Bullseye!

bullseye!

You may have noticed — I haven’t been here as much as I said I would.

When I turned in the manuscript of my book on January 1st, I was elated and exhausted. After all, writing a book in four months took all my mental clarity and energy. It was a joyful task — the most joyful of my life — but still, whew. The Chef and I took a wonderful week away from work, in our own home. No blog posts. But I intended to come back. I love being here, after all. This is not work.

However, to my shock and sweet surprise, my editor threw me a curveball. Everyone I know who was dealt with the world of publishing told me I would probably have to wait a month, maybe six weeks, to receive my edits. To be honest, I was ready to wait. It always takes a bit of distance before a writer can see her words clearly.

But my editor — such a mensch; my favorite new person in my life — did something near miraculous. She edited the entire manuscript (nearly 500 pages in the first draft) in nine days. Can I repeat that? Nine days. She didn’t just read it. She made judicious cuts, extraordinary swaths, cutting stories into pithy anecdotes, and making paragraphs sing. The book I envisioned was coming into existence, thanks to her excellence.

I am so making her cookies.

The only thing that wasn’t entirely glorious about this? She needed me to cut another 30,000 words after her cuts. (We want everyone to be able to afford this book. Also, this doesn’t really need to be the length of Larousse.) Does that sound horrifyingly hard? It’s worse. She needed all the edits — the final copy; the version that will be in your hands when you buy the book — in thirteen days.

Thirteen days.

Well.

What could I do? No use in panicking. That cuts time away from the work. No use in losing sleep. In sleep-deprivation, I’m never that clear when I write. No use crying or wailing or telling everyone how ridiculous this was. I just remembered, again, how lucky I am. And I sat down to work.

On the same day that my editor sent the changes, my father happened to tell me a story. We were chatting on the phone, and he told me about a little Buddhist book he has been reading. The story that struck him most made me laugh, immediately. I wasn’t laughing at him. I was laughing with delight, the way that truth shoots straight to giggles. Here it is:

“A Zen master accomplished in the way of the bow and his Zen archery teacher were practicing on the cliff overlooking the sea. The archery teacher demonstrated his skill on a target near the precipice by piercing its center. He handed the bow and an arrow to the Zen master. The Zen master pulled the bow to its fullest arc, and with complete focus, care, and attention, released the arrow into the ocean. When it struck the water, he said, “Bullseye!”

— from by Abbess Blanche Hartman of the San Francisco Zen Center (2002)

I can’t explain why this moved me so. I hope you’ll know when you read it. Besides, koans are rarely rational.

What I do know is this — every day, every hour, when my shoulders tensed up and my brain wanted to spasm and everything in me thought, oh my god, this is what’s going to print?! — I just shrugged and thought, “Bullseye!”

Tuesday night, I thought I was done. I had been staring at sentences and counting syllables and wondering where the words could slip away, for twelve days. I could see no more. Nothing else could go. I could not find a single word more that I could cut.

It was time to let go.

As we did the first time, the Chef and I pressed the send button together. Besides my fierce focus and need for release, I could not have made this happen without my dear Chef. He fed me, caressed my sore shoulders, sang to me in the car while we drove, and held me all night long. Because of him, I didn’t even feel stressed. I just kissed him and worked. So we sent it, at 1:30 in the morning, together.

However….

The next morning, I awoke with a start. Something didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel that release.

The draft I had turned in the night before was 106,720 words. That’s 60,000 fewer words than I had turned in the first time. Wasn’t that enough?

No, it wasn’t.

I went back to the official editing letter and read — with a dropping stomach — that my final edit needed to be under 100,000 words. I thought that I had cut everything I could have, but I needed cut 7,000 more words. And I had only five hours.

Thank goodness for the Chef’s hugs.

This doesn’t need to be a long story. It’s already much longer than a zen koan. End of story: I did it. I sat myself down in the lobby of a community center (the Chef had to renew his food handler’s card) with the laptop, and I thought: you have an hour and a half and 7000 words to cut. Go. So I did.

I remembered a line from Richard Hugo: “Kill your darlings.” And mostly, I just kept thinking, as I cut through paragraphs and stories I had so lovingly massaged into perfect shape and descriptions of food I love — bullseye!

By the end of the day, I had cut 7,000 words, plus 1000 more. Also, I had made the final selections on all the photographs for the book. With the Chef on the phone in front of his restaurant, and me in a coffee shop nearby, I pressed send. It was gone. I was done.

Bullseye!

(Is anyone surprised that only a few hours after I sent it, I came down with a violent stomach flu? I have been in bed ever since. That’s why it has taken me two days to write this out. That, and it’s difficult to write a food blog when you haven’t eaten for two days.)

Three bits of good news in the midst of this…

1. The book is done.

2. My editor loves it. I can’t write it all here — it would feel too much like bragging. Suffice it to say — she loves my book. So does the marketing department and the publicity department. They can’t wait to sell it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to meet many of you on the book tour in October.

3. If nothing else, I can promise you this:

if you buy my book, you will be reading my heart.

Bullseye.

46 comments on “Bullseye!

  1. Anonymous

    You’re such an inspiration; creative, passionate, articulate, strong.… Thank you. I don’t have celiac, yet I read your blog and feel uplifted by recognizing the gratitude you exude.

    Todah rabah (thank you in Hebrew).

  2. kimberly

    Congratulations! Hooray! I am delighted for you, and I can’t wait to read your book.

    Hope you’re over the flue soon — I’m glad you have Dan to take care of you.

  3. ChupieandJ'smama

    Congratulations! You had my on the edge of my seat with the “woke up and something didn’t feel right” part. So glad it all worked out and can’t wait to read the book.

  4. James

    congratulations on finishing your book, as a rather newly diag. celiac, i def. look forward to reading it!

    hopefully the book tour will come to nyc!

  5. Alice

    I’ve just become acquainted with your blog and am so looking forward to your book. Congratulations on finishing.

  6. nika

    oh man, I loved the whole entry (many congrats again) but did you have to make me CRY with the last line? If you keep doing that I may have to cut back on reading your blog (winks). If you have any stops in Massachusetts (hopefully Worcester) on your book tour, I hope to meet you!

    Nika

  7. Liz

    Congratulations! What a feat to accomplish. Remember your feeling of satisfaction today and bottle it and keep it with you always.

    I can’t wait to buy your book. I don’t have any issues with gluten, nor do I have anyone I regularly cook for who does, however, it’s always a treasure to find cookbooks from cooks that celebrate food. And from your posts, I can see that your book will, indeed, be not a mourning of the loss of gluten but rather a celebration of a new and vibrant life.

  8. Ashlee

    Shauna–

    Your strength of character and will is such an inspiration. I always feel uplifted after reading one of your posts. I absoutly cannot wait to read your book!

    Thank you for sharing yourself with the world, it does make a difference :)

  9. Gluten Free Momma

    Shauna,
    You really convey all the poignancy of the birthing process as you write. That you had a violent physical release is unfortunate but not unexpected. I really look forward to your book. I suggest your blog to all the newbies in the ROCK (raising our celiac kids) group I facilitate here in Bellingham. Maybe you could come visit? Especially if your book tour includes Village Books? Love GF Momma

  10. Leeendah is what my friends call me

    Dearest Shauna,
    I have been devouring your blog since I discovered it this past Thanksgiving, but this is my first post. CONGRATULATIONS on finishing your book (again)!! I can’t wait to buy it!! (And I hope you feel much better soon!)

    I want you to know that you are an absolute GODSEND, and such an inspiration!!! (Will your book tour come anywhere near Dayton, Ohio??) Although I just had a blood test last week and was told I don’t have celiac, I have had digestive problems my entire “adult” life. I was told for years that although they didn’t know the cause, it was probably stress related…

    I finally went to a holistic M.D. and I found out just before Thanksgiving 2005 that I had to change my entire way of cooking, and eating (at age 50 years young.) But God has perfect timing — I didn’t find out about my food allergies/intolerances until just after having my kitchen completely remodeled into the kitchen of my dreams. Long story short, I can no longer eat: gluten, any dairy products, all nightshades (white potatoes, tomatoes, all peppers except black pepper, eggplant), tuna, almonds, oranges, cherries, and probably some other things that I can’t remember right now…

    I have been struggling a little this past year trying to find things I can still cook and eat )and that my husband will eat), but your wonderful blog makes it so much easier. Thanks to you, I tried Tinkyada pasta the other night and was completely blown away by how good it was! (Other GF pastas I had tried tasted like cardboard.) But since I can’t have tomato sauce, I cooked and ate the Tinkyada with beef potroast juices. YUUUMMM!! Now I will have to try it with some of the dairy-free “cheezy” sauce recipes I have discovered…

    I LOVE YOU!! (And I love your photos too — photography is another one of my passions!)

  11. terry

    I can’t wait to read it. And I dearly hope you make to SF on the book tour! (Speaking of that, I should email you privately to ask if you’ll be doing media interviews on that tour.. because… well… I’ll explain.)

  12. BipolarLawyerCook

    Congratulations, and I hope you’re recovering from your post-exams sickness. Looking forward to your book, and I love the site redesign– very clean and fluid, not that the old site wasn’t great!

  13. beastmomma

    Bullseye! Congratulations on the completion and release. I cannot wait to read the book and to see you on the tour!

  14. amy

    Way to go Shauna! Congratulations, and I hope you feel better soon. (And I like the redesigned site!)

  15. Seattle Tall Poppy

    If anyone can hit a bullseye…it’s you. Congrats dear Shauna.

    Now, when are we going out for a drink?????

  16. Melindy

    Congrats Shauna–
    What a great accomplishment! Keep up your creative prowess of wonderful recipe/story to blog page. There is still much more to discover…

  17. Trig

    Welcome back. If you are doing any promotion in London you must come and visit my college. I’m sure I can arrange for you to talk to the students about gluten-free cooking (and sell a few books).

  18. The Beauty Brains

    Wow, congrats on your book. I know how exciting it is to be published!

    I found your website while researching a post on gluten free cosmetics for my blog, The Beauty Brains that answers questions about cosmetic products.

    Have you had any luck (good or bad) with gluten in hair and skin care products? Our readers would love to hear about it.

    Thanks and keep up the great work!

  19. kathryn

    Many, many, many, many congratulations Shauna — it’s been a massive task, but you’ve done it.

    I also can’t wait to see, read and enjoy your book. I have many clients with gluten issues and most of them resent it, feel marginalised by it and that their lives are diminished by the allergy. It will be so wonderful to be able to recommend your book as a joyous celebration of all things gluten-free.

  20. Anonymous

    Please please PLEASE — make sure your book tour takes you somewhere close to Hanover, NH because I will seriously camp out waiting in line to meet you in person & tell you how wonderful you are!!!

  21. Shauna

    THank you everyone, for your exultations and exhortations. I’m moved to tears every time I read these comments.

    As far as the book tour goes, I don’t really know the details yet. I’m hoping we will have an extensive one, based on the conversations with my editor. But nothing is said yet. Believe me, though, I think every day about the joy of meeting you all.

    (So does the Chef. He’ll be coming too!)

    Thank you again. You are an important part of our lives.

  22. Shauna

    Beauty Brains,

    Gluten-free cosmetics is a big topic. I’ve found the ones that work for me, and I’ll do a piece soon. I’m sure that will open the floodgates of everyone else’s suggestions!

  23. Paula

    Congrats! I’m already standing in line for my copy!
    Healing thoughts floating your way to send that flu bug out the door…

  24. Kristi

    I have enjoyed reading your blog and eagerly await your book! Congrats!! I work in a small public library in central Connecticut… possibly you would be able to come there on your book tour?

  25. Freckled Face Mama

    WOW,Shauna! Life is so FULL for you right now! I know you wouldn’t have it any other way, even though you are exhausted. Life is amazing when it is so full. It is so demanding yet, oh, so rewarding. I CANNOT WAIT to buy the book. One for me and several for family and friends. Get some rest and I look forward to reading new posts. By the way, I love the way your blog looks. Very welcoming yet a professional touch. :)

  26. Mimi

    What lovely writing!

    Although this is my first visit, I can already understand why you received a cookbook contract.

    This is delightful!

  27. Genevieve

    Shauna — you are positively amazing! Bullseye! That is so deep and yet light at the same time! I wish I understood the crazy dealines your publishers are giving — is that normal?? I hope your next book has more relazed deadlines! Say — maybe some fo the 10,000 words you cut can be posted here so we can still enjoy them. I cringed reading allt hat was cut because those are words we will not get to read!! :( Great job!

  28. Nat

    Congratulations!
    Just reading this post made me feel the greatest sense of awe. I can’t imagine how your book is going to make me feel — and I can’t wait!
    Cheers,

  29. tina

    Hi! I found your website after searching for inspiring gluten free “things” on google.. and you are so inspiring! I have read few quite a few of your posts and find you cheerful, happy and creative about life and living gluten free! I have had IBS for years, and after haiving some slight endometriosis removed from my bowel.. (exploratory laproscopic surgery) and still suffering the stomach aches.. I moved on from eating macro-biotic and having routince colonics etc. to giving it all up getting married, had a baby, and a second and all my pain is back, uugh. I decided to go gluten free this past friday and it is getting a tiny bit easier as the days go on and I find more yummy stuff to eat at our local peoples market and being lucky enough to afford it or let’s say let my husband eat gluten free foods and my daughters too ( who has time to shop for twice when they can just enjoy veggies, gluten free breads, meat alongside me. I can’t wait for your book to come out as the first full fledged gluten free meal I made tonight ( your meatloaf) along with sweet potato (olive oil spread on it and baked in the oven), and kale cooked stovetop with olive oil, toasted sesame oil and finely chopped garlic.. got good reviews, even from my junk food loving husband! Thanks so much for your interest in sharing your joy with the world.. I am going to try and keep this gluten free lifestyle up and knowing others do it, will help me! Thanks so much! –self diagnosed gluten free mama (tina)

  30. Daniela

    I really can’t wait till your book finally hits the shelfs.

    I am a culinary student but just found out a couple of days ago that I am gluten intolerant! But I know it’s not the end of the world and I will find my way around in the kitchen thanks to you!

  31. MILF in training

    I have just found out I am celiac, so I stumbled upon your blog, have now sent away for your book, and can’t wait to read it. You are such an inspiration to me. I have always loved to bake and thought that part of my life was over. Thanks for the hope. I also have a secret desire to write a book — maybe someday too! Again, thanks, and blessings to you and your chef.

  32. Lois

    I got your book for Christmas and unfortunately have only had time to read the first two chapters. If it were up to me, I would do nothing but lay in bed reading your book all day. Just after the reading the first two chapters you have inspired me to start cooking good food and quit eating crappy gluten free food. I bought some essentials today to help me start cooking and tonight I made a good gluten free meal. Thank you for speaking to my heart and changing the way I look at gluten free food.

  33. Terrie

    “Bullseye!” I love your book. Superbly written with flair and read with delight.
    Thank you.
    Terrie

  34. Kier

    Thank you!

    I have been gluten intolerant for years and have become very jaded towards food (if it tastes good it’ll make me sick). I’ve been inspired by your enthusiasm and joy for and about gluten free food. It is time for an attitude shift (and a new book!)

    What was the name of the little Buddhist book?

    thank you!
    Kier