My dad
Because: He needs it—haha!


anthony bourdain appetites cookbook book cover

Appetites by Anthony Bourdain

For: A family friend
Because: He loved Bourdain’s first book and mentioned this one in passing.

kindle paperwhite image

Kindle Paperwhite

For: My sister
Because: She misplaced her old Kindle, and no one should have to live without a good e-reader.


buck buck moose hank shaw book cover

Buck, Buck Moose by Hank Shaw

For: A family friend
Because: He’s one of the most skilled hunters and cooks we know. Perfect match.


john grisham the whistler book cover

The Whistler by John Grisham

For: My mom
Because: Tradition.

As I wrote about here, every year I give my mom the newest John Grisham book, and every year I write a short little inscription inside—usually just the date and a few notes.

Do you add inscriptions to books you give as gifts? If not, you should! It’s a wonderful way to track the history of your library and to turn simple books into cherished family mementos. Usually it’s the notes and scribbles and inscriptions in our books that make them meaningful to us (read the comment thread on this article if you don’t believe me!), and they’re what help us remember the time and place in our lives that was marked by that reading experience.

This year, I finally decided it was time to level up and add more character to my inscriptions, so I created these printable bookplate gift tags to put in all the books I’m gifting.

free printable bookplates donate

free printable book plates donate

I especially love that these bookplates remind me to jot down why I picked a book for a certain person. A book is such a personal gift, and it’s important to take a moment or two to tell someone why you thought this one was just right for them.

Hopefully, each time they page open that book, they’ll think of your friendship and be reminded of how much you love ‘em.

free printable bookplates

Click here to download these free printable bookplate gift tags!

By the way, these would also work fabulously as printable bookplates for donated books if you plan to donate some new or used books to your local library this year. I know many people love to add a little bookplate to donated books, and this one allows you the space to jot down why you love your library and choose to donate to it.

And if you’re still not sure what book to give those last people on your list, try these lists:

What I’m reading this week:

7 Reasons to Give Books This Holiday Season (Chronicle Books blog): In case I didn’t give you enough reasons above, here are a few more!

What Is a Hybrid Publisher? (Jane Friedman): It’s extremely important for aspiring authors to understand that hybrid publishers can vary wildly in their practices. Here’s a good primer on how to evaluate a hybrid publisher.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About How the New York Times Book Review Works (Emily Temple for Literary Hub): A nice little look into how the review process works to land on one of those coveted best-of-the-year lists.

Free Printable Bookish Holiday Cards (Bookish): In case you want a printable book gift card to match your bookplate!

32 of the Most Beautiful Book Covers of 2016 (Buzzfeed Books): So much pretty. Even if these books aren’t the kind of thing you’d normally read, you’ll be impressed by how much can be done within those little rectangles we call book covers.

What we’re eating this week:

Well, between Thanksgiving and my birthday, I am officially in hibernating-bear mode. To try to counteract all those cookies, I planned us a light but hearty week of food, all from the Clean Slate cookbook. Yes, I know that’s the prototypical post-new-year’s cleanse cookbook, but I think that if I’m detoxing for the sole purpose of retoxing over Christmas, I should be forgiven.

Monday: Poached chicken with bok choy in ginger broth. This broth was divine. Make extra and freeze it, and add a fried egg to the soup when serving if you’re a hungry person like me.

Tuesday: Spaghetti with collard greens and lemon. I fell in love with this recipe! It was immediately filed into my mental cabinet of keepers. It’s super simple, requires just a few pantry ingredients, and it has plenty of healthy greens. Win, win, win.

Wednesday: Cook’s day off = Chinese takeout.

Thursday: Red lentil soup with turnip and parsley. Soup can be just as healthy as salad but 1,000,000,000 times better.

Friday: Enough with the healthy already–let’s have some beef stroganoff. This one is from the Comfort Food Makeovers cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen. Yes, it’s made-over, but it’s still delightfully rich and old school.

I’ll be off next week to sleep off my hibernation pudge and spend a quiet week with Jarrett, but I hope you and your families have a wonderful holiday season and a very happy new year!


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free printable bookplates for donated books

(By the way, I only share books I’ve read or that I’m genuinely excited about sharing with the people I love. Life’s too short to read mediocre books. But if you do feel like picking up one of these books as a gift, it’d be great if you bought them through one of the Amazon Associate links above. It supports the many hours of work this team of two [me and Jarrett] put into this little corner of the web!)

Why you need to schedule a goal-setting day this month

I’ve been thinking a lot about goal-setting lately. Every month, I do a little Monthly Review (inspired by this method from ZenHabits), where I go back and look at how things went that month in some important areas of my life. For me, these important areas are:

  • Spiritual Life
  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Career

And then I end with a little “Hopes for Next Month” section, where I jot down a few things that I want to think on or work on for the next month.

I can’t tell you how invigorating and inspiring this practice has been. I only started in January 2016, but it’s something I don’t think I’d ever give up now.

 literary agent blog goals for writers lon

We spend so much of our lives in the thick of things, so busy getting everything done that we straight forget what we are actually doing in this big game of life. We only see the immediate to-dos looming over our next few days and weeks, and the future is a blurry mess of hopes. Usually, the past is even blurrier—I know I’m so guilty of glossing over successes and moving on to the next thing right away!

This is so especially true of us creative types who work for ourselves or have a side hustle we want to develop. There’s no boss that’s going to sit you down at the end of the year and grade your performance. (Believe it or not, I actually miss the year-end reviews from my previous corporate life!) And there’s no time allotted for you to set goals for next year and to plan your long-term career trajectory. There’s also no bonus to reward you for all those times you pushed through to meet a goal. It’s all on you.

That’s why you need to take goal-setting time for yourself.

No one’s going to come along and tap you on the shoulder incessantly until you schedule in that time. (I’m tempted to do that, but consider this your official nagging from your local literary agent on the subject!)

But really, I can’t stress enough how important this is for writers, bloggers, everyone. If you’re involved in any creative endeavor whatsoever, even if it’s just a side project, then you really owe it to yourself to be intentional about how you spend your time.

And you absolutely owe it to yourself to celebrate your accomplishments in 2016 and get excited for the adventures of 2017.

Your creative life will feel so much richer and more meaningful if you can see the big picture, if you can be mindful of your strengths and weaknesses, and if you can be intentional about what you want to accomplish and what you don’t.

That’s just another reason to love these last quiet weeks of the year. At least in publishing, things are a little slower, more people are out of the office, and there’s more time to do big-picture planning.

The problem is: most of us have no idea how to set goals the right way. (And yes, there is definitely a right way.) Yet, as we all know, goals are high-stakes. We feel awful about ourselves when we don’t meet our goals, and we feel amazing when we crush them. So setting them at all becomes a highly emotional process. How do we know our goals aren’t too easy? How do we know they’re unrealistic? How many goals should we be setting? And the big one: how in the heck are we supposed to put a plan in place to accomplish those goals? We all know it’s not as easy as making a list of things we’d like to do.

The truth is: no one is born knowing these things. Just because you’ve successfully knocked off goals in the past doesn’t mean 2017 won’t throw you some curve balls. Just because you’ve missed some goals in the past doesn’t mean 2017 won’t be the year you hit it out of the park.

But as I talked about here, books and the experts who write them pull us off the isolated island of our own experience and immerse us in the stream of collective learning. There’s no reason we have to struggle on our own when there are hundreds of resources out there for learning important life skills. And you betchya that goal-setting should be one of them.

So this year, I highly recommend making “Set up a system for making and meeting goals” one of your goals.

Yes, a goal about goals. It’s weird. But it’ll be fun to challenge yourself to learn a new goal-setting process, and it’s going to lay the foundation for many, many years of accomplishments.

Personally, I’m going to take all the expert help I can get this year and put a chunk of my continuing education budget (i.e. my book budget) into Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever class. I’ve been a huge fan of all things Hyatt for many years (he was the former CEO of Thomas Nelson publishers, for anyone who doesn’t know him), and he builds better resources for advancing your career and creative life than anyone out there.

Michael kicked things off this week with a LifeScore Assessment, which I found really fascinating. It only takes a few minutes, it’s free, and it’s a great way to see where you are now. Take a few extra minutes to read through all 4 options for each of the areas of life—I think it’ll inspire you to let go of complacency in 2017.

My score was a 76, but I’d love to hear what you got! Take it here for free.

And if you’re interested in signing up for his class with me, you can read more about it here. I won’t go yadda yadda about all you could learn in it, but I do think it’s one of the few online classes that will give you a strong return on your investment. Especially since it teaches you a process you can apply to anything, rather than a very niche skill.

He’s closing to new students on December 15th so that the whole class can go through the program together, but he’s running an early bird discount now until this Thursday. So save some money and go for it now, if you feel like it’s right for you!

What I’m Reading

How to Smartly Evaluate a Small Publisher (Jane Friedman): I’ve worked at small, medium, and Big 5 publishers, and I’ve seen how drastically the publishing experience can vary based on what kind of house you’re with. Here are some very smart questions to ask when deciding whether to sign with a smaller house.

The Making of a Cookbook (Chandra Ram for Plate): This is a fantastic piece, with deep detail, about how the team behind the Fat Rice restaurant got their cookbook deal then created and launched The Adventures of Fat Rice.

5 Bookish Christmas Eve Traditions to Start This Year (Kate Scott for BookRiot): My favorite holiday tradition? Spend alllllll of Christmas day reading a book. Requires little set-up and allows for maximum mid-chapter snacking!

So Many Ways to Organize a Cookbook (Dianne Jacob): On the art of creating a cookbook table of contents!

The Miracle of Mindfulness (Thich Nhat Hanh): I loved this conversation between Krista Tippett and Thich Nhat Hanh on the On Being podcast so deeply that I immediately put The Miracle of Mindfulness, How to Relax, and The Long Road Turns to Joy on my reading list. I’ve been so enjoying dipping into How to Relax and am already planning on gifting it to a few people this season, but I think The Miracle of Mindfulness is the best place to start for someone new to mindfulness.

What We’re Eating

Another week on the road for me! Dinner prospects are bleak. (Luckily, I usually have editor or author lunches booked, so at least I get one wonderful meal a day.)

Monday: We had our night of volunteering with The Reading Connection, so we ate the lentil soup I had made Sunday night. This was no hardship at all. I think lentil soup is one of the most perfect foods. My recipe involves dumping a lot of spices in the pot and tasting over and over until it’s just how I like it.

Tuesday: I’m up in NYC, so tortilla de patata with my grandma it is!

Wednesday: ???

Thursday: Send help.

Friday: Back home to homemade pizza and beer. Amen.


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(By the way, I partnered with the Hyatt team to spread the word about his class, but only because I’d buy it myself!)

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