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Guest post and giveaway: Sarah Pinneo, author of Julia’s Child

February 9, 2012

I’m thrilled to have this guest post from Sarah Pinneo, the author of Julia’s Child.  I found her words to be very touching and hope you do too.

Julia’s Child is a story about longing. Mom Julia Bailey yearns to see her efforts—in this case, her organic toddler meals—on the shelves of Whole Foods. It’s not difficult for a would-be novelist to write about longing. Julia’s Child is not the first novel I wrote, but it is the first one to be published. That’s quite common for a would-be novelist. My friend Anna likens a writer’s freshman effort to the first piece of French toast made on a weekend morning—the one which helps to prime the griddle for the other pieces—the one which is too pale or greasy, and should be thrown away instead of eaten.

My “French toast” was a novel about Wall Street. People ask me if I’ll ever go back to it. I tell them no. Some things are meant to be cast away.

Realizing my dream of publishing a novel took either three years, seven years or twenty, depending on how you count. So you can imagine what a big deal it was for me to stand up in front of fifty well wishers at the Norwich Bookstore, in Norwich, Vermont on publication night. Amid all the preparation and bustle, I took a moment to tuck my grandmother’s pendant into my pocket. It looks like this:

My grandmother died suddenly when I was a senior in high school. My family cleaned out her house, and I have a few of her things. The pendant is my favorite, although some people have pointed out that it looks an awful lot like a fried egg. The “egg white” is silver, the stone probably adventurine. It isn’t valuable, except to me.

Before she died, my grandmother had told us that she’d written a couple of romance novels. She mentioned it casually, over a roast she’d made in her pressure cooker, and her signature side-dish: twice baked potatoes with paprika. I remember being charmed by this new insight into my most reserved and discreet relative. Grandma Pinneo went to Michigan State in the 1930s, and got a graduate degree, too, before many women were doing that. To think of her writing a bodice ripper, at home on her typewriter, only heightened her mystique.

She told us that she was in the process of trying to find a publisher. She may have mentioned Harlequin books as her target. I wish I remembered this with even more detail. But I was still years away from my own first attempt at a novel. “If they’re not published, I’m going to destroy them,” she told us.

I don’t remember objecting. Surely I just assumed that her books would be published. Wasn’t that the likely result when someone wrote a book all the way to the end?

It would be a few years until I learned the truth: that to have your book published by the editor of your choice is a rare and lucky thing. There, in her dining room, she helped me begin to understand this well before I would need to. Now, more than twenty years later the main character of Julia’s Child can learn as well, between pages 1 and 279, that not everything we create will be a true gem. And even if we succeed, even then, there will be those who say “a gem? I think it looks like a fried egg.”

I still wear the pendant, but I never got to read Grandma’s books. She made good on her promise to destroy them—at least we think she did. They never turned up. And her home, with its rich wooden dining table and roast-scented kitchen is long since sold. I would love to have read them. If only I’d known to try to change her mind before it was too late. I should have asked more questions. Did the books have titles? Where were they set? Grandma rode out World War II with her sons in Florida, when it was still a rural back water. I’m picturing a wartime romance amid the beach cottages.

If only I could read them! But I can’t say I blame her. Every writer is entitled to her French toast. I only wish Grandma had had the time or the patience to lay down the next, more fortunate batch.


Sarah Pinneo worked in finance for more than a decade before making the transition from breadwinner to bread slicer.  Her first book was published by Clarkson Potter / Random House in 2007.  She holds a degree in economics from Yale University.  Sarah has lived in Grand Rapids, MI, New York City, Ludlow, VT and now Hanover, NH where the occasional moose or black bear is spotted in her back yard.

Follow Sarah on Twitter and Facebook.


Thanks to KMSPR, I have one copy of Sarah’s book to give away.  To enter to win JULIA’S CHILD, by Sarah Pinneo, simply fill out the entry form.  Contest is open to those with a US address only – one entry per person, please.  I will use to determine the winner. Contest ends at midnight EST Friday, February 17, 2012.   Winner will be announced on Saturday, February 18, 2012.  Comments are welcome (and appreciated) but will not get you an entry in the contest.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. February 9, 2012 9:34 am

    I’ll be reading this book soon, this interview makes me even more anxious!! Thanks for sharing.

  2. February 9, 2012 9:50 am

    Sometimes because of how much I enjoy the author, I know the book has to be good– that’s how I feel after reading her post on your blog.

  3. February 9, 2012 10:28 am

    What a touching story about her grandma!

  4. February 9, 2012 10:34 am

    Aw, thank you all! I really enjoyed writing this. And now I’m packing my grandmother’s necklace to wear to a bookstore event tonight.

  5. February 9, 2012 11:55 am

    Great interview. Now I’m curious about the book.

  6. February 9, 2012 1:12 pm

    That is such a beautiful post! I will check out the book.

  7. February 9, 2012 1:23 pm

    What a great post.
    Her grandma sounds like a groovy woman who lived a full life.
    Such a shame that no one got to read her story.

    French toast? I like that. Allot.

    This sounds great. I do hope they release it as an audio.

  8. February 9, 2012 1:51 pm

    Lovely post! I love the idea of trying to get your toddler food in stores. Sounds fun.

  9. February 9, 2012 2:04 pm

    This was so sweet. I’m sure Grandma is beaming with pride that her granddaughter got her book published!!!

  10. February 9, 2012 3:00 pm

    Sounds like an emotional read

  11. February 9, 2012 3:24 pm

    This is such a great and touching story, and I also wish that Sarah had found her grandmother’s books. They probably would have made a huge impact on her. I love how her grandmother’s spirit lives on in her. This was a great post today. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  12. February 9, 2012 4:49 pm

    I’d love to read her book. It’s too bad she didn’t get to read her grandmother’s books though and I think the pendant is beautiful and unique.

  13. February 9, 2012 6:37 pm

    What a great guest post. I’m planning on reading this one in the near future.

  14. February 9, 2012 9:15 pm

    What an excellent guest post. I love the story about writing a first novel is like the first piece of French toast. I know exactly what she means.

  15. February 9, 2012 9:32 pm

    This was one of those sweetly sad stories…I would love to read the book.

  16. February 9, 2012 11:01 pm

    I love the inclusion of the picture of her Grandmother’s pendant! And what a riot to find out over roast that your grandmother had written a couple of romance novels – I can just see my mom doing something so casually like that! Great post today Kathy – thank you for sharing!

  17. February 9, 2012 11:58 pm

    What a beautiful guest post. How awesome would it be to discover my grandmother had written a bodice ripper. She read enough of them during her lifetime!

  18. February 10, 2012 12:56 pm

    Thanks for offering such a great giveaway! This is a book I’ve been wanting to read!

  19. February 10, 2012 8:25 pm

    What a wonderful story!

  20. Staci@LifeintheThumb permalink
    February 11, 2012 11:14 am

    I loved her story about her Grandma’s pendant, the meal, and her writing!! Even better she was a Spartan!

    • February 15, 2012 8:36 pm

      LOL! I never got to ask her whether she identified as a Spartan! But you’re absolutely right. And my grandfather was the 1931 captain of the Spartan’s basketball team. Also, he was 5’4″. They were spunky, they were.

  21. February 11, 2012 4:42 pm

    Writing runs in the family. A very nice guest post. Thanks!

  22. February 15, 2012 8:36 pm

    Thank you all so very much for your kind words!

  23. February 18, 2012 9:53 pm

    I just read Julia’s Child and really enjoyed it – I can only imagine what it must feel like to take your work and put it out into the world for others to judge. It is nice to learn that you have such a connection to your grandmother.

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