Author Guest Post | “A Baker’s Guide to Life” by Judith Ryan Hendricks whilst on tour for “Baker’s Blues”.

Posted Tuesday, 4 August, 2015 by jorielov , , 2 Comments

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I hadn’t had the proper pleasure of finding Ms Hendricks prior to this blog tour, wherein I was most delighted I could participate by offering to host the author via a guest author feature! I am quite drawn into Foodie Fiction, especially novels that involve bakers or bakeries, as I previously devoured How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O’ Neal.

Ever since that first encounter with a baker who was experiencing a lift shift whilst embarking on a journey towards centering themselves into a new awareness of how to live a life they truly could treasure and cherish, set a new standard of foodie novels I wanted to seek out and read quite readily! It’s been a bit of a hit/miss experience for me, as I’ve found a few motion pictures along the way that tickled my palette of interest even before I realised that a few of them had been based on books! (i.e. Julie & Julia) Although, The School of Essential Ingredients is one novel I cannot wait to continue reading as the poetic prose of the writer tickled my readerly heart with absolute joy!

As I set to mind what I wanted to ask Ms Hendricks, I tried to envision myself nearly at the tip-stone edge of picking up Bread Alone ahead of reading Baker’s Blues; attempting to think about what I might find curious about this third in the series whilst at the precipice of the first!

Proposed Topic: I love the introspective thread of narrative knitted inside Wyn’s character journey as she is turning inward in order to understand how all the changes in her outer world are not only affecting the people she loves but how their impacting her spirit. What was the impetus to use bread as a metaphor for the human condition and the resolve to effectively recognise as heart-wrenching as life can become there is still time left to resolve the past and present whilst keeping hope alive for the future? Baking felt to me in this one instance to be the centering balance a ballet dancer feels each time they go back to the bar. Balance is not always easy to repair when adversity collides into our ordinary hours.

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Book Synopsis | No.3 of the Bread Alone Series: Baker’s Blues

In Wyn Morrison’s world a 5 AM phone call usually means problems at her bakeryBaker's Blues by Judith Ryan Hendricks—equipment trouble or a first shift employee calling in sick—annoying but mundane, fixable. But the news she receives on a warm July morning is anything but mundane. Or fixable.

Mac, her ex-husband, is dead.

Ineligible for widowhood, Wyn is nonetheless shaken to her core as she discovers that the fact of divorce offers no immunity from grief. Friends and family are bewildered by her spiral into sadness, Mac’s daughter Skye blames her for his death.

For the last several years Wyn has been more businesswoman than baker, leaving the actual bread making to others. Now, as she takes up her place in the bread rotation once more, she will sift through her memories, coming to terms with Mac and his demons, with Skye’s anger, and with Alex, who was once more than a friend. Soon she will re-learn the lessons of bread that she first discovered at the Queen Street Bakery in Seattle…bread rises, pain fades, the heart heals, and the future waits.

No.1 Bread Alone (Book Synopsis)

No.2 The Baker’s Apprentice (Book Synopsis)

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A Baker’s Guide to Life

My career as a novelist began in a bakery, which seems appropriate, because the longer I practice both writing and baking the more similarities I see between them. Bread, as my protagonist Wyn Morrison learns, is a process—slow, arduous, messy, unpredictable.

You don’t make bread because you want to get rich. You don’t make bread for prestige or fame or even respect. The only reason you make bread is because you have to. You make bread because you can’t not make it. (You can say all the same things about a book!)

In Zen, the concept is called your “right livelihood,” and it simply means the work you were meant to do. I never used to think in those terms until I started writing Bread Alone. In the process of creating that novel, Wyn and I both discovered our right livelihood—hers as a baker, mine as a fiction writer.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the making of bread is a natural and perfect metaphor for life, for love, for growth and transformation.

[The author had included a passage from ‘Brother Juniper’s Bread Book’ inserted here and it was quite lovely as it conveyed how life and bread are not only artful but create mindfulness inside our hours. I removed it when I researched the publisher’s permissions and were not able to gain them by post date.]

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In 1988 I was jobless in Seattle. I’d just sold my travel agency when we moved from Atlanta, and had some vague notion that I’d continue to be a travel agent working for someone else. Although the idea did not inspire me, I’d been in the travel business for eleven years. I didn’t know what else to do, where else to look for work.

My husband and I moved into our new old house on the west side of Queen Anne Hill, and late one afternoon we were out exploring the neighborhood when we saw this place. The McGraw Street Bakery. The door was locked, but I peered in through the glass, one hand on either side of my face and saw a woman scraping batter out of a huge mixer bowl. She was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, long sleeves hiked up above her elbows, and an apron that looked like a Jackson Pollock canvas.

She came over and unlocked the door and chatted with us for a few minutes, but only my husband was listening. I was drinking the place in. The heat of the ovens, the fabulous smells, the noise of the big Hobart floor mixers, Aretha Franklin shouting R-E-S-P-E-C-T from the boombox. In the back I could see several women working and laughing and dancing around the big butcher-block worktable. I was thinking You can get paid for this?

Not very much, as it turned out, but that was okay. Working as a baker literally changed my life. I think almost every one of us has had an experience like this—one of those magical times that exerts an almost gravitational pull on you. You know there’s a reason for it; you just don’t know what it is at first. You keep revisiting it and reliving it in your head until it becomes almost your personal mythology. For me, The McGraw Street Bakery was that experience. I never forgot the place or the women I worked with or the great stuff we made. Other than writing, it was the only job I’ve ever had where I felt completely free and totally myself.

Because it was so transforming for me, helping me find my balance, as you say, it wasn’t a big stretch to imagine how a woman like my character Wyn, who suddenly loses everything she thought she wanted (needed) could find herself so changed by the work of making bread. She could discover that all those things that had once seemed so essential to her were actually meaningless.

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Winemakers will tell you that grapes grown under the best conditions don’t make the best wine. (It might seem strange, jumping from bread to wine, but it’s really not. They’re both created through fermentation by this living organism we call yeast. Historians have even theorized that yeasted bread was born in the mists of antiquity when a baker left the dough for his flat bread near some fermenting wine. And in fact, you can make an excellent sourdough starter using grape skins. But I digress.) Great wine, they say, comes from vines that are stressed, that have to struggle to survive in poor soil and extreme temperatures.

In bread making, it’s called knocking down—that point where you have to punch down or deflate the risen dough that you’ve so carefully nurtured, because that’s the way you build the bread’s character and develop its flavor. You are, in effect, stressing the dough, making it struggle.

With a book, it’s called re-writing. Pruning out what doesn’t serve the purpose of the story—no matter if it once did. No matter how beautiful the words are, how witty or how much you love them. You punch down the story and it rises again.

The same with life, isn’t it? Don’t you find that people who’ve had really difficult lives, who have struggled to deal with pain, loss, or some other form of adversity just to survive are often more interesting than those who are more fortunate, less challenged? They seem to be made differently, more layered, more watchful, more discerning about what’s truly important.

That was the trajectory I wanted for my main character. And so, in the course of three books, she’s developed from a somewhat spoiled and clueless young woman into a skilled artisan baker and savvy entrepreneur. But the change has been deeper than simply what she does for a living. Through issues with her family, her best friend, in love and loss, work and the struggle to discover her truest self, she’s had to learn the lessons of bread more than once, as we so often do. But I like to think in Baker’s Blues she emerges more equipped to deal with life, more open, more generous, more resilient.

As Edward Espe Brown wrote 45 years ago in The Tasajara Bread Book,

(click to see the quotation shared by an instagramer) via Simone @simona_vdmerwe

Converse via: #BakersBlues or #BreadAlone

About Judith Ryan Hendricks

Judith Ryan Hendricks

Judith Ryan Hendricks was born in San Jose, California, when Silicon Valley was the Santa Clara Valley, better known for orchards than for computer chips.

Armed with a degree in journalism, she worked as a journalist, copywriter, computer instructor, travel agent, waitress and baker before turning to fiction writing. Her experiences at the McGraw Street Bakery in Seattle led to her first novel, Bread Alone and the sequel, The Baker’s Apprentice.

A life-long infatuation with the Southwest provided inspiration for Isabel’s Daughter and her fourth book, The Laws of Harmony. Hendricks’ fiction has been translated into 12 languages and distributed in more than 16 countries worldwide.

Her nonfiction has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle and Tiny Lights, A Journal of Personal Essay, Grand Gourmet in Italy and The London Sunday Express. Her short fiction has appeared in Woman’s Weekly in Britain and AMERICAN GIRLS ON THE TOWN, an anthology, in the U.S. and U.K.

She lives in New Mexico with husband Geoff and dog Blue.

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I love the writer’s response to my topic of interest, because like making bread she took her time and allowed the topic to wash over her before she responded! I appreciated seeing her connection of making bread to creating a novel; as the attributions she gave to bread-making are definitely cross-overs in comparison to novelling! Stories take time, patience, resolve, and an inkling of a passion that sets the stage for a deeper yearning to create what is not yet known but which will soon fill the page with a life of a character you’ve soon become familiar. The messy muddling and unpredictable bits are definitely the editing and proofing stages – where you lay to bear and rights what you’ve created whilst putting it through a filtering of polish.

My Uncle baked as a necessity to off-set his stress and anxiety, and as the author mentioned he didn’t bake for any other reason than he needed too. Baking calmed his soul and renewed his spirit; he was able to fuell his body with something other than nerves and stress triggers, giving him a lighter side to life than he would have had if he hadn’t started baking. Keen of my grandfather to encourage him because it truly changed his life. In this, I wonder if a bit of why I find myself with a personal attachment to bread and the art of baking; perhaps some of this yesteryear pursuit of my Uncle and grandfather rubbed off on me as I grew up listening to the living histories of my family. (I did mention my quest to bake previously when I reviewed Beyond Basics with Natural Yeast)

Bread is one vice I’ve had since I was a young girl – the very smell of bread whiskers it’s euphoric joy into my senses and gives my heart a bit of an uplift at the same time! It’s rare to meet a bread I do not fancy (although plain ‘white’ is amongst the short list!) and I am definitely curious about the specialty breads and the fancy breads, where bakers are truly showing their ingenuity! Mind you, if you bake a bread with raisins and cinnamon I’ll swoon and if you make one with full cloves of garlic I might retreat directly into the bakery and take up residence!

I loved how Ms Hendricks found her balance as a baker as one of my future goals is to become a baker’s apprentice as I have had a fondness for baking for quite awhile; so much so, I would go as far as to say ambrosial cookery comes a bit easier to me than savoury! I fully believe in Zen mediation and a Zen approach to living because one of my martial arts instructors studied it and I learnt a bit of it through him. It’s taking Buddhist mindfulness to a new heightened level of insight whilst approaching life from an internal and external acceptance of awareness. In this, I can lament I have felt fully aware of being a writer since I first started carving out stories from my imagination as a young girl. Putting words together and illuminating what I wanted to visualise through the tangible clarity of narrative was quite a remarkable discovery; even if it took me a bit longer to realise I could and would pursue this avenue full-time. In other words, I could clearly see how Ms Hendricks found herself and her calling whilst working at the bakery in Seattle!

The entire ending of her essay is both thought-provoking and a joy to read if your a fellow writer. I truly can attest that I will be enjoying my reverie once I’m able to pick up the Bread Alone series, as I shall not tuck myself out of her world too quickly as I will want to savour her words and allow her stories to resonate with me as I consume them. What merriment for me, to find a #newtomeauthor whose joy of giving us her stories has had the beautiful rippling effect as to encourage me to pick up her series through this guest author feature!

How about you, dear hearts, did she inspire you as well!?

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This blog tour is courtesy of: TLC Book Tours

{ click-through the badge to find book reviews & more guest author features! }

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Reader Interactive Question:

What do you love the most about stories set inside of a bakery or within the life of a baker?

What originally led you to this beautiful series by Ms Hendricks?

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Similar to blog tours where I feature book reviews, as I choose to highlight an author via a Guest Post, Q&A, Interview, etc., I do not receive compensation for featuring supplemental content on my blog. I provide the questions for interviews and topics for the guest posts; wherein I receive the responses back from publicists and authors directly. I am naturally curious about the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of stories and the writers who pen them; I have a heap of joy bringing this content to my readers.

{SOURCES: Book Cover Art for “Baker’s Blues”, author photo, author biography, book synopsis, blog tour badge and the badge for TLC Book Tours were provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. Post dividers & My Thoughts badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Comment Box & Writerly Topics Banners made by Jorie in Canva. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2015.

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Tuesday, 4 August, 2015 by jorielov in Blog Tour Host, Bread Making, Cookery, Reader Submitted Guest Post (Topic) for Author, TLC Book Tours

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