Renee, where are you?

Friends,

I’ve started a new novel so I won’t be posting much here.  I also only rarely check social media.

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I DO want to stay in touch, however, so please email me at reneeswindle at gee mail dot com.  

I’d also love to meet with any book club to discuss Shake Down The Stars or A Pinch Of Ooh La La.

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You can also email me directly. Really!  Do it!

xox

 

email:    renee swindle books at gee mail dot com

Facebook

Twitter:  @renee_swindle

 

 

 

English Scones

While visiting friends in England they invited me  for “cream tea”, which turned out to be  a pot of tea, served with scones and clotted cream–which is basically a bowl of sunshine mixed with blue skies that  you slather on your scone with jam.     British scones are closer to biscuits than the (overly sweet and cake-like) scones they make here in the states. Anyway, I’ve been jonesin’ to make “proper”  scones ever since my visit.  Rainy weather plus a found recipe and — viola!

 

enjoying scones while in Brighton, England

enjoying scones while in Brighton, England

Directions

½ cup whole milk

2 large eggs, chilled

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons superfine sugar

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

A few gratings of fresh nutmeg (eh—skipped this)

10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ½ inch cubes

½ cup dried currants

1 large egg, well beaten for glazing

 

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.

1. To make the dough by hand: Whisk the milk and two eggs together in a small bowl; set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and nutmeg into a medium bowl.

Add the butter and the flour, scraping the butter off the blender as needed, until the mixture resembles course bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces of butter.  Mix in the currants. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the milk mixture and mix just until the dough clumps together.

FYI: I used my food processor to mix the butter and flour mixture.

2. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and srinkle about 2 tablespoons of flour on the top. Knead the dough a few times, just until it doesn’t stick to the work surface. Do not overwork the dough. The surface will be floured, but the inside of the dough should remain on the wet side. Gently roll out the dough into a ¾ inch-thick round.

 

3. Using a 2 ½ inch fluted biscuit cutter, dipping it into the flour between cuts, cut the out the scones (do not twist the cutter) and place 1 ½ inches apart on the prepared pan.

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4. Place the scones in the oven and reduce the heat to 400. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Serve warm.

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Recipe found in Sarabeth’s Bakery by Sarabeth Levine

 

 

 

 

good times at William-Sonoma

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Chef Lamont showed the audience how to make a delicious Indian meal based on the dad's birthday scene from Pinch of Ooh La La.  So good!

Chef Lamont showed the audience how to make a delicious Indian meal based on the dad’s birthday scene from Pinch of Ooh La La. So good!

 

The Miles Davis Cupcake!  Direct from Abbey's bakery!  Thanks, Chef Lamont!

The Miles Davis Cupcake! Direct from Abbey’s bakery! Thanks, Chef Lamont!

 

How cool is this?  Allie Larkin, author of Stay and Why Can't I Be You? made a surprise visit!  This was my first time meeting her.  Thank you, Allie!

How cool is this? Allie Larkin, author of Stay and Why Can’t I Be You? made a surprise visit! This was my first time meeting her. Thank you, Allie!

 

Every Writer’s Nightmare

Years ago, I experienced every writer’s dream. After writing my first novel, Please Please Please, it went to auction and I earned an advance that allowed me to quit my day job and write full time.  Hoorah, right?  Uh… no. You see, while I may have experienced every writer’s dream, I also experienced every writer’s nightmare.

I based Please Please Please on a short story I wrote while in graduate school. After earning my MFA, I worked as a substitute teacher for a year while rewriting the first one hundred pages. This was in 1998, and during that time you could actually sell an uncompleted manuscript, so I thought I’d try to find an agent based on my partial draft.  I made copies of the first thirty pages and sent them off to several agents at once. Less than a month later, I had an agent and we were getting offers.

Mind you, this was during the days when Waiting to Exhale was widely popular, and it seemed every publisher was looking for the next Terri McMillian. Although Please Please Please is nothing like Waiting To Exhale, publishers didn’t seem to care, and a bidding war ensued.    10389331_10152327799133558_647916926005125910_n

All too soon I was living the dream. Only problem, along with the dream came an enormous amount of pressure. I still had to finish the uncompleted manuscript–with only an inkling of how to write the second half of the book–and I also had the pressure of a due date from a major publisher, the same publisher that had already released a fat check. I won’t go into my poor spending habits back then, but let’s just say, I was spending as much cash as MC Hammer during the heyday of “Can’t Touch This.”

Writer’s block took hold so fiercely I had no other choice but to find a therapist, someone to help me deal with the feelings of doubt and anxiety that took hold every time I sat down to write. It took several months for me to write the second half of the book–let alone get over my writer’s block, but I finally turned it in; albeit a year past its due date.

I went on tour, stayed in fancy hotels and then it was time to start writing the second novel. At this point, I wanted to prove that I was more than a commercial writer. I didn’t want to be compared to Terry McMillan; I wanted to be compared to Toni Morrison.

I spent the next year writing my literary masterpiece, an overwritten, boring story even I knew somewhere deep down was not working. This is when my editor gently told me she was passing on the book and I was dumped from my contract. Oh, and by the way? They wanted their money back. Money I’d already spent.

Luckily I had a fairy godmother in the form of my agent, who fought off the big publisher and told them, in short, that I’d turned the manuscript in on time and it wasn’t my fault that they didn’t like it.

My agent gave me about a week to cry, and then said, as if I’d ruined dinner and could simply make something else—write another book.  She was so matter-of-fact about it, so calm, I began to believe that I could do just that–start over and–write another book.

While her advice was exactly what I needed to hear, I was also at an emotional low point and felt I had to prove myself. Since my literary masterpiece had failed, I set out to write a commercial hit, a quick and easy comedy that would make lots of money. I wrote with various rules in my head and stuck to them even though I was not having a bit of fun; I doubt, in fact, that I laughed a single time while writing that book; and no surprise, it didn’t sell.  10550936_10152551044398529_6643549024016435556_n

I’d written two back-to-back failures by that point.  My saving grace, besides my agent who said just as calmly as she had before—write another—was that I was so broken I was more than ready to drop all notions about how I should write and finally started writing with my own voice and style. What a difference writing from the heart makes. My third novel, Shake Down The Stars, sold to Penguin/NAL, as did A Pinch Of Ooh La La.

There’s something liberating about failing. Twice.  I now see how writing those two failures helped me build my craft, discover my voice, and develop fierce discipline.  Now I can actually say I’ve fallen in love with the process of writing. And falling in love with the process is something the highs and lows of publishing can never take away. I suppose that’s what I want to leave you with today. If you happen to “fail,” and I hope you never do—write another.  

 

First Posted on August 6, 2014 by Meg Waite Clayton