Making a Damn Good Pot of Soup (in memory of my Grandmother)

I discovered that my grandmother passed away last night.  It was not a shock; she had been struggling with dementia, blindness, and a possible stroke/coma in the weeks before her death.  So, it was almost a welcomed relief that finally, her suffering was at an end.  But I did not come here to gain sympathy or to simply tell you about this all too painful point in my life—after all, this is an author blog—instead, as I sat in my bedroom remembering her, one thing in particular came to mind.  My grandmother was an amazing cook.  I don’t mean she was just good—I mean you licked the plate clean kind of cook.  Having her blood in my veins didn’t make me her protégé in the kitchen and neither did the countless summers I spent with her.  I will be honest; I am a passable cook, mainly because I lacked one trait she had.  My grandmother was meticulous.

It was a running family joke that she would start cooking dinner right after breakfast and wouldn’t be done until almost sunset.  As a child, her attention to detail while she cooked was frustrating; especially with an empty belly and a watering mouth.  But as an adult, I realize now, that is what made her dishes stand out.  My favorite meal that she made was Bahamian styled dumpling soup.  She did everything from scratch, which included walking to the coconut grove to gather coconuts, chopping them open, grating the coconuts, and straining the milk.  Then she would pick the peas, shell them, and set them boiling.  After that, she started on her dumplings; mixing the flour, kneading, and rolling them out.  Finally, the meat.  Chicken, pork, beef.  Whatever was there was chopped and seasoned and put in a marinade made from—you guessed it—scratch.

When all that was ready and my little heart was about to burst from the smells in the kitchen, she added all those ingredients to the biggest pot I had ever seen (and have yet to see) in my life.  I called it her cauldron.  Then came the waiting.  The walking over to see if it was ready yet.  The slaps on my hands, butt, pops with the dish towel and the inevitable “no” when I tried to taste it.  After what seemed like years, but in reality was hours, it was ready.  The best soup in the world.  Neighbors would drop by because they knew my grandmother would offer a plate as was her wont.  And we would eat.  And be happy.

I told you that story to tell you this—writing and self-publishing is like making that soup.  It takes work, and dedication, and commitment, and patience.  Yes, you want to finish that book or chapter or section to be able to move onto the next, but sometimes, you need to slow down.  When that brain is moving faster than those fingers, you can lose the story or the direction.  But that is because you are trying to move too fast.  Take your time.  Walk to that coconut grove and gather those coconuts, chop them open and scoop out every bit of that flesh.  Then grate it and wring out every single drop of that milk.  Delve into that story.  Make me feel each and every agonizing thought, feeling, wanting that your characters face.  Make me cry, laugh, scream in frustration, and get so hot and bothered, I have to take a shower.  Get all the ingredients that make your story going and put them together in such a way that the end result is the best book I have ever read in my damn life!  I want to finish and rush to buy a second and third and fourth—the whole damn series!  But make me want it.

Pay attention to detail and make sure everything you put in there adds to your story; don’t write it in because you think it’s cute.  The first book I ever wrote was not the first book I published and I regret that sometimes, because my first book makes me money.  However, the first book I published was used as a measure to better myself.  My first review was 3 stars and the reader HATED that it was a cliffhanger.  The second review, also 3 stars, lamented on the fact that I had words missing.  Words missing?  What the hell?  I reread the book and sure enough, there WERE words missing.  Simple words that in my writing my brain, forcing my hands to move faster to keep up, simply eliminated.  While I was editing the book, my brain (that bitch) inserted those words in my mind, so I never even realized they were not on the page.  I was rushing my soup, not giving it time to simmer and cook.  Start letting the good smells from your pot get out.  Write blogs, blurbs, excerpts, anything to get people to start moving to your house looking for a plate.  And when its done?  Eat.  And be happy.

~ by Adrianna Morgan on January 22, 2014.

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