Kitchen Table Stories

Editor's Notes

Check out the photos from our Nov. 11, 2007 launch party.

Nov 1 / Aug 30 / Jul 24 / Jun 27 / May 30 / May 9 / Apr 30
November 1, 2007: Friday October 26 was the "birthday" of SCN's newest publication, Kitchen Table Stories, our cookbook-anthology of members' stories and recipes. KTS Editor Jane Ross stopped by the printers to take delivery of the cookbooks and to thank Morgan Printing's Terry Sherrell (an SCN member) for midwifing the arrival of our book.
Jane Ross & Terry Sherrell
Jane Ross and Terry Sherrell with a copy of Kitchen Table Stories

Book orders were packed and shipped within a week of coming off the press.

August 30, 2007: The Kitchen Table Stories Coordinator Jane Ross reports:
We're on the home stretch with preparing Kitchen Table Stories for press. I'll be inputting the last few corrections from authors in the next week. We'll have a proofreader go over everything mid-September and I'll make final adjustments. I'll be putting in the art, too. And my planned press date is late September!

For those who'd like to know more about what's in the book, our SCN Podcast this month features several authors reading their stories and a few words from me about what to expect from the recipes in our book.

And just to give you a taste of the book, contributing author Joyce Murray Boatright's story is featured in the September Story Circle Journal (our newsletter for SCN members).

Making Gravy
Joyce Murray Boatright

I learned to cook when I was nine. My first menu consisted of chicken-fried steak, cream gravy, mashed potatoes, corn and green beans. Momma was my sorcerer. She grew up on a West Texas farm where she learned to snap beans and husk corn and knead bread and twist off the heads of live chickens. I yearned to lay that kind of claim in the kitchen, and I decided the chicken-fried beige plate special was the best place to start...
KTS sample

July 24, 2007: The Kitchen Table Stories Coordinator Jane Ross reports:
I took a break from Kitchen Table Stories in the first half of July for a vacation with my parents (visiting from New Zealand) and then a vacation to recover from being the gracious hostess for a week (much as I love my parents). Now it's back to work on KTS.

After a week of wrangling our Author Agreement into shape, I'll be sending out emails to all authors shortly with a link to the agreement online. I hope the authors will find it an educational experience, reading what we hope is a user-friendly Author Agreement and thinking about author contract issues. (If you'd like to learn more about contracts, a good place to start is the Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Published, available through

Also this week, I've been working on my foreword. This is still a work in progress, so expect it to change some as I refine my ideas. Here is the current version. As always, I welcome feedback from all our KTS authors and other SCN members.

In the meantime, the layout is inching along slowly. I'm behind with page proofs but hope to begin getting these off to authors in a couple of weeks.

Draft Foreword for Kitchen Table Stories
The idea for a cookbook combining stories and recipes from Story Circle Network members was planted two years back by Story Circle Network's Board members, many of them enthusiastic cooks, all of them enthusiastic storytellers and writers. For those who don't already know, Story Circle Network (SCN) is the groundbreaking non-profit that works in many ways to encourage women to write about their lives. Founded in 1997 by best-selling mystery writer Susan Wittig Albert, the organization has helped over 1600 women throughout the US and others across the water to experience the life-changing benefits of telling and sharing our own life stories. As SCN's tenth anniversary approached in 2007, the time seemed right to make this idea happen. The book you now hold in your hands, Kitchen Table Stories, is the result, bringing together the food stories and related recipes from over 60 SCN members.

Kitchen Table Stories is part of the venerable American tradition of community cookbooks, those eclectic and quirky compilations of recipes put together by so many church committees and non-profits over the past century. Kitchen Table Stories is most definitely eclectic. Its recipes include a wide range of dishes, from those that could have come straight out of many a western grandmother's wood-burning stove all the way to decidedly contemporary fare with a nod even to the aromatic cuisine of Asia. Kitchen Table Stories is a community effort, assembled by women who aren't renowned chefs or cookery writers. Its appeal for the cookbook lover is that these are the recipes of women a lot like us, each bringing echoes of their heritage and their home place to the table. And Kitchen Table Stories has a special quirkiness that sets it apart from other community cookbooks—we've accompanied each recipe with a story, sometimes hilarious, other times touching, always engaging.

Have you ever opened a community cookbook and wondered, Why these particular recipes? Why did this contributor feel such attachment to a simple recipe for a skillet of potatoes and eggs that she wanted to share it with the world? The answer of course is the story behind the recipe and this dish's special meaning for the author. Kitchen Table Stories is the recipe collection that gives us these stories. As we read, we are reminded of the special comfort that there is in even the simplest foods, like a plate of potatoes and eggs for breakfast. We can relive the pleasure of a fruit pie that's home made in the sweet-smelling, flour-dusted kitchen of the childhood we remember or perhaps the childhood we might have wished for. We can relish the memories that connect a recipe to a beloved family member. Or we can be reminded of the fun of cooking over an open fire.

Many of the recipes in Kitchen Table Stories and the stories behind them celebrate "slow food," the food of our mothers and grandmothers, made largely from scratch, often with ingredients that came straight from their gardens or using the preserves that they had put up for the winter. Some recipes celebrate the creative use of leftovers, a skill our resourceful foremothers often turned into an art. Other recipes are tributes to the ingenuity of busy women living contemporary lifestyles. Our stories tell of celebrations around the dining table; they tell of the tensions that surrounded food and cooking in some of our homes. Always, they are the stories of real women reflecting on what food and cooking has meant to them, in their own carefully chosen words.

This is a book that calls for a comfortable reading chair, a cup of something hot to drink, and a favorite sweet treat to nibble on while you sit and savor the stories of this diverse group of women writers and cooks. And it's a book you'll want to take into your kitchen to try out the enticing and varied recipes that come paired with our stories.

Above all, this book is a community effort that celebrates something bigger than each of us individually. It celebrates our stories and the place that food and cooking has in all our lives. I hope it will inspire you to reflect, as you cook, as you gather with friends and family at the table, and as you eat, on the stories behind the foods in your own life. And I hope it will inspire you to write those stories down to share with those who will come after you.


June 27, 2007: The Kitchen Table Stories Coordinator Jane Ross reports:
In SCN's publishing operation, as in any "small press," we aim to do all the things a big publisher would do but with a minimum of staff, overhead, and fuss. That often means just one or two people are doing the work of six "assistants." This is the case with self publishing too: if you're thinking about publishing your own book, you'll need to plan ahead and make sure you take care of many of the same kinds of little details.

So what have all SCN's "assistants" been up to during June to prepare for the publication of the Kitchen Table Stories?

  • The "Publicity Assistant" drafted the copy for the publicity flier and order form.
  • The Production Assistant took care of finding a source of illustrations for our book. We'll be using illustrations from Dover Publications' copyright-free image collection. But since we want to use more than the 10 free images that they allow, we needed to request permission from the publisher.
  • So the SCN Permissions Assistant contacted Dover to request permission to use more images. Dover generously agreed to let us use up to 70 illustrations and waived their usual fee in exchange for SCN including their web address on our website. So we've included it below.
  • The Production Assistant also needed to purchase the computer font, so that we're able to include lots of different fractions in the recipes. And she needed to confirm the printer's bid and check on some details of that bid.
  • Meanwhile the "Legal Assistant" has been making adjustments to the author contract. If you're one of the book's authors, you'll be hearing more about that in July.
  • The Distribution Assistant talked to several experienced publishers within our membership to get their advice on how best to distribute the book. Katherine Misegades (our talented cover artist and designer) and Linda Joy Myers (who owns a small press of her own) both gave wonderful advice.
  • And the Distribution Assistant has been looking for a good source of shipping supplies, so we can ship out the orders to our members in October or November. Many of our shipping boxes will be donated by SCN members in the Austin area. We hope to secure others from local businesses.
  • With the help of Marketing Expert and SCN Board Member, Joyce Boatright, the Editorial Assistant has been working on a plan for the Trade Edition of the book, which will appear in early 2008, after we've taken care of shipping the Special Edition orders out to our members in time for the holidays.
  • And the Publicity Assistant worked with SCN Webmistress Peggy Moody on this report, to keep you informed of progress and excited about our book.

Publishing a book is a long process with lots of little steps. With the bulk of these details now in hand, I'll be turning my attention back to the actual production of the book, taking our Word files and pouring them into a template created in Adobe InDesign, graphic design software. So if you're one of the cookbook authors, you can expect to hear from the Editorial Team soon with

Thanks to Dover Publications, Inc. for support of Kitchen Table Stories.

"Since 1941 we've offered amazing books at amazing prices. Visit our website at to choose from over 8,000 titles."


May 30, 2007: Book cover!
Our book now has a beautiful cover, designed and with a delightful illustration by SCN member Katherine Misegades of Indiana. A very warm thank-you to Katherine for putting her wonderful artistic talents to work for SCN!

The first proofs were sent to authors in May. Next on the agenda will be a simple contract that we'll be asking all authors to sign, using an online form. Then we'll be working on the layout during June. And page proofs will be sent to authors at the end of the month.

In the meantime, you can look for more about the Kitchen Table Stories anthology project and a sample two page spread in the June Story Circle Journal. And don't forget to check your e-letters for order information later this summer.

Thanks again to everyone involved in this SCN publishing venture. You make it happen!

May 9, 2007: An Editorial Challenge—The Coordinator reports
With such a diversity of stories and recipes, making our book consistent and easy to use is quite an editorial challenge. I have asked all the editors to please edit with a light touch, focussing on bringing all the stories to a place of consistency with a detailed Style Guide that I have created for this book. (Just as a simple example, all foreign words that are not in the Webster's College Dictionary will be italicized.)

To learn more, see the Style Guide.

Making Recipes Consistent
One of the things I noticed, as I read through the many wonderful recipes, is how varied these are in: the amount of detail in the instructions; optional ingredients; optional preparation instructions; and miscellaneous comments that connect the recipe to the story. As a way of handing all these differences, I have created a Tips and Notes section that will now appear at the end of many of the recipes and will include some of the information currently found in the recipes.

For the book to be useful as a cookbook (and we truly hope it will be) we're working hard to give consistent style to the recipes in several ways:

  1. We'd like every recipe to stand alone as a recipe. The reader should be able to follow any recipe without having to read the story to understand it. So contributors to the book may notice that the editor has moved recipe comments that are related to the story and notes about the recipe's origin down to the Tips and Notes section.

  2. We have tried to even out the level of detail given in the preparation instructions. Some authors will notice that their instructions have been expanded; others will see that they have been simplified. We hope that the overall effect will be a consistent amount of detail throughout the book.

  3. We have tried to be consistent with ingredient choices across all the recipes. If authors gave various options for ingredients, some of these choices may have been moved to the Tips and Notes section. We are giving a preference to fresh ingredients over frozen or otherwise pre-prepared, except for canned ingredients.

If authors have any questions about the changes that their editor has made to a story or recipe, they are welcome to ask her for an explanation and to discuss the changes with her. If they are unable to agree on the changes, authors are encouraged to contact the Coordinator to discuss these. Our goal is that every author should feel that the story and recipe reflects their intentions, while being part of a harmonious larger work.

April 30, 2007: The Kitchen Table Stories Coordinator Jane Ross reports:
The cookbook editorial team has been working very hard over the last month to get all submissions into a standard format. With such a diversity of submissions, it has been an interesting challenge to give the recipes a similar level of detail so that our cookbook will read smoothly and be easy to use, and we've almost got it!

During May, we'll be finalizing the editing and giving all our contributors a chance to approve the edits done on their pieces. Then I'll take over to work on the layout and the many other back-office details.

Thank you to all our volunteer editors: Becca Taylor and Tricia Stephens (Breakfast & Sides), Penny Leisch and Janet Caplan (Poultry & Fish), Judy Whelley and Beth van Duzer (Meat & Vegetarian Dishes), Melody Gordon and Nancy Rigg (Desserts), Theresa May and Linda Wisniewski (Baked Goodies). As Coordinator I've been in charge of a few Miscellaneous items—poems, stories, and recipes.

Thank you also to the contributors—all 60 of you! We couldn't do it without you. (If you're a contributor but you haven't heard from us recently, please send an email to the contact address below.)

KTS sample
A sample 2-page spread from the book (still subject to change)