The Next Big Thing

I’m grateful to the lovely Kate Hopper for inviting me to participate in the Next Big Thing, a blog meme for writers. I met Kate a few years ago at AWP, and now work with her on LiteraryMama. She’s written a wonderful writing guide for mothers, Use Your Words, and her memoir, Ready For Air, is coming out next fall.

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 how we learn–and re-learn—to eat, and why our eating habits matter to our lives beyond the table.

What genre does your book fall under?

Creative Nonfiction/Food

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The book was my co-editor, Lisa Harper’s, idea, and I’m so glad she invited me to work on it with her! We’d met through Literary Mama, and then she contributed an essay to my first book, Mama, PhD. Not long after I delivered the final manuscript for Mama, PhD, Lisa and I were hanging out in the park with our kids, watching them play and feeding them snacks, when — as I recall it — she said, “So this is probably terrible timing for you, but I had this idea for a book…”

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

Well, it’s an anthology, so we didn’t write the full manuscript but solicited essays from writers whose work we know and love. We started doing that in 2007, and sent out our first proposal in 2008. When that didn’t sell, we retooled the proposal quite a bit and then set it out again in 2011, at which point it was acquired by Shambhala Publications.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The original idea, as I noted above, was Lisa’s; we’re both deeply interested in food and family, cooking with our kids, preserving old family food traditions and creating new ones. Our kids are a continual source of inspiration, education, and frustration!

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; a book like Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant , a collection of literary essays about solitary eating, offers the tight focus of Cassoulet, while Kate Moses’ beautiful memoir Cakewalk, offers the book-length reflection on food and family that our writers offer in their individual essays.

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

I have no idea! The main players in my essay my kids, the chef at our elementary school and me. I’ll leave this one up to Hollywood.

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

We hear a lot these days about how we should eat; we’ve heard that “local, organic, sustainable” refrain so much it’s barely meaningful anymore. The essays in Cassoulet are just not contributing to that conversation. Our essays are reflective, not prescriptive. All of our writers are saying, “This is what food means in our family,” and Lisa and I ask you, “What does food mean in yours?”

Now I get to tag some writers whom I think you should know about! So naturally, I’m tagging my co-editor, Lisa Catherine Harper, who has also published a smart, thoughtful memoir of her first year of motherhood, A Double Life: Discovering Motherhood ; Suzanne Kamata, one of LiteraryMama’s fiction editors and the author and editor of several books; Jen Larsen, one of the Cassoulet contributors, whose memoir, Stranger Here How Weight-Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed with My Head , is also coming out this spring; and finally journalist Jennifer Margulis, whose new book, The Business of Baby is going to change the way we think about pregnancy and childbirth . Check out their books.

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  1. […] Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family, and How we Learned to Eat, invited me to participate in a blog round robin for writers with new books coming out this year. Caroline is a San Francisco based writer, mother […]