Labors of love

Along with our own Jane Kelly and 248 others, I attended the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference over the weekend. It was just as I’d hoped–good company, stimulating panel discussions, excellent food.

Among the panelists was my provocateuse du jour, Julia Usher–the author responsible for last week’s Valentine’s pledge, in which I promised to make fancy little heart-shaped cookies come hell or high water.  I attended her panel on book promotion (featuring bookstore owners and authors and moderated by my friend Celia Sack of Omnivore Books), and came away floored by the amount of work cookbook authors are doing to get the word out.

Usher described touring 120 events for one of her books, traveling with cookies, icings, and assorted decorating paraphernalia. At some stops, hardly anyone showed up; at others, she was mobbed.  But having traveled–just a little bit–for my own book, I know how exhausting even a brief reading can be. What’s more, generally publishers don’t spring for these trips.  Most authors do it on their own dime. And in the end, they can’t even say for sure whether all that work translates into book sales.

Although all this talk of promotion left me feeling almost as tired as if I’d been doing all that traveling myself, it also made the prospect of decorating a few cookies, in the comfort of my own home with my daughter, seem pretty manageable.

So we went for it, last night, with some tools I picked up in New York and the clock ticking toward dinner.  At the end, the kitchen was an explosion of dried sugarcraft, and I had a crick in my neck from piping royal icing.  But the cookies looked almost as good as Julia Usher’s, and though my book may not be a bestseller, and I can’t work a crowd like a real pro, I was still one proud mom with one happy daughter–a daughter who remains, along with her brother, the best work of art I’ve ever produced.

Happy Valentine’s!

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