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Remember the exciting news I've been holding onto these past few months? Well, it's all happening now: I've moved from France to the English countryside. Why? I'm going back to school! To be precise, I'm going to attend, for the first time ever, art college. There's a ton of reasons for my doing so, and I'll chat about them as we go along to classes together this year, but it's a huge step for me and wonderfully exciting. I'm looking forward to learning tons, and to adding depth to my work and my life. It's never too late.
Which is why everything has been slightly haywire, upside-down, inside-out and choatic lately, and I have to apologise again for the lack of updates here, but you'll have to admit that it's for a brilliant reason and that you can't help but feel happy for me ...
I did manage to find time here and there to tackle a few more Spoonflower daily drawing challenges, though I was left far behind during the packing and moving bit of my journey. I'm still going to carry on and complete their themes despite the fact that the spoonchallenge is officially over today. Still, it keeps me therapeutically content having my pencils, pens, and trusty moleskine journal in hand.
Here are another 5 of the Spoonchallenges:
#SpoonChallenge 6: LEMON
#SpoonChallenge 7: BOOK
#SpoonChallenge 8: ARROW
#SpoonChallenge 9: TEA
#SpoonChallenge 10: TOAST
I have a ton of mundane practical things to take care of before courses begin mid-September, but today is Sunday and it's lovely and sunny here in the English countryside, something not to be taken too much for granted. So I'm having a short but, I think, well-deserved break with tea and the papers in the garden of wonderfully welcoming friends where I'm staying for the moment. Join me ...
Wishing everyone a glorious week. Will update again very soon! Cheers.
On special occasions the girls’ parents told them of THE SUGAR PLUM TREE and they awoke to small candy treats or TREASURE waiting under their beds.
It’s this TRADITION, of POETRY IN ACTION, the girls now hope to pass on to your family.
Inspired by Eugene Field’s (1850-1895) original The Sugar Plum Tree poem, here is a deliciously sweet bedtime book from Katherine James that takes young readers across the Lollipop Sea to the Garden of Shut Eye Town where the Sugar Plum Tree grows.
I'm not sure if the final results below would be considered strictly geometric but hey, I drew grids and shapes and then got carried away filling them up. There are florals there too, so perhaps I managed to work on two of the themes at one go. Oh, and some typography too ...
The second one is still unfinished. I 'work' on it whenever I have time, i.e. when I'm uploading designs onto stores. I used to have a dodopad in high school, and used to colour it in with magic markers, does anyone remember those? These grid doodles reminded me of that, and the whole exercise is teaching me tons about colour, and is fun to boot.
I did some typographical sketches with a holiday theme:
I love playing with text design. And some of you may know that this year I've decided to do a monthly design based on "I Choose ..." as a positive affirmation, that I make available as a free printable to the subscribers of the Floating Lemons Newsletter. It's a hugely wonderful experiment in typography for myself, and these are the ones I've come up with so far, for January till April:
They count as typographical exercises, wouldn't you say? Next month I'll be doing "I Choose Courage", as I'm going through huge changes in my life that require a large amount of deep breathing, and I'll be plunging into a different life and lifestyle. Scary, but also very exciting. I'm thoroughly enjoying the text designs and the affirmations that are emerging, and hope to do a calendar with them at the end of the year.
Meanwhile, I'll be away for two weeks as of next week. I shall try to blog as much as possible, but as it's my dad's 80th birthday that we're celebrating, I may not be able to do that, so forgive me in advance. I'll be posting up at the facebook page, so follow me there if you want a peek at my updates, and to see photographs of whatever inspiring bits I pick up from the United Kingdom and Istanbul (yay).
Meanwhile, have a fantastic week and don't forget to experiment joyfully. Cheers.
Am I getting sick of jelly yet? Not at all! Have had a huge amount of fun sketching it, colouring it, changing it around, watching it wibble and wobble away ... it hasn't been easy deciding what to do with it, but I do love a challenge - you can see a few of my prep sketches here and here.
The assignment for my MATS class was to create a jelly illustration or pattern to go onto fabric, and as I'm still polishing up my pattern design skills, I decided to turn my hand to that. It's now done and submitted, and here's the final piece as well as, under that, the pattern that I produced from it.
Can you see it on aprons and tea towels? I can! I've enjoyed this so much that my next step will be to wish up a couple of patterns that will nicely coordinate with it. Meanwhile, however, my own home is in chaos as the main rooms are being painted, so I'm camping out in one of the guest rooms and ignoring the mess till I can get back in there to sort it all out. Another week or so I'd say. All part of the huge changes that are coming up, which I shall share with you as soon as everything is confirmed and completed.
Until then, there may be a few quirks and trip-ups where blogging is concerned, so thank you for your patience (in advance). Have a delightful week. Cheers.
Charlie Parker, Penguin and foodie, explores the notion of nostalgic dishes, "vintage food" and some rather lovely old cookbooks in the second of our Penguin Cooks series. Bon appétit.
There is something to be said about the nature of a recipe.
It can become a family heirloom - passed down from generation-to-generation. Sometimes it’s an object of pride – “no-one
can make it like my grandmother makes it”. Other times an object of awe – as in
the awe experienced when attempting to make one of Adriano Zumbo’s macaron
I recently stumbled upon my Great Nan’s recipe notebook –
dog-eared and stained. It contained cuttings of classic recipes such as 'Kidney and bacon bake' and 'Lamb's tongues in cider'. This particular
heirloom, along with my Nan’s vintage Raleigh, is something I will treasure forever.
My partner also has his mum’s recipe notebook from which we
get wonderful North American classics such as pancakes and Ukrainian classics
like beet borscht. These enter the canon of our weekly cooking, and get
their own place in our recipe books (with additions and tweaks that make them
All this nostalgia got me thinking about "vintage food”: the
garishly photographed recipe books of the 60s, tattered old preserves books, old
French cooking books. All relevant again and making their way onto foodie
bookshelves and blogs in their droves, Julia Childs and Elizabeth David household names once more. I remember when I was first introduced to Julia
Childs via YouTube – “the gateway to French
soufflés and cakes” indeed - what a revelation!
The Pauper's Cookbook by Jocasta Innes, c. 1970
Here are a few blog posts that have praised some vintage recipes, taken from Penguin cookbooks. Firstly, we dip into The Pauper's Cookbook by Jocasta Innes with posts from That Lefty Food Blog (dealing mainly with soups) and The Vintage Cookbook Trials (also, incidentally, soup lovers).
Preserves for all Occasions by Alice Crang
Preserves for All Occasions by Alice Crang is another vintage favourite. As shown here by Come Step Back In Time and in a cracking chutney recipe, revived here by London Gardening Under Difficulty.
Elizabeth David's French Country Cooking
Plats du Jour or Foreign Food: A Penguin Handbook by Patience Gray and Primrose Boyd, Illustrated by David Gentleman (1958)
Make, do and mend culture translates into food – people are
pickling, canning and jamming. It seems to be less about making food last
longer and go further than about learning a new skill, but then perhaps many of
those city-dwelling cooks are saving cash by stocking up their pickle cupboards
ready for the year to come.
It probably says something about “vintage food” culture that
Penguin published the Great Food Series in 2011 – and I have to say, along with
the second hand Elizabeth David books, this collection is sitting proudly on
the shelf at home.
My next vintage recipe to try? Well it’s a classic my Nan
used to make all the time: blancmange with floating orange segments.
Charlie is Digital Marketing Manager at Penguin - you can find her blogging about food over here and quite often tweeting about food and other things over here.
The first in a series of Penguin Cooks blogs, here one of our resident food experts, Pen Vogler, tells us a little about the food featured in some of Jane Austen's earliest works.
Next year, Jane Austen’s juvenilia will be published in Penguin
Classics for the first time. It may seem odd to be trumpeting this on a food
blog, but the young writer delighted in culinary obsessions. Foremost of foodies in the juvenilia is
Charlotte Luttrell of Lesley Castle
(written when Jane was 16) who, broiling, roasting and baking her sister’s
wedding feast, is appalled to hear of the groom’s life-threatening accident;
"Good God!" (said I) "you don't say so? Why what in the name of
Heaven will become of all the Victuals?” Her sister is too afflicted to even
eat a chicken wing.
The Georgian dinner table hosted some strange dishes and I
wonder if the vile-sounding “fried Cowheel & Onion” which comes in her
lampoon, The Visit, was a riposte to
some adult attempt to make her eat it. A more acceptable treat is joked about
by the twelve-year-old Jane whose TheBeautifull Cassandra, “proceeded to a
Pastry-cooks where she devoured six ices, refused to pay for them, knocked down
the Pastry cook and walked away.”
Even I baulk at fried cow’s heel, but I have had a lovely
time cooking my way through dishes that Jane mentions in her novels and letters. As a young woman, left in charge of the
housekeeping, she writes with relish about ordering braised ox-cheek and indeed
it is gorgeous; melty and tender and just the thing for a cold day.
Braised Ox-Cheek, updated from an original recipe by Mrs Rundell, A New System of Domestic Cookery, 1806
Brought up, as she was, on meat from her
father’s livestock, ‘haricot mutton’ is another Austen favourite that deserves
to be restored to the contemporary table.
And who wouldn’t agree with her that “Good apples pies are a
considerable part of our domestic happiness”.
A Buttered Apple Tart, updated from an original recipe by Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1747
Pen Vogler is the editor of Penguin's Great Food series. If you enjoyed the above, read more on her blog, Pen's Great Food Club, where she describes cooking with recipes from history. For more foodie updates, follow her on Twitter / @penfrompenguin
This will be the last of the cupcakes on this sweet-obssessed week, I promise. Well, for just a little while anyway ...
I've been working on cleaning up and digitally repainting the Quirky Cupcakes that I doodled at the beginning of the week, so I'll show you those first ... one with a blue boat balanced atop a sea of icing, another with quirky red hearts, one with a cheerful red cherry perched up high, and finally an pink and white iced cupcake with colourful round sprinkles.
Had enough of cupcakes yet? I hope not, as I have one more ... I used the Photo Inspiration: Pink Cupcake from earlier this week and digitally painted over it to produce the pink iced cupcake below:
It's a completely different look and style from the ones above it, that were doodled with marker pens and scanned in. I quite like both interpretations really.
I'm beginning to think that the Quirky Cupcakes might make for a cute pattern collection ... even on bedsheets and wallpaper, perhaps for a kids room? A cupcakes shower curtain? Well, I'm going to give that a go next week and will show you the results once that's done.
Which one of the above cupcakes would you eat first? Cheers.
We’re over the moon to have Gayle Brandeis visit TCBR. Gayle is a powerhouse mama, writer, activist, teacher, and all-around lovely person. We’re grateful to her for sharing her family’s favorite books with us.
In case you’re looking for some new books to spice up your “Books that Celebrate Hanukkah” collection, here are two titles that we think you’ll love reading (and cooking with) as you celebrate the Festival of Lights.
Chow your way through Chanukah with this kid-friendly cookbook that provides recipes for eight kinds of latkes (and much more), crafts and games for eight themed parties, and tidbits of factual information about the holiday itself. Illustrated dreidels highlight the degree of difficulty for each recipe: One dreidel means no cooking or baking is required. Two dreidels means the recipe may require chopping or slicing. Three dreidels means a hot stove is used to boil or fry. Safety tips are party etiquette are offered up, too. Here comes Chanukkah! Use this cookbook and you’ll have so much funukah! And … don’t forget your yamaka!
This bestselling writer and illustrator duo hit the spot (AGAIN!) with their zippy rhymes and entertaining illustrations. Gigantic dinosaurs with their juvenile and mischievous antics take the edge off any holiday tension and manage to encourage good behavior. A lesson in manners and a laugh, what more could you ask for? This book is a guaranteed must-read all eight nights of Chanukah.
Looking for more Hanukkah books? Try our lists from previous years:
We’re very pleased to share Caroline Grant’sFive Family Favorites with you. We’ve been reading her delightful food stories and recipes on her blog Learning to Eat for years. And we’re eagerly awaiting the forthcoming book based on it, The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family, and How We Learn to Eat. Caroline is editor-in- chief of Literary Mama, a fantastic magazine and resource for mothers to return to for inspiration. She’s also the editor of another fascinating anthology Mama, PhD. Thanks to Caroline and her family for sharing their favorite books with us. They have made us hungry for more!
In the Night Kitchen is the book my sons and I comforted ourselves with when we heard the sad news of Maurice Sendak’s death last month. This quirky story, frequently banned because Mickey slips out of his pajamas and frolics naked in his dreams, is a terrific fantasy of independence and cake baking. We love the bold illustrations and the comic book look of the book, the inventiveness of buildings topped with egg beaters and juicers, and the subway train that looks like a loaf of bread, but most of all, we love that Mickey can stretch bread dough into an airplane and fly wherever he wants until, having fetched the baker’s milk, he slides gently back home and safely into bed.
Everyone knows Eric Carle’s wonderful The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but our very favorite Eric Carle book is Pancakes, Pancakes!, in which a boy named Jack asks his mother for pancakes. “I am busy and you will have to help me,” his mother says, a line that sets Jack off on a gentle adventure. One by one, his mother names the ingredients needed and Jack gathers them: he cuts and threshes wheat; grinds the wheat into flour; milks the cow and churns the milk into butter; feeds the hen so she’ll lay an egg; cuts wood for the fire; and finally, steps down into their cool cellar for some jam. I love that Jack’s mother doesn’t drop everything to cook for h
A major new £7,500 annual short story competition has been launched by the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival in association with Oxford Gastronomica.
The Jeremy Mogford Prize for Food and Drink Writing 2013 will be awarded at next year’s festival to the best short story on the theme of food and drink.
Food and drink has to be at the heart of the tale. The story could, for instance, be fiction or fact about a chance meeting over a drink, a life-changing conversation over dinner, or a relationship explored through food or drink. It could be crime or intrigue; in fact, any subject you like as long as it involves food and/or drink in some way.
The panel of judges will include Jeremy Mogford, owner of Oxford’s Old Parsonage and Old Bank hotels and Gee’s restaurant, Donald Sloan, co-founder and chair of Oxford Gastronomica and head of the Oxford School of Hospitality Management at Oxford Brookes University, and Pru Leith, the celebrated food writer and novelist.
Applicants are invited from anywhere in the world and can be published or as yet unpublished. The story should be up to 2500 words and must be written in English.
How to Enter
Your short story should be up to 2500 words in total in English and have a food and drink theme at its heart. Entries should be submitted by email as a Word document to the email@example.com by October 1, 2012. The winning entry will be announced at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival in March 2013. The winner will receive £7500.
Entrants should also supply their home address, email and telephone number, their age and profession.
Chris Smith The Diabetic Chef® Autographing his first cookbook: Cooking with The Diabetic Chef® (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is a quick heads-up for whomever drops in today. I have a guest blog up this morning on Pat McDermott’s all things cooking website.
I disclose my experience with writing a cookbook for the first time. It hasn’t been the hardest project I’ve taken up, but it has been the tastiest. When you develop new recipes that hold restrictions like cakes with no sugar or low sodium meat entrees, cooking becomes a double challenge.
That’s what my cookbook partners and I are dealing with. At the end of the process, and before the last “T” is crossed or “I” dotted, we’re having a Taste-Testing party with our appetizers and desserts, invitation only. That’s a lot of work for senior women with a passion for food, but it’s work that satisfies in more than one way.
If you get the chance today, stop by Pat’s kitchen to see what’s cooking. If nothing else, you’ll find sumptuous recipes with full photos. Food lovers beware. You may be there a while once you walk in the door.
A quick doodle, drawn in marker pens in my large Moleskine and then painted in Corel Painter 11. Catching up on tons of work so it's doodles for a while before I can get back to a more-time-consuming coloured pencil drawing. Cheers.
These little digital doodles of mine are nothing particulary special as far as Art (with a capital A) is concerned, I know. They aren't meant to be. They are bits of colourful fun that pop into my mind throughout the day, are quickly sketched down into my book with marker pens, scanned in, and then digitally painted over whenever I have the time to do so.
I like them. They're cheerful and bright ... and perhaps they're trying to tell me that somewhere deep within this rather cynical husk there's still, rather well-hidden perhaps, a sense of uncomplicated joy left.
A peasant’s utopia, as imagined in Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, includes a mountain of grated Parmesan cheese. Peasants do nothing else except make macaroni and ravioli all day long in the imagined fairyland. In the book of Exodus, the Promised Land is one of “milk and honey.” And according to Hinduism, during the creation of the world, the Cow of Plenty emerged during the Churning of the Ocean – literally the changing of the white ocean into butter. Deborah Valenze explains in Milk: A Local and Global History, how the “elixir of immortality” changed from a staple of the gods to a staple of nutrition textbooks.
The Cow of Plenty is one of many sacred females associated with the “virtuous white liquor’s” powers. Valenze shows us various forms of ancient heavens and their inhabitants’ fascinating relationships with a Great Mother, or a “benevolent cow,” or a milk goddess. Isis, most famously a goddess of ancient Egypt, was “the source of the milk of life,” and the Virgin Mary modeled fecundity and piety for medieval women. Juno, the Roman queen of the gods, created the Milky Way when her breast milk was scattered accidentally when she woke up to a rather awkward situation: her husband, Jupiter, had attempted to feed his illegitimate son, Hercules, at her breast while she slept. Interestingly, Jupiter’s Greek counterpart, Zeus, nursed from the goat Althea as a baby.
Although “the culture of milk” lost some of its mystical qualities through history, in its secular role it was (and is) no less “magical.” Doctors admired it through the centuries, from George Cheyne’s milk diet (at one point the physician and writer weighed 448 pounds) in the early eighteenth century to the Victorians’ prescriptions of milk-soaked biscuits for their patients. The Dutch came the closest to actually reproducing Dairy-land here on earth during, appropriately enough, their Golden Age. With Cheesetopia finally realized, Dutch painting actually depicted the “mountains of food” – which included if not Parmesan at least other forms – that “stood as bountiful evidence of God’s providence.”
Even today, Valenze points out, milk still satisfies “[t]he wish for a miracle food” by some foodie camps. Its constant presence in our “dairy-rich Western countries,” she notes, is just as extraordinary as the food itself. We may not be able to produce endless quantities of butter, which was Saint Brigid’s first recorded miracle, but perhaps that’s just because mass-production has already beat us to the magic.
What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below.
Before you rip into today’s submission, consider this list of 6 vital storytelling ingredients from my book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.
Evaluate the submission—and your own first page—in terms of whether or not it includes each of these ingredients, and how well it executes them. The one vital ingredient not listed is professional-caliber writing because that is a must for every page, a given.
Suzanne has sent the first chapter of The Race .
Cash thought no one was looking. It was early- 5:14 am- two hours before sunrise. He strolled down the empty street, sipping the decaf he had just bought at the KwikMart. Stopping at the convenience store had been a risk, but only a small one. When chaos broke loose that afternoon, the chances were slim that the sleepy kid behind the counter would remember a random guy who filled up his tank and bought a coffee that morning. Just passing through, thought Cash.
The instructions he received over the telephone on Monday morning had been precise. In Tuesday's mail he would receive an envelope containing a fake Illinois driver license with the name John Bhaer, three credit cards and an AARP card issued to the same name, and a modest amount of cash, along with a plane ticket from Atlanta to Panama City, Florida. A reservation had been made for Mr. Bhaer at a motel near the airport. A mid-size sedan would be waiting for pickup when he landed. At 7:30 pm, Mr. Bhaer was to have supper at a certain restaurant on Front Beach Road. At 8:20, a blond woman in her mid-thirties would join him. After a drink and some small talk, she would go to the restroom, leaving her backpack at the table. Mr. Bhaer would then return to his room for the night, taking the backpack with him. On Saturday morning, he would drive to Apalachicola, Florida, arriving no later than 5:00 am. He knew what to do when he arrived.
I’ll admit to a certain amount of intrigue in this litany of careful preparations for something, and it certainly insinuates something nasty about to happen. But I bogged down about halfway through the litany.
I would look for a way to trim all this so the following intriguing paragraph from page 2 could be on the first page:
Cash had been warned that the town would be full of people; innocent lives would be lost. But that was no concern of his. His employer was good at dealing with the fallout that follows a crisis- that's how he got elected.
Still not quite finished, due to lack of time. Had some wonderful visitors over the week and between that and work deadlines, have managed to progress at the speed of a snail. Should have it done by next week, fingers crossed.
The one on the left is almost all coloured in, and as I'm planning to keep the one on the right somewhat lighter, it shouldn't take too much longer before I can post the final drawing. Am only glad that the real artichokes who modeled for me were eaten with much enjoyment long before this. Cheers.
One of my many favorite food scenes in Dumpling Days by Grace Lin (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012):
"Careful when you eat these," Auntie Jin said. "They're special."
I'd had dumplings lots of times. How special could these be? But as I took a bite, I almost stopped in amazement.
"There's soup in these dumplings!" I said.
All the adults at the table laughed.
"I told you they were special!" Auntie Jin said. "They are called xiaolongbao. They have soup inside of them. They're good, aren't they?"
I took another bite. The hot soup filled my mouth, and the mixture of soup and meat and dumpling skin seemed to melt into a warm, rich flavor. They were good. Very, very good. I began to realize why Uncle Flower said Taiwan had the best dumplings in the world.
They were so good that I didn't even notice that I had soup dribbling down my chin. I quickly wiped it away.
"They say if you can eat these dumplings without making a mess, you are a 'real Chinese' person," Uncle Flower said.
A Delicious Way to Bring your Favorite Stories to Life
When I was a child, I fell in love with a cookbook called Wild Foods. Just the idea of foraging the woods for berries and creating a delicious soup filled me with wonder. Years later, when my daughter was small, we discovered a lovely cookbook for dolls called Mudpies and Other Recipes. We lovingly prepared Wood Chip Dip, Dandelion Soufflé, and Rainspout Tea for her dolls. Cooking with children is such a wonderful way to spend time together. Within these superb cookbooks, you’ll recall your favorite stories and feast on mouth-watering dishes.
Your children will scream with delight when they read and recognize the many treats from Roald Dahl’s memorable books. Bunce’s Doughnuts! Bruce Bogtrotter’s Cake! Frobscottle! Both of these cookbooks are a great tribute to his nutty genius and were largely compiled by his widow Felicity after Dahl’s death. For adults, I recommend Memories with Food at Gipsy House and also Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights by Roald’s granddaughter Sophie. She has a new cookbook Very Fond of Food available from Random House in April. (Ages 8-11. Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) and Puffin)
This exquisite cookbook reminds us of the beauty of Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden and the magic of making things come to life. Mary’s rambling walks along the moors in the countryside with Dickon and their hard work in the garden stirs a great appetite for porridge, little sausage cakes, and jam roly
This "short film on poverty, dignity, and the unconquerable nature of the human soul" by 18-year-old Filipino Lance Katigbak won the People's Choice Award at this year's Manhattan International Film Festival. :o)
A digital painting from a photograph by the friend who made the cupcake ... Thank You Michelle! It looked too delicious to resist, and as I couldn't pop one into my mouth as I wished, I drew it instead.
Felt like playing with Corel Painter 12, so I used the oil paint brush and picked the colours from the actual photograph to do this piece. I'm wondering though if perhaps the icing could with a bit of extra whitening, what do you think?
I love anything with sugar icing, doesn't it look just too delicious? I've been promised some cupcakes when she visits this summer and can't wait. Perhaps I'll do more cupcake drawings then, in a variety of mediums. From photographs. Once I've gobbled them down. Cheers!
Video courtesy of CandlewickPress: “George is a dog with all the best intentions. And his owner, Harry, has all the best hopes that George will be a well-behaved dog when he leaves him alone for the day. But when George spies a delicious cake sitting on the kitchen table, his resolve starts to waver. You see, George loves cake. . . . Uh-oh. What to do now? It’s so hard to be a good dog when there are cats to chase and flowers to dig up! What ever will Harry say when he gets back? Chris Haughton’s fetchingly funny story and vibrant, retro illustrations are sure to lure dog lovers of all ages – and anyone who has ever met a temptation too good to resist.
Bold, hilarious artwork captures the innocent charm of affable George, a dog who is trying to be good – with disastrous results.”
Introducing the Delicious Duo! The Mother-Daughter writing team behind the sweet new children’s book series, The Cupcake Club.
For years, Sheryl Berk has been a top ghostwriter/book collaborator in Hollywood. “I’ve worked with everyone from Britney Spears and Carmen Electra to Whitney Port and Tia Mowry,” she explains. She also co-authored the New York Times bestseller Soul Surfer with Bethanny Hamilton (also a hit movie). But even with all those A-listers, her 9 year old daughter Carrie remains her favorite writing partner. Here’s how the two cooked up the idea for The Cupcake Club book series:
Carrie: I was having a sleepover with my BFF Jaimie. We were bored so I took out some paper and started writing a story. It was about four girls who started their own cupcake club. I showed it to my mom.
Sheryl: She was learning about realistic fiction in Second Grade, and she was a huge fan of Judy Moody books. But she was always looking for a book series she could relate to more.
Carrie: I wanted to read about cupcakes!
Sheryl: So she wrote up a summary of her idea, and I sent it to my literary agent.
Carrie: We got a book deal really fast and I was excited. I was going to be an author.
Sheryl: It’s great to work with her on the series. She draws inspiration for the characters and their adventures from her school, her friends, her teachers. There’s a realness to The Cupcake Club, and that comes directly from the fact that it’s written by a kid. The book deals with issues that kids deal with, like bullying, crushes, friend drama.
Carrie: My mom and I talk about how the book will go: what the characters will do, what problems they’ll have, how they’ll solve them. Then she writes the first draft and I edit it.
Sheryl: Sometimes she can be a little tough! I get comments in the margins like, ‘A kid would never talk like that!’ or ‘Needs more explanation!’ She has some very strong opinions.
Carrie: I want it to sound like a kid said it. And I read a lot, so I know what’s a good book for my age.
Sheryl: And we also incorporate a lot of crazy cupcakes in the story. Stuff like a cannoli cream cupcake, a spaghetti and meatball cupcake, or maple red velvet.
Carrie: I watch Cupcake Wars and take notes. Then I give my mom some ingredient suggestions. I just saw a cupcake with pickles and peanut butter and I want to do something like it for Book 3!
Sheryl: We work closely with a recipe developer, Jessi Walter from Taste Buds. Carrie does a tasting and they talk over what cupcakes we want to create from each book.
Carrie: Like The Eco-licious Cupcake from Peace, Love and Cupcakes. I’m an EcoKid in my school, and I really wanted to give readers a recipe that was all organic and used recycled paper cupcake wrappers.
Sheryl: I’ve learned a lot about cupcakes from Carrie, and I think she’s learned a lot about the writing process and publishing business from me.
Carrie: I never knew how many times you have to revise a manuscript! My favorite part i