Thursday, August 18, 2011

Birthday Clafoutis and Book Proposals

See, I thought it was appropriate to make a cherry clafouti for my birthday because the word clafouti sounds like a party in and of itself.  Like confetti. It just tastes better.

I've been circling this recipe for a month or two, waiting for the opportune moment (i.e. a loving reunion with my KitchenAid and assorted bake-ware. Oh, and my sieve) to do something really special with a bag of cherries.

Life is a bowl of cherries. Preferably sans pits.
I could be wrong about this. All I know is:

A. There are a lot of cherries here.

B. There seem to be more cherries than back home.

C. Generally, like the dentist situation in Tri-Cities (*never* have I seen so many dentists' offices. Ever.), it means that there's simply more of them.

But I digress.

A few things about this recipe:

It looks great when you put it together, smells even better in the oven.

Also, it's like, *really* bland.

Fresh out of the oven.
I didn't use the kirsch the recipe called for, and my vanilla beans were about a year old and would have needed some TLC to be usable.  I used my good Mexican vanilla extract, and threw a bit of cardamom and ginger into the flan batter.

On the table, sunning itself.
What really needed to go in was another tablespoon of sugar (which is really something, coming from me - I don't like my sweets overly sweet) and a generous tablespoon of lemon zest.  And maybe an additional tablespoon of flour.

It's certainly not an ugly dessert.  Though I will say, once you cut into it, photogenic isn't a word I'd use.  And the cherries tasted really good. I have more left.  They may very well turn into these.

A note on book proposals: I chatted with my agent this morning.  I told her about how I'd gone to my first critique-group meeting here in Tri-Cities, and how I wanted to tweak the sample chapter in my current book proposal.  The group had pointed out some things about my transitions (mainly, there weren't any.  This is a fault of mine that I freely admit).  The chapter itself was written, mostly, three or so years ago, and I hadn't done a whole lot of heavy-duty editing to it.

My reasoning is that while the sample chapter you include with your proposal should be clean, they also shouldn't be over-thought.  Slaving away at that chapter is kind of like naming livestock - an editor may turn around and say, "Hey, we love it, but how do you feel about writing ______ instead?"

This has happened to me several times.  I've learned to put emotional distance between myself and these chapters.  I work on them, and then I move on.  It's a mental health thing.

Now, I want to work on the sample chapter because I want to like it more than I do. It's an easy fix.  But my agent did point out that editors can be wary of ├╝ber-perfect sample chapters.  Kind of, when you think about it, like guys on first dates who say they love children, small dogs, and Jane Austen.

So don't kill yourself striving for abject perfection when you're including those sample chapters. Make sure they're really, really, good - and then move on with your life.  There are other things to pay attention to.

Like figuring out how to fix a bland clafouti.

Try saying that three times fast.


  1. Now I want some clafouti (even if its bland)

    And I like the perspective on sample chapters. I've just written a few and its nice to walk away knowing they don't have to be absolutely perfect!

  2. Awww, poor caflouti...So pretty on the outside, but no one appreciates what's on the inside. Hmm, I think I might get a new character idea out of this post. :) (Those pictures have my mouth watering, btw.)


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