Friday, December 20, 2013

Ginger Snap!

I'm afraid the blog fell into the gap between our late Thanksgiving and my obdurate refusal to do anything for Christmas before Thanksgiving. I stand by my choices, even if I'm only now slowly getting back to my writing and critiquing and blogging. I suppose this happens every year. 

Another thing that happens every year at our house is gingersnaps. Lately, it's rare to even see gingersnaps in the grocery stores. I think this is because they are so uniformly unappealing, dry as cardboard and nearly as flavorless. Ironically, my cookie press gingersnaps look like cardboard but taste delicious, spicy and sweet!

It's a strong cookie for a season that is both blissful and a little stressful. So, have a little yin for your yang, a little Krampus with your Santa. Enjoy!


From The Fanny Farmer Baking Book

¾ cup vegetable shortening
1 cup sugar, plus extra to roll the cookies in
1 egg
¼ cup black strap molasses
2 cups flour
2 tsps baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tblsp powdered ginger*
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and cover a couple cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Beat together the shortening and 1 cup of the sugar. Add the egg, and beat until fluffy, then add the molasses. Stir and toss together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, and cinnamon, and add to the first mixture, beating until smooth.

Gather up bits of the dough and roll them into 1 inch balls,** and roll them in the sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies have spread and the tops have cracked. Remove from the sheets and cool on a rack.

* I suppose you could grate the ginger, but the powdered is stronger, and I like a cookie that bites back. Buy the best ginger you can find.

** for cookie press style (pictured above), load up the press. If individual portions don't easily drop off, just squeeze out a long ribbon of dough and cut it into squares with a knife or a pizza slicer. Sprinkle sugar on top and bake for about 7.5 minutes.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

More Advanced Reading for Writers

Briton Rivière (1840-1920) A Saint, from the ‘Jackdaw of Rheims’
Before I get to the books full of thinky thinks, my story, "The Horses," is the featured link at the TTA Press Advent Calendar today. Check it out and leave a comment on their boards if you like. They're posting links to stories all month, so be sure and check back for more goodies!

I enjoyed my own personal Not Exactly NaNoWriMo and will be blogging about the experience in its entirety soon. Today's post is a bit of a NaNo corrective. After a month where everyone is focused on producing reams of quick and sloppy pages, I wanted to luxuriate in a few of my favorite books that dig deep into the art and craft of writing.

Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style by Virginia Tufte. Beyond the nuts and bolts of grammar, this entire book is devoted to sentences. I'm letting my geek flag fly here, but if you love sentences as much as I do and want to think deeply about them, check out this book. Soak up chapters like: Sentence Openers and Inversion, Free Modifiers: Branching Sentences, and Syntactic Symbolism. 

About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, and Five Interviews by Samuel R. Delany. This book is a brick of writing insight from a master of genre fiction. In fact, SFWA just declared him the 2013 Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master for his contributions to the field. And about time! If you don't feel like reading about writing, check out one of his novels. I'm partial to Dhalgren. It was the first book of his I read way back when.
Samuel R. Delany

Anatomy of a Short Story: Nabokov's Puzzles, Codes, "Signs and Symbols" Edited by Yuri Leving. I'm actually currently reading this one. It's straight up academic literary criticism. Maybe I'm just missing my college days, but I think it's worthwhile to go deep into the workings of a single short story. It's kind of fascinating to see just how many interpretations the ivory tower types can spin out of a couple thousand words. Nabokov's correspondence with the editor of the New Yorker over the publication of the story is a fascinating chapter as well. 

If that's not your sort of thing, skip the book and listen to Mary Gaitskill read Nabokov's brilliant story at the New Yorker. For some lit crit lite, the podcast includes a discussion of the story with Deborah Treisman, the New Yorker's fiction editor.