The Gift of Your Gift + 2022 Favorites, a Survey, & Latkes
Allowing your writing to be a gift you give yourself (and others); feedback survey with giveaway; favorite things of 2022; the best of you; favorite latke recipe; gnomes
Greetings readers & writers,
The month, I spent a whole week making a gift for a dear friend of mine. I have quietly been taking a pottery class and got the idea to hand-build her a family set of little ceramic gnomes, having never done anything like that before.
I hadn’t realized how much I love the act of making or curating a gift for someone until my hands were covered in glaze and I was painstakingly painting tiny candy canes on tiny gnome hats. It was a ton of work, my hand was cramping, and it was taking me so very much longer to do than I had hoped, but I was having fun. I knew my friend would love them too, that she’d feel the care I put into them, even if the colors were off or something broke in the kiln.
There is a beautiful, electric satisfaction in picking the perfect gift. It speaks to my sensibility of drawing out resonating themes. But creating a gift also made me think of what author and friend N. Griffin shared in her Book Marketing Now follow-up interview: “I mean the book to be a present, not a weird little hoard.”
In general, I find it hard to share my writing with others before it’s “ready.” I definitely hoard my projects like a weird little dragon. Which, to be fair, is perfectly fine! There is nothing wrong with writing just for oneself. But what could it mean to re-frame writing, done for others, not just as a business transaction or some masterpiece to be observed, but as a gift, crafted with that intention? A gift I can give both to future readers and, above all, to myself?
The line between art and business, gift and product, is a fraught one and deeply susceptible to exploitation. Writers abandon passion projects because they don’t “fit the market” or the industry perpetuating lower pay for artists because it’s assumed artists should give of their passion for free. As if the “gift” of talent means anything produced by that talent should be free.
But you and I both know talent isn’t free. The gift of any craft is built on time, hard work, practice, diligence, support, investment, and failure. Rather than considering payment for art as a crutch or debasement, we can choose to look at it as our readers giving us a reciprocal gift honoring the effort and passion we put into creating it. Art doesn’t have to be free to be a gift.
I’m always asking my students and clients: who is your book for? As we glide gently into the new year, I challenge you to ask yourself, as I am doing, not just who you’re writing for, but what you hope to give your readers, in crafting a creative project for them. And also: what would you like to receive in return? How can making your art be a gift to yourself?
When I showed my pottery instructor the finished gnomes, she was surprised I would embark on such a detailed project. She asked me if I was a painter or artist in another medium. I explained that I learned artistic sensibilities and tools from my father, a graphic designer, and that I’m a writer. “Ah,” she said. “That explains it. You’re used to taking creative risks.”
May your 2023 be full of beautiful, imperfect, creative risks.
I continue to be grateful for how this newsletter has grown. I’d love to know what’s kept you coming back + what else you’d love to see in this space. Take a few moments to fill out this short survey and you could win a $10 gift card to an indie bookstore!
#ThrowbackThursday: Top Issues of 2022!
We’ve had an incredible line-up of writers this year who have shared their publishing and marketing journeys. Read their stories on the Book Marketing Now archive page and support them by reading, buying, and recommend their beautiful books!
Have a book coming out in 2023 or one that got overlooked during the pandemic? Fill out this form if you’re interested in participating!
Favorites of 2022
Book: A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking* by T Kingfisher and other great titles!
Recipe: Fresh Spring Rolls with Avocado
Music: Noah Kahn’s latest album, Stick Season or (honestly, anything by Noah Kahn)
Iced tea: Heritage Tea Sweet Bourbon Nola
Hot tea: Celestial Seasonings Maple Ginger
Cozy gear: Tonal Star Yummy Hoodie Cardigan and my beloved weighted blanket
TV Shows: Ghosts (BBC), The Big Brunch, Leverage: Redemption, The Great Pottery Throwdown, Our Flag Means Death (ugh, that finale!!)
Organizational tool: Weekly Meal Planner Spiral Notebook
Inspirational Tool: Writing Down the Bones Deck: 60 Cards to Free the Writer Within
Pretty things: Jewelry by Madison McKenna of The Cyprus Cabinet
It’s still Hanukkah, which means it’s still cook-things-in-oil season! Luckily, I’ve been using this sweet potato latke recipe from Real Simple by Rebecca Peppler as a set of guidelines for the past several years. Sweet, savory, salt, crispy, as long as you keep your oil hot, they come out delicious every time.
Sweet Potato Latkes
(makes ~20 latkes)
1 large sweet potato, peeled
1 large russet potato, peeled
1 medium yellow onion, grated
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespooons matzo meal or potato starch
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to finish
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
vegetable oil, for frying
Grate sweet potato and russet potatoes using the grater attachment of a food processor (or a box grater works fine too).
Twist the grated potato into a bundle in a clean tea towel and squeeze out as much liquid as possible, pressing against a mesh strainer in a bowl. Repeat as many times as necessary to get out as much liquid as possible. Discard liquid. Transfer the mixture to a large, dry bowl. Repeat with grated onion.
Add the eggs, flour, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 pepper to the potato and onion mixture. Use a fork to mix just until the mixture holds together, adding more potato starch if necessary.
Add enough oil to coat the bottom of a large non-stick or cast iron skillet. Heat until the oil is hot, but not smoking. Working in batches, measure out 1 1/2-tablespoon portions of the latke mixture. Add to the skillet and flatten slightly, spacing the latkes 1 inch apart (I could fit 5 -6 in my 12” pan). Cook until the latkes are crisp and brown around the edges, 2 - 3 minutes; flip and cook, until crisp and deep golden brown, 2 - 3 minutes more.
Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, sprinkle with additional salt. Repeat with the remaining latke mixture, adding few tablespoons of oil between batches and waiting for it to return to temperature.
If you aren’t serving immediately, keep warm in the oven on a metal rack placed on a cookie sheet or directly on a hot pan. Serve with applesauce, sour cream, and/or smoked salmon.
Stay warm and may your season be full of joy, creativity, and light.
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