Recipe for Storytelling – interview with Martha Cheves (6 October 2008)

Introduction

Martha wrote to me sometime last week. She asked for assistance with marketing one of her books. I was more than happy to oblige since her description of the book says that there are elements of storytelling in it. I was not wrong as her story is very interesting. Without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing you to Martha Cheves …


Aneeta: Martha, thank you for writing to me about marketing your book. Let’s start with a little about you. Tell me where you were born, where you grew up, what you do for a living and really, anything at all you’d like to share about your life with my readers.

Martha: I was born at Emory Hospital in Georgia and grew up mostly in Georgia. My father loved to travel. Before any of us were born he joined the Army, served his term, joined the Navy, served his term and then joined the Merchant Marines and served his term. After the kids started coming he had to slow down some. He and mom had us in pairs, sort of. My oldest brother was born in Georgia then they moved to California. I had another brother born there but he didn’t survive. They moved back to Georgia and 8 years after my 1st brother was born they had me. Again we moved but this time to Utah. About 1 ½ years after my birth, my younger brother was born in Utah. Back to Georgia. Eight years after my birth came my 1st sister. Born in Georgia. Yes, we moved again back to Utah and 11 months after my sister came my youngest sister. And back to Georgia to stay. Dad always kept our house in Georgia, knowing that we would be back in a couple of years. I inherited his love for travel and have moved from GA to Texas, South Carolina, Florida, and to where I am now, North Carolina. This is where I plan to stay. I’ve been here almost 14 years and love it.

I work for a commercial heating, air and plumbing company and I can actually say that I love my job. The work varies daily and I’m pretty much on my own. It’s one of those special jobs where as long as you do your work, no one stands over you. The people I work for are very family oriented and wonderful to work for. A lot of my “Food Testers” are my co-workers. I’ll make up a dish, bring it in and they rate it to see if it’s worthy of the cookbook. And when we have our office Christmas lunch, my list of things to make is usually longer than most.

Aneeta: I know that you’ve written a cookbook. Please describe this book for me.

Martha: Stir, Laugh, Repeat was originally to be a cookbook for my 3 children. My oldest daughter, Leslie, told me one day that if I did nothing else in my life would I please write down my recipe for Banana Pudding. I had no recipe on paper; it was all in my head. My mom made it without a recipe and that’s the way I learned. So, I made my Banana Pudding and measured as I went and finally had it on paper. That’s when I decided to put it in the computer and add other recipes that I knew my kids loved. Like most baby boomers, my mom was a stay at home mom. I wasn’t and didn’t have time to really teach my kids to cook. By the time I made it home from work, cooked dinner, homework done, baths, laundry, kitchen cleaned up, etc. There was no time to teach cooking. So I started writing every recipe I could think and enter them into my cookbook. When working up these dishes I would keep in mind that one of my kids liked one ingredient but another one didn’t. That led me to my suggestions for ingredient changes with each recipe.

One Thanksgiving my youngest daughter, Marcia, told me she couldn’t bring deviled eggs to dinner because she couldn’t peel the egg without tearing them up. That was something I just assumed everyone knew how to do. But after thinking about it, when did I have time to teach her something that simple. That’s when I decided to add tips to my book.

Aneeta: In your email to me, you said that it is a ‘cookbook with stories about recipes’. Can you expand on this, please?

Martha: As I worked up a recipe I would remember things from my past pertaining to cooking. Some are mistakes I made while working up the dish and some are just funny stories related to the recipe or dish. We all have these stories locked in our memories. “How did you like liver the first time you were forced to eat it?”, “what did you do the first time you ate squash?” “Have you ever been told that you couldn’t leave the table until you cleaned your plate?” “Have you ever baked a cake that had to be held together with toothpicks?” “Did you forget to take the tooth picks out?” The memories go on and on. We all have memories like these and as each incident was happening, it wasn’t funny. But tell the story now and see if you don’t laugh. And these memories are what help make us human.

Aneeta: Can you share one of these stories here, please?

Martha: This story is about my oldest, Shane. One Thanksgiving he and his 2 sisters decided to have dinner at his place. Remember, all 3 were unmarried at the time and most of their meals came from fast food “stores.” They called me to tell me I wouldn’t have to cook but would I please bring the dressing and gravy. Hello, I make my dressing and gravy from the drippings of the turkey. So, not to offend them, I bought a turkey, cooked it, made my dressing and gravy but didn’t take the actual turkey to dinner. I was to be there at 1:00 to eat. Well, I didn’t eat breakfast so I could fill up on all of the good dishes we “normally” have for Thanksgiving so I was starving. I walked into the kitchen and saw a table full of desserts. Cheese cake, apple pie, cakes of all types. I started looking for the turkey. It was in the oven. My daughter had bought a smoked turkey from Sams Club and forgot to thaw it out so she put it in the oven around 11:00 to hopefully unfreeze and warm. It was still frozen at 1:00. I saw 2 cans of green beans, a can of cream of mushroom soup and French fried onions on the counter. “Mom, can you make the green bean casserole?” It turned out that that was the only veggie for dinner. The rolls were still waiting to be cooked but couldn’t be put in the oven because the turkey was taking up that space. Plus, the kids had asked what dessert their dad would like to have. He said chocolate pie. My son said he could make that. Here’s what he did. He took an uncooked pie shell, poured a can of chocolate pudding into it, covered it with cool whip and baked it. Boy did he have a mess! They have all learned a lot since then but still need my cookbook.

I bet this little story reminded you of something funny that’s happened to you. If so, my stories are working.

Aneeta: Yep! You certainly did! You have mentioned your journey to publication on your website – http://www.marthaskitchenkorner.com

What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome this challenge?

Martha: My biggest challenge is time. Like I said, I created my book for the kids. While working up new recipes I decided I needed people to test them. I started taking new dishes over to one of my friends. When she wasn’t home I would take them to another friend to taste. Before long I ended up with about 25 “Food Testers.” My best friend, Dusty, was also my proof-reader. I’m a terrible speller. As she read the recipes, most of which she had tasted, my stories and tips, she told me I needed to publish. She writes poetry and has had her work published so she knew a little about what I needed to do. So I went to the internet looking for someone to send my book to. I mentioned I can’t spell, well I’m not an expert in computers either. I found a publisher but had no idea as to how to contact them. I gave her their name and she promised to see what she could do. The next day I received a phone call from the publisher. She called them! Told them about my book and they wanted a manuscript in 3 weeks. I rushed around, finished it and sent it to them. I waited and waited with no response. About a month later there was a special delivery package for me. I just knew it was my manuscript and a rejection letter.

NO! It was an acceptance letter and contract! I read everything over, had Dusty read and finally an attorney read the contract. Needless to say, I ended up signing and sending it back. That’s when the waiting really started. I received notes suggesting changes.. that took weeks. I received suggestions for the covers.. that took weeks. I had drafts to review again.. that took weeks. I had approvals of this and approvals of that… that took weeks. Finally, after one year I had a release date. So time has been my biggest challenge.

Aneeta: As you know, this website caters for storytellers. What advice would you give those who choose storytelling as their vocation?

Martha: If you are choosing stories as your vocation, include some humour. I love to read and usually read mysteries but even with all of the murder and suspense, I enjoy those with a little chuckle included the most.

Aneeta: Martha, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Martha: I’ve had at least 3 book signings a month since my book release and this schedule will continue through Christmas. Book signings are great and a lot of fun but sooner or later you run out of your local market. The internet is probably the best place to expand your market. Whether you are or have written a book or just one story, be persistent when trying to become noticed, be creative with your marketing and don’t give up. I’m not. I’m working on my 2nd cookbook right now Stir, Laugh, Repeat… Again and my publisher is waiting on me to finish it soon.

Aneeta: Martha, thank you.


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

Click here to return to the index of interviews on ‘Blow Your Own Trumpet!’


Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Help