SNE: The Manuscript Recipe

A few notes on the creative process related to the manuscript for my next book, Super Natural Every Day.

SNE: The Manuscript

I thought I'd take some time to write about Super Natural Every Day. The manuscript and photography are due this summer so why not wipe the spelt flour off my cheek, let the quinoa simmer on its own for a bit, and share a bit about how I'm working toward that not-so-far-off date?

I'll start by telling you about my creative process, which, in a broad sense, starts by collecting things that inspire me. I keep all sorts of scraps, notebooks, photos and random text files around. They live in drawers, on desktops, some are paper, others are digital. Thoughts and inspirations set aside for later, someday, next year. Occasionally, I'll cluster a few of these things together if there is some sort of connection that strikes me as interesting. If I'm really excited about something, that particular cluster might end up in an envelope or folder.


Many of the ideas, images, and thoughts related to this new book lived in a simple paper folder for a time. I'd add a copy of a recipe from one of my notebooks occasionally, or a photo of a place that evoked a certain feeling or sense of place. I might pull the folder down every few months, spread all the notes and elements across a table and think about what I was looking at. What could I add? What should be taken away?


There was a point when I thought it was time to get more serious. If I wanted to turn this into a cookbook what might it look like? Feel like? What would the themes be? How would it be structured? Which recipes? I started answering some of those questions and began to work on an outline.

My outlines usually start by organizing the book into sections, and then breaking those sections down into more detail (and recipes). As the project matures the outline turns into a 4-5 page road map/blueprint for the book. This document changes and evolves constantly based on what I feel is working and what isn't. But having a strong outline in place helps to let me know (at a glance) where I'm at in the overall process and where I'm headed. It's surprisingly easy to get lost.


I color code and mark up one version of my outline based on where I'm at. A plus mark following a recipe name means it is tested and has a head note. Two pluses means a photo is completed. A plus before the name means I've converted the recipe into international weights and measures. Highlighting the recipe name in green? That means it's in good shape and ready for some time in a kitchen other than my own.

Sorry, let me back up a bit. Around the time I've fleshed out an outline, I also set up a binder (see the first image). At this point it's pretty much a dummy book. I fill it with sheet protectors and section dividers. It helps me imagine the actual object I'm working on. It keeps me organized and enables me to actually see any progress I'm making. My outline corresponds with the pages in the binder, page by page. I assign one recipe per sheet protector, the most current version of the recipe is visible. If there is a photo to go with a recipe I have it in the same pocket visible through the back side. It makes it easy to move pages and recipes around, and keep track of versions of recipes (and related notes).


It would be disingenuous for me to tell you this process is all sunshine and flowers. Writing and photographing a book is hard for me. Aside from this (quite public) recipe journal, I'm a relatively private person. The book process takes me out of my comfort zone. Maybe because it's such a monumental effort to make it happen? So many people involved! It's just an entirely different world of expectations, with all hopes tied into a single grand gesture. I think to myself - I want this book to be good, I want it to find the slice of people who will find something special in it, I want it to find a home in welcoming kitchens. I want the recipes to work in your kitchens. And on and on and on. Just know, I spend a certain amount of time talking myself out of the trees.

So I'm here, chipping away at the book one word, one sentence, one head note, one photograph at a time. The binder is bulging, with only a few blank pages left to fill, but I suspect I'll be testing, tweaking, and revising down to the last minute...I know many of you would be amazing testers - I might need to enlist some of you for a bit of help, if you're game (more details on that in a future post)...

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Thank you for sharing this Heidi. My children have asked me to record my recipes and I have set up a Tumblr blog where I am slowly adding recipes. I like the idea of putting it into a book format for them and have had ideas floating around in my head. Your post is useful as I can now see where my next step should be.


I’ll put in that I’m also a guy, so there are at least two men reading your blog, and using your cookbook. And thanks for giving me a look at your creative process. It’s easy to get lost, and paper has been better than digital to get back on track. I’ll be waiting for your book.


Wonderful insight Heidi as a novice baker I always enjoyed the creative part of how people are inspired to share wonderful recipes with others. So many people have asked me to do a cook book and I often wish there was a talking cookbook about the process people go through (for-thought) as it would be real interesting and inspirational to see the real story behind the lines of what goes into making a cookbook. I always though the best way to teach someone about anything except building a bomb or brain surgery was to give them the directions and observe the results. I learn more from the feedback as it provides a creative process for new recipes. Best to your endeavors and if you need a tester give me a shout!


Your blog is so well written and honest. It is easy to believe that it is a nearly effortless endeavor for you. Thank you for the "peek behind the curtain" that reveals the heart and hard work beyond your comfort zone. Best wishes for SNE.


Very interesting, thanks for sharing your approach with us. I would LOVE to be a recipe tester!


Go for it, girl! We are all behind you! Put me on your "list" for help...


I loved reading "The Manuscript"-- it so reminds me of myself. I too am a collector of small treasures strewn all around me that both inspire and catch me smiling. I have sacred smatterings of grandkid's art, my beloved Mom's poems, photos of today and precious yesteryear, beginnings of a melody that my guitar is patiently waiting to play after spotting Dad's lyrics scribbled on a piece of yellowed paper, a colorful collection of inside blank books waiting for little treasures filled with words of wisdom, or perhaps silly nothings. All of these will someday come together as one or many lovely chapters in my life. I can't wait for your new cookbook and would love to test!


You said in your first sentence, that you were going to "write about Super Natural Every Day". In the title for this blog, I am curious why you didn't use SNED instead of SNE, since you're using the two-word version of "every day", and not the "eveyday" contraction (without the space). A couple of examples: 1. SNE = Super Natural Everyday 2. SNED = Super Natural Every Day It appears that you're using the 1st part of #1 with the last part of #2, which might confuse some of us who are confoundedly literal minded. Personally, I like "everyday" (the blended form of "every day" without the space) the best, in which case your use of SNE would fit better. Your sharing your creative journey with us is marvelous!


So, so exciting Heidi. I appreciate so much your dedication to recipes that work. I know first hand it is rather trying to achieve consistent results. And the writing process! So good to hear of your experience, even in summary. It is, as others have already said, inspiring.

Amanda at Enchanted Fig

I doubt if I could ever be focused long and hard enough to write a book, but I could definitely focus long enough to test a recipe: prepare, photograph, eat, comment. Of course your recipes would always be a pleasure to test. I have Super Natural Cooking and it is beautiful.

anna maria

Thank you for sharing the details of your creative and organizational process. I appreciate how much thought and care you put into your writing as well as your cooking!


Heidi- Thank you for sharing your project and the process. It helps motivate me to get organized and dovetail all the snippets of poetry, journaling, recipes and life experience into my coming book, also.


I will ALWAYS test something if you want vegan or to list EASY vegan substitution options. I'm all about the easy vegan due to my son's anaphylactic reactions to milk/egg eats.


Your first book was pre-ordered from Amazon, and a delight to receive. Congratulations your upcoming book! I can't wait to add it to my collection! If you still need testers, let me know. i think it would be fun to be a small part of your project.


I am totally in for testing!!


Can't wait to see that book! Good work Heidi. Keep it up! :)


Heidi, I stumbled upon your blog several months ago by accident when looking for a recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds(which I found here!). Since then, your recipes and tips have changed the way I eat, shop, and live. You have had a huge impact on my life and in turn, on my family since I preach to them now about using natural foods! I've lost weight, feel great, and have a rejuvinated love for cooking again. So, I owe you a big thank you! I have your Super Natural Cooking book and look forward to this one. All the best, Chelsea


heck yes! i'll help test!

molly d.

Heidi, Appreciate the glimpse into your cookbook writing process. Always learn something new or intriguing folowing your blog. Enjoy your culinary style & recipes. Let me know if you need anymore testers.


I love reading your blog and occasionally testing the recipes (if they look easy!). Your photos and text make the process come alive. (and if you're looking for NON-experts to test recipes, I'll volunteer :)) I'm commenting to say thank-you for sharing your writing process. I could never write a cookbook, but your description of the process helps me understand how I could approach writing a different kind of book. thanks!


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