Laurie David, author of The Family Dinner, is here to talk with me today about her process as a writer.
A few weeks ago I got invited to hear Laurie speak at one of Kim Rickett’s fabulous Words and Wine events here in Seattle. Like probably most everyone else in the room, I was quickly taken in by Laurie’s passion for, well, dinner–specifically the tradition of a sit-down dinner with the family. Think of her talk as An Inconvenient Truth Meets Dinner. And, I’m not overstating it. Laurie David was one of the producers of An Inconvenient Truth, and she’s brought that same level of conviction to the topic of eating with our kids. (And–just between us–I didn’t realize until that night just how much the state of our nation’s evening meal had devolved. 1 out 5 American meals is eaten in the car? Yeesh!)
One of the aspects of The Family Dinner that won me over is how Laurie includes divorced families in the discussion. (I find most books about This is How We Should Do Things In the Home off-putting as many seem to assume that the parents in the home look something like June and Ward Cleaver). Laurie is divorced herself (from Larry David, actually, which is referenced in the book in a surprisingly casual way), and she doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges divorced families face in trying to maintain a routine of a shared mealtime. And oh, btw, the book’s “Divorce Brownies” (and why shouldn’t divorced people get a brownie named after them?) are TDF (to die for!).
Theo: How did the idea for The Family Dinner come to you?
Laurie: It literally came to me while sitting at my kitchen table eating dinner. I had a classic Oprah moment where the light bulb goes off and you know you have to write a book. I had been having regular family dinners for over a decade and I realized that night while my two teenage daughters were happily chatting at the table long after dessert that this ritual had served me very well. Clearly, you have many projects you could be involved with, what excited you about writing The Family Dinner?
I am an advocate by nature with a burning desire to share what I know. I can’t explain it, it’s just the way it is. And when I realized that all the food and games that I’d been using at my dinner table worked I wanted to share them with other people so that they too could have memorable, cozy family meals together.
Theo: What does your writing time look like? Do you have a routine?
Laurie: Yes, when I’m writing I almost always wake up early with revisions floating in my head. It’s the strangest thing but come 5:30am I’m almost always reaching for a pen and paper – yes I still use those sometimes – by my nightstand. I write it down quickly because by the time I would walk to my computer I would have already forgotten what startled me awake. Generally after reading the NYT cover to cover, making breakfast for my kids and taking them to school I head to the computer and work most mornings.
Theo: What parts of the writing process do you love? Loathe?
Laurie: The best part of writing is almost always the re-writing. I love watching the process of something taking shape and that doesn’t usually happen until you’ve rewritten it 3 or 4 times. Of course, not many writers love the silent taunting of a blank page. (Hey, I just wrote that!)
Theo: Did you face any challenges when you were writing the book? If so, how did you work through them?
Laurie: My biggest challenge was having to cut material. My editor slashed 100 pages from this book – every word of which I loved, needless to say. I look forward to using it all for The Family Dinner Two.
Theo: The Family Dinner is a very inviting and intimate book. I love how you include photos of your family and details from your family’s life. What was it like to write so openly about your life? Did you find any parts of that challenging?
Laurie: Thank you and yes. Every now and then I get a weird sensation thinking how much of my life I have exposed in this book, kinda like a cross between indigestion and butterflies, but I sincerely believe that this book is going to make people’s lives better and that makes it all worthwhile.
Theo: What’s your next project?
Spending as much time as possible making these great recipes and coming up new ones for the next The Family Dinner book. Hey, how about Family Dinner Paris, Family Dinner London – that wouldn’t be a bad project, would it?