Friday, September 08, 2006

My Cookbook's Been Rejected!

I wrote a memoir cookbook, figuring if Maya Angelou and Pat Conroy could do it, so could I. I've always loved to cook and entertain, and those who eat at my table are very very complimentary about what I serve (even my kids). Tonight I served friends homemade pesto on cream cheese as an appetizer, linguine avgolemena and braseola with a chopped egg, caper, pickle relish, dressed in vinaigrette. They had never eaten either and seemed to enjoy them greatly, asked for recipes, which I always am glad to share.
So it's ironic that this is the day a local academic publisher with a line of cookbooks rejected my cookbook--after having it in their shop for about sixteen months (a time lag I, as a publisher, considered unpardonable). That does include about three months when I was rewriting, according to the first reader's report. That report was a tremendous map of what needed to be done, and I was grateful and glad to revise. But then in early spring it went to another reader--and just came back now. The report was harsh, though it unintentionally said some good things. The editor sent it to me, unabridged, again something I wouldn't have done--when we get harsh reviews, I summarize, etc., for the author. The reader said that the recipes were unusable in most households--I don't know why, since I've cooked with most of them all my adult life (maybe he/she doesn't cook?), and that it consisted not of recipes but recounting people I'd eaten with--which seems a clear contradiction of the first statement. There are lots of recipes in there. The reader did praise the originality of combining memoir and cookbook, so I guess he/she doesn't know about Pat Conroy and Maya Angelou and a bunch of others--should I clue that person in? Of course I bristled, as any author would, at the accusation of sloppy editing--I'm an editor for Pete's sake! My impression? The reader knew he/she had kept it too long and dashed off a report without due consideration and study. And my other impression? The acquiring editor didn't care enough about the project to move it along in a timely fashion or to fight for it. She would have done me an enormous favor to have returned the manuscript a year ago if she didn't really feel good about it. Hey, I'm an editor--and I know that a lot of the business is about instinct, about fighting for what you believe is good, getting rid of what you don't tactfully and fairly efficiently. So, yeah, I'm bummed.
I know it's easy to blame the messenger and/or reader when you're rejected. It's a trap I try not to fall into, and my work has been rejected many times. But this doesn't sit well with me. So what will I do? I don't know. Maybe I'll finish the novel and then reconsider the cookbook--in the sixteen months it's been gone, I've cooked lots of new things, like linguine avgolemena and braseola, and I may need to include them.
All in all, it was a great day--a good meeting, a pleasant dinner with old friends. Who minds a little rejection? Well, okay, me--at least a little bit. Besides, the first chapter was all about my mom and what she taught me about food.

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