Jan 26, 2007

Notes from the Dream Kitchen

For a second I'll peep out from under an avalanche of self-imposed work to say an unlikely thing, "Thank you, junky entertainment center for kids with the big ugly mouse!" Because tomorrow I'll take Will to a birthday party there and work on my MFA application. One of my references wants to see my application essay before she writes the letter, which is understandable, but that means I need to write the thing. I have scraped together just over 25 pages of manuscript to send in, flotsam and jetsam from the past seven years. I fixed a lot of inconsistencies in "Hawaiian Delight," and need to work on "Blind" and a few more pieces.

I wake up in the middle of the night worrying about whether I should be doing this. It's a chunk of change, but truly the best way for me to get direction for my writing. And, really, I want to have a good portion of a book started by my 50th birthday. As I mentioned before, it's a low-residency MFA, which will be the easiest, and it's only creative nonfiction. I've already been to a conference at this college, back when I was pregnant with Jack, and I knew, This is What I Want to Do. So two kids, one relocation, and a few gray hairs later, I hope to be back. I've ordered the transcripts, so it's really just asking for recommendations, editing my ms. and writing the essay. In other words, almost everything. The deadline is Feb. 23. Oh, and the other thing? Is that if I have an MFA I could teach creative nonfiction, which I may want to do, just possibly.

Here are some completely undeveloped notions about what I want to write about, not in any particular order

--a food memoir, using my grandmother's, my mother's, and my favorite recipes as focal points (like "Hawaiian Delight" only I hope not as sappy).

--a nonpreachy book about home cooking as a practice that liberates you from the "corporate takeover of your larder," as Jean Zimmerman calls it in Made from Scratch: Rediscovering the Pleasures of the American Hearth. Why do American watch so many cooking shows and yet have "no time" to cook? Because they're watching cooking shows? Why do we "need" huge fancy kitchens but eat out more than any time in history? No, really. Why? I'm going to find out. And what happened to dinner parties, anyway?

--a book of essays about the Reading Terminal Market. Not a history of the market, as David O'Neil, the former manager, already did, but a portrait of it. Stories about the life of the market. Maybe a year at the market, season by season, New Year's to New Year's. This would hit a lot of the topics above, of course, and give me a structure to hang them on.

By the way, Nora Ephron is going to write and direct a movie based on Julie Powell's book Julie & Julia, which I wrote about in this blog several months ago. She is probably the perfect person to do it.


Scrivener said...

Oh, best of luck with the MFA apps. You'd be wonderful in a creative nonfiction MFA program. And then maybe I could take a class with you.

I love the idea of home cooking as a means of liberation from the "corporate takeover of your larder." Unfortunately, I think there's a relatively simple answer to your why questions: because we are so deeply conditioned to define ourselves as consumers. But then again, tracing through the effects of that culture of consumption is certainly a complex and worthwhile activity.

And what do you mean "what happened to dinner parties"? We have one here every other week. When are you coming down to attend one?

jo(e) said...

I think it's exciting that you are following through on something you really want to do.

Anjali said...

Wonderful, Lauren. I think an MFA program is a terrific idea, and I can't wait to read your future book. (Personally, I'm hoping for the food memoir.)

BOSSY said...

Thanks Lauren: terrific saturday morning news - now Bossy is so jealous about the whole Julie & Julia thing that she wants to scratch eyes out: her own and maybe other people's too.

Your book ideas are terrific - all 600 of them.
Which leads Bossy to this Thought: schooling is terrific and keeps you honest in terms of forcing prepared work for scrutinizing, but it also takes time. A lot of it.

Are you certain you're not hiding behind the degree, like "When I get this THEN I'll be able to..." because that is a trap. Perhaps you should just get going on the ideas already. Pedal to the floor.

Meanwhile Bossy will be over here thinking up her own fantastic book ideas. Like maybe a book about scratching one's eyes out.

M-j said...

Good luck with the process, this is such a great idea!

Lilian said...

Your book ideas sound GREAT! I've sometimes thought about either doing an MFA or just taking some creative writing classes after I'm done.

Sugarmama said...

I haven't yet heard of the "Made From Scratch..." title, but I'll be sure to check it out. Sounds like it's right up my alley.

Love your book ideas, by the way, especially the one about Americans and cooking. I've wondered the same thing myself.