#FCSDay and The Food Side of Things

ALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman coverPeople who’ve read my novel All Four Stars and its sequels often ask me how I became a writer. Sometimes they also want to know where my book ideas come from. (Ha, if only I knew! I’d go back and grab a few more.)

But recently, a friend asked a different question: How did I get interested in “the food side of things”? Cooking, and eating adventurously, play a huge role in my books—and I bet a lot of readers assume that (like my foodie heroine, Gladys), I’ve been passionate about food since childhood. But they’d be wrong about that.

I don’t talk about my “foodie awakening” as much as I should. But here goes. Though I wasn’t like Gladys as a kid, my parents were in some ways like her parents. They weren’t cooks. They didn’t own any cookbooks, or clip recipes from magazines. And neither of them had been taught to cook when they were younger. It was a skill that had, between generations, slipped out of use in our family.

Stars of SummerAs a result, the kitchen was like a foreign country to them—and a kind of scary one. Sharp knives could cut you! The stove burned! They didn’t have experience using these tools, so they only saw the dangers. The microwave seemed safe enough, so they cooked pretty much anything they could in it (and some things that you probably shouldn’t). And when our freezer ran low on microwaveable meals, we ate cereal or got takeout.

So perhaps not surprisingly, I was not an adventurous eater when I was a kid. (I was a lot more like Parm in my books than like Gladys!) I hadn’t been exposed to a wide range of good-tasting food, so I didn’t like much of it. Finally, in high school, I started trying new cuisines, thanks to a club advisor who made it his mission to blow our minds with Indian, Ethiopian, Malaysian, and Japanese food.

STARS SO SWEET by Tara DairmanBut it wasn’t until much later—when I was a college student, on the verge of living on my own—that I took a hard look at my future as an eater. I could go the way of my parents, relying on frozen-meal companies and fast-food joints to feed me for the rest of my life, or I could roll up my sleeves and learn how to cook.

I bought a copy of Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything, asked for a food processor for my birthday, and never looked back.

Those first days of cooking, on break from school at my parents’ house, were slow and a little painful—especially when I’d promised everyone dinner at 7, only to get it on the table at 9. But with practice, I grew more confident, and the results grew more delicious. My parents may not have cooked much for me, but they let me cook for them, and soon we were sitting around the table together, enjoying a homemade meal. I had turned a pile of raw ingredients into something nourishing for the people I loved—and I was truly shocked at how powerful that made me feel.

So, that’s my story about “the food side of things.” I kept enjoying new cuisines and making food for others. I finally got brave enough to attempt my dream of writing a novel, and I wanted to make my newfound passion for food a part of it. When I got the idea to write about a young girl whose parents ban her from the kitchen after a cooking mishap—a girl whose dream is to become a restaurant critic—I knew I’d struck gold.

When I meet readers today, some tell me that my books have nudged them to try a recipe out for themselves. It’s not often that we fiction writers get to hear about our stories affecting people’s real lives. But knowing that Gladys’s foodie adventures have inspired kids to develop a skill that I know will serve them—and others around them—for the rest of their days…well, I can’t help but weep salty little tears of happiness.

What “Dining In” looks like for me these days

Saturday, December 3, is #FCSDay, when tens of thousands of people commit to “dining in” with family and friends. To celebrate, the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (AAFCS)—with support from my publisher, Penguin—will be giving away several sets of the All Four Stars trilogy to participants as prizes. To learn more and sign up to “Dine In,” visit aafcs.org/FCSDay, and follow the #FCSDay and #healthyfamselfie hashtags on social media.

 

Creative Spaces!

SWEET blog button2Final blog tour stop!

Yes, the Stars So Sweet blog tour is wrapping up, and today I’m at Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s blog, showing everyone where the writing magic (and, um, laundry) happens in my Creative Spaces interview.

This is also your last chance to win a full set of the All Four Stars series!

(Also, if you haven’t read Jennifer’s NY Times-bestselling MG novel Book Scavenger, what are you waiting for??)

Though the virtual tour is ending, my real-life tour rolls on–I’ll be in Cedarhurst, NY today, Larchmont, NY tomorrow, and Colorado next week! Check out my events page for the details.

Happy release day, Stars So Sweet!

RSTARS SO SWEET by Tara Dairmanelease day is here, and the All Four Stars trilogy is complete. Stars So Sweet, the concluding volume of the series, is now out in the world! I’ll be celebrating tonight at Books of Wonder in NYC–I hope you’ll join me if you’re in the area.

You can find a link with info about that event, and all my upcoming appearances in the New York, Washington DC, and Denver areas, right here. (*Please note that the Denver event location has changed to Aspen Grove/Littleton.)

As Gladys might describe it, coming to the end of the series that made me an author is like a strong cup of tea with a splash of honey–bitter and sweet.

Two Julys ago, only a handful of people had read about Gladys Gatsby and her foodie shenanigans. Now, her stories have reached thousands of readers, young and old, all over the world.

Two Julys ago, I wondered if anyone beyond family and friends would find my writing worth reading. This year, I’m set to teach writing workshops at my first SCBWI conference and to present to students at my first book festival.

Two Julys ago, I wondered whether All Four Stars would sell enough copies to convince my publisher to put out a sequel. This year, booksellers have been tweeting me for months about their young patrons asking for the third volume.

What an honor it’s been to work with my brilliant editors, become involved in the kidlit community, and bring Gladys’s stories to readers! I hope that you enjoy the conclusion of her story as much as I’ve enjoyed writing each book in this series.

The STARS SO SWEET blog tour kicks off!

SWEET blog button2After so many years writing about Gladys (I started the first draft of All Four Stars in 2005!), it’s hard to believe that the final volume of her adventures will hit the shelves in less than two weeks.

But Stars So Sweet is coming, and a bunch of terrific book and food bloggers are on hand to help celebrate. The official blog tour kicks off today over at The Daily Dahlia with a guest post that’s very important to me. I hope you’ll check it out.

The series’s publisher, Penguin Books for Young Readers, is also generously providing several sets of ALL THREE Gladys Gatsby books as prizes for blog tour commenters, so definitely check out the tour posts over the next few weeks if you’d like to enter. (Even if you already own the books, they’d make a great gift for a local school or library!) I’ll be linking to tour posts here as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

Read deliciously!

Všechny čtyři hvězdicky (All Four Stars in Czech!)

Czech it out (yuk, yuk): Author copies of the Czech translation of All Four Stars–Všechny čtyři hvězdicky–arrived on my doorstep this week!

Všechny čtyři hvězdicky - All Four Stars in Czech!

Všechny čtyři hvězdicky – All Four Stars in Czech!

The book was published by Albatros in 2016, with a new cover by Eva Chupíková. The cover was a glorious surprise to me, because the last I heard, the publisher was planning to use the American art. What a treat to see a different artist’s interpretation of my beloved Gladys! A few friends have commented that she has an “Amelie” vibe, which I love. You can see more of Eva Chupíková’s book covers here.

The translation was done by Alžbĕta Kalinová, and I’ve already heard from one Czech reader that it is excellent.

And the book itself is beautiful. It’s paper-over-board (basically, hardcover without a dust jacket), which is one of my favorite formats, and it even comes with sewn-in ribbon bookmark.

In short, Albatros did an amazing job. Thank you to them, and to the foreign rights team at Penguin! Here’s hoping Czech readers enjoy Gladys’s adventures as much as I’ve enjoyed perusing this new edition.

Dobrou chuť!