Recipes for Writers

Summer is coming to an end (sob!) and since many writers are parents and/or teachers too, life is about to get even busier. Who has time to make dinner? But on the other hand, who wants to alternate between pizza and cereal for weeks on end?

Never fear! We’ve compiled a list of recipes just for writers. Quick, easy, relatively healthy, and perfect for fueling your writing, these are some of our contributors’ actual favorites. Read on to find your perfect recipe based on where you are in your writing process!
Beta Reader Baked Ravioli (contributed by Tasha, adapted from this recipe)
For those times when feedback leaves you staring at the screen (insert weeping or giggling here as necessary) and suddenly it’s time for dinner.
Characters:
  • 1 bag frozen ravioli
  • 1 jar marinara sauce
  • shredded mozzarella cheese

Plot:
  • Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13” pan with a thin layer of marinara sauce, then cover that with a single layer of ravioli.
  • Cover the ravioli with another layer of sauce, then a layer of cheese. Then repeat: ravioli, sauce, cheese.
  • Cover with foil and bake at 400 F for 30 minutes while you re-read feedback and alternate between weeping and giggling.
  • Remove foil and continue baking (and reading feedback) for 10-15 more minutes.

Resolution: A delicious dinner that looks more difficult than it is! Unlike writing, which often looks much easier than it actually is. This goes well with salad and bread, or a large helping of chocolate.
“Don’t Be Chicken” Taco Soup (contributed by Elaine, adapted from this recipe)
A recipe so easy you only need to be able to operate a slow cooker and a can opener, perfect for those days when you’ll need to spend 8+ hours with your finger hovering over the mouse, daring yourself to finally send your precious to your agent/editor/betas.
Characters:
  • 6 cans of stuff: 1 corn, 1 tomato sauce (small), 1 chili beans, 1 black beans, 2 diced tomatoes with green chilis (Note: We use mild everything because we are wimpy.)
  • 1 ½ cups chicken broth
  • ½ packet taco seasoning
  • 3 chicken breasts

Plot:
  • Dump all this stuff into the crock pot, stir, and cook on low 5 hours while you obsess about your work.
  • Shred the chicken, then stir it back in and continue cooking 2 more hours; resume daring yourself to send and/or tweaking small details and/or pacing the room.

Resolution: Delicious dinner, especially when served with sour cream, shredded cheese, and tortilla chips. And the leftover are tasty enough to be tomorrow’s dinner, because you’ll be busy staring at your inbox!
Chapter Revision Chile Relleno (contributed by Helen, adapted from this recipe)
An easy casserole version of this Mexican dish for those days when you have to feed a mouthful but have a handful of revisions to conquer!
Characters:
  • 2 (10-oz) cans whole green chilies
  • 6-oz Monterey Jack cheese, cut into strips
  • 8 eggs
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1½ cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Plot:
  • Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 9×13″ dish with cooking spray.
  • Drain the green chilies, then stick a strip of cheese inside each chili. Place the stuffed chilies in the baking dish.
  • Whisk the eggs, milk, flour and baking powder together in a bowl until they’re smooth.
  • Pour egg mixture over chilies, then top with cheese.
  • Bake for 30 minutes until the egg is puffy and the cheese is bubbly and you’ve revised at least one chapter, even though you know you’ll be coming back to it at least twelve more times.

Resolution: This one makes great leftovers for breakfast, just in case you’re revising all night…
Pardon my French Dip Crescents (contributed by Tasha, adapted from this recipe)
For when you have gaps in your story, underdeveloped characters screaming for your attention, and your family wants dinner at the same time.
Characters:
  • 2 packages crescent rolls, 8 count
  • 1 pound deli roast beef, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces Swiss or provolone cheese, cut in 16 equal sized pieces

Plot:
  • Unroll the crescent triangles, put a piece of meat and cheese (and a dab of horseradish, if you’re feeling zesty), then roll toward the point.
  • Repeat for all sixteen, then place finished rolls on a baking dish.
  • Bake at 375 F for 11-13 minutes, during which time you can make au jus or brainstorm a juicy new character or scene. It’s a win either way.

Resolution: Tasty and a total crowd pleaser. Just like your manuscript will be when you fix all these blasted problems. (WHEN! Not if. WHEN!)
Okay, readers. I’m still looking for more recipes! What are your go-to meals for those days when you’d just rather be writing?
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Elaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web, @ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption. 🙂

Take Care of Yourself!

Last Saturday, I ran a 50-mile relay with two of my siblings and two close friends. This does NOT mean that I ran 50 miles; I ran two five-mile legs of the relay with a couple of hours to relax in between. As I was reflecting on possible blog post topics for this week, I first thought of the relay as a metaphor for writing–I draft a manuscript, and at various points, I pass the baton to my critique partners or beta readers or agent or editor, and I can take a breath and a break while the manuscript still moves forward.

But then I realized that what I did last Saturday doesn’t just have to be a metaphor for writing. There are valuable, direct lessons from that race that influence all of us as writers, and the overall message is this:

Take care of yourself!

Here are some important aspects of that message, all of which probably seem obvious, but all of which writers have a particular temptation to ignore:

First, and most obviously, EXERCISE! This is extra important for me because I get grumpy when I don’t exercise, in much the same manner that I get grumpy when I go too long without writing time. Physical activity is valuable for all writers, whether this means walking, running, swimming, team sports, dance… Whatever gets your body moving will make you healthier and happier, which will clear your mind and improve your writing.

Second, EAT BETTER! I’m not advocating radical or extreme measures here, but again, you will feel better and think better and write better if the fuel you’re putting the right kind of fuel into your body, and the right amount. (Full disclosure: I eat junk food and drink soda almost every day. But I do make sure to eat more good stuff than bad stuff!)

Third, SLEEP! Our critique group has an ongoing (and hilarious!) Facebook conversation, and one of the things some of our members do sometimes is post the gibberish lines they typed when they fell asleep at the computer. Although they are loads of fun to read (“God only knows what the guardians would do to him if they ever found out about pigs…”), they do illustrate the principle that our best writing doesn’t happen when we’re overly fatigued.

Fourth, BE OUTSIDE IN THE SUNSHINE, BREATHING FRESH AIR! Enough said.

Fifth, SPEND TIME WITH PEOPLE WHO MAKE YOU HAPPY! Whether you go to lunch with a friend, snuggle up with your kids, go on a date with your significant other, or gab in a car while asphyxiating yourselves with your own relay-induced BO, spending time with people who make you happy is an incredible boost, and one that even the most introverted writer needs on a regular basis.

After all those tips, here’s my final one: ALL THINGS IN MODERATION, INCLUDING MODERATION! There will be times when you sit at your computer, day and night, binge-scarfing chocolate and isolating yourself from the world. And that’s okay–sometimes that’s just what you need during or after your endurance is tested. Sometimes that’s how you take care of yourself, for a little while anyway.

Readers, we love you. So, one more time, take care of yourselves! Your writing will thank you.

What tips do you have for writers to take care of themselves? Which of the above are the most important to you? Which are the hardest and the easiest for you to live by?

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Elaine Vickers is the author of LOST AND FOUND (HarperCollins, 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web, @ElaineBVickers on Twitter, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption. 🙂



Writers: Are You Remembering to Take Care of Your Health?

Writing isn’t easy. Writing requires a lot of extra time. Writing requires sacrifice.

How many of us have ever sacrificed sleep, diet, and exercise until we got that draft finished, or those revisions done, or those edits completed? *raises hand a million times.* The problem is when the list of sacrifices plus the list of things “to do” stack up. Sometimes they stack up so much that they topple over and crush us.

I’m guilty of putting my health second to writing. I used to rationalize my crazy writing schedule and crappy diet by saying that I would take a short hiatus when I finished my next book and finally work on those things then. But new projects developed, deadlines happened, collaborative projects demanded my attention, and that planned hiatus? That was three books ago.

I knew my life required change a little over a year ago when I started having health issues. Note that these aren’t necessarily as a result of writing, but they did coincide with the time of my life when I was writing on a rather maniacal schedule. It wasn’t until recently that I was forced to make some fairly drastic changes in my life, and I am amazed at how my major health issues have improved, how much more energy I have, and how overall less stressed I am.

I am NO expert, but these are some of the things that I’ve found have made a difference in my life (all of which were recommended by my physician). Even if you don’t require a major overhaul like I did, maybe they can help you too. At the very least, they’re worth thinking about.

1. Stock up on healthier snacks and beverages. Chocolate, diet soda, and sugary treats are staples for lots of writer friends of mine (believe me, I was guilty of chocolate. Lots of chocolate.) But sugar and sugar substitutes cause energy spikes and crashes and long-term use can wreak havoc on your health. At the very least, try to incorporate healthy snacks as part of your regimen. And while these aren’t for everyone, if you require daily caffeine boosts, coffee and green tea even have antioxidant properties (plus other recently discovered benefits that can even be in decaf versions!) My favorite writing snack: apples or carrots dipped in almond butter or guacamole. My favorite writing beverage: green tea with pomegranate

2. Take stretch breaks. Prolonged sitting dramatically increases chances for serious health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Recent studies show that even if you exercise regularly, the effects of that exercise will NOT counteract the damage done from sitting for long periods of time. The health risk goes down when you get up intermittently to take breaks. (Read one of the many recent articles on this here.) Get up and stretch in between short writing sprints. Or write at a standing desk. Or try working while sitting on an exercise ball instead of on a chair (It’s actually kind of fun!)

3. Reevaluate your sleep schedule. I used to force myself to stay up until past midnight to get writing done. I mean, hey — I worked all morning and was with kids all afternoon and evening, so late night was my time. I would often write until I was bleary-eyed, or sometimes even when I was half-asleep, and in the morning, would wake up to a bunch of crappy words and a lot of frustration AND I would still be tired. Over the last month, I have been going to bed earlier (sometimes ridiculously early) and waking up early enough to get in a good hour and sometimes two hours of writing before my kids got up for the day. Ultimately, you need to do whatever works best for you and your brain, but it’s always worth a second look. 🙂

What about you? Suggestions for a healthier writing snack or healthier writing habit?
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Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both urban fantasy and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of YA urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL (coming 2015) and NA contemporary romance LOSING ENOUGH. She is also one of the authors on the YA/NA crossover anthology LOSING IT.