November 24, 2008

Writing the Story, Stirring the Pot

A lot of people in the industry are scared right now--things look bleak. If you're pushing through NaNoWriMo or that draft on deadline or beginning a new project, you may be at that part of the process where you're feeling exhausted--or scared to begin. Writer fatigue and fear are hard to combat in the face of a lot of bad news, and especially hard to slug it out when it looks like the possibility of selling is dwindling to nothing.

And this, ironically, is when we need story the most.

You must now GO and read this entire piece, and be comforted and cheered and energized. Go, now. We'll wait. (Grateful hat tip to Buzz, Balls & Hype.)

Helen Hemphill is at the Tollbooth talking about gender and voice. This is a tricky, tricky one for many writers -- we have discussion on a.) whether or not men and women really sound alike, b.) what does it mean to "sound male," (and is it like "sounding black?") c.) how do we construct a character who is satisfyingly and authentically male, if we are females. Most of the audience at any given YA/ children's lit writing conference is female, so... it's a good question, isn't it? Stay tuned with Helen throughout this week.

Amy June Bates quite possibly illustrates some of the best reasons to read children's books -- her work sort of whispers "classic" and boy don't her pictures make the words look good? She's having breakfast at the 7-Imps.

All of these things will cheer you up and engage your mind. Go, read.

I'm having Thanksgiving homesickness like whoa and wow, because for our family THIS is the holiday, not Christmas, not New Year's. We loves us some Thanksgiving! Every year at this time I take the Chronicle and cut out all the great recipes from the food section, and figure out which ones I'm going to try. My eldest sister and I reenact The Other Great War (aka the yearly Monopoly beatdown) and basically we all hang around with my parents and get on each other's nerves for hours on end, which is really rare for us.

A lot of that has changed since my other sister got married and I... kind of left the country. The usual untraditional tradition of making the younger sibs run around to the neighbors with plates of cookies or whatever we're baking would make the neighbors here... look at me very oddly indeed. I haven't made a turkey-out-of-a-traced-hand to put on my front door so as not to worry them ("What's that then, pet? A wee birdie?")(And seriously: the postman calls me "pet," and "lamb." I... don't know if I'm complimented. A woolly animal or one you put on a leash??), but to assuage my homesickness, I have investigated what would be on the table at Plimoth Rock this week, and in my free time, I'm going to make it.

Today's dish is -- Corn pudding!

This is definitely an East Coast thing I've only ever heard of from friends -- no one I knew had it growing up, and my poor Southern parents would be sort of traumatized by cooking grits with sugar (!), but this is the recipe:

Indian Corn Pudding, Modern Version
6 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups coarse grits
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar (or more to taste)
Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in the salt and the coarse grits, stirring until the contents of the pot return to a boil. Turn the heat to low, and cook very gently for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Be sure to stir across the bottom of the pot to keep the grits from sticking. Remove from the heat and allow to stand about 30 minutes or until the grits are tender. Stir in the milk and sugar. Variation – To make a more deluxe version you can use cream in place of milk, add sweet spices to taste (cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves or ginger) and 1/2 cup of currants or raisins.

It apparently would have reminded the Pilgrims of frumenty which is sort of a thick wheat porridge made with spices and sugar and almond milk, and served with venison and mutton. I'm going to have to substitute, I think.

Corn pudding wasn't dessert, incidentally, as the Pilgrims at sweet and savory dishes at the same time. This to me indicates that I can eat this first, and be Thankful that sweet potatoes, pumpkins and SUGAR were eventually discovered in the New World. THAT's what I'm thankful for today. Dessert first.


Anonymous said...

The corn pudding looks interesting. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. My favorite dish is cauliflower/bleu cheese and tomato soup casserole.

C. K. Kelly Martin said...

Thanks for passing on that blog entry about comfort reading. We all definitely need the inspiration round about now!

I'm sending Thanksgiving wishes across the pond to you!

Sara said...

Oh, I'm sorry you're so homesick. It's a crushing feeling, wanting all that closeness and being so far. But corn pudding will help. I'm sure.

I'm not convinced I would let just anyone call me "lamb," but the postman? Sure! He brings good things!

Thanks for the good links today. I haven't even posted, and I might not get to it. Gah.

Jess said...

Dessert first - now there's a motto to live by! And this describes my family, too: "basically we all hang around with my parents and get on each other's nerves for hours on end."

Sarah Stevenson said...

I'll have to check out that series at Through the Tollbooth. My current NaNo piece has a male main character (half of it will, anyway), and I've always thought I'm fairly decent at writing a male voice, whatever that means. At this point in the project, though, I'm in such a hurry that I'm not worrying about voice so much as word count...

I have to agree with Sara on this one: postman is allowed to use pet names, since good things come from the mail! However, maybe this is a "grass is greener" issue, since we're lucky to get much more than a grunt or a wave out of our mail carrier. :)

BookMoot said...

The "comfort read" article was perfectly splendid. Thank you.

Jules at 7-Imp said...

I'm also sorry you're homesick. Hang in there, even though that sounds awfully trite.

I can say I've NEVER heard of corn pudding.

Anonymous said...

#1 - When I speak to my postman, he just looks at me sullenly. I think I'd take "Pet."

#2 - I really need to try that corn pudding recipe. Maybe, like, tonight. Looks yummy.

#3 - I'm wishing you a happy far away Thanksgiving.