The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mustard Seed Kitchen

Every now and then, for inspiration, I haul out my old copy of Writer’s Market. To be honest, I don’t know how reliable these 2002 listings still are. (The Canadian literary magazines were, by their own account, much quicker back then, with a three-month response time for submissions to the Malahat and six months for A Room of One’s Own, both of which have since upgraded to nine; The New Quarterly, once of a four-month wait time, now simply qualifies its editorial process as “slow.”)

But I don’t read Writer’s Market for the listings so much as the articles, like that one about the guy who collected 1,500 rejections slips before publishing in book form—did that make it into subsequent editions of the guide? I hope so! My absolute favourite part of the book, though, is the Query Letter Clinic, where Don Prues and Cindy Laufenberg teach you how to “pitch a tight and concise query,” using six examples, both good and bad. They say that these are actual pitches from actual writers, but until last week, I never quite believed them, perhaps because of their clever use of pseudonyms: Alice Amateur and Alexandra Goode, for instance.

It’s Ms. Goode (or Grabbe) who interests me here. I recently reread her proposal, on page 23, to American Profile Magazine for a piece on two Cape Cod mothers responsible for the Wellfleet meals-on-wheels program. Their Mustard Seed Kitchen also doubled as a youth centre, where kids could make friends and learn about community service.

It was, of course, a goode query, so good that the name the Mustard Seed Kitchen stuck with me, and I recognized it instantly when later in the week I came across it online in a random way. If I try to reconstruct it, it seems to me that I followed a series of writing and then mothering related links (from Moonlight Ambulette to Mothers Who Write to Catherine Newman’s blog, where I read about her experience this summer in Wellfleet of being stuck in traffic while emergency crews tended to an accident on the highway. The injured party was a young man named Caleb Potter. His mother started a blog chronicling his long slow recovery and months later, Catherine still reads about how the whole town of Wellfleet is rooting for him. Everyone seems to know Caleb. Maybe because his mother, Sharyn, had always been so involved in the community. After all, she was none other than the co-founder of the Mustard Seed Kitchen.

When I read that, I was outraged, in a "why must bad things happen to good people" kind of way. I mean Sharyn’s charity was legendary! It had made it into Writer’s Market! I guess the consolation here, to borrow from a comment on Caleb's blog, is that he “does have the most amazing friends and family, and they are a big part of his recovery.” My best wishes, then, to Caleb, his family, the Kitchen, Wellfleet and Cape Cod.


Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

I'm sending out my best positive thoughts for Caleb and his supporters! Thanks for sharing this Anne.

Fri Jan 11, 04:48:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

The Internet is amazing for connecting people, isn't it? I like the links you provide to show us that. Fascinating that it started for you with an article in Writer's Market. Catherine Newman is a great (Goode) writer. I really enjoyed her mommy piece.

Fri Jan 11, 06:41:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Anne C. said...

I have Catherine's book, Waiting for Birdy. She is goode, isn't she? I was happy to find her blog.

Fri Jan 11, 07:41:00 pm GMT-5  

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