Klancy Miller is no stranger to big projects and ideas. She’s traveled the world, learned several languages, written for large publications and can now add publishing a cookbook to her list of accomplishments with her newly released Cooking Solo: The Joy of Cooking for Yourself.
We’ve always been fascinated by the book publishing process. Bringing a book to life can often be a long and tedious journey, but it's ultimately incredibly fulfilling for those willing to take it on. We asked Klancy about what she learned from her own writing and publishing experience, how she really feels about doing things alone and the values that help her in both work and everyday life.
Klancy, when we first spoke last year, you were just putting the final touches on your cookbook, and now it’s out in the world! We want to congratulate you, of course, but we’re also curious: how has it felt to birth this project?
I’m so glad you use the phrase "to birth" – it really has felt like a gestation (although I know a book is not a baby). I’ve had many feelings about this project from start to completion. At first there was the excitement of coming up with an idea I liked and that reflected who I am – or at least part of my journey. Then there was the work of making that idea presentable in a book proposal, and then there’s the thrill when an editor says yes and your agent tells you that you have a deal. So there is the thrill of the beginning and getting affirmation that someone thinks your idea could work. The recipe development process was really fun because I cook all the time and it’s kind of a form of play for me. The harder parts of that phase were mostly balancing my time between work and recipe testing.
The writing part was a little harder because I have to isolate myself to write and I kind of became a mini-hermit. There was a long phase of back and forth with edits and that was a humbling phase. But once the manuscript was wrapped up and approved, that felt amazing. The photo shoot for Cooking Solo was pure magic. It was so much fun to spend a week in a photo studio and meet such awesome and talented people. The team that worked on set was phenomenal, and I loved the vibe they created each day and the gorgeous images they made. It was definitely exciting and gratifying to see professionals bring my recipes to life and make them look beautiful. It was kind of like seeing a sonogram or ultrasound of a growing baby. Not that I have experience with that – but it definitely feels like a peek [into] what will be during this creative gestational process. That was exciting.
The less thrilling parts of the journey have had to do with balancing time, feeling constant worry, juggling my work responsibilities with my cookbook responsibilities and feeling generally stressed and uptight.
You also had a long journey to getting this book published. Will you share some of what you’ve learned about yourself through both the creation side of this project and the business side of working through the publishing process?
There are a few things I’ve learned about myself during this process. I need way more quiet than I ever thought I did. I need a lot of time to think. I am slow. I have a tendency to worry. The flip side is that I realize that play – whether it’s dancing or going to the movies or taking a walk – allows me to tap into ideas or sentences or anecdotes. There’s something really fertile about relaxation. I look forward to applying that lesson more in the future – work, play and relaxation.
As far as learning about publishing as a business, I’m learning as I go. I’m definitely a beginner. I think it’s important to ask questions, to have people who are potential role models in terms of any number of things – from social media presence to aesthetics, etc. I’ve learned the importance of being really savvy on social media – I’m not savvy, I just realize it’s so important. It’s also really important to constantly develop content that can be used when your publisher’s marketing team needs something fresh. It’s important to have fresh ideas. It’s also important to be as helpful as you can be to your publisher – whether it’s making your writing sparkle or having connections that they can help leverage for your book. I’m definitely still learning.
The book is titled Cooking Solo: The Joy of Cooking for Yourself, and we love that you’re bringing attention to the fact that not all meals need to be huge to be enjoyed. We also appreciate the implications the message has in the rest or our lives – that alone time is good for us! Besides cooking, what are some of the ways you celebrate spending time by yourself?
Sometimes I feel like I have endless ways to enjoy time by myself. (I promise I have friends though – that’s one paranoid thought I have that so much promoting solo time will have people thinking I’m anti-social…I’m not!) There are the really simple things I like to do alone like read, watch almost anything on Netflix [and] watch The Affair, [and] then there are things like taking a long walk, going for a massage [or] going to the movies. I like being on planes by myself, but I’m usually going to visit friends. I’m a real fan of zoning out and, as I mentioned, I’ve learned how appealing quiet time can be, so being on trains or buses or on airplanes represents perfect zone-out time. I love that. I also love going to restaurants alone and eavesdropping on the people around me. It’s one of my favorite secret pleasures.
Thanks to you, we recently got a sneak peek at the cookbook, and it’s beautiful. We loved that you infused your sense of humor and wisdom from others into the book. How did you decide what to include in the book and what to edit out?
Almost nothing got edited out of the book because I learned it’s kind of hard to come up with 100 recipes. If anything, I had to really stretch for about 20 of those recipes. I came up with the book’s recipes in a few different ways. Some recipes are inspired by travel. For example, the Tahitian sashimi is something I ate a lot when I was working in French Polynesia, back when I was working for a non-governmental organization and in the field [of] international development. Then there are the recipes that I make up after going to the farmer's market and improvising based on what I buy. There are also recipes that are inspired by someone else’s recipe or a restaurant meal. So I guess it boils down to travel, improvisation and inspiration.
Speaking of editing, we always seem to be looking to simplify our homes, while making sure we’ve got the tools we need. What are the top five items you think everyone should have in their kitchen?
Bowls, a whisk, a chef’s knife or a good knife set, a cutting board and a good sauté or frying pan. If there could be a sixth item, I’d say it should be a spatula.
As you may know, Clementine Daily’s mission is to live a simplified, intentional and authentic lifestyle. How do you relate to those values in your everyday life?
Recently, I’ve started asking myself the question, "How can I make this easier?" I’m most likely to ask that question when I have a ton of things to do in a short period of time. I like the idea of taking care of priorities but also trying to figure out how I can make things easier for myself – not to screw over others or cut corners – but so that I don’t have to feel so worn out or overwhelmed. Sometimes that approach works and helps me simplify, and sometimes I forget to ask the question.
I also intend to start asking the question, "What’s fun for me?" I’d like more fun and play and would like to prioritize more of that. Another question that I like to use is "What do I want?" That can really simplify things. The only hard part is when I don’t know the answer.
We love inspiring words around here. Care to leave us with a few of the mantras by which you live?
“It doesn’t matter who you are, it only matters how you radiate.” I really like thinking about energy – how I can elevate my energy and use it and share it with others.
We love your energy, Klancy!
Klancy has graciously agreed to share one of our favorite recipes from her new cookbook today (it is both easy and delicious, a win win) - enjoy, friends!
Photogenic Shaved Zucchini Salad ( Makes 1 serving)
A PHOTO OF FINELY cut vegetables inspired this dish. It turns out that when you thinly slice a zucchini lengthwise, it’s a total beauty—like a wide ribbon or vegetal pappardelle pasta. You don’t need a mandoline to achieve the effect; a vegetable peeler does the job.
2 large zucchini
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1⁄3 cup pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
1⁄4 cup diced feta cheese
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted (see Note)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1. Trim the ends from the zucchini. Over a large bowl, shave them lengthwise into ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Add the tomatoes, olives, feta, and pine nuts, and set aside.
2. In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the oil, vinegars, garlic, pepper, and a pinch of salt. Shake vigorously until emulsified, about 1 minute.
3. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and cheese and toss with your hands to coat. Transfer to a plate and serve.
Note: To toast the pine nuts, place them in a dry skillet over medium heat and stir the nuts continuously until they are slightly golden and release a faint, toasty aroma, 2 to 3 minutes.
p.s. Want to hear more about Klancy’s story? You can listen to her recent interview on the Creating Your Own Path podcast!