Thursday, August 1, 2013

"The Recipe"


If you happened to read my post [here] on Great Projects Afoot, you might have thought I'd forgotten all about a life project by now, one that would help me again look at the glass not only as half-full but full of sparkling fizz and pink bubbles.


Or did you think I was now ignoring the subject? Hoping you wouldn't ask me about it?

It was 1995 and R.H. and I were at one of those estate sales where the crowd sweeps you along and the prices are exorbitant. Still, you hate to leave without buying anything. On our way to the garage, where R.H. hoped to find tools, we passed through the kitchen where determined women were snatching up all the pretty 1950s dishes and cookware.

One item sat alone on the counter by the door to the garage, ignored. A worn green recipe file.


Something made me scoop it up and pay ten dollars for it. Inside were stuffed newspaper clippings of recipes and a bunch of the old recipe pamphlets put out by companies pushing their products.


All of this was nice but what made me squeal with delight as R.H. drove home were personal letters and pages of scripts from a local Nashville television cooking show that had been popular in the 1950s. They belonged to the hostess of the cooking show that my mother had watched when I was in elementary school. There were pages of typed menus for these shows, including one for a Christmas special.


I wish I could show you a picture of these but I need to find them first. Until I thought about posting about it I assumed they were still in the file, up in my closet. I looked everywhere for them the other day with no luck. Not too surprising as they've been put away since 1995. That is when the purchase of this recipe file gave me the idea of writing my first short story.


I wrote it in two weeks and sent it off to a magazine published by a religious publishing house in Nashville where I had worked before we had our first child. To my surprise, they accepted my story of a pregnant woman from Massachusetts, whose hobby was restoring old cars, who moves with her husband to the South where the purchase at an estate sale of an old green recipe file--my very file--helps her to believe that she can learn to like this strange place called the South. Everything she needs is in the green recipe file.


Other than the births of our children and grandchildren, this was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. Receiving copies of the published issue was more thrilling than being given a bag of diamonds.


To think, an actual artist had been paid to illustrate my story, "The Recipe." And they gave four pages of their magazine to it!


I immediately got busy on another submission, this time a Christmas article on the Advent wreaths I made each year. It was accepted too, so obviously the next step was to write more short stories and articles and attempt to get them published by other magazines in order to build a resumé, right?

Go ahead and laugh when I tell you that what I did instead was to begin writing a novel. I spent two years on it and it was promptly rejected by another publishing house, even with a letter from a friend to his editor friend there. Embarrassing then but I would have been even more embarrassed today if it had gone to press. Know what I mean?

[Holly's Song: "Why does everything always have to be just right for you, Mom? Why do we all have  to pose like we're a perfect family having a perfect Christmas year after year? You know it's just an act we put on."]


I wrote another book, in collaboration with my daughter, a mixture of fiction and non-fiction about Thanksgiving Day that took two years to write. It was rejected by two agents. I bought a fancy binder for that one and get it out every November for my own enjoyment.

[Johnny wondered why it was that Osmie Tuttle seemed to walk exactly like the Broad-breasted Bronze turkeys he raised at Tuttle's Turkey Farm. Even Osmie's neck resembled his oldest gobbler, Old Methuselah, the terror of 
Tuttle's barnyard.]

Next I began working on a saga of three families that began in 1840 and was to go through the early 1950s.

[The three Carrollton men who rode the crop--grandfather, father, and son--viewed with contentment the land, fallow and cultivated, forest and swamp. Their keen hooded icy blue eyes assessed everything thoroughly, the formal gardens as well as cow pens. Orchards as well as gin house. Nothing escaped their eyes, not barns or dairies, not the gristmill or smokehouse or the slave cabins.]

I got to 1911 and then one night was inspired to write an offshoot of the saga, a light romance about a fat man falling in love with a beautiful woman in 1952 Nashville. A woman who has discovered a revolutionary new theory of weight loss. I loved that book. I spent three years on it. Never submitted it. Instead I discovered blogs and realized how much sheer talent was out there. Bummer.

[We sat on the porch glider and listened to the radio while hoping to catch an evening breeze, moths beating their wings against the screens. The June moon was nearly full and the scent of honeysuckle was in the air as Vladimir Horowitz's recording of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata played. Halfway through the music, Martin held my hand....]

So I decided to blog instead. Instant gratification. I love blogging. It's so much fun to write and work on blog posts, with R.H. taking the pictures. But the truth is that some of the joy went out of my life when I put aside my old writing, my first love.

Grudin's quote on my post "Great Projects Afoot" made me want to write again. And so I began, after making space on an old green table in the bedroom and spreading everything else across the foot of the bed every morning. No excuses now, everything is waiting for me.


I don't have a lot of time to write. There are other things to do. Isn't there always? But it's the thing I most look forward to every day, an hour here or there. The joy of writing my stories. And this time no worrying about the seemingly impossible hope of landing an agent or a submission being accepted. This time, if I feel that one is ready, I'll try the e-publishing route that others are doing now, sheerly for the exhilaration of seeing it there. (Not that I'd turn down an offer from Hollywood for the movie rights, you understand.) I might even have to buy one of those gadgets that you read books on now. Otherwise, as my friend Tammy at The Peanut On the Table reminded me, some day my granddaughter might want to read her grandmother's books. I hope so.

There it is, my Great Project Afoot. I see the pink bubbles again already, and isn't that what really matters? Don't we always want a recipe for them? 



"People with great projects afoot habitually look further and more clearly into the future than people who are mired in 
day-to-day concerns.
They do not easily grow sad or old."
Robert Grudin

[I promise that my next post will be short, very short.]




32 comments:

  1. Dewena, this post touches my soul. I went back and read your post on Great Projects Afoot, and it puts into words how I've been feeling about two projects I've immersed myself in this summer and how life-giving they are to me. One is a writing a project. I loved seeing your desk and can picture you just steeped in your writing. You continue to inspire me! Hugs to you. . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Karen. Making time for these things is important, isn't it? Helps to keep those little gray cells healthy, too. I hope! Let me know how your project goes.

      Delete
  2. I love your writing nook... how happy you must be there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Mary Ann. I really am happy there--and in my reading chair near it when I need to put my feet up!

      Delete
  3. You need never to worry about the length of your posts. Your words keep our attention. This subject and your outpouring let us see a part of your life and help us to understand you even better you are a talented writer! I would love to read The Recipe. Imagine being published with your first submission. I am so pleased that you are taking time for your writing again in that coZy writing nook. I will look forward to reading your work when published again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're so sweet, Peggy. It has been wonderful making time, most days, to retreat there. It's one of those things where I lose all sense of time.

      You know I'm going to ask you this--have you sat down to watercolor lately? We promised to keep each other accountable!

      Delete
  4. I am so happy you are writing again as you want to do so. Writing is exhausting to me. You are right that one must carve out time to write. When I wrote my little series I got up before dawn to do it. Now my plate is full to overflowing. You know you can pay Blogger to publish your blog posts. xo, olive

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Olive. And I was completely enthralled by the little series you wrote and especially by how you wrote. I would have loved reading more but I know it must have been emotionally difficult at times. These things we write do help us know each other better, don't they?

      Delete
  5. Another wonderful post, Dewena. I am so happy to hear you are writing again.

    I don't know when you lived in Nashville. I was there a year and a half, after my first husband got out of the service. My oldest daughter was born at Vanderbilt in 1964. Dr Sarratt was my physician. Sadly I can't remember how to spell his name. First name Houston. A building is named for him at Vanderbilt. We lived in Green Hills.

    Missouri had tugged at our hearts for the four years we were away in service. So when our daughter was about 9 months old, we came home.

    Tennessee will always hold a special place in my heart. I loved it there and still do. We might have stayed if we had not loved Missouri more.

    I have one of those recipe files, stored away in the basement storage. It is filled with BH&G recipes from the 1960's. I was an ambitious or obsessed collector of recipes. Perhaps I should try to find it. Winter will be here in about 5 months and we might decide to do some real cooking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Pat. And we were here then, had just been married a few years and no children yet. We do most of our shopping in Green Hills! My husband lived in Missouri a couple of years when he was a child.

      Some of those old forgotten recipes are really good. I have always been a recipe clipper. And when I want to de-stress I usually grab a cookbook to read! But I find that I cook less and less now myself at this age. Many times we just decide to have soup and salad for supper.

      Delete
  6. Well this was beautiful and quite moving. I'm glad I have some time so I could actually sit (well lie down!) and read this calmly in it's entirety without distraction. Lovely. Not the parts about the publishers, I think that happens a lot and so many great works of art and storytelling are looked over that way, but I love your passion and your creativity. The stories sound so individual and so interesting and you've dedicated so much time and heart and soul to them. Which I'm sure is easy, as it always is when you love something so much. I'm glad you are dedicating some time to writing again, even the little bits here and there you are able to and I also think e publishing is a fantastic idea. It's becoming a new world really and some doors are closing but others are opening!

    I always enjoy reading your posts. And I look forward to your next project!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here's our brave traveling girl! I hope that sometime you will come back to the US, and the South, when you're not going to have surgery! I love reading your sweet comment and I know it's strange for you to be inside instead of outside with all those sweet beautiful farm animals and cutting dandelions to make jelly and wine with, but please don't overdo even on your computer. Get well soon!

      It is wonderful to do what you love so I will keep finding time to work on stories and before you know it you'll be outside on the farm doing what you love, or inside cooking up one of your delicious meals.

      Delete
  7. Dewena- You write such wonderful posts and this is no exception. I am glad that you are back to your first love...you are right- blogging is wonderful but completely different than writing. Love to you- xo Diana

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Diana, that means so much to me. I don't think I could ever give up blogging but writing my stories again satisfies a different part of me. And I had missed the characters that lived in my mind for so many years!

      Delete
  8. Good to hear you are back to your writing. I just love your writing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, dear Marissa! You've always been so supportive of me since I first started blogging! I appreciate that so much.

      Delete
  9. Dewena your post is inspiring....I love it when something inside us stirs an honesty about ourselves that cannot be denied because a peace takes over...happy writing loved all of the ones you posted!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Marisa. I'm glad you thought it was inspiring and hope it does encourage you to continue to be true to the things that bring you that kind of peace. I admit to wishing you would post more frequently because I love when you write about your cooking heritage, but you know what? I prefer that you do what's best for you and your family and I tell myself that with these two children of yours that you're doing the most important thing by giving your time to them. Only you can set the priorities in your life so I'll just wait until I see another post from Mangia, Mangia...No Talk!

      Delete
  10. I hear you, Dwena, and I identify with your bubbles; the bubbles that burst and the ones that make you fizz and sparkle. The story behind the story, the one about finding the recipe file at the estate sale, hooked me. I want to know more. Isn't that what makes up the best kind of stories?

    I wish my parents and grandparents had written down their stories for us to read when they were gone. Your blog posts are a record of your days and I am certain that, in years to come, someone will cherish them even more than we do now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! And yes, I would dearly love to have anything written by my grandparents or parents. My mother did sit down one time before she stopped using the computer and type a record of the first Christmases she and my father had spent together and where they were spent, mainly as she and I as a baby followed my father around from one base to another as he was in pilot training during WW II. My sisters and I treasure that but only wish we had encouraged her to keep on writing.

      Delete
  11. I hear you, Dwena, and I identify with your bubbles; the bubbles that burst and the ones that make you fizz and sparkle. The story behind the story, the one about finding the recipe file at the estate sale, hooked me. I want to know more. Isn't that what makes up the best kind of stories?

    I wish my parents and grandparents had written down their stories for us to read when they were gone. Your blog posts are a record of your days and I am certain that, in years to come, someone will cherish them even more than we do now.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Dewena, just the little excerpts from your writings made me want to read them. I don't handle rejection well at all. My response to rejection would be "I knew it all along. I can't write", and I'd put away my writing. The desire to be a writer isn't deep enough with me, because I have never had the courage to even submit anything. I'm so impressed that you've already been published, and that you are writing again. I have no doubt that I'll be begging for your autograph some day. What a lovely spot you've created to pursue your writing. laurie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Laurie, but my goodness, I remember you saying that you worked 9-5 and then in your "spare" time create all those amazingly beautiful tables, not to mention the grandchildren you adore spending time with--I don't know when you'd even find time to write. Besides I love the honesty with which you write in your posts. Hey, I'll be glad to send you my autograph anytime, Laurie. Only don't hold your breath until it's on the inside of a book!

      Delete
  13. and.
    here i am. so late to the party!
    but i'm sort of glad because i not only read the post twice over but i read every comment and each of your replies.
    you are loved by us all dear heart.
    and you have the true writer's soul. you must write. that's the difference.
    such joy seeing your little desk.
    and the recipe story brought tears.
    if she could only have known that her little file and all the clippings and her life in that book could have fallen into such loving and sensitive and creative hands! what a joy it would have been to her.
    we are women.
    and our creativity knows no bounds.
    hang the agents and the publishers and all that rot.
    we will all keep each other going with our love and our mutual delight in each of our own offerings.
    the publishing world's loss. our gain.
    that's you dear heart.
    much love and admiration.
    xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are you all so sweet, or what? And you know that I hesitated for several weeks even posting this. Always that fear of how what I write will be perceived. Time to get over that, huh? Not that I needed to fear when so many of you have been so supportive.

      I was just about to email you, Tammy, to be sure everything was okay at the wren's house. Thank you for this sweet comment and for your friendship, and for being glad that the dear lady's recipe file landed in my appreciative hands. I didn't mention in the post that the personal correspondence were a few letters from her own mother to her, and I used that detail in my short story.

      I love that you wrote here that "we are women and our creativity knows no bounds." Now, isn't that the very best of what blogging is about?

      Love and admiration back to you, too!

      Delete
  14. My sweet, talented friend,

    Today, I feel as if this beautifully written and heartfelt post of yours is the beginning of a novel, itself! Such inspiration, dreams defined and pursued, twists in the 'plot', faraway settings, and last but not least, a compelling cast of characters who are part of the story within the story!

    You are a writer! Published and adored by so many already, both here in the blogosphere and in print. I only ask you to break your promise of shorter posts - what would we do without your nurturing narrative and intriguing voice? I, for one, would be quite sad, quite like I used to feel when my little grade school friends would move away; it was like they disappeared forever!

    The snippets of your stories have already enticed us and I can imagine what page turners 'The Recipe' and your other pieces are in their entirety. So glad that you have decided to devote the time and pretty space to your love of writing and carry through with the 'Great Project'. Afoot and ahoy, then, we shall be here, excitedly anticipating the arrival of your new venture.

    xo
    Poppy

    ReplyDelete
  15. You are so incredibly talented, my friend. This post is a work of art! Keep at it, because you h ave a true gift. And when you make it big as a writer, I'll be happy to paint something for the cover! ;P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Ricki Jill, I would be so honored! From your mouth to God's ears!

      Thanks so much for the encouragement!

      Delete
  16. What a wonder post! I get a lot of encouragement visiting you here!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Yes, this is one of my favorite posts that you have written! You will have to let us all share in your progress from time to time. I would love to read "The Recipe". I admire you,too, Dewena, for your discipline in writing and finding the time. On the other hand, there is no greater joy than writing and it quiets down the dialogue going on in our heads. Ha! When I get those ideas down on paper, and after a couple of revisions, that's when I see the pink bubbles. And thank you for sharing your writing desk! You've opened your heart to us all on this post. Thank you dear friend!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Oh, I loved reading every word of this post!! What a find at that estate sale. Was your mother still alive then?
    And I'm thrilled by the story The Recipe. Is there any way I could read it???
    I found it fascinating that when you were writing a book you would think of different stories.

    ReplyDelete
  19. What an interesting post, Dewena. I find you to be a most interesting person, always full of surprises. I knew you were a writer the first time I read your blog. You have the gift! I must get caught up with all of your latest posts. I've had them waiting in my emails.

    ReplyDelete

Hello! We would love to hear from you and get to know you in return. Thank you for visiting.