Chef Author ~ Christy Morgan ~

The Blissful Chef ® is the creation of Christy Morgan. I am a vegan macrobiotic chef and cooking instructor. My business includes things like healthy cooking classes, lectures, private instruction in people’s homes, consulting and corporate team building. My first cookbook Blissful Bites came out in September and I’m so excited to share it with you!

Christy contributes wellness tips and healthy recipes for various websites like One Green Planet, Elephant Journal, Happy Cow, Christina Cooks, and PracticalYoga.tv.

Tell us a little bit about your journey from the beginning of your blogging career to holding your cookbook in your hands…
I was teaching cooking classes and doing personal chef services for about five years in Los Angeles. Blogging had become really popular at that time and I felt like I had something to share. So I gave it a shot. Around the same time I got on Twitter and started connecting with others across the globe. I’m a big fan of many cookbook authors. Having a cookbook felt like a natural extension of my blog and gave me an opportunity to connect with even more people on a deeper level.
Was your path to publication of your cookbook serendipitous or calculated? Give us some of the highlights or sweet moves you made.
Getting a cookbook published was calculated for me and the whole process was a lot of work. I spent many months working on the proposal, which is needed to send to potential publishers. After sending it out and not getting a book deal I went back to the drawing board to make my proposal more polished. Turns out I really had two books on my hands and had to split them up. Also I needed to make it more marketable. After many more months of work I had a great proposal that I started sending to literary agents. I found one I connected with and had a book deal within a month. Then the publishing process took another year to have the book in my hands. It was a long, hard road but one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

What writing experience do you have? What is your food background? Did you ever dream of being published?
My writing experience was very little before I started blogging, but I’ve been an avid reader since I was a child. I knew the kind of writing that I loved although I wasn’t very confident that I could produce that kind of writing. I’m still self-conscious of my writing and have a long way to go! Regular blogging helped me gain more experience. When I first started I joined a month long world wide group blogging event called Vegan Month of Food. The goal is to write at least 5 times per week about all things food. This seemed like the perfect thing for a vegan chef to do. It was a wonderful experience.
I worked with a writing coach while I was working on my book proposal. That was crucial to my growth as a writer. She helped me polish my book proposal, which included sample chapters of the book. Blissful Bites is not just a cookbook with recipes. It is full of information and is meant to be read almost like a novel, front to back one time before you start cooking from it. Once I started working on this book I knew it would be published. I created a few ebooks before BB to test the waters and those were well received.
Share some of the most difficult aspects of crafting a cookbook? Did any of those surprise you?
Writing a cookbook is a lot of fun! Creating in the kitchen and feeding others is one of my favorite things to do. I had been teaching classes for years and had an extensive recipe collection already started. So the recipe writing was the easy part.
The editing process was the most challenging thing. Cooking is like a science and things have to be fairly exact. Only a chef can edit recipes and be on the look out for things that don’t seem right within a recipe. I had many people editing the book for grammatical errors, but I had to do the hard editing. I will have another chef help edit my next cookbook because when you are looking at the same content over and over again for months on end things will likely be missed. Thankfully there aren’t too many errors in BB! Lets just say the next one will be a lot easier to write and edit. I’ve learned so much from this experience.
What have you had the most fun with since embarking on this journey?
The most fun for me is connecting with people and being able to help them on their journey to healthier, happier lives. It warms my heart to know that my blog, cooking videos, cooking classes, and cookbook have played a part in transforming peoples’ health. And eating all the delicious test recipes is always fun.
What advice would you give the blog/book naive Chef Christy if you were coaching her on her cookbook or blog adventure?
Be prepared to be married to your work and don’t expect to make lots of money. Being a blogger and author rarely can financial support you so you must have another way to make money. Always have fun and don’t lose your sense of wonder and desire to help others.

If someone is thinking about writing a cookbook what are the three things they better know before they start?
You must have an established audience and a good target market to get a book deal and sell books. I started blogging as a way to build up my audience. Social media is crucial for all authors to build your fan base.
Never take shortcuts, be accurate in your recipe writing, and have others test test test your recipes. If you are blogging these recipes tell a story and always post photos of the recipe. People want to see the finished product.
Obviously you need a unique idea or angle. The cookbook market is very saturated and it’s becoming harder and harder to get a book deal. Be open to self-publishing your first book to get it out there.
What are the three marketing ideas that you are glad you pursued?
Creating a brand that is catchy and lasting, but is a true expression of myself.
Getting really good at social media and take time every day to connect to my audience. Follow people on Twitter that you admire and see how they are successful in connecting with their audience.
Doing a book tour where I could meet people face to face. Book tours have become sort of obsolete but I love connecting with people in real life, doing cooking demos and talks and sharing samples from Blissful Bites. Once people try the food they usually get the book. 🙂
What marketing ideas ended up being a waste of time or resources?
I don’t feel like print advertising is worth the cost. After trying it once I never did it again. With the Internet there is not as much need to spend money on advertising. In the six years I’ve been in business I’ve spent very little money in this area. You can do things like write articles for other websites, be a guest blogger, make cooking videos, do lectures and cooking demos, and use social media for marketing yourself. All these things are free but do take time out of your day. But I love this kind of stuff!

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope to have written many more cookbooks and continue to write for many other publications. Teaching is my passion so I will be teaching across the globe. I want to start doing cooking classes for low-income families and dispel the myth that a vegan diet is one of privilege. I want to continue touring, meeting people in person and showing them how easy and delicious a plant-based diet is on many levels.
In the spirit of the new year and all those resolutions we tend to make, Christy is sharing a recipe with Novel Rocket readers.
Makes 1 dozen
I seriously could eat cornbread every day. I love it that much. This is a breakfast cornbread muffin that is to die for when topped with Earth Balance and served with a cup of Earl Grey tea. These are wheat-free, but not gluten-free.
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 cup barley flour (or other whole-grain flour)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Dash cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup unsweetened rice, almond, or soy milk
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 can (14 ounces) crushed pineapple in its own juice (or pineapple chunks)
Oil spray, for pan
Preparation
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray muffin tin with oil or line with cupcake liners. Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl. In separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients, then fold in pineapple. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Spoon into muffin tin until almost full. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let sit for 5 minutes then transfer to cooling rack.

Hold the Scalpel!

You think you’re ready to submit your work to editors and agents?

Maybe you are.

I thought I was ready in the spring of ’06. (I wasn’t.)

I’d finished the manuscript for my first novel, ROOMS and through connections I made at the Mt Hermon Writers Conference I got the story in front of three agents. All three were interested in representing me. But none signed me.

Why? My story needed more work. My novel was 90% of the way there. But as agent Steve Laube says, a novel from a first time author needs to be 95% – 98% of the way there.

When I mentor aspiring novelists at writing conferences I often see good writing. But not great writing. To be signed by an agent and get a publishing contract, your writing has to be great. And most authors are too close to the trees to evaluate whether their manuscript is ready to be part of the forest.

I’m fond of this classic writing anecdote which illustrates my view:

An author and a brain surgeon went golfing one spring day and the brain surgeon said, “I’m taking a six weeks off this summer to write a book!”

The author stared at his friend and said, “That’s a stunning coincidence. I’m taking six weeks off this summer to become a brain surgeon.”

What I find with most pre-published writers is a person who has read a few medical journals and think they’re ready to perform surgery. It doesn’t work that way. To be published takes years of intense study of craft and mucho hours.

As Malcom Gladwell says in his book OUTLIERS, most people don’t master an area of pursuit without putting in at least 10,000 hours. In other words, years and years.

Each September the American Christian Fiction Writers put on a Gala honoring published and pre-published writers. The contest for pre-published writers is called Genesis. Winning a Genesis award is a strong indication of a writer who is close to being publishable. Close, but not necessarily fully ready.

I’ve talked to a number of Genesis winners who expect contracts to fly their way after winning. They’ve been chosen out of all the other entries! They don’t understand why editors and agents don’t do a Snoopy dance after viewing their material.

The reality is the winner’s competition isn’t the other Genesis competitors. Their competition is already published authors. Their competition is the Carol award (ACFW’s Book of the Year) finalists.

Back when Simon Cowell was on America Idol reigning as the king of snarkdom he would sometimes lambast a contestant who was clearly the star of the night. Randy and Paula would be shocked. His defense was he wasn’t comparing the contestant to the other singers on stage; he was comparing them to the hit makers in the marketplace. I think he was right.

Is this discouraging to you? It shouldn’t be.

The truth is most writers aren’t willing to put in their 10,000 hours. They want to be published now, so they self-publish or throw up an e-book on Amazon and essentially take a short cut to publication.

Sorry, there are no short cuts.

That’s the good news. The intense competition weeds out most pre-published writers.

Which means if you’re willing to do the brutal work to bring your work into the 95% ready zone, your odds of getting published increase dramatically.

You wouldn’t expect to do surgery on a patient by reading a few medical journals and studying medicine for three or four years. Same thing with publishing. Writing is a highly specialized skill that takes years. Yes, I know I’ve said that already, but it bears repeating.

Don’t be discouraged. Every published author I know has gone through an intense residency program.

Keep going. Make a detailed and rigorous study plan so when you are ready you’ll pass your medical boards with high marks.

To your scalpel and mine.James L. Rubart is the bestselling author of ROOMS and BOOK of DAYS. His latest novel, THE CHAIR just released.

I Write Because I Like It ~ Kit Wilkinson

Kit Wilkinson is a former Ph.D. student who once wrote discussions on the medieval feminine voice. She now prefers weaving stories of romance and redemption. Her first inspirational manuscript won the prestigious RWA Golden Heart and sold to Steeple Hill Books.
Besides writing, she loves hanging out with friends and family, cooking for lots of people, and participating in almost any sport. She and her husband reside in Virginia with their two young children and one extremely energetic Border Collie named Bear.
The not-so-interesting “how I became a writer” story
It’s pretty clear how one becomes a brain surgeon or a lawyer, but a novelist? There’s something mysterious about becoming an author. Or people want there to be…
Personally, I’ve always cringed a little when anyone asks me about the whys and hows of my writing. And this is because my answer tends to disappoint everyone.

Why did I start writing? How did I start?
Um…I sat down at the computer one day and began typing… because I was bored.

I’m totally serious. A few years ago, I quit my teaching job, was home with my two kids whom I love dearly, BUT I was bored. So, while they napped, I would sit down and write a chapter at a time. Pretty soon I’d written a full-length manuscript and I had so much fun doing it, I decided to write another.

While on the second story, I thought since I liked it so much that I would learn about publishing. I hooked up with some local writer’s organizations where I met experienced authors. They were kind enough to look at my work and give me advice—which I listened to. They pointed me toward some publishers that best fit the content of my work. I read over sixty books from those publishers and continued writing and restructuring my stories. After two years, I went to a conference. I met my agent there and within six months sold my first story.
Now, of course, I’m leaving out some things—for one, the rejection part. The story didn’t sell as I wrote it. It underwent major revisions, as did my second novel. And then, recently I submitted a third story on a proposal, which, after revisions, has yet to sell. I’ve had to put that aside and move on to yet another story idea, which did (just recently) sell. (whew!)
The other thing to mention would be my background. I studied and taught literature (for a VERY long time), concentrating primarily in French medieval writings, but I also received degrees in general French Literature and in American Literature, which means I’ve been writing ABOUT fiction for years and years. Some might say the leap from writing literary criticism to writing a novel is small. I’m not sure if that is true or if my former studies are a bit of a hindrance to the creative process.
Either way, good writers are usually good readers and I have definitely been a reader all my life.
So, what do YOU tell people when they ask why you write or how you started writing? What do you say if it wasn’t your lifelong dream or you’re not an amazing “discovery of talent” story? What if you’re like me and you just decided to give writing a try? Honestly, I’m not sure exactly what answer people want to hear but I’m going to try THIS the next time:
I write because I like it.

SABOTAGE 4 1/2 STARS from RT Book Reviews:

Olympic hopeful Emilie Gill is beautiful, rich, successful–and in danger. Someone’s targeting her stable, her friends, her life…and there’s nowhere for her to turn. The police? They’ve charged her with murder. Her father? Out of town–again. Her best friend? He’s the man she’s accused of killing. There’s no one to count on–until Derrick Randall rides into her life. The stable manager’s support encourages Emilie to open up her carefully guarded heart. But just as she’s learning to trust, it all comes apart. Her faith–and newfound love–are all she’ll have when the sabotage turns deadly once more…