Cue the Author!
left to right:Lynn Shapiro and Lisa Ekus
Oops! That means me. I just returned from a whirlwind day of media training in Hatfield, Massachusetts, the headquarters of my culinary consultant and agent, Lisa Ekus. Her company, The Lisa Ekus Group, has a variety of services, among which is representing and advising authors such as me. After Lisa guided me through three-and-one-half years’ writing and publishing Food, Family and Tradition, I thought I was at the end of the cookbook/memoir process. After all of the research I had done: I researched and found a great book designer (learning that while all designers are capable, you need one who sees your “vision” of the book and can bring it to life). I researched everything about paper, book size and printers and finally found one who produced the book to perfection. At that point I was feeling rather satisfied with everything: the book, the great reviews it was getting, and the great reception in the form of orders that our combined nonstop efforts to promote and introduce it were producing.
These nonstop efforts included public speaking, radio interviews, interviews for newspapers, magazines, and other print media, doing cooking demonstrations while speaking and promoting the book…well, you get the idea. Believe me when I say that teaching college-level math (my job for several years), and developing recipes for Hungarian Kosher Foods (the all-kosher supermarket founded by my parents) are easy compared to getting through a four-minute radio interview effectively. At the end of my day-long media training, I feel as though I just finished a year-long course in the one day!
After meeting the people I had only known as voices on the phone—Samantha and Jaimee—we began the day discussing how a television interview and program works. Would you believe that what seems like such a long time to the viewers lasts only four minutes, and so every second is precious. I learned to be clear and precise, to appreciate that every single word counts! (No “ers, ands, and buts,” please! No meaningless clichés such as, “if you know what I mean, I always say, everyone knows that,” which, by the way, they don’t and it’s my job to tell them what I want them to know.) My senses were so heightened as I was thinking that every word counts is a good lesson for everyday life, as well. I learned to clear away food and used tools as I cook (something professional chefs are trained in, but not procedures ingrained in home cooks), and how to “enjoy the moment” through it all! Media sessions can succeed in looking so smooth and simple only with preparation, preparation and preparation. Again, this is a good life lesson.
After practicing for hours, we moved into the kitchen and began an actual “dress rehearsal” – perfecting the skill of cooking and preparing food while storytelling. Working with Virginia Willis on filming was another outstanding experience of the day. Her positive attitude, her constructive advice and her contagious energy helped me work through it all, including through the jolt I felt watching myself played back on film for the first time. All in all, I think we worked together for about 10 hours with only a short break for lunch. It was so exhilarating that the hours flew by.
The most memorable aspect of the day for me was the blast of positive energy that I felt! Cooking professionally with precision and high standards, along with the chance to connect with people and relate the memories and stories of my family’s life, our traditions and our history, is a passion that I am excited and privileged to share.
I am truly blessed to be working with an amazing team, which all began with Lisa Ekus and includes my editor, Nancy Ryan, and my designer, Anda Reuben. Their endless enthusiasm for Food, Family and Tradition keeps me going and pushing me forward! Untold gratitude goes to Lisa Ekus for believing in my project from day one, for her unbelievable expertise, for all that I have learned and still learn from her daily. I am looking forward to new experiences and new opportunities to share the tradition—especially because I can now do a much, much better job of it!