Four years ago I went on a men’s conference with Don Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) as the featured speaker. I was in a difficult place as a food writer, glad to be writing freelance for The Oregonian but stuck with a well-crafted book proposal that no agent or editor would “bite.” Enter Don, talking about crafting your family’s story.
The Story Of Your Life
Filmmakers had approached him about making Blue Like Jazz (largely autobiographical) into a movie. But they had to “edit his life” to be good enough for film (too boring? Awkward…) so this would be a based-on approach, not true story. Learning the well-developed story theory of Hollywood (and novels, etc), and asking how to make his life “better,” he got skilled at recognizing meaningless storylines in real life as well as good ones. He challenged us to make our families’ lives more epic, based on the principles of a compelling story: be a relatable person with a meaningful purpose, and relentlessly overcome obstacles to achieve that. These are transforming ideas, which he has since written in his Million Miles book which I highly recommend but can’t begin to cover in this small space.
Saturday With Don
Saturday afternoon we had recreation time, and I asked him to chat about my writing predicament. It took a pair of…courage, to ask – he’s kind of a big deal. He’s also a great guy and was willing, so off we went with a group for a round of Frisbee golf and semi-public introspection.
That conversation freed me to let go of (postpone?) the dead-end book idea, and explore other paths, one of which was the idea of the ultimate simple cookbook for busy families. It would be a collection of ultra-fast healthy recipes you can repeat with confidence, which would include a spinner in the back to randomize the week’s meals. This would bring my writing interests closer to my young family, and we would develop it together essentially, a team project.
Better Than A Book?
Well, the app store now lets developers build cardboard spinners in thousands of more elegant ways, and lets content and functionality blend seamlessly. So the book idea split into a blog and an app, each of which has been a labor of love for me and the small team which has come alongside.
The app Spinning Meals launches tomorrow, on pi day (3.14), initially available for iPhone (iPad compatible). It plans your meals and creates your grocery list. It’s a joy to use, and a powerful tool to help families keep cooking real food at home despite the time pressures all around us. It’s not yet packed with recipes, that part of the vision is still in progress. Look for lots more info tomorrow.
This Coincidence Took My Breath Away
Do you believe a coincidence is just that? Do you agree that good things take time?
From that conference in 2008, the film Blue Like Jazz will finally premiere one month from today, April 13. It looks good, and much of it is true, I’m sure.
My own journey’s length? I looked it up today to measure the labor of love since that first seed of an idea sprouted. The date of my talk with Don? Pi day, 2008.