Monday, September 19, 2011

Welcome to the World, Cake Ladies!

I am grateful and happy to announce that my book, Cake Ladies: Celebrating a Southern Tradition, will be on the shelves in two short weeks! I will tell you more at the end of this dispatch about events and purchasing information, but first I want to reflect on what an incredible and beautiful journey it has been to bring this project into being. I never set out to write a book. I merely was interested- I knew what a beautiful part of my life baking cakes had become, and I wanted to meet other women who had a similar experience. I was given the opportunity to do just that when Nicole McConville from Lark Crafts took a chance on me and went to bat for my idea- and then the idea became a book. Nicole- I am so grateful to you. As a result, I spent the better part of 2010 researching and writing this book. I sojourned through the South meeting friends new and old. I sat at the kitchen tables of dozens of women who graciously shared their wisdom with me, not just about cakes, but about love, family, and community. I was at a crossroads in my life, in my marriage, and in my work, and the adventures I experienced last summer lit the path for me to a way forward, in my life as a writer and a business owner, and in my heart, too. I will be forever grateful to every friend and angel I encountered, and the joy I felt in crafting this book. One of my culinary heroines, Irma S. Rombauer, said in 1931 about her book, The Joy of Cooking, that "this book is the result of a long practical experience, a lively curiosity and a real love for cookery." Though my book contains roughly 741 fewer pages than hers did, I think I know how she felt. I finished writing the book last October, and largely set it aside, content to work in the Cake Shop, spend time with my family, and journal about my discoveries. The experience of writing the book was so beautiful, that just doing so would have been enough. Happily, though, I get to embark on a whole new adventure: I get to share it with others. One of the best things about this limbo time before the books come out has been hearing the reactions of the Cake Ladies in the book as they receive their advance copies, and hearing the updates on their lives and their work. Michele Burton-Oatis, of the Cupcake Fairies in New Orleans, wrote: "I sent you a text the moment I saw the cover. I was so emotional I couldn't speak. Melissa and I are in awe of you and Susan's talents. The book is amazing and the stories are so personal. It make you feel like meeting the other ladies and baking with them. Wow this is really happening. I'm so ready. Whatever you need please let me know."
Peggy Hambright, of Magpies Cakes in Knoxville, Tennessee, said: "Can't really believe it's been over a year since this all started. A lot has happened in that short time. I'm taking half the day today to cook dinner for a friend and start reading (i have two strawberry rhubarb pies in the oven!) and I finally got to start on your book. I started crying at your introduction. Geez. The book is lovely. I can't wait to get to the whole thing ~ all the ladies' stories. It was funny reading my "story" and realizing how much it has changed just in the past few months."
Jessica Grossman, of Jestines Sweet Shop in Charleston, wrote this to me: "Hi Jodi! We received our copy of Cake Ladies and are completely thrilled. You must (and should!) be so proud!! I'm looking forward to reading every word. It's a wonderful and charming book! I am so honored to have been included. You have a lovely way with words and a very respectful and gracious manner in telling everyone's story."
So I wrote a book, it comes out in a couple of weeks, and I can't wait to see what fate has in store for me on this next leg of the journey. I really love these ladies. And I feel proud to be counted among their number. And without further ado, I will give you the details:
In Asheville, starting in the first week of October, the book will be available at the Cake Shop, at Malaprops Bookstore, and at Barnes and Noble, as well as online.

If you live outside of Asheville, I believe that most Barnes and Nobles will be carrying the book, but please do encourage your local independent bookseller to carry the book. Also, when my dear sweet friend Michael Frey is finished revamping my website, I will be selling signed copies of the book online as well.

I am still working to finalize plans for travelling with the book this fall, but my (almost) confirmed book party schedule so far is this:

Sunday, October 16th: Book Launch Party at Forsythia Hall in Asheville!

Tuesday, October 18th: Pig Pickin' and Cake Walk, Cedar Grove, NC

Wednesday, November 2: Book Signing: Square Books, Oxford, MS.

Thursday, November 3: Book Signing: Turning Pages, Natchez, MS

Saturday, November 5: Book Signing and Reception: Southern Food Museum, New Orleans, LA

Wednesday, November 9: Book Signing: Montreat Books and Gifts, Black Mountain, NC

Tuesday, November 15th: Homecoming. Or: Marietta, GA book release party with my hometown Cake Lady, Johnnie Gabriel, at Gabriels Desserts in downtown Marietta.

Friday, November 18th: Athens, GA: stay tuned for details.

Friday, December 2nd: Magpies Cakes, Knoxville, TN.

Sunday, December 4th: The Big Crafty, Asheville, NC.

Thursday, December 8th: Cakehead Bakery and Hub City Books, Spartanburg, SC.

Sunday, December 11: Charleston, SC.

You can see updates on the facebook page here. More to come! I love you and I thank you.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Today, In Cake.

First, let me say, Happy Birthday to Jasper!
I am so incredibly lucky to be the mom of such a thoughtful, loving, curious, and fun creature as my son Jasper. We had a great birthday party yesterday with friends and family at the fair! I love you, Jasper. I'm so happy that, for the rest of my life, even when you are grown, these earliest of fall days, when the leaves are still green and the sky is still blue and the first sharp cool breezes of autumn come in, will remind me, first and foremost, of you, your sweetness, and your birthday. Ahem. And, in other news, I have so much to tell you about the Cake Shop! First: The Shelves.
We now have these awesome shelves, built by my dear friend Peter Parpan!
We've been putting things on them, to sell! Like these Short Street Cakes T-Shirts, that my friend Tubbs printed up so excellently! We're selling them in Ladies, Youth and Mens Sizes, for $15 each.
We're also putting Hannah Dansie's artwork and magnets, and when my Cake Ladies book is out in just a few short weeks, we'll have those on the shelves, too. And here's a little photo essay I did today of the most recent rearrangement of furniture in the Shop, along with bonus shots of Anna and Lucy ruling:
And one more announcement: NEW MENU DROPS ON TUESDAY.
AND: I love you forever, dedicated cake ladies, Emilou, Anna, Lucy, and Hannah (not pictured)! (And I've got a lot of love for the newbies too)
And: One more thing. I just went by Push Gallery to see the group art show that my friend Ursula Gullow put together. And I think it is amazing. Tara Jensen, Anna Jensen, Lauren Whitley, Courtney Chappell, Lisa Nance, and others explore the layers of process behind making art. Here is a shot of Ursula's work, a collection of small, contiguous canvases with drawings on the wall connecting the narrative:
I don't hesitate or exaggerate when I say that art saves lives, makes lives richer, and often makes life worth living. And speaking of art, here's Lucy and Anna executing their creative inspiration in the form of cake, today:
I know I say it again and again, but it bears saying another time: I am so grateful for the Cake Shop, and the ladies therein. Together we are doing something that is greater than the sum of its parts. And I guess, also, what I'm really trying to say is that I had a good day at work today.

Friday, September 2, 2011

An Invitation.

For the last few months, I've been really excited to be working with some folks in the community towards forming a food policy council for our city and county. This is the continuation of work that I've been doing in the community gardening realm for over 12 years now, and it feels like a culmination of many years of work among many people and groups. I feel really grateful about the critical mass of individuals in our community who realize that a true foodtopia (as the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau calls us) is one in which ALL people have access to affordable, nutritious, culturally appropriate food, not just those that can afford dinner at a farm-to-table restaurant. A true foodtopia is also one in which the food supply is local and sustainable, which makes us more self-reliant as a community. (this is referred to by the term Food Sovereignty).

The process we went through this summer led to the creation of a White Paper that makes a recommendation for a Food Policy Council. I and City Councilman Gordon Smith will be presenting this paper at two different venues in September: on the 16th as a part of the Eat Smart, Move More conference on the campus of UNCA, and at the Burton Street Agricultural Fair taking place on September 24th. We hope you will join in the conversation, and lend your voice to help form a cohesive way forward in regards to poverty, public health, local commerce, and sustainability through food security.

Check out the Press Release here, and read the entire White Paper here.
I think it will work, if we work together.