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!)
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.
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 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.
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: marketing is not one-size fits all.
It just isn’t. Modern marketing is too often focused on spurring action, and the importance of giving generously back to readers has been buried beneath a pile of call-to-actions and marketing scripts. And yes, there are best practices and strategies and plans that are proven to work well, but they are utterly worthless until they’re adapted to you. Marketing has to start with your voice, and it has to start with a mindset of generosity.
Why Sharing Your Work Has to Start with Knowing Your Voice
I hear this anxiety from authors all the time: “I don’t want to sound like X person because they’re just so sales-y.” And I 100% get it. Nobody wants to suddenly switch on an infomercial announcer voice when it comes time to promote their book.
What I tell authors is: you don’t have to. What you do have to do is share your story, in your voice, and be confident in one simple fact: that the book you created is going to be a ray of sunshine in people’s lives, and it’s simply your job to guide them to the window and open the blinds for them.
We’re now in an era where everyone is trying to sell you something or other online. And there are about one trillion blogs about how to blog and blogs about how to sell. Those are helpful, definitely—it’s important to educate yourself and act on the learnings of others, rather than reinvent the wheel yourself. Yet the loudness of the Internet makes it more important than ever to speak to your audience just as you are, not as a marketing script.
Because as soon as you lose your voice and your stories and your personality online, you become just another marketer, convinced that with the right scripts, right sales copy, and right funnel you’ll sell a trillion copies of your course/book/product.
So if you ever feel that little twinge of uncertainty about sharing your book or product with the world, remember that you don’t have to do it how everyone else does it. Learn everything you can, then adapt those concepts so they feel authentic to you, and always, always start from a place of generosity and gratitude.
And if you need a real world example of someone who does this stunningly, go spend some time at my sweet author Robyn’s blog, Add a Pinch. Robyn’s first cookbook, Add a Pinch, was just released by Clarkson Potter last month, and she’s been lavishing her readers with all the love in the world in celebration of it.
Robyn has been running spectacular giveaways, sweepstakes, and more to celebrate the release of her cookbook, and it’s been such a delight for us all to see how very delighted her readers are. Not only did she create a book that’s going to be a spot of sunshine and a true workhorse in her readers’ kitchens, but she’s also generously stocking those same kitchens with great giveaways like KitchenAid stand mixers, Lodge skillets, and Wusthof knives.
Her readers are being spoiled rotten, and not just with kitchenware: Robyn also always takes the extra time to thoughtfully and graciously respond to all her reader emails, comments, and questions, and to be a voice of encouragement alongside readers as they cook.
And no, I won’t go on and on about how wonderful her book is and not give you one! That would be very rude.
Giveaway of the Add a Pinch cookbook by Robyn Stone
Today I’m giving away one copy of Add a Pinch: Easier, Faster, Fresher Southern Classics by Robyn Stone.
Reply to this email or send an email directly to maria @ cooksplusbooks . com by tomorrow (Friday, May 5th at 5 EST), and tell me what your favorite Southern dish is. I’ll pick one winner at random to receive Robyn’s gorgeous book.
And for those of you who don’t have your copy yet (get it here!), or who just need something to make for dinner tonight and you’re at your wit’s end (me!), here’s one of my very favorite recipes from Robyn’s book.
Robyn cooked us this shrimp and grits recipe when the photography team + me + her editor were out at her beautiful Georgia farm last August, and it was incredible. My stomach is growling just thinking about it.
So if you need a little bit of Southern home cooking to look forward to this week, add this to your dinner list. I’m hoping it fills your kitchen and your day with all the warmth and love Robyn put into it!
Creole Shrimp and Grits
Photo by Helene Dujardin from the Add a Pinch cookbook by Robyn Stone (Clarkson Potter).
For the shrimp:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
6 medium plum tomatoes, chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
For the creamy grits:
6 cups water or chicken stock
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1½ cups quick-cooking grits
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
For the shrimp:
In a medium skillet set over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, and celery and cook, stirring, until tender but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 5 more minutes. Add the shrimp. Cover and cook until the shrimp are opaque and cooked through, 5 minutes.
For the creamy grits:
In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, bring the liquid (chicken stock or water) and the salt to a boil. While whisking constantly, slowly pour the grits into the boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking often, until the grits become thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan from the heat, stir in the cheese.
Divide the grits among serving dishes. Spoon the shrimp over the grits and drizzle with the pan sauce.
What I’m Reading This Week:
Annie Dillard on What It Takes to Be a Writer and Why Generosity Is the Most Powerful Animating Force of Art (Maria Popova on Brain Pickings): To stay on today’s theme, here are some heartening words from Annie Dillard on the power of generosity.
The Magic Wand of Generosity (Dan Blank on Writer Unboxed): And one more on-theme piece: here’s a great article about how we should “Be insanely generous, instead of insanely promotional.”
4 Methods for Developing Any Idea Into a Great Story (Elizabeth Sims for JaneFriedman.com): “‘Look,’ he said impatiently, ‘ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s the development that puts you over the top. Do what you have to do to make it real and get it to market.'” Amen.
Cookbook Update! (Jenn Segal of Once Upon a Chef): Since we’re already talking spring cookbooks today, mark your calendars for Spring 2018 when Jenn’s wonderful cookbook comes out! Here she shares a great behind-the-scenes look at the cookbook process, which right now for us means poring over interior design concepts and getting every last detail just right.
Cookbook Progress: The First Pass (Polly and Rachel of Thriving Home): Just as Jenn and I are looking at interior concepts for her Spring 2018 cookbook, Polly and Rachel are hard at work on the first pass for their Fall 2017 cookbook. First pass is the first time an author will see the fully designed pages of her book, and it’s when things really start to feel real. Take a look at this video if you want to see how the pages look!
Damn Right: I Do Make a Living Writing About Food (Naomi Tomky on DianneJacob.com): “It’s easy to romanticize the writing life. But to do this for a living, I must take that starry-eyed dreamer and lock her in the closet, while I get down to business.”
What We’re Eating This Week
We’re off to our honeymoon in Greece in two weeks, and so I’m on what I’m fondly referring to as The Greece Diet. Here’s how it works: tell everyone that you have to eat healthy because you’re about to go on your honeymoon, drink a lot of red wine and eat carbs anyway, remain stupidly optimistic that you’ll do better tomorrow. Tomorrow’s always the best day to start a diet anyway, right?
Monday: Out to dinner, where I promise myself I won’t touch the bread basket (and therefore I deserve an extra glass of wine).
Tuesday: On the road, and we know how that goes…
Wednesday: A salad! I am so good. Extra tortilla chips on the burrito bowl salad for me.
Thursday: Pasta…with salami…but also cabbage. So we’ll call this a net neutral day.
Friday: Well, it is Cinco de Mayo. It would be a little weird not to eat a dozen tacos and a dozen margaritas. #TheGreeceDiet