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Teresa's Reading Corner: Author Spotlight: Jenny Nelson

Friday, September 3, 2010

Author Spotlight: Jenny Nelson

Today we get to chat a bit with Jenny Nelson whose debut novel is Georgia's Kitchen.  

Tell us briefly about the writing process for this book.

When I was in high school I enrolled in a summer-long creative writing program taught by Michael Cunningham, a terrific teacher and a phenomenal writer. By the end of the program, I promised myself that “one day” I’d write a novel. I continued writing short stories throughout college and after, the idea of writing a full-on novel still bouncing around my brain. It wasn’t until my daughters were about two that I decided to do something about it. I’d left my job to be a stay-at-home mom, and it seemed like the perfect time to try my hand at that novel. I’ve always been fascinated by chefs and restaurants and how a calm, well-run dining room reflects none of the chaos taking place in the cramped, hot kitchen just inches away. As my ideas about my book and Georgia and who she was began to crystallize, I knew that she had to be a chef. No other career encapsulated who she was in quite the same way.

I enrolled in a writing class where I wrote the first chapter of what became Georgia’s Kitchen (which I basically scrapped in my next go round). I took another class, feeling that I needed the structure and the deadlines, but when I’d written 50 pages or so I decided to continue writing on my own. I’d write during the day, when my kids were in preschool, or when my sitter was with them, or at night, if I was working out an important scene. I finished the first draft and let it sit for a few weeks and then did a total revise, and then another and another. Finally, I realized that I could spend the rest of my life revising this one novel and if I ever wanted to see it published, I needed to start submitting to agents. I enjoyed the agent process, because it felt like I was being pro-active with my book, getting it out there instead of holing up with my laptop and fixing a scene or two here, a sentence or two there (which can be addictive). Soon after, I found my agent and then began the revision process anew. At long last, the manuscript was ready and we sold it to Pocket Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, which is now called Gallery Books. And here we are!

What is a "must read" book in your beach bag this summer?

There are so many. The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen, Sag Harbor, by Colson Whitehead, The Girl Who Played With Fire (loved the first), Little Bee by Chris Cleave, One Day by David Nicholls.
When you frequent your favorite Italian restaurant (name and location please), what’s your order of choice (including antipasti, cocktails or wine)?

My favorite Italian restaurant is Mercato, in Red Hook, NY, where the chef/owner is Francesco Buitoni (as in the pasta), who’s from Rome and whose pedigree includes stints at several Mario Batali restaurants. As my husband says, Francesco’s the real deal.

I’d start with a glass of prosecco, share an antipasto plate with my husband, work my way into the kale, pecorino and pine nut salad (my fave, plus it makes me feel somewhat virtuous), and a glass of Roero Arneis (I much prefer white wine to red, sacrilegious but true), then either a simple pasta al pomodoro (his is amazing) or maybe the seared scallops or orata, if it’s on the menu. For dessert, a few sinful bites of Francesco’s tiramisu, which my husband orders no matter how stuffed he is and which I eat, no matter how stuffed I am.
The end of summer has come upon us, what's your favorite summer activity and favorite summer destination?

There are so many things I love to do in the summer -- gardening, biking, going to outdoor concerts and catching summer flicks are a few of my favorites, but there’s nothing I love more than a sunny afternoon around the pool with good food and good friends. Give me a barbecue, some burgers (veggie for me), fresh corn, a couple salads, my wonderful daughters and husband, throw in another family or two – and ice cream, of course – and I’m the happiest gal in the world.

As for a destination, this year I spent a couple days in Santa Barbara, which was really amazing. The beaches are lovely, though the water is way too cold for me!

Thanks Jenny!  I really enjoyed Georgia's Kitchen and immediately passed it on to my grandmother and fellow reader to enjoy.

Check out Jenny's website at http://www.jennynelsonauthor.com/
You can also find her on facebook and twitter!

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