Monday, 24 March 2014

Writing about writing

No recipes or musings on food in literature from me this week; instead, a post about my writing.  A couple of weeks ago I was emailed by a good friend – we’ve known each other since we were 11 - and fellow-blogger, Lucy Marcovitch.  Lucy is a freelance writer who has had two books published for children (they’re great, as my niece and nephews, plus assorted friends’ children will testify).  She also writes short stories, articles and guest blogs, as well as her own blog about writing for children and children’s reading – see  Lucy invited me to take part in the “Writing Process Blog Tour”: bloggers answers four questions about how they write and, at the end, introduce up to three fellow-bloggers who, the following week, write their own post about their writing, introduce some more writers and so on, resulting in a string of writing-related blogs.  This week it’s my turn. 

Question 1:  What am I working on? 
This blog – From Page to Plate - is my writing focus at the moment.  I started it in January 2014, publishing my first post on New Year’s Day.  My two big loves are cooking and reading, and last spring I thought of an idea that would enable me to combine them.  I would research references to food in English Literature, to see where they appear and the extent to which they change over time, and then I would devise a 21st century culinary homage to the literary reference in my North London kitchen.  It took me a while to get going, as I initially thought that it would be a book (well, I can but dream), but when a couple of friends suggested a blog, that provided the impetus to get going.  In January I was blogging about Anglo-Saxon literature; after a couple of weeks I moved onto the Middle Ages and now I’ve just embarked on Shakespeare.  I think it’s going to take me a while to get to the 21st century!  But I’m already thinking of where else I could go with this: French literature (Proust’s madeleines), children’s literature... this could be a lifetime enterprise! 

Question 2:  How does my work differ from others of its genre?
There are a myriad of fantastic blogs on the history of food which gather together recipes from old cookery books, describe the cultural history of food and sometimes include accounts of cooking these recipes in a 21st century kitchen.  My blog is not really about the history of food.  What I am interested in is exploring how food is written about in literature, how this changes over time (I’m adopting a chronological approach) and also why the way it is written about changes.  There are books and blogs about food in literature – e.g. the British Museum publications The Shakespeare Cookbook, The Jane Austen Cookbook - but I am not aware of anyone actually tracing the changes in the way food is depicted in literature over time.  Also, what I think is different about my writing is that the recipes in my blog are a creative response to the literature, rather than an attempt to reconstruct the food as it actually appears in the poem, novel or play.  So, whilst I might consult an old recipe, that will be a starting point for my own more imaginative response. 

Question 3:  Why do I write what I do? 
I think I’ve already answered this:  because I love cooking and because I love reading.  Will that do?!

Question 4:  How does my writing process work?
Oh, if only I had more time... I work full-time, teaching English in a secondary school, so there is limited time to write, particularly in term-time.  I’m not sure I have a writing process; it’s all a bit piecemeal.  I’m writing this on a Sunday afternoon, aware that there is a pile of A Level coursework essays in my school bag that need marking ... I don’t feel guilty at the moment as I did a lot of marking yesterday (it’s a horrible time of year where marking is concerned!), but guilt about schoolwork can impede the writing process.  That said, on a normal term-time weekend I try and set aside a couple of hours for writing, usually on a Sunday afternoon; ideally this is supplemented by an hour or two in the week.  Of course the holidays do provide longer periods of time to write and I take advantage of that, though I don’t really have a regular pattern to my writing or how I use my time. 

And of course this blog is not just about writing.  It begins with reading – usually re-reading, so sometimes skimming suffices – then thinking about what I could cook, then cooking it (and whilst sometimes a recipe works first time, sometimes, as I’m experiencing at the moment as I try to devise a Seville orange drizzle cake for Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, it’s a lengthy process – I’m 3 cakes down and not there yet; anyone want a piece of cake?) and then only finally do I write.  So, it takes time, but it’s great fun and I’m loving it!  I’m intending to publish my next post – on Shakespeare’s gourmand Falstaff – in the next couple of weeks (the coursework marking will be over by the end of the month!) so please do come back and visit it. 
Coming up next week – on March 31st - are these three very varied but equally inspiring writers.  Do check out their sites. 

Jane Kelleher is a mother, history teacher, amateur genealogist and yarn enthusiast.  Born in London she is now living in the Fens.  Her site is the Postans Family Tree Project | A voyage of family discovery.

Mary Ann Mhina is a writer and storyteller who recently published a collection of elder women's stories entitled Listening to our Grandmothers. With her friend Beverley she co-creates a regular story telling event in London called The Story Party. Mary Ann also teaches Nia, a sensory-based movement practice, and believes that this practice supports her to be a better writer. You can read about all this and more on her blog

Sam Scott is a busy working mum to two beautiful girls - the inspiration behind her blog  Mookandlulus offers fresh ideas and tips on party styling, party food, and craft activities for children's parties. Sam tries out all the suggestions on her blog and captures the results with her photos. She lives in Devon.  


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  2. Really interesting insight into how you work Becky. Now about that orange cake...

    1. I'll try and get that cake perfected by the time I come and visit this autumn!