Meet author and Pitch Wars mentor Tracey Enerson Wood. She writes historical and women’s fiction along with non-fiction. She is represented by Heather Flaherty and Lucy Cleland. She is co-author of Homefront Cooking to be published by Skyhorse Publishing in spring of 2018.
Homefront Cooking will be a combination cookbook and memoir, a collection of treasured family recipes from active duty service members and veterans, and their loved ones, accompanied by a brief essay on why the recipe is special. Also included are favorite stories or humor related to military service or lifestyle. Photographs and artwork will also be featured.
The goal is to honor veterans, while preserving moments of personal history before they are forgotten. All authors’ profits will be donated to military service organizations.
Your book HOMEFRONT COOKING has an interesting concept to it. It’s a combination cookbook and memoir with family recipes from active duty service members, veterans, and their loved ones. What made you decide to co-author the book?
First, thank you Katelyn, for doing these interviews. I remember how hard it was as a potential mentee to choose mentors to submit to. Learning more about them can only help in the process.
Now for your question!
I have great respect for our veterans, who have given up so much. Many have made the ultimate sacrifice of giving their lives to protect us. My own father was a World War II veteran, and my husband, brother, son, and son-in-law have all served or are currently serving. Veterans have fascinating stories although most never share them. So too, do the families and loved ones left behind, waiting and worrying, carrying on with life while missing an important piece of it. I wanted to capture these stories, the touching, the humorous, the quirky, the ones that don’t make the news or films, and preserve them for future generations.
At the same time, I know the importance of food and family to our service members. Meals are what bonds us, whether that is moms and dads and kids and pizza at the kitchen table, or soldiers in a fox hole eating MRE’s from a sealed brown bag. Food not only nourishes our bodies, but is the fabric that holds society together. Our traditions, our memories, our happiest moments frequently center on food, and recipes are the written record of this.
The other driving force was a desire to raise funds for veterans’ programs. Although we have not yet decided which program(s) to support, my co-authors and I have pledged all of our profits to a worthy veterans’ cause.
So, it seemed an essential project for me. I have been reading, editing the entries for several months now, laughing and ugly crying at times. I can’t wait to hold the book in my hands.
Have you personally tried and loved any of the recipes submitted for the cookbook?
Yes! Our goal is to test each recipe, and get back to the contributors if we have questions. I have loved many of them, but my favorite so far is Robert Irvine’s. Oh the flavor! Oh the tenderness! I’ve made it twice now. Yum!
Food Network star and celebrity chef Robert Irvine submitted a recipe for the book. As someone who’s watched him on TV, I’m excited to see his recipe. Were you excited to have his support?
Haha, I swear I answered the above question before reading this! I too, have been a big fan of him and his shows for several reasons. I loved his Impossible shows on the Food Network, because he focused not only on the cooking, but on the human aspects. He took a holistic approach to solving problems. In my first career as a Registered Nurse, this was a central to our training, and still the way I approach life.
Secondly, he supports veterans in many ways. He started a foundation to raise funds for veterans’ programs. He tours with USO shows and holds many other events to support and thank veterans. And he is a veteran himself, of the Royal Navy. In addition, he is amazingly physically fit, and a good role model for healthy living.
I am honored to have him submit to the cookbook, and he and his staff have been very helpful and responsive to my questions and requests.
You were a 2015 Pitch Wars mentee with Alex White as your mentor. Your book A BRIDGE BETWEEN US was about a family sacrificing everything, including each other, building the Brooklyn Bridge. What made you want to write about the Brooklyn Bridge?
It started with a concept that stemmed from living in a multi-generational military family. That is: Occupations are frequently handed down through families. What happens if the same occupation that has sustained a family, perhaps a profession that brings much pride and success, can also kill the family members? I wanted to explore those family dynamics, the inherent conflict in their lives.
I researched hazardous occupations, looking for companies with names like Somebody Bros. or Morgan & Morgan & Sons. Having grown up in northern New Jersey, and having walked across all the bridges and climbed to the top of any accessible building or monument, I naturally had an affinity for those things. Then I chanced upon the story of the Roeblings, and was entranced, especially with Emily. The characters started living in my brain, and I had to write the novel to get any sleep.
Do you have an interesting fact about the Brooklyn Bridge that many people might not know?
How about this—Men worked in pressurized boxes, called caissons, far below the riverbed, digging with hand tools for the foundations.
What do you like most about writing historical fiction?
The same thing I like about reading it. I enjoy learning history in an entertaining way. Although of course much of it is made up, there are truths about an era that are best shown by imagining the details we cannot know, to paint a picture that brings events to life.
Writing historical fiction presents the challenge of which historically accurate details to use, what to leave out, and most importantly, how to develop the plot, characters, and scenes in ways that could have happened. Then seamlessly mix it all together. Fascinating.
Some writers dread diving into research or feel overwhelmed by it. Any research tips for historical writers?
My tip is to do enough research to get a good feeling of what it was like to live in the era you are writing about, and about the people of the times. Find some interesting factoids you can build scenes around. Then, step away from the research and just start writing. When you get stuck, or of course if you have questions, do some targeted research, but resist the temptation to learn every detail.
Also, just because a historical detail is interesting, does not mean it belongs in the book. You must vet everything you learn in your research. Does it move the story forward?
A lot of agents agonize over being able to get one agent, yet you got two. You chose Lucy Cleland of Kneerim & Williams to represent your cookbook, and Heather Flaherty of The Bent Agency for your fiction. What made you decide to choose both instead of just one?
I was indeed fortunate to have offers from two agents that were interested in both my novel and my cookbook. I chatted with both on the phone, and through many emails, and both were a good match for me as far as style, personality, and experience. It was terrible deciding, and I finally realized there was no need to. I have two vastly different projects, and plan to continue with my two-track writing. I have the support of two fabulous agents and agencies, and find a clear separation on projects helps me organize the many details of each.
Also, I am a people-pleaser middle child and hate to say “no”. In my freezer are 12,562 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, because I can’t say “no” to the little darlings*. Picking just one PitchWars mentee is going to be rough. Good thing I have all those cookies.
*The girls, not the cookies. Although I have a problem with the cookies too.
What are you most looking forward to about being a Pitch Wars mentor for the first time this year?
All of it! The mentor chatter, reading and enjoying hopefully dozens of fabulous manuscripts, finding that one special one, and letting the mentee know we will be working together. Then, sharing my knowledge and experience, guiding the mentee to bring his or her work to the next level, and hopefully, agent interest. It won’t end there, because I will probably stalk my mentee’s writing for the rest of his/her life.
Did you learn anything as a mentee that you plan to bring to the table as a mentor?
That there’s never just one way of doing something, try several approaches. To listen when someone tells you something isn’t working, but look for what has led to the problem. A writer often needs to address an identified problem earlier in the story.
Want to know more about Homefront Cooking? Visit the website.