Something of a Genre Change…

I’ve been thinking of writing a cookbook.

Unless you know me personally, you can’t understand how utterly hilarious that sentence is. My culinary history includes such highlights as (1) not realizing I should add water to the condensed soup, (2) burning pancake after pancake after pancake (still raw in the middle) until I set off the smoke alarm, (3) deciding that opening a can of Spaghetti-Os was too much effort and just skipping dinner entirely. I currently have about five recipes that I can reliably handle, and I just cycle through those over and over until my sister-and-roommate falls on her knees begging for a vegetable, any vegetable.

My general incompetence at cooking is complicated by what you might call my incompetence at eating. From my earliest childhood I was a picky eater, but where most kids grow out of that, I got, if anything, worse as I got older. I can’t tell you how many family dinners ended one of two ways—me fixing myself a cheese sandwich, or me glaring mulishly at a plate I refused to touch while my dad ranted about hungry children in India. (“So send it to them!” I said once in exasperation. Somehow he didn’t see the wisdom of that.) Everywhere we went—restaurants, social gatherings, family reunions—I faced the horror of having nothing to eat, and/or being pressured to put things in my mouth that I could barely stand to look at. It was never a matter of wanting to be difficult! I didn’t want to hurt the cooks’ feelings, and I wasn’t looking for special treatment—all I wanted was just one single dish of non-terrifying food.

And yes, terrifying is the right descriptor. See, what I finally discovered a few months ago is that I’m not just a “picky eater.” I have a freaking eating disorder. It’s called ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder), and unlike more famous eating disorders like anorexia, it’s not body-image driven but rather an expression of anxiety. Anxiety runs strong in my family; my mother has it, my grandmother has it, my sister-roommate has it. I thought I had been spared, but it seems I merely have an unusual manifestation. Instead of getting stuck in catastrophizing worry spirals or having to breathe my way through panic attacks, for me it all gets channeled through my relationship with food.

Unfamiliar foods make me deeply anxious and panicky. Trying something new requires a lot of gentle support and psyching myself up. I need to feel safe and relaxed or my entire being is going to reject the idea of eating the Scary New Thing. I’d figured out a certain amount of this even before hearing of ARFID, but I can’t tell how exciting it is, how much of a relief it is to have a name for this weird way that I am, to know that other people have this problem, too, and I am not a complete freak. It’s true that I haven’t been formally diagnosed by any kind of professional, but I am ridiculously textbook, guys. Ridiculously.

And now we come back to the cookbook idea.

See, on the subject of being textbook, there are certain foods that are commonly accepted or rejected by ARFID sufferers. On the Yes list are what I call the “golden foods”—things on the white-brown-yellow spectrum are much more likely to be acceptable. Bread, cheese, pasta, corn, chicken, that kind of thing. The No list frequently features entire food groups such as meat, vegetables, and fruit. (In my case, I’m good with most meats but my only vegetable is corn and my only fruit is apples. You’ll notice they’re yellow.) (The inside of the apple, of course. I won’t eat the peeling.) And that’s where cooking gets really difficult. There are only so many ways to combine bread, cheese, and chicken.

Now that ARFID is slowly gaining traction as an acknowledged thing (it was added to the DSM just a year or two ago), I had hoped to find some guidance out there in preparing ARFID-friendly foods. So far, I haven’t found anything. So I’ve been thinking maybe I should be the change I want to see in the world, you know?

After all, I have like… five whole recipes!

Getting My Name Out There. Sort of. A Little.

I has been interviewed again! Dellani Oakes is a friend of a friend, and a very successful writer. She runs an online radio show that she attempted three times to have me on; that never happened due to, in chronological order, (1) Dellani getting sick, (2) me forgetting the show during the whirlwind of setting up for my baby sister’s wedding, (3) me getting the time zone wrong and also pretty much having a panic attack. Yeah… marketing oneself is a unique challenge for the introverts among us. But despite me completely flaking on her TWICE, Dellani was amazingly kind and sweet to me, so check out her site maybe?

I’m also looking into having a signing at my local Barnes & Noble. (I work there part-time now which makes it a little easier to talk to folks about the process.) The trouble is that due to the print-on-demand publishing process Astraea Press uses (as well it should, it’s much more efficient), <em>Secondhand Shadow</em> is not returnable by the bookstore if it doesn’t sell, so while they’re happy to host me, they’re not going to provide book copies. I would need to buy them myself to take along and hope they sell. Since that’s way beyond my financial capabilities at the moment (toothpaste is very nearly beyond my capabilities at the moment), I might do best to scare up a sponsor of some sort?? I don’t know how this stuff works. Will keep the blog apprised, though.

April Holec, Come On Dowwwwn

{{A quick congratulations to the winners of my book giveaway! My coworker Kathryn nabbed the physical copy (which is nice so I didn’t have to mail it!) and e-copies went out to some Zipporah and Kristin! Let me know how you like it, guys!}}

Writers find each other. Not even on purpose, sometimes, but they do. When I met my dear friend April (aka Deni), I had no idea she was a writer. I only knew that we clicked immediately in a way I’ve seldom experienced. April isn’t published yet, but it’s a matter of time, first because she’s good, and second because she’s persistent, which is sometimes even more important than good. She just started a writing blog at aprilholec.wordpress.com, and we decided to interview each other for our respective blogs — with questions a little further from the beaten path than the conventional “where do you get your ideas.” So, to see me answer peculiar questions like how to eradicate baked beans from the surface of the earth, see my interview there. And to meet a rising author who is kind of weird and does not seem to like the superpower I gave her (or maybe she likes it too much…), keep on reading here!

Welcome to my blog, April! I have some extremely important questions for you. Which Hogwarts House would you least want to be in?

Well. That’s a tricky one. I self-identify as a Ravenclaw as Wit Beyond Measure is Man’s Greatest Treasure and I consider myself the most sarcastic and wittiest person I know. I was going to say Gryffindor but alas, I play Roller Derby and that is pretty much the most Gryffindor sport outside of Quiddich that I can think of. I love Slytherins because they are resourceful and ambitious, something that I really see in myself. I hate to say it, but probably Hufflepuff. Mostly because while I admire the traits of hard work, loyalty, and diligence, I am fickle, lazy and I’m often looking for ways around working too hard so that I can get more done with less effort. Alas, some of my very bestest of friends are Hufflepuffs and I don’t want to offend them. I just can’t BE like them. That’s ok right? We all need a little variety in our friends.

You’re given the opportunity to earn a living at writing, but it can only be Naruto fanfic. Full-time. For the rest of your working life. Do you take it?

Nope.
There will be other opportunities.

I mean, there have to be right?

Besides, I’d be a terrible Naruto fanfic writer as I know pretty much zero about the series outside of what I’ve see pass me on the internet.

Would you rather have wings or venomous fangs?

Wings. Totes would rather have wings. If I had wings then I could fly and play Quiddich. And also see the world. It would be easy to build my house in a tree. I could save so much on airfare!

If you needed to charm your way into a top-secret facility, what tactics would you try?

Hmmm. First, I would do a lot of research on the layout of the facility, hack into the systems to get passwords and learn what the shift schedules are. Then I’d locate their janitorial staff and slip in with a mop and bucket. No one ever pays attention to their cleaning crew.

Shoes or purses?

Purses. Every single time Purses. Purses are lovely little caves of wonder that you carry around. They can match your clothes, match your personality, match your needs. I have two bins full of purses. I love the clutch kind because you can take it out to party without having to use a bra or a friend’s pockets. I like the small hip kind because they usually have those cute, long strings. I like the big huge bags that can hold 1/10th of a library, a laptop, a brick and a full course dinner. My favorite are messenger bags. I got one for my birthday two years ago and that thing has been my favorite and most used purse ever. It’s aptly called “A Bag of Holding”.

Your next novel is guaranteed, via genie-wish or some such, to be the new Great American Novel. What do you write about?

Well if it’s the Great American Novel that means it’s in the Literary category that some poor college student will probably be forced to read. If I were interested in writing that type of book, I would write about the way class systems in a capitalistic society alienate and isolate people from success. How we are told as children that we can have whatever we want but then when we grow up we find that the world is actually skewed in the favor of those who had more capital and resources to start their journeys. I would write a book about how opportunity is the hymn of the United States but they ignore the baseline of poverty, poor education, healthcare and equality. I feel like I grew up in the second Gilted Age, an age where everything was suppose to be so shiny and available and yet I and my peers are still scrambling to figure out how to adult in this world that treats us like it’s all our fault that we haven’t ‘made it’ yet.

Your new superpower is control over cockroaches. Discuss.

Their awful little feet shall slide in due time. Under the cultivation of hell, they brought forth bitter and repulsive fruit, scrambling their wicked exoskeletons over trash and treasure alike. In their evil defiance for all human boundaries I shall smite them down, expose them to annihilation and cast them down into destruction! There would be NOTHING that would keep the wicked cockroach from the fires of damnation. There would be no plea, no power strong enough to resist my command. All in vicinity and lo! to the limits of this power shall be summoned and issued forth to wither and twist with wretched pain and horrific slaughter. None shall survive the reckoning that I, shall bring forth!!!

Which of your original characters would be most likely to kill you in your sleep for what you’ve done to them?

/wince

Hmm. Probably Robert, from one of my first NaNoWriMos. He ended up in Auschwitz for 80% of the book. The novel is currently un-finished and I never did decide his ultimate fate…..

You get to elect the next President of the United States, all by yourself! It can’t be you. Who is it?

Tina Fey. Hands down. She understands politics. She’s a brilliant business woman. She’s hilarious. She’s run writer rooms for SNL so I figure politics can’t be that hard. She delegates well and has good stage presence. John Oliver for VP though since he’s not a Natural Citizen…Beyonce. Yeah. Beyonce for Vice President.

What do you wish you could change about your writing?

I wish I could make drafting easier. I have a hard time getting the first set of words onto a page. It’s only after I’ve got a good couple of thousand down that I know what I’m doing. It would be nice to be the type of writer who could put down exactly what I mean the first time around, but I often have to re-write entire pages of scenes or chapters multiple times before it comes out the way I wanted it. I recently had put in 20 pages onto a chapter of a work in progress and I hated everything I was putting down. It wasn’t until I’d gotten all of the crap out of my system that I realized I’d erred on page 7 and GOODBYE 13 pages! I then wrote 27 pages. And they were way, way better.

Thank you for this interview! It’s been a lot of fun. I know I haven’t published anything yet, but I’m chugging away.

You are, and you’re gonna get there. Thank you for stopping by!

Introducing: Krysten Lindsay Hager

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A little competition can really bring out people’s true colors.

True Colors by Krysten Lindsay Hager

Every day I walked down the sidewalk to school and wished I were one of the interesting popular girls who ran up with exciting news. Just once I’d like to be one of those girls instead of the being the one who didn’t get invited to things because people “forgot” about me.

Landry gets pushed into trying out for the American Ingénue reality show modeling competition with her two best friends. She doesn’t think she stands a chance, but she advances to the next level in the competition and her friends ignore her when they get cut.

Enter the gorgeous Devon, who also makes the first cut and includes Landry in her clique. Devon becomes the perfect best friend, but can their friendship survive the competition?

Landry hopes her big break could come at any moment, but soon sees there’s much more to modeling than getting your hair done and looking pretty. She begins missing out on being with new friends like Ashanti, a girl who truly has Landry’s back. Landry also has the chance to have a boyfriend when she meets a boy named Vladi from another school.

Part of Landry wants to be famous (and have her hair look good for once), but part of her just wants to be accepted. She learns about friendships, being true to yourself, and that a good hair conditioner doesn’t hurt.

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True Colors is part of Secondhand Shadow‘s “graduating class,” you might say, both being published by Astraea Press at about the same time. Krysten and I thought it only natural, therefore, to interview each other on our blogs!

Lilac

Where did you get the idea for True Colors?

When I was in grade school, I saw an album cover and imagined what the four women would have been like as teens. I came up with this little story, but never did anything with it. Then, years later, I was finishing up a one-on-one creative writing independent study in college and I wasn’t sure what to write next, but I had read that you should write the book you want to read. So I thought about those four girls I had created back in grade school and began the first version of True Colors…although it went through a couple versions and stages!

How long did it take you to write?

Hard to say because it did go through different versions. I rewrote it and changed a few major parts of it. I actually put it away for a while because I was doing more journalism and then I moved twice—once overseas. When I came back to the U.S. I was working on another project and happened to go to a book signing in town with a football player, Tim Green. I mentioned I wrote and he asked if I wrote middle grade/YA, too. I thought, you know it has been a long time since I sent True Colors out, so I submitted it to three places and it got picked up.

Talk about your writing process. Do you have a schedule? Play music? Need your lucky hedgehog?

I don’t have a schedule, but the one thing I do is start out by editing. That gets me back into the process. I actually enjoy editing because it lets me revisit the story. I may be the only writer alive who likes editing! I play music to get into the story, but not while I’m actually writing. Although, when writing True Colors I did listen to music almost all the whole time. Suddenly, I don’t like to listen to it as I work anymore. Just before I start and then I switch it off. Not sure why that changed.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope it will help kids and teens feel less alone and realize that other people go through the same insecurities and thoughts that they do. It’s funny, a guy in his thirties read it and told me it was a great insight into the minds of the girls who rejected him at that age. He said he understood now that a lot of it was their own insecurities and had nothing to do with him as a person. I also had a man in his 70’s tell me it gave him insight into his daughters and why they did the things they did growing up. I’ve had a lot of adult women reading it saying that it took them back to those years and they really enjoyed it. One mom told me the book has come into her daughter’s life at the exact right time because she’s going through something like this with her friends. Her daughter really related to the character, Landry, and that was all I ever wanted.

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You can support a beginning novelist (and read a cool story!) by buying True Colors from Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords! You can watch a trailer for the book here, how cool is that??

You can also learn more about Krysten on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.