Passionfruit jelly? A first for me

A few years ago, hubby decided to grow Passiflora incarnata, a passionfruit native to North America. The plant is as prolific as rabbits–not only cloning itself by sending out runners into the lawn, but also pops out more fruits than we can possibly eat. We mostly gave away the fruits the first couple of years. Good thing we know people who actually like them. But this year, I was determined to do something with them.

As usual, hubby picked several large bagfuls. We saved one of the bags…

The skin is easily tearable. Giant fleshy seeds, much like pomegranate seeds, fill the entire inner cavity.

If you peel off the outer cover just right, you can see the whole preserved pod of seeds.

I scraped all the seeds into a pot and covered them with water. Then I cooked them up and juiced them using a sieve and cheesecloth.

After that, I followed a standard recipe for making jelly and canned 5 jars.

It’s not too bad, though it tastes more like apple jelly than passionfruit jelly. The tropical flavor was lacking, possibly because of it being cooked up.

Would I make it again? Maybe. Perhaps the next time, I’ll try juicing them by soaking them in water only and not boiling it (except in making the jelly). I sent a jar to a friend and we have 4 jars to eat and I will make up my mind by the end, I think.

 

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The Remarkable Year of the We Need Diverse Books Mentorship

2017 is the Year of the Rooster and I had much to crow about!

Getting the call

I had fallen into a slump in 2015 when my former agent couldn’t sell any of my stories and then suddenly quit the business. Nothing went right for a while and I was sliding into a “learned helplessness” state where I didn’t believe anything I did made a difference. Because of that, I almost didn’t apply for the We Need Diverse Books (WNDB™) Mentorship Program.

But two things spurred me to do it anyway:

1) Salina Yoon, superstar author-illustrator and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, predicted good things happening for me in 2016, and

2) my picture book critique group, the Penguin Posse, kicked my butt (in the best possible way).

So, I entered and put it out of my mind because I couldn’t bear another disappointment. I watched November and December tick away, and had just resigned myself to the fact that 2016 was another bust when just before Christmas…

I received a call from Miranda Paul, the creator of the Mentorship Program and brilliant author, telling me that I won the nonfiction category, chosen by none other than Jane Yolen–yeah, THE JANE YOLEN!!!

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Some of my old favorites of Jane’s books. I still bawl when I re-read Owl Moon and Encounter.

Best. Christmas. Present. Ever!

Getting the ball rolling

After the call from Miranda, I think I was in a state of disbelief for a while. Surely something that good couldn’t be happening, could it? Then it all became very real–and very surreal, too–when Jane emailed in the middle of January to introduce herself to me, as if a lifelong speculative fiction and children’s literature fan such as myself wouldn’t know who she is and didn’t already worship the chair she BICs on!

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Some of my new favorites of Jane’s book.

Jane became the icon she is by working hard (along with colossal talent) and expected her mentee to do the same. While I don’t think anyone could work as hard as Jane does, I am more than willing to roll up my sleeves and put in the time and sweat to hone my writing skills.

I think Jane was pleased to hear it.

Getting down to business

The WNDB program allows for each mentor-mentee pairing to work out their own schedules and rhythms. Jane is not a helicopter mentor. She expected me to be an adult and keep track of my progress, asking her for help when I need it, and essentially take charge of the process. She wasn’t going to baby me and change my literary diaper, but she always made time to teach me how to change it on my own, so to speak. I truly believe that is the best way a mentor, or a parent, can help you grow.

Here’s how we proceeded:

To begin with, Jane gave me very thorough feedback on my manuscript. I revised based on her comments, rewriting the areas where I felt her advice was spot on. She never pressured me to take her recommendations as the final word, always reminding me to heed only what felt right for my vision.

For the first half of 2017, we went back and forth like that, going over my story initially with a broad brush, making sure the story had structural integrity and the right tone and palette. Then we narrowed in on specific sections, going tighter and tighter into the fine details. I was lucky enough to meet with Jane in person at the spring NESCBWI conference to talk over the progress of the manuscript.

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Jane, her lovely and equally talented author daughter, Heidi Stemple, and me.

The NESCBWI Conference was also notable because I won the Pitchapalooza event there, beating out the 12-14 other people who were called up to pitch their story ideas!

Jane coached and I refined and polished until we had exhausted every possible adjustment we could think of.

Getting out into the world

At that point, I felt like my baby, with Jane’s blessing and a promise to write a blurb for the book, was ready to be sent out to face the critical eyes of agents and editors.

Everyone tells you that the publishing world is subjective. It is 100% true. Even though THE JANE YOLEN had put her stamp of approval on a story doesn’t mean it will be universally loved. Some agents and editors thought the story wonderful, others gave a resounding “meh.”

Getting…an agent!

Even though WNDB says not to expect to get an agent or a publishing contract out of our mentorships–that it is purely for improving your craft with a dedicated and experienced personal teacher, after all–I was very lucky to have found (again, serendipitously, but that’s another blog post), and signed with, Natascha Morris of BookEnds Literary Agency, who is as savvy and hardworking as she is fun and clever!

There is a decent chance that I might get a publishing contract, too, but I won’t think about it until I actually see it.

As we near Thanksgiving and the mentorship year comes to a close, I want to express my deep gratitude to those who have made the past eleven months unforgettable:

* Salina Yoon, for being a dear friend who publically predicted my success

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A handful of Salina’s terrific books that I own and love.

* Miranda Paul, for her brilliant mentorship program idea, and the entire We Need Diverse Books team

* Jane Yolen, for being my inimitable mentor and guiding star

* Natascha Morris, for being a tireless agent who saw my potential

* my critique groups, the Penguin Posse, the Minnows, and the Scribblers, for always being there to support me in every way

Fell off the blog planet

Not only have I not had time to read blogs, I’ve not had time to *remember* to blog! But it’s been a good busy with lots of writing and revising and knitting in between.

And that’s a good segue into this post. I noticed that writing and knitting are similar in that when you run across a problem you can’t solve right away, put it aside for a while to let your subconscious work on it. Most of the time, it will find a solution for you if you’re not forcing the issue.

I was stuck on this pattern and thought I’d wasted a few weeks on making the scarf. I was annoyed but put it away for a bit. A couple of days ago, I thought I knew what went wrong. So I tackled it today and sure enough, I worked it out and now I will end up with two lovely scarves (because I started work on a new one while I had this set aside) for my mentor! Shhh…it’s a surprise for her.

#Inktober2017 days 19 & 20 “cloud” “deep” @drawonapostit #doodle

This is how I am every morning: my head’s in a cloud and I’m looking deeply into my caffeinated beverage for strength. Hah!