By Deb A.
She runs marathons, reads at rapid speed, and has devoured the New York Times in a more literal way than one might expect. Welcome to the wonderful Linda Romano, Agave Magazine's new Contributing Editor: Literature.
AGAVE MAGAZINE: You've been reading Agave Magazine from the very first issue. What made you want to join the team?
LINDA ROMANO: Quite simply, because it's beautiful. The visual impact of the cover attracted me and what was inside was equally stunning. I also do so much writing, reading, and editing of marketing and sales content, and rarely get to immerse myself in literature and creative writing. Being involved in Agave was exciting to me because it's like a literary sorbet that cleanses my palate. Now that I'm involved, I see that the beauty I was initially attracted to reflects the entire Agave process — the way everyone comes together to create a beautiful finished product is inspiring to me.
What do you think makes a piece of literature special?
When it makes you feel something — anything. Even if it's a feeling that doesn't quite sit right or is uncomfortable. Anything that stops you in your tracks, causes a disruption to your equilibrium, that's the literary sweet spot for me.
What books or poems could you read over and over again?
Truth & Beauty and Bel Canto (both by Ann Patchett), The Art of Fielding, Unaccustomed Earth, Four Quartets, Dry Loaf, The Aeneid, Gulls.
What do you hope to bring to Agave Magazine?
Enthusiasm, a love of writing, social media savvy, and the ability to read exceptionally quickly!
What advice would you like to give writers who are thinking of submitting work to Agave Magazine?
Before you hit "submit," try editing your piece by taking out what you would consider to be the "best" part of it. I got that advice from a writing teacher once, and it completely repelled me at first. But she was right, because that exercise reveals the core, the foundation of your work and if the foundation is strong, the piece will withstand such a severe edit. You can put it back if you want to, but at least try the exercise; it will teach you something about what you've written that regular reads/edits/critiques can't.
By Deb A.
Every year across the UK and Ireland, The Reading Agency celebrates UNESCO's International Day of the Book with World Book Night, in which volunteers give out books to individuals who do not read for pleasure or own books.
It's a wonderful idea that is, unfortunately, slightly compromised. World Book Night is not in a position to select and purchase titles to give away; instead, publishers offer, and pay for, titles to be distributed. See if you can spot the issue in this list of the 15 books that will be given away in 2016:
Am I Normal Yet?, Holly Bourne (Usborne)
Band of Brothers, Stephen E Ambrose (Simon & Schuster)
I Can’t Begin to Tell You, Elizabeth Buchan (Michael Joseph)
Last Bus to Coffeeville, J. Paul Henderson (Oldcastle)
Love Poems, Carol Ann Duffy (Pan Macmillan)
Now You See Me, Sharon Bolton (Transworld)
Perfect Daughter, Amanda Prowse (Head of Zeus)
Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig (Canongate)
Shadow and Bone, Leigh Bardugo (Hachette Children’s)
Someone Else’s Skin, Sarah Hilary (Headline)
The Baby at the Beach Café, Lucy Diamond (Pan Macmillan)
The Rotters’ Club, Jonathan Coe (Penguin General)
Too Good to be True, Ann Cleeves (Pan Macmillan)
Treachery, S. J. Parris (HarperCollins)
Whispering Shadows, Jan-Phillip Sendker (Birlinn)
While Nikesh Shula praised World Book Night and its efforts to include a range of different genres, he also criticised its list for being completely homogenous in terms of minorities: it does not contain even a single Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic writer. While bringing people closer to the wonderful world of books is a laudable initiative, failing to offer diversity of genres or authors falls short of swinging the door open to a lifetime of reading for the 36% of the UK who aren't inspired to read regularly.
The good news is, this was not a thoughtless oversight on the part of World Book Night. As project manager Rose Goddard explained, she and her colleagues "have been struggling" with the issue, and "[i]t is with great shame, and with huge regret" that there are no books by BAME authors on the list this year.
The bad news is that the homogeneity of the list is the result of a pervasive lack of diversity in the UK's publishing industry, as recently documented by Spread the Word. This will require much more work than simply tacking some names on a list, but Spread the Word has some recommendations for a diverse workforce within a decade, including banning unpaid internships, forging strategic partnerships, and learning from best practice within the media industry.
World Book Night also has a plea: "Let's keep talking and work together to make [diversity in the publishing industry] happen."
What's your take?
By Deb A.
In the second part of our series, Grant and Ariana share tips on cooking for one's family, the recipes closest to their hearts, and the things they can't do without in the kitchen.
AGAVE: You'd toyed with the idea of publishing something like The Family Table from the very beginning of your relationship, but you only took the plunge after being together for over a decade, and with four children in tow. Once you started, how long did it take to create?
ARIANA: In actuality, it took us 5 months to put it together from conception to print, but even that could have been extended.
GRANT: Yes, it was certainly a sprint, and the next time we'll use a year (at least) to get it done! It was a very time-consuming project and we're proud that we pushed as hard as we did.
How involved were your children in the process?
A: Very involved! They have a fascination with food and where it comes from, and greatly enjoy the surrounding farms, vineyards, orchards and markets. Much of what we captured on film is them in these various elements, although they were asked to help put various shots together, from food flat lays to holding produce.
G: They also were eager and willing to help test and taste throughout the recipe process.
What recipe has the most sentimental value to you?
A: Most definitely the recipes in the Heritage section. I lost my maternal grandmother in 2014 and it's a small tribute to her and my memories of her cooking at the holidays that will forever live in my mind. All of my grandparents are no longer with us, and I try to grasp onto the memories that remain.
G: Indeed. I also included one of my favourite recipes from my maternal grandmother – I was about 13 when she passed away. The Heritage section highlights the importance of retaining family recipes and preserving legacy.
What do you think is essential to remember when cooking for one's family?
A: It's so important to get your children involved in the process from very early on. It helps to foster a love of eating and a respect for the labours of love that go into it. We also believe in everyone eating the same meal together at the same time (whenever possible). There is no distinction between kids and adult menus in our home.
G: You have to realize that they have strong opinions and aren't necessarily going to love everything you make. I think that meals should incorporate enough components so that someone can always find something they enjoy; then as you prepare the dishes again over time, they can build confidence in what they're eating and become more adventurous.
What kitchen utensil is a must-have for you?
A: Sharp knives.
G: Cast iron pans.
Signed copies of The Family Table are available for purchase in the Agave online shop this holiday season. (You'll have to find the knives and pans elsewhere, though.)
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