Snow Lettuce

We got four inches of snow at our house last night, and I'm pleased to report that this morning my winter lettuce is not frozen, not dead, and is in fact as happy as a clam. Good eating this winter! And I mean for our family, not for the deer -- notice that I've put inexpensive fencing around the lettuce patch. I've learned the hard way that deer are also big fans of fresh winter lettuce!

Interestingly, the colder it has gotten, the more beautiful the colors have gotten in the lettuce too. And the tender varieties in the cold frame are thriving too. This morning I used a soil thermometer to measure the heat (the cold frame is compost-heated three feet under ground, using chicken manure compost). Here are the results:

  • Temp. inside the cold frame, six inches deep in soil: a balmy 46 degrees.
  • Temp. outside the coldframe, six inches deep in soil: a chilly 36 degrees.
  • Ambient air temp. outside the cold frame: 48 degrees.
So the cold frame, naturally heated, is working exactly as hoped. No electricity, and much warmer than the surrounding land. Now that is smart, self-sufficient winter gardening!

Author Bio Photo Shoot

A few days ago I had my first professional photo shoot, taking my author biography photos for the forthcoming book. Over an hour, the photographer took hundreds of photos of me, posing in my well-stocked root cellar, in the garden, and close-ups in front of the barn. When I saw the photos, the book started to feel real.

Xander was with me the whole time, of course -- he's my right-hand man in the garden. The photographer kindly took some extra shots of me and Xander, which I'll share here. As for the photos for the actual book, I don't think I have permission to publish on this blog -- I don't dare put them on the Internet without speaking to my editors first. Besides, the photos of Xander are the best and cutest!

It's been a very busy week. The editors (I'm working with two!) wanted a final copy of the book, both in hard copy and electronically, about 500 photos of my garden taken by me over the years (we'll see how many actually end up in the book) and hard copies of all of my source material. Whew. On the way to deliver all this, I realized I had forgotten to write a dedication page and a thank you page. I just finished those a few minutes ago. Tomorrow I'll re-read them before sending them to the editors via email. If I forgot anyone, please forgive me. The more I've thought about this book coming together, the more I've realized how large my debt of gratitude is.

Who can believe this is actually happening!

Book Deal Signed

Yes, it's true. At 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, just before the launch party of the new American Fork Arts Council Press, I signed a three-book deal with Cedar Fort Publishers.

O happy day!

The title of the first book has officially been changed to "The Forgotten Self-Sufficiency Skills of the Mormon Pioneers". The book debuts in April 2011, if everyone can get all the necessary work done in time. They will be considering hundreds of my photos to put in the book. The manuscript is complete, and in the next couple of days I will be sending them a final (polished once more) copy.

I don't know yet what the second and third books will be. The publishers want to see all my existing fiction and nonfiction projects, which includes two finished novels and a compilation of my classroom lessons called "Avoiding the Collapsing Story" or something near that. I also have an idea for an unwritten sequel to the "Forgotten Skills" book, so we'll see what happens.

After two offers (one from Cedar Fort, one tentative from Covenant) I sent the manuscript to 31 national agents and got 9 requests for the manuscript. Cedar Fort had given me a 30 day window to accept or decline the contract they sent me, and at the end of that time, they granted me a one-week extension (very kindly). One agent made me an offer, which I ultimately turned down (long story short, I didn't think it was good enough) and two agents turned me down. Another agent, Julia Lord Literary, has asked me to please not sign a contract before she could find time to read my full manuscript, but in the end my deadline extension ran out and Julia and the other agents knew that I had two contracts on the line. I had said I had until noon on Thursday to hear from the agents, and when I didn't, I signed the Cedar Fort contract. So that is the story about the agents.

How wonderful was it, at the third Conference for Writers that I have directed, to finally be able to announce I had signed a book deal. Humbling and happy. A wild, wonderful week indeed.

One last thought: I have to say I was mightily heartened during the nonfiction breakout session that Annette Lyon and I taught together on Saturday when Annette said that her editor said that her new "Chocolate Never Faileth" cookbook, which is her first nonfiction book, will outsell all of her seven fiction books combined. Annette said she questioned why she'd slaved for years over those fiction books when her bestselling book will be a nonfiction that took five months of testing chocolate recipes. I thought hey, all these years I've been focused on fiction, maybe nonfiction is really the place to focus, with fiction as a secondary focus. After all, we all must pay our bills. Annette's comments just made me feel a bit better about the whole thing.

Best. Conference. Ever.

Thank you to all the volunteers who made this possible.
Thank you to all the speakers who made it useful.
Thank you to the American Fork Arts Council for supporting writers.
Thank you to everyone who pitched to the new press.
Thank you!