You probably know the ‘yes, and…’ improv principle/infinity loop.
But just in case:
In improv, when Person A offers something, “Wow, this line is so long.” Person B responds by accepting Person A’s statement (the “yes” part) and then building on it (the “and” part). “I know! But what do you expect, they’re giving away baby crocodiles!” Person A replies, “Perfect! Finally a way to get rid of the rats in my bedroom.”
The idea being you must be open to whatever is thrown your way (sorry, you’ll have to sit through a 4 second ad).
Why am I telling you this? Because I am trying to lean into flexibility and resilience in my life, in my writing, inside my head!
We’re faced with cruddy situations and events all the time—long lines, new variants, supply chain issues, trouble sleeping, cancelled plans—it’s what we do with those things that makes the difference. Starting with YES acknowledges the difficulty or disappointment. Ending with AND gives us the opportunity to build resilience. How are we going to cope?
Why have I been thinking about this? Because I read in the NYTs Well Newsletter about the notion of choosing one word for the entire year rather than making a resolution. The idea is the word will sit on your shoulder and gently guide you toward a new focus or a change, rather than trying to adhere to a resolution which may set you up for failure. In case this strikes your fancy, here’s a few words to peruse:
I recently read or heard:
“Writers must express things that normal people (meaning non-writers) cannot, but which normal people recognize as the Truth (my capitalization). Writers, like mothers, do the heavy lifting of emotional life for everyone else.”
That really resonates with me. When I recognize those emotional truths in a book I’m reading, I’m so damn grateful.
Currently I’m reading THE GREAT CIRCLE, by Maggie Shipstead, which is incredible. The characters are wonderful and maddening. I’m finding many moments of emotional truth.
A character says of the boyfriend she has jilted:
“I guess I’m surprised he could walk away without needing to yell at me. Most people want you to witness how much you’ve hurt them. But not him apparently. I don’t know if that means I didn’t really hurt him or if he has more dignity than I thought.”
Another character, a young teenaged girl has an interaction with a much older man and her understanding of the sexual power structure is described this way:
“Her nervousness had given way to a gathered deliberate feeling. She knew, without knowing how she knew, how he wanted her to be. Amused, aloof, a little tough. She was aware of the sharp edge of the porch against her fingers. The way he watched when she stretched out her legs.”
I’m also reading (and sobbing through), CRYING IN H MART, by Michelle Zauner. This beautiful memoir about the death of Zauner’s mother disabuses us of the notion that talking about things can hurt us. Talking about things can heal us. Zauner talks about all the things, revealing much about expectations and pain in her relationship with her mother, followed by the tsunami of understanding, acceptance, forgiveness and love that floods her when faced with loss. Zauner gets messy on the page, letting us see her try to figure things out. She shows the machinery of writing, lets the reader watch her discover her book, and her return to her mother in the midst of suffering. Don’t shy away from CRYING IN H MART because it’s sad. It is resilient. Full of “Yes. And…” moments that will leave you enlarged.
Just a quick reminder, I’ve created a read.write.eat. Bookshop Store, where you can find many of the books I’ve recommend in the newsletter.
I’ve got some exciting news brewing. Maybe a week at the beautiful Oregon Coast, sharing your work with smart, engaged writers, learning, improving, and finding deep focus is just what you’ve been craving…
Perhaps you didn’t even realize you need:
5 days of writing workshops
uninterrupted time to write
prompts to get you going
walks on the beach
gorgeous and expansive views to sweep away brain fog!
new writer friends
engagement with your writing through visual pathways
one-on-one conferencing with me
healthy food you neither shopped for nor prepared
lots of laughter
If any/all of this sounds enticing,
SAVE THE DATE! October 9-15, 2022,
and do direct message me shoot me an email: email@example.com to get your name on the list. Our group will be very intimate and supportive. Cannot wait to share this beautiful gathering!
The other day I just wanted some toddler style pasta with tomato sauce. I think I was spurred toward the craving by this Smitten Kitchen Instagram post. The sauce, I knew, was based on Marcella Hazan’s crazy-easy/crazy-satisfying recipe so I looked it up. (Side note: use only the BEST tomatoes.) Quick-fast I made it, and then I committed the colossal error of listening to my husband. “Don’t we have some frozen ravioli?” Shoot! Indeed we did, and let me tell you, nothing like soggy-ass ravioli to ruin my toddler dream of pasta with a simple sauce and some parmesan scraped over the grater. But that isn’t what I want to share with you.
In the past week I made this Smoky Sweet Potato dish twice. The first time I followed the NYTs recipe to the letter, and the second time I improvised and, dare I say, improved? Here is my version.
Smoky Sweet Potatoes with Eggs and Almonds, à la Natalie Serber
- 5T olive oil
- 2lbs (okay, I didn’t weigh mine. I just used 3 good sized-about two fists pressed together- sweet potatoes), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- ¾ t kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1T ground cumin
- 1T smoked paprika + more, I used dulce
- 1t freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
- 3 to 5 thyme sprigs
- 2T maple syrup
- ½ t chili flakes, or more to taste
- ¾ c plain Greek yogurt
- 2 small garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
- 1 lemon, both zest and juice
- Eggs, for frying, as many as you like
- ½ c chopped Marcona or salted, roasted almonds
- 1 generous bunch of kale, washed and julienned
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- Soft herbs, such as parsley, mint or cilantro, chopped, for serving. I used a lot! Go Big.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, toss together sweet potatoes, 3T olive oil, salt, smoked paprika, cumin, black pepper, chili flakes, thyme, and maple syrup.
- Spread the potatoes in an even layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet.
- Roast, stirring and flipping the potatoes occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 1 hour.
- As the potatoes roast, sauté the onion over medium heat in about 1T of olive oil. Once translucent, add the kale and cook until wilted. If the kale seems too tough, try adding ¼ cup of water and letting it evaporate as it cooks the kale further. Off heat.
- Place yogurt in a small bowl. Stir in garlic, lemon juice and zest, a large pinch or two of smoked paprika, and salt and black pepper to taste.
- In a large skillet, add remaining 1T of olive oil over medium-high heat and let it heat up for 20 to 30 seconds. Crack eggs into skillet and season with salt. Cook until the whites have set with crispy edges and the yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes, for a firmer yolk, flip the egg and cook for one minute more.
- To serve, spoon sweet potatoes into one half of an individual bowl, kale in the other side (picture a yin/yang symbol). Top with yogurt sauce and almonds. Place eggs on top, and sprinkle with paprika and a lot of the fresh herbs. Serve immediately.
I served this for a birthday brunch, along with bacon for the carnivores, and it was a huge hit!
Meanwhile, I’m still baking my way through SNACKING CAKES. I made this Chocolate-Almond-Olive Oil-Raspberry (page 139) joy bomb!
Your dose of Stanley. Poor kid! Wherever he goes, he tries to make friends.