Hot Water, Cold Tangerines

(Practicing my cables for one of these, which I think would be very nice with this book)

So I read this book a few months ago, right?  And it was soo moving and amazing and inspiring that it found a place on my half-shelf of favorite books that I go to for inspiration and escape.  And then I found the author’s blog.  And then Shauna agreed to let me interview her for my blog!  I am super excited to share this with you because I love this book, and I think you will, too.  This is a long one, so grab your cup of tea or coffee or whatever, or spread it out over a couple of days, because it’s a good one!

The world is alive, blinking and clicking, winking at us slyly, inviting us to get up and dance to the music that’s been playing since the beginning of time, if you bend all the way down and put your ear to the ground to listen for it.*

1.  How do you describe Cold Tangerines to someone who hasn’t read it?

It’s a collection of essays about celebrating everyday life.  Each chapter
is a snapshot from my life–my family, my street, my high school memories,
my confessions– not because my story is special but because all of our
stories are special.  I hope when people read it, they find bits of
themselves and their own stories in it.

2.  What’s your second book going to be about? 

It’s called ‘Bread and Wine,’ and it’s a collection of essays about the
sacred and strange and wonderful things that happen when we gather together
to eat– celebrations, traditions, memories of life around the table.  When
I look back at the last two years, so many of the best moments of family or
friendships have happened around the table, so I’m thinking and writing
about the significance of what, how, and with whom we eat.

I roasted a chicken last year, becuase Nigella Lawson, whose books I adore, insists that it’s so easy and that she roasts two a week.  Her cookbook said something British and obtuse, like all I have to do is “shove a lemon in its bottom and salt its lovely skin.”  She didn’t mention all the gross things inside of it, or that it would take a day and a half, or that I would need an anatomy book to know what’s what.

3.  A big theme in Cold Tangerines is celebration..How do you celebrate?

For me, the first part of celebrating is noticing.  I find that it’s easy
for me to get stuck in what’s broken or wrong with a situation, instead of
seeing the beautiful parts of it, too, or that I move so fast I don’t see
anything at all.  These days I’m trying to notice everything, to live slowly
enough to see what’s unfolding around me, and especially to look for the
tiny, beautiful surprises even in the midst of wreckage and ugliness.

Right now, around our house, all the leaves are falling, and there’s no reason that they have to turn electric bright red before they fall, but they do, and I want to live like that.

4.  What is the process of writing a chapter in one of your books like?

I keep a journal on a word document on my laptop, and an idea file on my
desk for all the things I write on receipts and business cards and post-its,
and when I sit down to write, I go through both of those, looking for themes
or images or even sentences and words that jump out at me.

I usually write a rough draft straight through, and then go back and add a
beginning and ending, and I do a lot of editing.  When I was working on Cold
Tangerines, I learned so much about my bad habits and tics as a writer from
watching the changes my editor was making, and every change she suggested, I
tried to understand why, and then apply that rule or action in other places,
and it’s really helped me.

5.  Any advice for undergrads/wanna-be writers?

Write as much as you can, and show it to people.  Sharing your work is so
important, because it forces you to finish pieces, and it helps you see what
needs to be changed.  A new set of eyes sharpens our writing so much.

And read great books, as many as you can. I really find that when I’m
reading great writing, my own writing is better, and when I’m reading kind
of low-quality, careless writing, my language isn’t as precise and careful
as it should be.

Pick up a needle and thread, and stitch together something particular and honest and beautiful, because we need it. 

6.  What’s your favorite:

*    Holiday:  Christmas, and I know that as a Christian, I’m not supposed
to say it’s because of the presents, but it is.  I love to buy presents, and
I love to wrap them.  I start shopping early, and making lists and pulling
things out of magazines and catalogs.  This year, I’m thinking of making it
an all-book Christmas, and giving different books to all the people in my
life.  Don’t tell them.
Color:  Blue– navy, aqua, turquoise.  I’m always drawn to blues, maybe
because I’m such a water person.
Food:  Tomatoes
Music: I love Bright Eyes, Brandi Carlile, Damien Rice. I also love the odd
hip hop song.  I was on a Kanye West Golddigger kick about a week ago, and
listened to it on repeat in the car everywhere I went.
Book:  Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, and Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast
TV show/movie:  Sex and the City.  I could watch the last two episodes of
Season Six every day.

What if I’ve missed the cosmic bus to my best future because I was watching E!?

*    Animal:  I’m not a huge animal person…can I say leopard? I’m
searching for the perfect leopard coat, and am trying to talk my husband
into a big leopard rug for our living room.

*    Outfit:  Any of my friends will tell you exactly what it is:  jeans and
a black shirt.  I love jeans, and the three pairs in heavy rotation right
now are J Brand, Paige Premium Denim, and True Religion.  And I love Michael
Stars black shirts and Banana Republic sweaters.

*    Stress relief:  Reading and cooking.  Ten minutes into a great book,
and I start to feel human again, no matter how bad things have been.  And
cooking is the ultimate distraction– the smells and textures and sounds
erase whatever you’re trying to forget.

Living at Hengrave was sort of like living in a British novel and sort of like being sick.  Because we were there for stretches of several days at a time, and the nearest town was several miles away, we padded around in slippers and sweatshirts clutching novels and cups of tea, like well-read invalids.

7.  Your book is soo real, and you talk honestly and openly about struggles
and issues with so many things.  Is it scary to put so much of yourself ‘out
there’ for everyone to read?  How do you deal with that?

I’m really committed to honesty as a writer.  When I began, I said that I
wanted anything I wrote to be honest, brave, funny, and well-written.  I’m
attracted to honesty in other writers and other people, and I think humor
surprises people, especially when the topic is faith.  As I was writing, I
wrote the most naked, bold, entirely truthful things I knew how to write,
and then my editor and close friends helped me decide what things needed to
be taken out or changed a little.  That’s a really important step, and I did
make changes based on their recommendations.

8.  How is your life today different from how you pictured it at age 20?
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since then/ wish you could tell your
20-year-old self?

What a great question.  I actually just spoke at a college on Friday, and
told them nine things I wish I could go back and tell my college self.  If I
could only pick one, it’s this:  Don’t be so afraid of getting your heart
broken, making a wrong choice, or failing at something you love.  Pain
avoidance is no way to live, and God does some of his best work when we’ve
made a mess of everything.

There is a slight loosey-goosey feeling to the future now, both a slight edge of anxiety, like anything can happen, and a slight bubble of hope and freedom that, well, anything can happen.

9.  This was a fun dinner table discussion with a 7th grader a few weeks
ago:  What’s your most embarrassing middle school moment?

I do feel like most of middle school was an embarrassment for me.  This was
much more recent, but equally embarrassing:  I was at an event, and a
well-known author that I really respect walked right up to me, in a crowded
room.  I was delighted, and talked his ear off, until he very politely told
me that I was standing directly in front of the door to the men’s room, and
asked me to move so he could use it.

10.  And because 10 is a nice, round number:  What’s your go-to/most
requested/favorite dinner party/potluck recipe?

Easy Answer: Chicken Curry with Mangoes.  I’ve made it a zillion times, and
my friend Steve and my husband request it for special occasions constantly.
Here it is:

Chicken Curry with Coconut, Basil, and Mangoes
        from The $50 Dinner Party. I LOVE this recipe, and make it a lot for
dinner parties‹I double the recipe for 10-12 people, and serve it with a
really simple green salad, pita bread or naan, mojitos, and coconut and
chocolate sorbets for dessert; and then we are glad for leftovers, because I
think it might even be better the next day.

mix together
            1/4 cup flour
            2 tbsp curry powder
            1 tsp kosher salt
            1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

toss 2 1/2-3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces,
in the above mixture

in 1-2 tbsp olive oil, on medium-high heat, cook chicken until browned,
about 5 minutes on each side
set aside

in 1-2 tbsp olive oil, cook until onion is golden, about 4 minutes
            2 garlic cloves, chopped
            1 red onion, chopped
            1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
            1 red bell pepper, chopped

add chicken, lower heat

add 4-4 1/2 cups chicken broth

cook until chicken is tender and broth is reduced by 1/4

add and simmer until heated through
            1/4 cups currants or raisins
            2 roma tomatoes, diced
            1 mango, pitted and diced

off heat, add
            1 tbsp fresh lime juice
            3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
            3 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
            3 tbsp shredded coconut

Serve with white rice

*All the italics are quotations from Cold Tangerines added by me.

Thank you soo much, Shauna!!  (I think I have the menu for our next dinner party planned!)



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2 responses to “Hot Water, Cold Tangerines

  1. Kristina

    I was looking for a book to buy to take on vacation this weekend and I think I found it! I love the comment made on how cooking soothes… I just made crumb cake to help destress. (see today’s blog entry 🙂

  2. wedontchoose

    ….what do you say the chances of me borrowing that book would be? ( I promise not to keep it as long as _finding Alice_!!!!!!!!! 😀 )

    What I loved about that interview:
    1. that you got to do it!! that is so freakin’ awesome!
    2. that this author likes Bright Eyes.
    3. the advice she gave about wanna-be writers
    4. that she likes Anne Lamott.
    5. that she gave you an awesome recipe.

    But yeah…I would love to read this book. No pressure 😀

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