Our New Book Announcement is Forking Good!

After several people we know and love told us that we really should be watching NBC’s The Good Place, Stephen and I finally made time for it. We loved it and rewatched it with the kids in time for Season 3 to begin.

For those of you who are not yet familiar, the show begins with Eleanor Shellstrop, who wakes up dead one day, welcomed into “the Good Place” as a reward for living such a good life. She is given her dream home, a heavenly neighborhood, and a soulmate. The only problem is that Eleanor realizes there has been a terrible mistake. She is the wrong Eleanor Shellstrop. They think she was a noble, self-sacrificing activist. The truth is, she lived a selfish, morally questionable life.

Realizing that she does not deserve to be in the Good Place, Eleanor convinces her soulmate, Chidi Anagonye, a moral philosopher, to help her learn how to become a good person and hopefully earn her spot in the Good Place…so that she does not have to suffer an eternity of torture in the Bad Place. The show follows Eleanor and her new squad of dead friends as they try to navigate the experience of afterlife living in the Good Place.

The cast of ‘‘The Good Place,’’ from left: Manny Jacinto, Jameela Jamil, Ted Danson, D’Arcy Carden, William Jackson Harper and Kristen Bell. Jeff Minton for The New York Times
The cast of ‘‘The Good Place,’’ from left: Manny Jacinto, Jameela Jamil, Ted Danson, D’Arcy Carden, William Jackson Harper and Kristen Bell. Jeff Minton for The New York Times

The show has a big heart and a smart (and not mean-spirited!) sense of humor that is often peppered with puns, and not just clever puns…but clever food puns.

Those of you who know me, know that I love food—preparing it, sharing it, and savoring it. In many ways, food IS my philosophy. (Another blog post on that soon.)

Those of you who know Stephen, know that the part of his brain that makes puns (just like the part of his brain that makes up song lyrics à la “Weird Al” Yankovic in perfect melody to match almost any situation) never stops working. Never. Puns are as central to his worldview as food is to mine.

One morning after watching a particularly funny The Good Place episode, Stephen and I were driving to work, and Stephen was making puns (as he does) inspired by the show. I groaned but joined in, and we tossed around several philosophy-pun-inspired recipe titles for food that fans of The Good Place would probably appreciate..

The light turned red, and we looked at each other and knew we had to pitch it to Quirk Books, our Geek Parenting publisher, because if a fan cookbook inspired by the show didn’t already exist, we needed to write it. We spent the weekend brainstorming, pitched it, and Forking Good was born.

This appeared in today’s Publisher’s Lunch:

The Good Place creator Michael Schur does a brilliant job of creating a vivid world and lovable, flawed characters. We intend for our cookbook to be a love letter to the show—to food, to puns, and to philosophy.

The show loves its characters, and so we grow to care about them too. Through three seasons, we cheer them on to become better, and perhaps along the way, it get us thinking about how we can also become better people too.

In a really wonderful New York Times story from last October, Schur is quoted saying, “We’ll keep trying as long as we can. We’ll keep trying. No one is perfect. No one will ever win the race to be the best person. It’s impossible. But, especially since starting this show, I just think everyone should try harder. Including me.”

Schur cites writer David Foster Wallace as a personal inspiration in several podcasts and interviews. he frequently references the following quote from a 1993 interview with Wallace. After reading it, I’ve printed it out and keep it posted nearby my writing space:

Look, man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it.

We are so excited to bring you Forking Good with Quirk as our wonderful publisher (Just in time for Season 4!), and the whimsical art of Dingding Hu is going to be such a fun complement for our writing and recipes! We hope that you’ll watch the show, enjoy the book, make and share some recipes, and celebrate what’s human and magical in our world. Because no one knows what actually comes next; but right here and now, we have each other, and we can make art, we can make delicious food, we can make communities of people we love, we can make memories to cherish, and that’s what we want in our Good Place.

With a Little Help

To try and get more work done on the most recent book (announcement this week!) with its rapidly approaching deadline, I decided that I needed to take a little time away for focused progress.

Katelan Foisy agreed to come with me on a roadtrip to stay at a mutual friend’s house and work on our respective projects (and hopefully brainstorm about a collaboration or two down the line.)

We ended up driving into a bit of a blizzard, stopping first for a quick bite at a cute cafe and to peek into a 100+ year old theatre:

We made it safely there, unpacked and settled into the snowy evening with our books and notebooks, a bottle of wine and some spicy veggies and pasta for dinner.

There is something so satisfying about fragrant, colorful foods cooking while the world outside the windows is white and cold.

Now we’re camped out on the comfy couch with blankets and laptops and mugs of warm beverages for work before bed. (Thanks to everyone pitching in back home to make this time and space possible. It continues to take a village, and I am so grateful.)

#sweetdreams #amwriting

Among the Trees

Mary Oliver died last week. Some of her poems are among my favorites, and I wanted to share one I love for obvious reasons.

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
– Mary Oliver –

Someday I need to write more extensively about my love of poetry, one of my heart’s joys and in the same category of other sacred pleasures: being immersed in a powerful piece of music; cooking and sharing a delicious meal; savoring a beautiful glass of wine, complex cocktail, or a rich cup of coffee; dancing within an all-encompassing drumbeat; being still and present in an instance of sublime natural beauty; holding heart-to-heart one of my family; and there are others—each one of them a moment of being present and in awe.

Poetry comes close to evoking those moments, of giving language to that which is otherwise ethereal, emotional, sensual, and transcendent.

Words are limited, certainly, but poetry allows them to be…more.

It’s like the TARDIS—a poem is so much bigger on the inside.