Posted on Leave a comment

Following My Dream: Beginning the Book Proposal

Why do we ever do anything other than to follow our dreams? Even the ones we don’t know we have yet, the ones that are taking shape?

There was a time when my boss–the news director at the TV station where I worked–advised me, for the sake of my credibility as a budding journalist, to reconsider bringing baked goods to the newsroom for my coworkers to eat. I was young, blonde, and had a unique name rather than a trusty Anne or reliable Rachel, and therefore had to be careful, lest people start thinking of me as the newsroom Martha Stewart. These days, as a food writer, I question whether that would have been such a bad result.

I was aiming for a career in news at the time and was so dedicated to the opportunities already presented to me so early on that I did what I thought it would take to land my first on-air job. I cut and dyed my hair, bought the wardrobe fit for a reporter, and read books about interviewing and doing live on-air standups. I recorded my résumé tape in my spare time and mapped out a plan to eventually leave my big-city writing and producing job to pay my dues as a reporter in a smaller market before working my way back to Seattle.

I had so many people supporting me in my endeavors, from the news director who was my mentor of sorts, to some of the city’s veteran anchors—not to mention my soon-to-be husband, who stood behind my career goals that had already defined so much of our lives. So I think it was a surprise to a lot of people when in August 2007 I left my job and said goodbye to the world of television news. I took the proverbial leap of faith and decided to make a foray into print journalism, ultimately landing upon a communications and marketing job at a theater–something unexpectedly perfect for me at the time.

As I look back on my career in TV news and the experiences I have had since, I am awed by how each step has built upon the next to bring me where I am today, still a writer but with a different goal: writing a book. Today I am making a commitment here on Nooks & Cranberries to keep that goal going.

There’s no one warning me that baking might ruin my credibility, because baking is part of what my goal is founded upon. I have been wanting to write a book, a food memoir related to my Scandinavian heritage, and it is time to start taking the steps to make it happen. So this is when I follow my dreams. The first step: starting the book proposal. I did that nearly two weeks ago, on October 18. Rather than committing to a timeline right now, I need to dig in and determine the steps I need to take to get the proposal just right. The timeline, I expect, will come organically. Besides, I have a commitment on the pages of this blog, where you are part of my accountability network. If six months from now you haven’t heard me tell you about the progress I’m making on the proposal, then I ask you to tell me, “What’s stopping you from pursuing your dream?” Because each dream starts with one small step, a step that is incomparably easy next to the daunting process that we might see before us if we don’t break it down in our minds before starting. Why not begin right now?

Image: Collage features photos of things I’ve baked and shared at Outside Oslo. Hungry? Check it out!

Posted on Leave a comment

Destination Inspiration: Colville Street Patisserie

Colville Coffee

When it comes to doing some serious writing, sometimes a coffee shop is the best place. They’re usually friendly to writers who want to linger for hours, and it’s the norm to see people with a latte and a laptop. What makes a coffee shop go from good to great in our opinion, however, is the quality of the pastries. For that, Walla Walla’s Colville Street Patisserie is perfect. It is, after all, not just a place for coffee, but a true pastry shop.

Colville Interior


We can thank a local winemaker and his wife for telling us about this great place. They raved about the kouign amann (pronounced queen ah-mahn), the salty-sweet, flaky-sticky Breton cake that’s reminiscent of a croissant with its flaky layers, but much more decadent. Other treats worth trying include the apricot danish and the potato, pea, and curry turnover. Any of these would go well with an espresso or cappuccino. Also check out the range of gelato flavors while you’re there, as well as the case of fine desserts perfect for a special event.

Location and Atmosphere

Situated in Downtown Walla Walla, just a block off of Main Street, Colville Street Patisserie is easy to get to, yet boasts a slightly slower pace than a location on the main drag would give it. Though the stream of customers is steady, it’s perfectly acceptable to hunker down at a table with your laptop for a morning writing session.

Colville Pastry

Writeability and Purchased Presence

Colville Street Patisserie offers exactly what you’d expect from a coffee shop, but with the benefit of excellent pastries. There’s ample seating, and the steady energy of people streaming in and out is perfect for writers looking for a little people-watching and character inspiration. As we mentioned above, it’s a great place to linger. As always, however, be mindful of the Nooks & Cranberries code of conduct: Be considerate to crowds struggling to find a place to sit, and support the local business and order an additional beverage or pastry if you’re going to linger a while (we call this “Purchased Presence”).


Come in with a $10 bill and you’ll likely have plenty of money for a coffee, pastry, and a tip. In that regard, the pricing is typical for coffee shops, only you get a remarkable pastry, and not just a dry, bland, and lusterless one found at many other venues.


Street parking is easy to come by, or if you’re already downtown it’s within walking distance from virtually anywhere.

Writer’s Tip

Get to know the people working here, and strike up a conversation with the writer sitting next to you. Writing is often a solitary pursuit, and social hubs like this are great ways to get some social interaction. You never know when you’ll meet a new friend or come up with a great new storyline or article!

Find It

40 South Colville Street
Walla Walla, WA 99362


Posted on Leave a comment

Back to basics with Children’s books

I love stories. As a new mom and a writer, I couldn’t wait to introduce my little boy to books. Now my heart swells with joy as I see how he has graduated from chewing on the covers to giggling as he turns the pages and points to the pictures. As I read to him I’m taken back to my childhood with the sweetness of some favorite stories. A mouse hiding a strawberry, a little bear waiting for a goodnight kiss, a curious monkey, a little bunny saying goodnight to the moon, or a boy who becomes king of the wild things.

These stories are simple, sweet and have more in common than just pulling our nostalgic heart strings. I couldn’t help but make some comparisons to see how I might add something to my own writing.

However you feel about children’s books, as a writer they stand as a great reminder that it can be a good thing to scale back to the basics of your story. Here are some tips on plot and structure based on children’s books.

What makes a children’s book a children’s book is the simple concepts, limited characters and usually one main message…oh, and of course lots of pictures!

Several characters, multiple settings, emotional story arcs, messages and themes, layers upon layers of plot and sub plots. Adult reading can sometimes get cumbersome. Here’s a few steps to take it back to the basics:

1. Pick one purpose and stick to it. Kiddos at this age (0 – 3) don’t have the capacity or attention span to follow multiple story lines.

2. Limit your characters. There’s a reason there are only 3 bears. Too many main characters = too hard to follow!

3. Bright, simple colors and lots of pictures! Don’t weigh your story down with text.

4. Everything is black and white. The real world may have grey areas, but not for kids.

5. Bad guys never win.

So here’s what it boils down to, simple plot, simple characters, simple writing. While this may not apply to your current novel (which I assume will have many complex characters and twisty, turny, curvy plots and sub plots), it’s a great way to start the bones of your next story. Before developing your next plot, try outlining it in children’s book form, meaning, giving it a beginning, middle and end and have no more than three characters and one message to start. Once you have the skeleton laid out, you can put meat on his bones with more gown up text. But remember, we all start as babies, maybe it could help to let our stories start the same way!

Posted on 2 Comments

Your Reason for Writing, and Why it Matters


Why do you write? It’s a simple question, and may seem a bit rhetorical, but I want you to answer it. Knowing your answer may make all the difference when you’re ready to give up. Take a moment and think it through. Be honest. Does your reason look anything like any of these?

  • Words are like puzzle pieces just waiting for you to arrange them into something beautiful that only you can uniquely do.
  • Writing unscrambles the thoughts in your head by allowing you to capture and then process them.
  • You want to see your name in print, whether it’s a front-page byline or the cover of a best-selling novel.
  • Much like photographs of special times, writing records the memories you never want to forget.
  • Ever the encourager, you use words to soothe the distressed, comfort the grieving, and uplift the discouraged among your loved ones and friends.
  • The act of creating a story gives you pleasure, much like the joy you experienced playing dolls or playing make-believe as a child.

Those of us who call ourselves writers have a wonderful gift. Yes, writing can be difficult—sometimes it’s one of the hardest things we can imagine doing—but once the rough patches are over and we have a draft in hand, the rewards are great. We need to remember what drives us to write, plus the positive experiences that will come.

Perhaps you’re a journalist, and no matter how many articles you write, seeing the final draft in published form always gives you a sense of satisfaction—especially if it was a difficult assignment. After carrying the article along from the initial interviews to the final draft, the process is complete when the story is finally laid out in print. Similarly, while writing and producing a major Seattle newscast, I could envision the final product as I wrote, choosing the best soundbites and writing to video. Seeing the finished product on their air (when I had time to turn away from the computer to watch the TV for a minute) with all the pieces in place, was such a treat.

In addition to the satisfaction, I want my words to count for something more than entertainment. When I think of my favorite novels—Les Miserables, Great Expectations, The Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre, to name just a few—they’re great stories, but they also give the reader plenty to think about. When we watch Jean Valjean wrestle with his identity as an escaped convict as he heroically risks his freedom and well-being to protect Cosette, we ask ourselves questions about our own morality and values. Watching Jay, Jake, Daisy, and the rest of the Gatsby party loll around Jazz Age New York, we observe their selfishness and the toll it takes on those around them. The list could go on and on, including fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose.

What are your reasons for writing?


Posted on Leave a comment

Finding Balance

Scandinavian Almond BarHello.

It’s the middle of a new week. And I barely have any writing to show for it.

Time is whirling a little out of control right now. Do you know what I mean? Just a couple of weeks ago I felt like a writing superwoman. I was at the top of my game. I was writing, writing, writing, and produced some things I felt pretty darn good about.

Today you should see my office (it’s a mess). And my list of personal to-do’s (it’s backlogged). My blogging schedule is all out of whack. Deadlines are the only things keeping things going.

However, lest you think I’m complaining, I should say that life is good. Outside of the digital world and my office, things couldn’t be better. I’m blessed beyond measure. And enjoying and maintaining that other world–the one that’s more important, in all reality, than the one that resides on a desk chair and in front of a computer screen–has led to my current situation. I wouldn’t change a thing.

As the week goes on I’ll work at regaining a little ground here in this office of mine. I’ll keep writing, keep blogging, keep trying to get organized. Because that’s where a core part of my life and identity reside. But in the meantime, it’s good to know that I can find balance, that I can identify my priorities and live life accordingly. Now if only I could master my time management, find a way to be too places at once, and always be on top of everything…

What are your tactics for maintaining balance in your own writing or creative life?

(By the way, that photo up there shows tea and a cookie, a Nooks & Cranberries-style way to slow down and reflect. But it gets better than that–the cookie is a delicious Scandinavian almond bar, from recipe I remember from my childhood. I’ll be sharing it over at Outside Oslo soon, so be sure to visit in the coming days!)

Posted on 4 Comments

How to Schedule Writing Appointments… and Keep Them!

If you’re going to write that novel (or memoir, or screenplay, or front-page feature), you have to write. Pen to paper, keystrokes to page. Those first words are essential, but they won’t matter if you don’t keep the pattern going.

Last month I gave you four ways to keep your 2011 writing goals; today I’ll focus in-depth on one more: the importance of scheduling writing appointments with yourself. It’s easier said than done, so here are some tips for making it happen:

Schedule an appointment with yourself like you would a hair cut or a doctor visit. Then make sure to organize your time so you won’t be late. It’s easy to let this slide because the only appointment you have is with yourself. If you’re late to an appointment with yourself, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Well, yes it does. It might mean the difference between publishing your breakout novel or never even finishing your first draft. Do whatever you have to do in order to make this happen. Block it off on your calendar in a special color, set a reminder alarm to go off, pretend you’re a famous author and you have a once-in-a-lifetime meeting with yourself, whatever. Just make sure it happens.

Figure out a calendar system that works for you. If you’re going to make appointments, you need a system to keep track of them, whether it’s a planner, a calendar on the wall, or a reminder that pops up on your phone. In my quest for my perfect time management system, I’ve settled on a combination of a tiny purse-sized planner, a weekly printout of a chart I’ve created to help establish day-to-day routines, and the calendar on my computer. It may seem pretty crude and archaic with all the technology that abounds, but it works for me. I’ve discovered that keeping information solely on the computer equals out of sight, out of mind. So having a tangible thing to refer to helps.


Prepare your writing space in advance. Sometimes having to clear a space for writing can be a barrier to entry. Whether your desk is in disarray or you have to use the dinner table as a desk, make sure it’s ready for you to write before your appointment starts. If your appointment is first thing in the morning, clear the space before you go to be the night before. If it’s after dinner, then collect all the materials you need–laptop, notebook, writing book, headphones, etc.–in a spot near the table beforehand so you’re ready to swap the dishes with your writing materials immediately.

Treat yourself to some hospitality. If you were entertaining a famous author (see #1), you’d make him or her feel welcome and at home. You might have a pot of tea ready and some cookies, or a pitcher of water with lemon wedges accompanied by some little sandwiches. You’d make sure your surroundings were orderly. You might have a scented candle burning, or an arrangement of fresh flowers. What can you do to make yourself feel at home in your writing spot? You’re going to be here a while. Make it comfortable so you’ll want to linger.

Establish rules with your family. If you’re writing at home and tend to get distracted by your spouse, roommate, or children, remember, it’s their home too. No matter how big or small your space may be, you can find solutions. It may take some creative thinking, but in the end it will be worth it. Maybe you designate a room as your writing space during certain hours, and keep a sign-up sheet on the door so they know it’s your spot for a certain amount of time (if that’s the case, a friendly do-not-disturb sign might also do wonders).

If you don’t have an extra room in which to write, is there a way you can cordon off a part of the living room as your writing spot, maybe with a screen or clever arrangement of furniture and noise-blocking headphones? If that’s the case, and the TV is in the same room, you may have to negotiate when it’s TV time and when it’s writing time. Tip: try working your writing time around when you know other members of your household will want to watch the TV; your flexibility could pay off when you need it.

And, of course, there will be times you just need to get out of the house. Maybe everyone is home on a Saturday when you’ve scheduled a writing time, and they’re having so much fun that you can’t help but join them. Go to a nearby coffee shop. Or if the weather is nice bring your notebook to the park or out to the garden.

Reward yourself. Rewards are always a good incentive. Tell yourself that if you keep all your writing appointments in a set amount of time–a week if you want to start small, or a month if you’re ambitious–you’ll treat yourself to something special, such as a new journal, a writing session at a favorite Destination Inspiration location that’s usually too far to travel for your regular writing times, a relaxing bath with a glass of wine and a good book, or whatever else that feels like a treat to you.

What are your secrets for keeping your writing appointments or writing goals?