Cookbook trailer produced by Allison Usavage
I came into the world a dreamer, and my parents always led me to believe that I could do anything if I had the will and the heart to try. (After all, they had chased their very own dreams from Europe to the United States.)
This belief was a gift, a form of innocence and strength that would drive me to pursue my dreams. “You can’t do that,” or “that’s impossible” ricocheted off me like stardust.
But there was one dream I couldn’t seem to grasp: writing a cookbook.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. Over the course of a decade, I wrote and shopped ten proposals to agents and publishers, ranging in topic from travel memoirs to farm-to-table.
The truth is, I just wasn’t ready. I needed more practice, more experience, more confidence, and especially, a clear and authentic point of view.
The seed for my “dream” cookbook was planted when Bobby and I opened Firelight Camps. For the first time, I could bring my love for nature, food, and community together under one tent. The campfire became my kitchen, where I recreated recipes from my days as an outdoor guide, reinvented childhood favorites, and drew on the local farm and forest bounty. I was in my element. With the help of my dear friend and agent, Dennis, I set to work on a new proposal: Feast by Firelight.
A good friend and writer once told me, “it only matters that you write what’s true in your heart.”
I became pregnant shortly after starting my proposal, and entered a period of introspection and self-awareness unlike any I had experienced. Growing my baby allowed me to withdraw into my truth. I stopped writing blog posts and sharing the minutiae of my life on social media. I redirected my creative energy into writing a proposal that reflected who I was and how I cooked, while winning the heart of a publisher. And this time, I felt equipped to do so.
A month before Christmas, I delivered my proposal to one of my all-time favorite publishers, Ten Speed Press. Ayla was born on December 30, 2015, and for the next three months I would put everything on pause. I was consumed with love for my daughter and overwhelmed with my newfound responsibility. My nipples were barely hanging on. And slowly, as I learned to trust my intuition as a mother and embrace our new normal, my cookbook dream flickered back to life.
One afternoon just before Ayla’s six-month birthday, I sat with her in the rocking chair while she dozed on my breast. “Ding!” Startled, I reached for my phone to turn off the sound and discovered an email from Ten Speed Press. The subject line read: Offer for Feast by Firelight. I opened it immediately.
“Dear Emma, I hope this email finds you well! My Ten Speed colleagues, as well as colleagues at Crown in New York, were completely charmed by the proposal for Feast by Firelight. The book tackles the subject of campfire cooking in a way that is fresh and compelling. There hasn’t been a fun and modern take on this topic, and Emma is the perfect author to tackle it…”
In my head, I was screaming with joy, racing down the stairs to tackle Bobby and bracing myself on his shoulders to jump up and down and up and down until I was breathless, and then call my mother, my twin sister, my agent, my best friends, and promptly plan a party. I felt like this…
In reality, I suppressed the smallest “eeeee!”, terrified I would wake up Ayla. I was bursting at the seams with excitement and wanted to tell the world! Yet, this private celebration would set the stage for writing my book, a process that would require complete and utter focus.
Becoming a mother taught me how to be intentional about my work. I was always prone to saying “yes” and finding myself in a quagmire of projects and distractions (social media was the main offender). With a baby, my time skyrocketed in value. Every moment away from my family had to be worthwhile. My cookbook fell into that category, and I was further motivated by the idea of creating a legacy – a gift – for Ayla to enjoy one day.
For the next eighteen months I retreated largely from blogging and social media, focusing on my baby, my work at Firelight Camps, and writing Feast by Firelight. I made a rigorous recipe testing schedule and blocked weekends to write, making steady progress with the brain capacity of a sleep-deprived new mom. Working in solitude – without the affirmations of my online community – was a new and formative experience for me. There were moments when I’d read the same paragraph fifty times or tested a recipe until I couldn’t take another bite, and wondered, “is this just absolute shit or is it actually good?” In my non-digital world I had a village guiding and supporting me every step of the way, so much so that I balk at the fact that one name ends up on the cover of a book (there are three pages dedicated to acknowledging my team and community!). But ultimately, I had to draw on my own courage and conviction. As a woman, mother, and entrepreneur, it was empowering.
So, I cooked and wrote, hoarding away pictures, stories and my excitement until the day I could finally announce to you, my dear friends and readers, that…
I WROTE A COOKBOOK.
So there it is! The news is finally out, just before Ayla’s 2nd birthday (yes, it took that long to make a book)!
Today, I am so excited to share the first taste of Feast by Firelight: Simple Recipes for Camping, Cabins, and the Great Outdoors, a fun, fresh, and effortless approach to cooking outdoor feasts with family and friends. I’ve poured my heart, memories, stories, tips, lesson, illustrations and more into this book.
If you follow this link, I’ve included an exclusive first look of the inside pages, as well as links to pre-order your copy! YES! The book will be published on April 10, 2018, but you can pre-order my book now (eh hem, Hanukah and Christmas are right around the corner).
And finally, I want to thank you for being steadfast in your support. I am indebted to you for joining me on all of my culinary journeys, and can’t wait to take you behind-the-scenes on this one in the months to come.
With love and firelight,