A friend suggested once that every author writes the same book over and over. What is your book? she asked. I thought about it, but the answer was simple. I write about the things we don’t pay attention to—our sense of smell, the food we cook, the houses we live in, the way our filters affect our perceptions of the world. I write about those quiet spaces between words, and all that goes on in them. But most of all, I write about compassion—because that is what teaches us to see everything else.
I have always wanted to be an author, but it was reading Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing” in college that showed me how a writer could take what many considered the “unimportant” parts of life and give them beauty, shine light on their meaning. I want to do that, I thought. But the only other thing I knew for certain back then was that I wasn’t grown up enough yet to write that kind of book.
So, I moved to Seattle, got married, and got a PhD at the University of Washington. Frustrated by the lack of women authors in the curriculum, I co-authored 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader’s Guide and Let’s Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. In the process I read thousands of books, good and bad, which is probably the best education a writer can have. I still wrote books of my own, but thankfully that material wasn’t published. Time passed, as they say. I taught writing and literature. I had children. We lived in Italy for a couple years. We moved home. I stood by friends and parents as they faced death. I renovated a house. Through it all, I wrote, and learned my craft.
And then one day I got an idea for a novel about eight people and their teacher in a cooking school. By then I’d pretty much given up on the idea of being a professional author, and I wrote it just for me. And so, of course—you can see the punch line coming—The School of Essential Ingredients was the book that ended up being published, three months before my 50th birthday.
I’m now the author of four novels, including The Scent Keeper, which was a Reese’s Book Club pick, as well as a memoir, House Lessons: Renovating a Life. My fifth novel will be available May 2, 2023. No Two Persons is a novel-in-stories, an exploration of how differently any one story can be perceived by the various readers who encounter it, and how differently each of those people is changed by its words. It is a novel inspired by all the readers and book clubs I’ve talked with, all the students I have taught. Each with their own opinions. Each with their own love of words.