So Lit Lunch: Educated Salad

Southern Literary Luncheon

Once a month, my published author friend Kaitlyn Sage Patterson and I go to lunch somewhere authentic to Memphis, talk about a memoir, and share stories on the road to book publication.

Kaitlyn Sage Patterson

Kaitlyn and I both graduated from the same MFA program at the University of Memphis. We both taught English the same culinary school, as chefs need gen-eds too. And we are both writers on the road to publication, her so much farther along than myself. As the author of The Diminished and The Exalted, a YA duology about a world in which everyone has a twin, available at a bookstore near you, Kaitlyn is giving me guidance.

I am a debut, which she agrees is pretty much like being a virgin, so any advice is much appreciated.

First one’s on me.

Educated by Tara Westover and Shawarma Salad at Casablanca

I joked at first about ordering a meat salad, how it kind of defeats the purpose, until I tasted the Shawarma Salad at Casablanca in Midtown. The perfect wreath of a healthy classic Greek surrounds a mound of marinated meat, juicy enough for flavor but not so much it sops the greens. It is Kaitlyn’s favorite salad in the city, and now mine. Try the lamb and beef on a bed of dressed lettuce, tomatoes, onions, black olives, cucumbers, and feta.

Educated is the story of a strong-willed girl raised in a survivalist family without school, doctors, or even a birth certificate. She grows up to earn a doctorate and become a fellow at Harvard. The premise alone grabbed me, but I stayed for the tight prose and carefully paced action. Tara Westover is a true story-teller. She has a gift of sprinkling every other page with truly beautiful sentences.

Kaitlyn and I both loved the book, in fact she read it twice and may go for a third. But we both agreed that it could have ended in a different place. I said more punch; she said more processing. Distance has a way of revealing unseen things lived in the moment. This resilient memoir has been a best-seller since it came out, so what do we know?

Manuscript Draft 1: AKA the shitty first draft

On the publication front, I have completed draft one of my manuscript and am well into writing my book proposal and researching agents. Kaitlyn’s best advice is to find someone I respect and want to go in for the long haul of my career. A commitment, not a one night stand.

Recalling the dating scene of my single days, I question the chances of finding that certain someone by internet stalking, and then become self-conscious of my own meager Instagram following.

“Don’t worry about being a debut without a huge platform, put the work into the writing. Your first book sets the bar for future sales projections.”

Suddenly full, I root out all the olives, pick at my plate, and decline dessert. My friend gives me hope. She says the premise is solid and my voice is strong, but not to get in too big of a hurry. If the first one tanks, it’s hard to re-brand.

“And there’s really no such thing as a born again virgin.”

– Sage advice from Kaitlyn Sage Patterson

She tells me to chin up, take my debut self, and make a list of potential agents for our next lunch.

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