Happy New Year from Me!

I made it my year end goal to finish 2 books, get out my ibook for Too Many Visitors for One Little House and get better at cooking and especially at making delicious soups.  So let’s see how I fared in this year’s goal.

First, I finished the text for a new children’s picture book called WOBEGON and MILDRED.  It is now in the hands of the talented artist and illustrator Kent Yoshimura.  Kent has shown me the almost finished illustrations and I am thrilled with my grumpy miserable Wobegon, coming to life as a lovable yet miserable monster who everybody hates because he gives them parking tickets.  But everything changes when he meets the crackly little-miss-follow-the-rules Mildred who gives out tickets like nobody’s business!  How can he help but fall head over heals for her… This was a very exciting project and took me about a year to get the right combination of character, story and plot.   I look forward to seeing the completed illustrations… so goal one — check it off… Though I must admit, I was ready to quit and let it go about 7 times.  I now have begun to see the pattern in my creative process. When I get desperate that the story is just NOT going to gel… I wait, and let it simmer… I try not to throw the towel remembering… this has happened before…  I will find the light at the end of the story tunnel…  And so I am glad I perservered with Wobegon I did not give up.  I also have the editor, Tamson Weston, to thank whose excellent feedback and enthusiasm for the story gave me the impetus to stick with the Wobegon.

Now goal number 2. I said 2 stories.  Yes I wanted to do a sequel for Too Many Visitors for One Little House… And I did about 5 of them.. none of which I was satisfied with.. until last passover, my friend Batyia came to help us prepare.  The guests were almost arriving when I realized I’d forgotten to make the hard boiled eggs… I’m not even sure WHY we make hard boiled eggs on passover. It is NOT part of the seder, it is NOT part of the ceremony, yet everyone does it.  Over the years I’ve heard multiple explanations– eggs represent life cycle.  Eggs represent the tears because we dip them in salt. Eggs represent continuation… etc… Nonetheless, we make them and eat them at the start of the meal. And Batyia was there to save the day… While I dressed she boiled and then peeled about 30 eggs. She showed me her fingers to prove her hard work.  They were all wrinkly from peeling.  In any case, when we went to serve the eggs, she couldn’t find the bowl of eggs… We looked everywhere until we found the plate on the floor and my dog sitting next to it with his tail between his legs.  That was the source of the sequel:  Mr. Snoozle’s Exquisite Eggs.  Veronica Walsh is now working on the illustrations and I hope to have that book out by next March.    Goal 2… on its way.  But once again, with many bumps and its still in progress as I have left my mind open to changes as Veronica works…. I am slow but steady and have learned to accept that about my writing… I don’t settle unless I am really happy with it…

Goal three- I learned to cook 3 new soups… The first, Mexican Fideo soup.  I knew this recipe for years but it always came out soppy and the noodles (fideos) soaked up all the tomato soup.  I finally learned the secret… You fry the dry noodles first in VERY HOT oil until they are REALLY really crispy and brown.  not just golden.  Then you add the tomato sauce and paste and that makes it really tasty.  Yes, requires a little more oil AND more patience… So MOSTLY I learned that  I need to cook when I am NOT in a hurry or anxious to get back to writing or other TO DO things on my LIST.  I also learned a delicious LENTIL soup… the secret… fry LOTS of onions and CRUSH not grate or chop garlic. Also cumin and tumeric along with a touch of tandori adds a special flavor.   EVERYTHING I make now is so much more improved by CRUSHING garlic.  My son got me a fabulous, sheek garlic crusher as a gift and that really made a difference. That’s my new cooking toy and I put fresh garlic in everything and the house smells amazing as I cook.. . One way to keep my sons and husband coming for family suppers…

And last I finally learned the art of a true, jewish chicken soup.  And once again, I credit the crushed garlic, slow pre boil of chicken, and a LOT of fresh Parsley, Cilantro and DILL which I now learned — you put ONLY at the very end of cooking. You put in a big clump of fresh herbs.  I throw it in when the soup is already cooked and cook for additional minute or two which gives the flavor of the herbs to the soup and really makes it delicious.

Goal 4- For the ibook and ebooks I had to learn an entire repetoire of new language.  What is an epub file, a fixed layout, a standard epub layout, a kindle, and much much more.  At first it was insurmountable. I searched for weeks to find the right developer to just do it all for me… but found that people even techies were as confused as I was as to what was the right format for different tablets(also a new term for me) and ebook readers (new term too).  I thank my friend and marketing consultant Phyllis Miller at Miller Mosaic for helping me get through the maze of ebook info.  She has become somewhat of a maven on the subject and I finally found ebookpartnerhsip to do the develpment of the different versions. So now  just before the new year… They are out!!! the ebook, ibook, kindle versions. And the ibook is in an exciting READ TO ME musical narration format which provides the kids with a musical theater experience.   I am thrilled with this.  It took a lot of work, reading, research and I am still working figuring out the technology for the future of ebook … The technology is still developing and I’m not the only confused one out there… all the publishers are too… So I am not alone… which does not make the frustration any less, but does help the ego.

So looking back at the year… I made my 4 creative goals.  Still working on the personal, spiritual, marital and other life goals that make life interesting and  give life life purpose… I always try and remind myself during all adversity and hardship… As long as I learn something from it I have achieved a life goal.. and its the journey that counts.

Have a great end of year and GREAT coming year.  Thanks for being a fan.


Susan Chodakiewitz is author of Too Many Visitors for One Little House and Founder of Booksicals, encouraging reading through the arts.