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  • Writer's pictureStephanie

Consuming Something New

Updated: Aug 16, 2019

This site has always been about consumption.

And goals.

It's been about all-consuming goals, but also about all consuming goals.

When I started Grub Report, 15 years ago, I was jumping out of the book world and into the food world. At that time, Grub Report's main purpose was to keep track of my culinary school mishaps and successes, tell my stories, and practice food writing.

My end-all, be-all goal was to become a food writer and/or cookbook editor. So I went and did that. And then I did some other things, too.

But now I'm doing something that is both completely brand new, yet it is also the thing I've wanted to do when I moved to Boston in 1997.

Twenty -- god, twenty? -- years ago, I wanted nothing more than to be a children's books editor at Houghton Mifflin, Little, Brown, or Candlewick. I became a rotating temp at Houghton, went to Radcliffe Publishing Course (now Columbia Publishing Course), and had lots of interviews.

In the end, I didn't work in children's but at a fine art and photography imprint right next to Little Brown's children's department, which meant I could always peep in at their doings and dream of a future in children's books.

Then came marriage, 9/11, layoffs, culinary school, moving to San Francisco, editing cookbooks, food blogging, cheesemongering, Jacques Pepin cooking show-ing, writing my first book, and becoming a mother twice over.

Now, I'm writing children's books. And once again, it's about consumption.

I gobble down library-bound picture books like the crinkly, plastic-wrapped candies they are. Sometimes I even manage to go off my spending diet and splurge on a favored few. (I say they're for the kids, but a suspicious number of them live permanently in my room.)

I go to SCBWI conferences and listen to podcasts. I participate in critique groups and swap manuscripts with supportive and incisive writing partners.

And I write. Boy, do I write. And it's all-consuming.

The biggest surprise about my new work is how much I love the pants off it. In the past, I have had a love-hate relationship with my writing. Sometimes it was very good, other times it was bad, many times it was ugly. But writing children's books is a very different thing for me.

See, I always wanted to live in the books I read as a kid.

I wanted to be best friends with Ozma.

I wanted to live at the Inn of the Last Home and eat spiced fried potatoes high up in a terribly thick tree.

I wanted to have pets that talked like Chester and Harold.

I wanted to be an islander in Avonlea.

I wanted go not very far from home but quite far from my time and be Betsy Ray.

It wasn't that I had a miserable childhood and needed to live in books escape. It's that living in books for a time made life so much more interesting.

I still want to live in books, but it's not their worlds I want to live in -- it's the words. I want to live between the spaces of Julie Fogliano's "all around you have brown," in the poignancy of Jenny Offill's "'You're it, Sparky.'" I want to hang around with Jon Klassen's understatements and with Anne Ursu's delicate complexities.

And this is exactly why I love writing them so much now. I am living in the words. I spend hours on a single sentence, moving around words and punctuation, trying out different beats and measures.

It sounds tedious, but it's the exact opposite. It's beautiful and exciting and mesmerizing. That's not to say it isn't hard and heartbreaking at times, because hoo mama, it definitely is that. But now I am represented by a supportive and enthusiastic agency (how I got hooked up with them after 129 rejections is another and bourbon-soaked story, full of hard and heartbreaking times) and I have manuscripts out on submission.

I fall into each new manuscript and let it consume me as much as I consume it. Sometimes I spit it out and don't take another bite for months. Other times it fills me up and yet leaves me hungry for more of the same.

Basically, this is just a long-winded way of arguing that my site name and twitter handle stay the same even though my consumption goals have changed.

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