I’m thrilled to be taking part in the #MyWritingProcess Blog Tour, where writers discuss their creative process. Last week, we had the amazing Patty Chang Anker (#SomeNerve) and today, here are my answers. Here’s a little peek into my world.
What am I working on?
Next month my food memoir Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal is coming out and I’m thrilled to see it in hardcover. It’s been a long road for the book, so it’s lovely that it’s garnering so many positive reviews in places like Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal.
I’m currently writing a piece for Huffington Post (on wild edibles), a story on what foraging taught me about love, and a post on my website about a common weed that helped me to combat the craziness of juggling parenting, day job, and book promotion—as well a severe migraine. I also have some shorter print pieces on the joys of foraging in the works.
I’m preparing for a lecture and a reading at the University of Southern California, where I received my Ph.D. in literature and creative writing. Even though I’m originally from Queens, returning to USC is a little like going back home. In between the talks and reconnecting with old friends and former students from UCLA-Writers’ Extension, I’ll be hiking through Griffith Park, keeping an eye out for the wild edibles growing there.
I’m also gearing up for the Food Book Fair’s Moth-Style Food Book Slam in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I’ll be reading from Eating Wildly and going head-to-head with some fabulous chefs, butchers, and food writers, including Tom Mylan and Sarah Zorn.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Eating Wildly is one of the first food memoirs to be published about foraging, family and the search for love. I grew up at my Chinese grandparents’ kitchen table in Queens, eating elaborate meals and learning about life. As an adult, foraging brought me back home, even in the face of severe loss (my absent father, my loving grandparents). Each chapter focuses on a specific edible plant or mushroom, including its culinary, medicinal, and historical uses, and the lessons I learned just by paying attention.
Why do I write what I do?
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been interested in the natural world, but because I grew up in the city, that meant fishing off the coast of Brooklyn or Long Island, and examining the weeds that cropped up in our back courtyard. For years, I forgot all about that as I worked for publications like the Village Voice, Spin, Vibe and Martha Stewart, and then attending graduate writing programs at Johns Hopkins and USC to work on my fiction writing. It was only later, after returning to New York, as I started foraging in earnest, that I discovered so many lessons in the natural world, and renewed my connection with my hometown. Foraging has afforded me a way to reconcile so many of the issues I’d carried with me from childhood, helping me to be more patient and to see clearly before me what simply “is” vs. what I’d merely hoped might be there.
How does my writing process work?
I discovered long ago that I write best in the morning. As a freelancer and a grad student, I used to roll out of bed and just start writing—with only the aid of some writing music (Philip Glass) and a men’s vintage shirt that I only wore when writing (I’m a big believer in routine and the Pavlovian response to certain triggers). Now that I’m a mother, I try to wake up early and start writing before my kid wakes up, but it’s a fight and a struggle to not give in to my tendency to want to clean the apartment and put away the toys.
I think I’m winning—with a beautiful new book about to be born—although the living room is in perpetual shambles.
What are the best conditions for you to write, and how do you avoid the tyranny of the household chores? I’d love to know.
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The Cool Writer I’m Tagging
Laura Silver is the author of the forthcoming Knish: In Search of Jewish Soul Food. Her reporting on food and culture has appeared in The New York Times, on National Public Radio and WNYC Radio. Her accounts of far-flung menorahs, knish hunts and cringe-worthy bar mitzvah parties have been featured in The Jerusalem Report, The Forward, and the anthology Jews of Brooklyn (Brandeis Press, 2002).