9 Dec 2012

The Secret is Out!

My Mother’s Harvest is a story of collaboration, of inspired vision and of trust.
Drum roll.....the secret is out – my first book is published!

My Mother’s Harvest    : a collection of family recipes & short stories

written by Maribel Steel and designed by Bee Williamson.

For the past two months, regular followers of this blog may have noticed an unusual silence and a departure from my monthly postings (please say you did) and now I can reveal the mystery behind my blog writing absence. The truth is, I have been frantically thumping out streams of paragraphs for my latest body of work. Two months ago, a lightning-bolt idea flashed into my creative mind – and zapped me into action, producing a frenzy of new ideas I couldn’t ignore.

Like other writers, I had been working on a bundle of different stories during the year and as another year was fast approaching its festive season, I wondered how I could find a way to focus on some of these stories and share them with a reading audience.

The simple thought that came from the lightning-bolt was ‘Write something for your children’ and then a brighter, perhaps sneakier, thought followed seconds later: ‘Yeah, if you write something really nice about them, they are likely to read your stories!’

It was the basis for a plan, but what I really wanted to give to my children was a Christmas gift like no other: knowledge of the past, stories of our family that they would be proud to share with their children – a legacy to my grandchildren. I pondered the thought, What makes the mother-child relationship so special? It is a mother’s deep love, her sharing of life through story-telling and her fabulous cooking that nourishes tummies, big and small, that lingers in a family’s memory.

Of course, that was it, the foundation idea for the book!

Then there was another flash, this time reflecting clear images of my mother’s love and of her cooking as well as images of my children and the food we shared. I could pass on to my family some of the recipes that have nourished three generations and spanned three cultures.

I had to whip up a batch of family anecdotes and stories to fill the pages of a ‘heritage’ cookbook – and be quick about it to make the festive season deadline. To clearly envisage the book project was thrilling. But the thought of how to create a quality book in under two months and present it as a surprise gift for my family by Christmas seemed total fantasy...or was it?

Collaboration – two chefs are better than one


OK! So the heat was on...

I raced over to share my basket of thoughts with my close friend and visual artist and web designer, Bee Williamson. She loved the cookbook and story concept and jumped at the challenge. With a great big ‘high-5’, she said, ‘Two months? We can do it, girlfriend!’

All I had to do now was pull apart the bookshelves to find the recipes hiding in old school books and recipe folders, thump furiously on the keys of my laptop and type up the 55 recipes, listen to my robotic screen reading software to hear that it all made some sort of sense, send manic instructions and recipe files across cyberspace for Bee to store in her design files, write and edit the short stories, all twelve of them, go through every photo album in the house to find just the ‘right’ pics to match the steadily growing collection of recipes and short stories – and somehow, still cook dinner for my menfolk and keep up with the laundry and lunch box treats.

The difficulty was not so much our ridiculously tight deadline (although that was stressful enough) but, rather, the cloak of secrecy I had to maintain by not telling my family what the heck had come over me...maybe I could excuse my frantic obsession on some invisible fancy as an onset symptom of menopause?

Rounding up helper-elves


Two helper-elves had to be sworn to secrecy – there would be no other way to produce such a quality book without their invaluable expertise and loving support.

My father, Brian, often worked well into the night to edit and correct the short stories as they flew across the internet and like magic, in the early morning, there they would be, all neat and tidy ready in my inbox with his clever magic sprinkled into each story.

Harry, computer-wizard and ever-ready helper, gave up many hours to attend to my sudden demands for photos to be scanned and cropped. Some were digitally enhanced and required his visual attention (and to ensure none of the photos I had chosen contained any little people in their birthday suits) before sending to Bee as she was efficiently gathering all the files into one very large folder.

Even though my helper-elves were right on the job, they too were none the wiser when it came to knowing how it was all coming together, all the dozens if not hundreds of design details Bee and I faced on a daily basis.

An eye and an ear for detail


With Bee’s artistic eye for colour and design and with my keen sense of hearing to keep track of text detail and her audio guidance through the pages on the screen, we had to be clear and precise in the use of our design language. Bee was patient and accurate with every page, every little design requirement – allowing my imagination to picture the pages when it was all too blurry to see.

Most days, I sat with a bright overhead lamp and peered through a magnifying glass to read out loud the edits and changes required as I worked slowly through the proof reading for several drafts. My internal critic was concerned about the use of commas, full-stops, indents and correct spelling. At the same time Bee clicked through the pages on screen to make sure all the colours, designs, fonts and photos were visually pleasing – as well as having to reassure me that our choice of headers and footers were consistent.

To gloss or not to gloss – that was the question


On the very day we had set aside as our deadline, six weeks from conception, all the files were ready. Cover and back page, check...copyright page, check... quotes, check... titles, check..all looking good until Bee stops to ask one final question, ‘Do you want the pages to be printed on matt paper or on gloss?’

From the beginning I had imagined warm, glossy pages but sitting perched on the edge of my chair, seconds away from pushing the one very important button, ‘publish now’ (no pressure!) – I felt a rush of panic, indecision, confusion as this final choice was a visual one.

Bee sat calmly (although I did hear the occasional nibble of fingernails) as she offered advice on the pros and cons for either choice.

One phone call to a helper-elf, and one clear answer pushed me back towards my original concept.

‘Gloss.’ Harry had no doubt.
‘But what about the pages with my stories?’ I ask, fearing I am giving away my secrets. ‘Won’t they look cheap and nasty in a gloss finish?’
‘They will look like the pages of a magazine.’
‘Great. Love you!’

Bee and I take a deep breath, holding hands briefly and then let go for Bee to type in the final instructions.

Seconds later, the message comes through.......
‘Congratulations. Your publication has been successful.’

SQUEALS of delight!

So where can you buy this gorgeous glossy book?


If you live in Australia and would like to purchase a soft cover copy of My Mother’s Harvest, selling at the introductory price of Aus$30 (+ $5 P+P)

please send me an email: maribel@springstudio.com.au

Or go to:
to view and purchase My Mother’s Harvest as an e-book (i-Pad format). The blurb.com website entries under my name also offer free sample pages.

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...How my family and friends reacted to My Mother’s Harvest when seeing it for the first time...

‘Dare to dream, for dreamers see tomorrow
dare to make a wish, for wishing makes way for hope
and hope is what keeps us all alive
dare to reach out for the things no one else can see’

Ron Christian


Bee Williamson said...

Great journey of a thousand headers and footers!
love you and love your book!
Go girlfriend!
xxxx Bee

maribel steel said...

Great design work Bee! Couldn't have done it without you...gorgeous colours! Maribel xx