Publisher’s Weekly will be reviewing A Feast of Serendib

Publisher’s Weekly has sent me a note saying they’ll be reviewing A Feast of Serendib. This should make me happy (for those not in the field, it’s a HUGE review market), but it mostly makes me terrified. What if they don’t like it?

‘All publicity is good publicity’ is fine in theory, but in practice, PW gave Bodies in Motion an overall very positive review, but the only word that I remember from it is the first negative word.

(They called it ‘uneven.’ In the first sentence, damn them. And there were a few more critical words later.)

((Oh fine. Here it is. It’s a perfectly nice review. But still:

“Mohanraj’s promising but uneven debut collection chronicles the lives of two linked Sri Lankan families over the course of 50 years. From politically ravaged Sri Lanka to quiet suburban America, characters buck against the tradition of arranged marriage, desiring more than their assigned societal roles. In “Oceans Bright and Wide,” a couple in 1939 Colombo, Sri Lanka, reluctantly send their daughter to Oxford University to study physics rather than immediately marrying her off. An embittered father lamenting his Americanized children surprises his youngest daughter with an arranged engagement on her seventeenth birthday in “A Gentle Man.” In “Tightness in the Chest,” a young American–Sri Lankan woman settles down with a Tamil husband, but resists her role as wife and future mother, while he yearns for her affection. Mohanraj’s writing is vibrant, but she occasionally retreads familiar territory of the immigrant experience (i.e., the struggle of losing one’s language and the pressure to achieve in America). Also, the gems of the collection are offset by undeveloped, rushed stories— in “Seven Cups of Water,” a lesbian affair occurs abruptly and without context. Still, Mohanraj evokes a moving portrait of families searching for love and a place to call home. Agent, Bob Mecoy.

Thank you!

More photos and notes tomorrow, as I am VERY TIRED and about to eat a little more curry and crawl into bed, but we made great progress on the packing party tonight. Stephanie and I are going to work on it more tomorrow — I think we’ll actually be able to start shipping the simpler orders out, at least, the ones that are just books. Massive thanks to my friends who came out on a cold and snowy night to help!

It’s packing day for the Kickstarter!

My house has been overtaken by book boxes and confectionery (pictured: chai-ginger & saffron-rose), I have a knife blister on my forefinger from cutting sweets and a burn on my other forefinger from absent-mindedly touching the wrong bit of the candy thermometer, my right arm feels like it’s going to fall off from all the stirring of roasting spices, and I was too excited to fall asleep at a reasonable hour last night and then woke up two hours early. It’s packing day for the Kickstarter!!! Woot!!!

Well, to be more accurate, it’s the start of packing-and-shipping week(s), because this is going to be something of a process. There’s lots of bits and bobs to finish up and get done — signing and personalizing, packing up assorted candy packets, etc. But we should have plenty to do at the packing party tonight — my goal is to a) feed people some nice rice and curry, and b) get the bulk of the packages put together, ideally while c) having some fun Bollywood movie going in the background (recommendations requested, as I am very ignorant of this genre — something available on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime?)

I do have one item that I have completely failed to produce so far, the recipe cards, which I keep meaning to write and order (I need 1200 of them, eep, I guess I’m not going to be doing it at Kinko’s and cutting them on a home paper cutter), so we have to figure out a solution for that.

I don’t want to delay peoples’ books that they might need for holiday gifting, but I also want to do a nice job on the cards, instead of some slipshod rush thing. (I could, for example, print out recipes and cut and paste them onto the postcards we already have, setting my daughter and her friends to hours of glue-sticking, but that would look terrible. No.)

I feel like I’m flooding my backers with e-mails, but I think the right solution is probably to write to them one more time, and ask them to let us know if they need the book shipped out immediately. The people who do, we’ll send their packages, and just send the recipe cards separately in a manila envelope later. The people who don’t, we’ll ship it all together in a few weeks, when the recipe cards arrive — they should still arrive in plenty of time for winter holidays, I think, barring disaster.

I feel bad about adding one more delay, but really, I am not an automaton, and I can only do so much. Sometimes, I just hit time or physical limits, esp. since I’m not willing to neglect either the family or the teaching job for this. (My writing on the other hand…oof.)

This has definitely been an education in what goes into publishing a physical object in a serious way. I am not becoming a professional chef! I am also not becoming a full-time publisher! But I’ve learned a lot in the last few months….


We may survive this week yet

Okay, so:

– I’ve made the final two batches of marshmallows for Kickstarter fulfillment (chai-ginger & saffron-rose)
– Kevin has unpacked many book boxes (preparatory to packing them up again to ship to Kickstarter-backing individuals starting on Halloween)
– Anand has taught me how to play Pokemon (so I can teach it at his game design after-school class tomorrow),
– and Kavi’s witch costume has been finally assembled (she is looking very Kiki-like); Kavi has even teased the cat with the string on the end of the handle.

We may survive this week yet.

Milk toffee, and checking things off the list: very satisfying!

Milk toffee, with and without cashews, done! Very satisfying, checking things off the checklist. This really is one of my favorite desserts ever — I’ve been nibbling off-cut crumbly bits for a solid week now, and I’m not bored with them yet. There’s something about the texture that’s particularly appealing; sort of halfway between fudge and maple candy.

And while I was happy to make some without cashew for those who don’t like nuts (insert standard legal disclaimer that these are all made in a home kitchen and that I can’t guarantee anything I ship out is completely nut-free), the cashews really do make this sweet particularly luscious. The New Orleans praline version with pecans is also good, but I like our cashew version better. 

Milk Toffee recipe:

Making progress on the Kickstarter fulfillment!

When you go to pack up your milk toffee, and discover that one of the packets is open, and the baker’s dozen of pieces is now just a dozen…it has been a little torturous for Anand, I think, having so much milk toffee lying around, and I’m afraid he just cracked and snuck a piece.

I would be annoyed, but I have a whole other tray to cut up today, so it’s fine — that one piece probably isn’t going to make or break me. It must be a little tricky, though, for kids who grow up in a bakery! 

A little more than halfway on the curry powder — 70 packets made out of 128!

(I know Stephanie was fretting about how we’d get it all done, but fear not! )

Montréal. Taking a little time to post some trip pics…


Montréal. Taking a little time to post some trip pics…

Montréal knows its ice cream. Passionfruit seems to be a common flavor, maybe because of immigration? And also, why can’t I get a mini ice cream like that around here? I would buy ice cream out a lot more often, if I had that option!

Montréal seems quite lit up at night.

Sri Lankan food in Montreal at Restaurant Jolee, with plenty of Sri Lankan customers. Ah, if I could walk over somewhere to pick up a little pittu for breakfast… sigh.

Second best meal I ate in Montréal (best meal was the Sri Lankan one, of course) — duck, duck, and more duck at La Maison du Magret. Please note my giant space belly, presented at the end of the meal in appreciation. The best bit was the amuse-bouche of duck rillettes, which was perfection. But the rest was also quite yum.

Pistachio-rose marshmallows really are the prettiest

Pistachio-rose marshmallows done, I think — I need 4 batches of 13, so I need to package them up and count to make sure I have enough. Think so! I may not be able to do too many more sweets today, as my right arm is getting tired from all the stirring & cutting. But I may be feeling rejuvenated by the time I take Kavi to her semi-final soccer game and come back….

(Anand won his game this morning, so he’ll be going to the finals next week. He’s pretty excited, even though to be honest, he spends much of his time on the field trying to remember to actually keep his eye on the ball….)

These pistachio-rose marshmallows really are the prettiest to photograph. Kavi says she likes them, but she likes the passionfruit much better. Fair enough — so do I.  But for a teatime display, these are hard to beat!

Chocolate-dipped passionfruit marshmallows, done!

Chocolate-dipped passionfruit marshmallows (and also straight up passionfruit marshmallows), done! Feels good to check things off the list.  There are many Feast Kickstarter rewards in progress at the moment, which is like having a lot of little lights blinking in my brain. Every time I get to turn off a light….ah. Peace descends.

Making progress on the mounds of milk toffee for Feast

Making progress on the mounds of milk toffee for Feast Kickstarter production, accompanied by interior design shows. That’s been most of today, with a few hours for soccer games.
Both kids’ teams won their quarter-final games (very little credit to my own kids in that, but hey, they participated), which means that, yay, we get to continue with two more games in the semi-finals tomorrow. It’s a good enforced break from cooking, though. Otherwise, my Type-A nature would likely have me buried under a massive pile of milk toffee by now…

By Wednesday, I’m supposed to have 11 batches (each a baker’s dozen) of cashew milk toffee and 5 batches of cashew-free milk toffee, and then there’s the ‘candy assortment with and without cashews’ (another 14 batches), which may or may not have milk toffee in it…

…depending on how many marshmallows I have left over after I make the marshmallow batches (chai, honeyed with rosewater and saffron, pistachio-rose, tamarind-chili, and chocolate-dipped passionfruit). I’ve done the plain passionfruit, and am going to dip the chocolate passionfruit next, and then I think I’m calling it a night — tomorrow, there will be more. So much more.

Onwards, brave heart. At least the children are feeling well rewarded for their exploits on the soccer fields today, as they’re getting their fill of off-cuts (milk toffee for Anand, passionfruit marshmallows for Kavi….)