The Next Big Thing

What is the title of your book?

The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Stories of Food, Family, and How We Learn to Eat

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Cassoulet is an anthology of original essays about family food and why it matters–even beyond the table.

What genre does your book fall under?

Creative Nonfiction/Food

Where did the idea come from for the book?

For years, the title “Learning to Eat” had been kicking around in my head. I knew that I wanted to write something about how eating is something we all learn to do: from breastfeeding, to first solids, to new foods…but how and what we eat is anything but clear.

I met Caroline Grant through Literary Mama and her first anthology, Mama, PhD, and one morning, it popped into my head:  it’s an anthology! Co-edited with Caroline!  I knew she cared about food in some of the same ways that I did, and I knew she had experience with anthologies, so I called her up and said, “This probably isn’t the best timing, but…”

We started the blog, and the book followed…

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Caroline and I started soliciting essays and pitches in 2007, and sent out our first proposal in 2008. As is the case with most proposals, it didn’t sell. But we were stubborn and believed in our idea and the stable of writers we’d cultivated.

In the months that followed, we thought hard about the shape of the book. We reworked its structure and focus, streamlined the sections and made the overall arc clearer.  We sent it out again in 2011, at which point it was acquired by Shambhala Publications.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

First, watching my kids figure out how to eat–literally–then seeing how they developed their own preferences and aversions over the years. I found their exploration of food interesting, frustrating, maddening, and joyful. Kind of like family life in general.

As essays and pitches began to come in, the book took on its own, incredible momentum.  We realized we were sitting on a gold mine of material. Food matters in every family’s life, but not in the predictable ways. We wanted to shape a book that would change the conversation about what real food means in real families

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Cassoulet is represented by Elizabeth Evans, of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, and will be published by Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Press.

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?

The range of food stories in Cassoulet mirrors what you’d find in the annual Best Food Writing collections, though our book is more tightly focused on family food. I’m a fan of books that speak to both food and larger issues of family and culture, like Kate Moses’ beautiful memoir Cakewalk, Donia Bijan’s Maman’s Homesick Pie, Gabrielle Hamilton’s, Blood, Bones, and Butter, and we hope readers will find the kind of plain talking, irreverant, and revealing humor you get in writing by someone like Anthony Bourdain. But what’s new in our book is that all the stories are by real parents, cooking real food, for real families.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I’d make my husband create an animated short.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The recipes!

Now I get to point you to some other writers with new projects in the works:

Jen Larsen, whose beautifully written new memoir, Stranger Here, is already garnering rave reviews

Melissa Clark author of Swimming Upstream Slowly, has made the bold move into self publishing with another witty, insightful novel, Imperfect.

Cassie Premo Steele, the prolific poet and writer whose new book is about the interactive poems she’s been sourcing on Facebook

Lana Dalberg, has new forthcoming anthology, Birthing God, about women’s experiences of the divine

Josh Mohr has a new novel, Fight Song


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