Monday, June 29, 2020

TBR: Singing the Land: A Rural Chronology by Chila Woychik

TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe!

Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?

A monthly look at rural living from a gal who has lived in small towns, metropolitan areas, and finally, the Iowa countryside. It’s more a collection of “incidents” and observations than memoir or essays. Each month deals with a particular theme especially related to rural life.

Which essay did you most enjoy writing?

Since there are no true essays in the book, but instead bits and pieces of hybrid pieces published by journals over the past five years, I’d have to say the introduction, which could be construed as an essay, is my favorite. It’s called, simply, “A Brief Discussion of Time.”

Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.

Lows might include the sheer amount of time it took to format this thing, pulling from so many different published pieces, probably 25 or 30, and trying to make the pieces fit together under the themes I chose. Another one of course would be finding a publisher when even small publishers are notoriously overworked, overbooked, and far too busy, strapped, or financially deficient to consider more than a few new works each year.

The highs would include sharing the joy with family and friends, the joy of finishing, the joy of finally holding a contract in hand, and the joy of seeing the links listed online!

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?

I actually have several, if it’s not presumptuous to share more than one. 1) disregard current writing trends in favor of writing YOU, of focusing on your strengths while strengthening your weaknesses; in essence, find your place in the writing world and avoid trying to stand in someone else’s shadow; 2) learn to write in more than one genre – for instance, if you’re an essayist, study prose poetry (which should come somewhat naturally), and if a fictionist, learn to write a great essay; and 3) which is somewhat like #1: when you receive writing advice, learn from it, surely, but take literally everything, all good intentions, all suggestions, with a huge grain of salt lest you lose your own unique voice, and your own take on the world. I might also add that I personally don’t read books that I don’t love from the first few pages. I have to love the writing style, the characters, the intuited motivation, everything. If I’m curious, or in love, or just can’t seem to stop reading, I’ve found a book I’ll finish, but if not, I set it aside. Life is too short.

My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?

I think I’m genuinely surprised that so many editors enjoyed so many of the initial hybrid essays and prose poems I had published, and so when compiling these together, I smiled to myself a lot. I smiled because what are to me everyday events had become a rather large 200+ page compilation of such events, and I knew/know the telling of these events were beloved by many, many editors. I’m still smiling about that. A lot.

What’s something about your book that you want readers to know?

I’d like readers to know that, as Stephanie Dickinson said in her foreword to this book, it can easily be read chapters at a time, but some may very much enjoy just one or two “dates” in one sitting. Sean Prentiss, who gave me a lovely back cover blurb, said he couldn’t stop until June, but I know that I’m one who likes to take these things a little slower, especially considering that the topics change abruptly and often, from one day to another, as is true with actual hours of rural living.

Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)

Great question! I mention some of the German foods my born and reared German mother cooked while we were growing up such as the wursts, the spaetzle, the plum cake (Zwetschgenkuchen), and the rouladen, the latter of which I cook decently well (I’m half-German), but I won’t share that recipe since it’s a closely guarded family secret. J I will, however, gladly share our “purple cabbage” recipe. It’s quite fast and easy, and as you can see, we don’t use actual measurements, just common sense and taste.

German Purple Cabbage

Brown cut-up red cabbage in lard or bacon grease (I use olive oil, so my version isn’t truly authentic) with onion, bay leaf, salt & pepper to taste, and a little vinegar. Add a little water, simmer until tender, and add a slice of apple if you wish. Remove bay leaf and apple before serving.




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