Thanksgiving Cooking: Chocolate Pecan Pie

So, I know I said I was staying away from my blog until January 1, 2011. Do you know how hard it is, after your blog has been a part of you for over a year, and you've made blogging friends, and suddenly it's all gone?

I wanted to post last week about the National Book Award winner for children's literature. I wanted to post about School Library Journal's Top Young Adult Novels for 2010. But that was okay if I didn't post about it. No crisis.

Not today! Crisis! Today, I've been searching high and low for that FABULOUS recipe for Chocolate Pecan Pie, which I made last summer, and which will be one of the pies I make for Thanksgiving.

But do you think I could find the recipe? No way. Even after all those weeks of de-cluttering my house. Well. All of my cookbooks are indeed on one bookshelf. But which cookbook did I take the recipe from?

Aha! I remembered I'd made a blog post about it, back on July 26, but never got around to posting it. And yes, here it is. I'll post my post, and have access to my own recipe. Plus ... you will too! It is soooooo good.   

It's from the cookbook above, A Taste of Autumn. And look, I even took a picture of it. The wall behind the pie looks different now. There's a clock on it, plus I've already decorated for Christmas. The pub table now has a bunch of Christmas decorations on it. I'm so excited for the holidays ...

8 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate
2 T butter
9" pie crust
3 eggs beaten
1/4 c brown sugar
1 c corn syrup
1 t. vanilla
1-1/2 c pecan halves

Coarsely chop 4 squares of chocolate and set aside. In a large bowl, microwave the remaining chocolate and butter until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Brush bottom of pie crust with a small amount of beaten egg; set aside. Stir sugar, corn syrup, eggs and vanilla into chocolate mixture; blend. Add nuts and chopped chocolate. Pour into crust and bake at 350 fegrees for 55 minutes or until knife inserted 2" from edge of crust comes out clean. Enjoy!


Back from a Great Writing Retreat

I'm back from the retreat, and I LOVED it. It was fantastic.

At work, my boss asked me to write an article for the local newspaper about it, and so I decided I might as well post it to my blog. My facts are as accurate as I'm able to make them. If there are any inaccuracies, they're all my own. :)

This will go into the local newspaper:

Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending a writing retreat put on by SCBWI-WW. That’s the acronym for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Western Washington.

Each spring, SCBWI-WW hosts a conference for writers and illustrators that draws an attendance of about 400 persons. The spring conference is open to anyone, and covers a diverse range of topics.

The SCBWI-WW regional conference is one of many conferences put on by SCBWI chapters each year throughout America. The parent organization, SCBWI, also hosts two national conferences every year. One is held in the summer, in Los Angeles. The other is held in the winter, in New York.

Last year, in 2009, I was both delighted and overwhelmed to be able to attend the summer conference in Los Angeles, which typically draws 1000 attendees. It lasts four days and, like the SCBWI regional conferences, it also covers a diverse range of topics. If you want to hear keynotes, or possibly even to meet, in one location, the largest number possible of luminaries in children’s publishing, it’s the place to go. Yet despite the size, it’s relatively relaxed and a lot of fun. I haven’t attended the winter conference in New York, but I’m told that the atmosphere is quite different. You don’t want to attend that conference until you have an agent, or have signed a book contract, and are well on your way to building a writing career. At that conference, the focus is less on craft and more on marketing.

So, given all I’ve said about the various types of conferences offered to hopeful writers of children’s books, you might be wondering where the retreat I attended last weekend fits into the picture. To start with, it wasn’t open to just anyone, but to people who submitted a writing sample which then underwent a selection process. Of the hundreds who applied, 25 of us had the privilege of attending the cozy workshop focused on craft. Our teachers were two children’s book editors from New York. Jill Santopolo is the executive editor at Philomel, an imprint of Penguin. Nancy Mercado is the executive editor at Roaring Brook, an imprint of Holtzbrinck.

During each hourly session, one of the editors spoke for a few minutes on various writing techniques, and then the participants were given the opportunity to apply the technique to our own works-in-progress. It was assumed that we had all completed at least one novel manuscript, as what we were being taught applied globally to completed works. It was assumed that we were all well past foundational techniques, and eager to learn the skills that are hallmarks of publishable manuscripts.

I returned from the weekend with several possible new scenes for my young adult work-in-progress, as well as new ideas and techniques to implement.

You might be wondering if it’s easy or difficult to be published by a traditional New York publisher. Perhaps this could sum up the answer for you: Nancy Mercado told us to be prepared to rewrite part or all of our work-in-progress seven times before expecting it to ready to be sent to an agent. When you finally find an agent that would like to represent you, expect more re-writing before the agent submits it to editors. When you finally find an editor that likes it enough to buy it, expect it to go through five more rounds of edits before it’s ready for publication.

Jill Santopolo said she receives about 240 agented manuscripts each year. Like almost all publishers today, Philomel does not accept unagented submissions. From those 120 publishable novels, Jill buys only 12, and of those, only two are for young adults.

The whole process sounds daunting, and it is. But for people who love to write, that's not what it's about. It's about putting one word after another on a page to build a story that will--we hope--inspire, empower, and even transform, ourselves and our readers.


Interview with Monika Schroeder, author of Saraswati's Way

I'm pleased to interivew Monika Schroeder, author of Saraswati's Way, on my blog today. She's led such an interesting life! Please check her website for further information.

But without further ado, I'll give her center stage:

CE: Do you plan to write another book set in India? What will it be about?

MS: I am working on a novel set in the early 1830s about a boy from Massachusetts who ends up in Calcutta after he becomes a deck-hand on a ship that brings ice from New England to India. Yes, this is based on a true event. An inventive merchant from Boston came up with the idea to export ice from Massachusetts to tropical countries, among them India. So I thought it would be exciting to put an American boy on that ship and let him experience Calcutta. But the project makes only slow progress as I have to research a lot of the details of the time period.

CE: I read that you’ve taught English in Chile, Egypt, and the Sultanate of Oman, besides your current position as an elementary school librarian at the American Embassy School in New Delhi. Did your experiences in these other countries spark ideas for books set there? Do you plan to write any of them?

No, I am not currently plan on writing a book set in any of these countries. I do have an idea and research notes for a novel set in pre-revolutionary Russia about a young girl who becomes involved in the anarchist movement planning to kill the czar. I have always been interested in Russian history, so I hope to write a book set in this fascinating country.

CE: I read that the number of street children in India ranges from 100,000 to half a million. What is causing this? Are their families, like Akash’s family, starving to death somewhere? What can be done for these children? Their families?

Not all the street children are in Delhi without their parents. Many families who lose their farmland or fall on hard times due to other circumstances come to Delhi from the impoverished northern Indian state of Bihar. They move in with relatives who already live in slums or just camp next to the road or under flyovers. Some of the adults find temporary work as construction workers while their kids beg on the streets. There are many nongovernmental organizations who are trying to help these kids. The Indian government just passed a law to provide free and compulsory education for all children between 6 and 14. But as long as poverty prevails, children will be forced to contribute to their families’ income through begging or child labor.

What do you love most about living in India?

Generally, I find it interesting to live in a country where everything is so different. Since I moved to New Delhi I have read a lot about Indian history, made an effort to learn Hindi (but never became fluent), and tried to understand Hinduism with its myriad myths, gods, and stories, but much of what I see around me remains exotic and mysterious. In some ways India seems to resist modernization. For example, New Delhi is a city of 15 million people, yet there are still cows on the road, sometimes even elephants and camels, and you have to protect your garden from monkey attacks.

What do you love least?

While the Indian government is working to alleviate poverty, the World Bank estimates that today still about 41% of Indians live below the poverty line of $1.25 per day. In Delhi poor people settle in slums next to the roads or live under fly-overs. Many of the poor are children and it makes me sad to see this.

What will your next book be? Does it have a release date? Tell us a little about it.

My next book is called, MY BROTHER’S SHADOW. It will be published by Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux in September 2011. The novel is set in Berlin 1918 at the end of World War I. 16-year Moritz works in the print shop of a Berlin newspaper and longs for the old times, before the war changed everything. While his mother participates in the socialist revolution that sweeps away the monarchy to make way for a democracy, Moritz falls in love with a Jewish girl of socialist convictions. When his older brother returns a bitter, maimed war veteran, ready to blame Germany’s defeat on everyone but the old order, Moritz has to chose between the allegiance to his dangerously radicalized brother and his love for the women around him, who enthusiastically usher in the new democracy. This will be my first YA novel. Just as in, THE DOG IN THE WOOD, the novel deals with an important transition period in German history and shows the horrible consequences of war.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about Saraswati’s Way, or yourself, that you’d like readers to know?

My husband and I are planning to leave India at the end of this school year. He is ready to retire and I want to become a full-time writer. But we are taking a special ‘souvenir’ from India. Last January we adopted a street dog who will come with us. I hope when we live in the US I will get a chance to come to Idaho, visit the Palouse Country, and meet young readers in your library district.

Thank you, Monika, for engaging us with your answers.
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