Thursday, June 24, 2010

On soufflés, writing challenges, & topless book club

It’s my turn to host book club tonight.

In less than 12 hours, my home will be packed with women guzzling wine, chattering about books, and possibly removing articles of clothing.

(You think I’m joking, but I’ve been with this group for 10 years and once watched our founder rip off her shirt in the throes of a hot flash and spend the rest of the meeting discussing literary symbolism wearing only her bra).

Though I can accuse Pythagoras of being the one to overdo things in almost every other aspect of our lives, book club hosting the one area where I freely admit I make things a lot more complicated than they need to be.

The other day he caught me poring over dessert recipes.

“What do you think?” I asked him. “The dark chocolate Grand Marnier soufflés or a red wine & raspberry sorbet with homemade fudge sauce?”

He stared at me for a few beats, then shook his head. “Can’t you just buy a cheesecake at Costco?”

This suggestion actually borders on helpful, since his real solution would likely involve passing around a box of Pop Tarts after the meal.

But no. I am making the soufflés, because they seem like the best dessert to follow the tilapia fillets broiled in dark cherry vinaigrette and the other carefully chosen side dishes I have planned.

I can mock myself for overcomplicating things, but the truth is, I enjoy it. I love cooking, and it’s not every day I get to feed a houseful of longtime girlfriends with voracious appetites for good food, good wine, and good books.

I also like the challenge.

Long before I started writing, I used to get annoyed when a band I liked would put out a new album that deviated wildly from whatever had made me fall in love with them in the first place. My inner spoiled child would stomp her feet and whine, “but I liked what you did before – why couldn’t you do that again?”

I get it now.

I love romantic comedy, don’t get me wrong – I don’t see myself getting tired of it ever, and I’m settling in for a nice long career writing it. But since there are only so many ways to tell the “boy meets girl” story, it’s fun to twist things up a bit and experiment.

I talked last week about some of the risks involved in writing LET IT BREATHE with a divorced heroine and a reformed bad boy hero recently out of rehab, but there’s another aspect of the story that adds an interesting dimension.

My hero and heroine already know each other, and there are some skeletons in that closet they both have to deal with. I’ve never written a story before where the two love interests are already acquainted, and I like the challenge of exploring that dynamic.

Maybe I’ll even find a way to use that homemade fudge sauce somewhere in the story.

How about you? Are there areas of your writing or everyday life where you overcomplicate things? Is it a good or a bad habit?

Discuss among yourselves. I have to go see if it's too late to have that stripper pole installed in the living room. If shirts are coming off again, I want to be ready.

17 comments :

Dawn said...

OMG, I want to join your book club! Sounds like fun. My husband would tell you I overcomplicate everything - and maybe he's right :-)

Michelle Wolfson said...

I vote for Pop Tarts.

Elizabeth Ryann said...

Um, I want to join your book club too. I'll even bring my own Pop Tarts.

SM Schmidt said...

What no! Over complicating things is the best! Who can be happy if they don't have a million things to do before sitting down to write?

I think when the burnout sinks in after 19 units, 10 hours a week toward research, and being an active club president take their toll I'll finally learn how to break this horrible foible of mine.

Danica Avet said...

I always overcomplicate things internally, but not necessarily in my writing. I sometimes think my stories are too simplistic, which is why they're having a hard time being picked up. I must learn to muddy the waters more on paper than I do in my head.

Pop Tarts are great! They can be breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack, a coaster, a bookmark...No, never used one as a bookmark, but it does have potential for experimentation.

Terry Stonecrop said...

I figure life is complicated enough, why add to it. I like things as easy as I can make them.

My writing is more complicated. You need complications in murder mysteries.

Like you, I love to cook, but if I have guests, forget it, they get simple. An easy tapas party with a pitcher of Sangria. I'm happy, they're happy, especially after the third pitcher or so...;)

Leona said...

I don't like to cook, but I like to bake - a near impossibility in my kitchen. The only time I go fancy is celebration or guests.

My daughter didn't understand me when I told her aobut making the graduation party simpler in this manner.

"I gave myself permission to buy potatoe salad instead of making it." (Costco is the one I like best if its not mine :)

She actually coked her head to the side and looked at me curiously. "Give yourself permission?"

Now, you need to know that my daughter is from my first husband who has said she in entitled to everything, that I'm the one who has to give it to her and she doesn't even have to clean her room, probably bipolar, and a teenager. She is not used to thinking of me as more than that. Her confusion was palpable.

"Give yourself permission?" she finally asks.

"Yes, permission. I always want to do everything a certain way, and feel guilty if I can't. I have to give myself permission."

She didn't say anything to that, but I think it gave her something to ponder that may one day, help her get over the divorce angst.

Mother Hen said...

A little over complication keeps the adrenalin flowing which I hear you need if you are to hang, inverted from a pole.
What are you reading for your book club?

Linda G. said...

Okay, when we manage to get together, YOU are cooking. Even if it's here at my house. I'll make drinks and tell you dirty jokes while you work your magic in the kitchen. Pythagoras and TG can look at shop vacs together & compare hoses.

As to what I over-complicate ... let's see. It's definitely not cooking--Costco "caters" whenever TG doesn't have time. Probably trips. I have packing down to a very complicated science. Planning begins days in advance, and I always pack enough to cover any eventuality. If a nuclear war should break out while we're on vacation, nobody would be surprised if I pulled disposable radiation suits out of the luggage. ;)

Sydnee said...

Oh wow, best book club ever. All I got in mine were some Fig Newtons and fruit punch. :P

I complicate everything. I can't flush the toilet without getting off and closing the lid first. I can't go to sleep without taking a shower. I can't write a scene unless the A/C is running, there's a full moon and I have at least three servings of sugar filled snacks.

Anonymous said...

Dammit! How did I NEVER know it was a "nudity welcome" book club? Er, maybe I did...I don't remember some of those evenings. Hahaha.

Tawna Fenske said...

Dawn, you are hereby invited to join! Come on over.

Michelle, how did I know you'd vote for the Pop Tarts? I'll get extra for you, what time can you be here?

Elizabeth, perfect, can you pick up Michelle & Dawn on your way? :)

SM Schmidt, I feel lucky I only overcomplicate in one or two areas of my life. It's exhausting sometimes watching my husband do it with EVERYTHING!

Danica, you totally need to get a patent on the Pop Tart as bookmark idea.

Terry, after that third pitcher of sangria, I'm pretty sure EVERYONE is happy!

Leona, that sounds like a great lesson you gave her. Good for you!

Mother Hen, we're reading Christian Moerk's DARLING JIM and I still have 100 pages to go. It's a great book, so I'm determined to finish, but I'd better get cracking if I want to do it & still have time to cook.

Linda G, OK that "compare hoses" bit made me laugh out loud!

Sydnee, Fig Newtons and punch sound pretty good, but we're a full meal deal sort of book club. Food & wine, nothing better!

Anonymous, now you've got me curious who the @#$% you are. Will you be here tonight?

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Tawna Fenske said...

Anonymous, if you're who I think you are, you have the distinction of being the only book club member to perform a lap dance on another. You don't remember that night, do you? Don't worry, we all do. Very fondly, I might add. We miss you.

Tawna

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Sounds like a fun group. I over complicate the holidays: baking 6 different types of cookies, making candy, and then Christmas Eve dinner has always been a very dressy affair with dinner being Cornish game hens, candy yams, hot orange rolls and such. I'm thinking of breaking the habit and just serving hamburgers this year. :0)

Leona said...

My mother did papa murphy pizza (might have been different brand but same concept) for Christmas Eve. For years, she had minimum 5 kids at home and we went to Midnight Mass.

I love Christmas and since I can bake, that's where I tend to go over board LOL great time for it.

Jan Markley said...

sounds like a delicious book club!

Purple Cow said...

I wish I was there...at the book club meeting! sounds like fun. as for the dessert...serve them your blog, it's delicious!