This Week

Mack's Corner

This Week

I might have to move to New York. I got my book published!

Last summer a friend of mine came up to me and said he thought I should publish all of the stories that I write on this in a book. I get told that all the time and I said "Sure, maybe someday." But then he goes on to say that he has an editor and that he can hook me up. She has edited several things he's written for medical journals and things like that. And she knows how to get stuff published. Then he said he had already sent her a bunch of my stories and she though they were great and wanted to do it for free.. I said "Ok, Great…" I didn't really think much of it, people tell me stuff like that all the time. But a few days later I got an email from Sally, the editor. She was ready to go. She wanted me to start sending her stuff. I have about 400 stories that I've written over the last 14 years, so I sent them. A week later she started sending them back edited. They were better than I had written them. At the end of September she said she wanted to give them to an agent friend of hers to see if he could get the book published .. I said "Sure.." I still didn't really believe anything would really come of it but who knows. That was the last I heard until a month later when I got an email from Barry the agent in New York. He says he thinks he's sold the book and that I should hear from the publisher soon…..I still don't really believe this, but we'll see… 2 days later I got a call from Zach Butler, the publisher. He wants me to come to New York in November. The "Literary Writers Conference" is going on then and he wants me to meet some other writers and talk about the book. He says the publisher will pay for the whole thing and that they would put me up in a hotel that they use for all of their out of town writers. They would fly me in on Monday Morning and we could have dinner at the "Spotted Pig" just down the street from the hotel that night … We'll you know me, I don't go out of town without going out to dinner, and the Spotted Pig is a place I've always wanted to go. April Bloomfield is the chef. She's from England and she's a "Nose to Tail" pig chef. I figured at least I would get a good dinner and see New York. Then he said the magic words: "After that you can eat anyplace you want and see the city, we'll pay for it."… Did he say "Eat anyplace you want"?  I knew I was going then. I called my friends at the French Laundry to get reservations on Wednesday at Per Se in New York (Both Thomas Keller's restaurants) and figured I would fake it for Tuesday…. He asked "Who are your favorite writers?" I said ".. Willie Morris, John Grisham, Dean Koontz.." He said there would be lots of writers there at the conference and then he named a bunch of people I've never heard of, I guess I'm supposed to know some of them, but I didn't….  In November I got the plane tickets and flew to New York. Mr. Butler told me to get a cab at the airport and go to the Soho House Hotel on 9th. It was very nice, I mean really nice. I felt like I needed to dress up to walk in the lobby. But I guess most of the writers that stay there are either slobs or strange, so I fit right in. I tried my best to look like a writer. They let me stay.  The restaurant was about 6 blocks away so I just walked from the hotel. I left at 6:30p, the reservations were for 7p. I got there and told the girl at the door that I was looking for Mr. Butler. She took me to the bar. She said "Mr. Butler … This is Mr. Oates" … We shook hands and another guy stood up behind him. He looked really familiar but I didn't know why. Mr. Butler said " Mack I want you to meet John." And I reached over to shake hands and said "Mack Oates".. he said "John Grisham"…. I told you he looked familiar.. After I recovered we talked about Memphis and Oxford, then he had to leave. Mr. Butler and I had dinner. Dinner was great, just what I expected, lots of pork. He explained that his publishing company was owned by Random House and that's how he knew John Grisham. Then he said they really liked the book and wanted to publish it and that they wanted me to do a second and a third and a fourth one. But they wanted me to write the stories about living in New York, not Memphis and they wanted 5 stories a week so that they could publish a book once a year. I told him I might be able to come up with 5 stories a week but why New York, I don't live in New York. He said more people would read and relate to the stories if they were in New York and that I needed to come live there. Come Live in New York? He said think about it for a few days, meet some of the writers at the conference and we would talk about it Thursday morning. Then he said it would be a lot of money, a whole lot of money, even before I wrote the first word of book 2 …. I messed around all day Tuesday, did tourist stuff. Wednesday I thought I would walk down to the conference on west 12th, only 8 blocks away. I met a few writers and listened to several speakers. They seem like very smart people and they all talk funny. They talked about writing, I had a hard time getting interested…. That night I got a cab down the Time Warner building near central  park, dinner at Per Se, yeah baby!!!! I emailed Keller on my phone a little before I left just to tell him I would be there and if he was in the restaurant I would like to say Hi. No response… I got there and they put me at a table way off in the corner by a door. I figured it was because I was by myself and they were going to be busy. I didn't care, the food would be great no matter where I sat. The meal started with "Oysters and Pearls" my favorite thing in the whole world. Then a tuna course … At the duck course (#5) the door beside my table opened and Thomas Keller walked out and sat down in front of me with a bottle of wine. He said  "I thought I would bring the wine for the duck." I said "Hey Thomas, I wondered if you were here." He said he got my email and got them to put me in the corner so he could sneak in. I told him about the book and he told me about his experience with his 4 cookbooks. He didn't really see why I had to move to New York either. But he said he had to do a bunch of things for his cookbooks, like be on TV shows. He said he had to do a book signing tour in March for Williams-Sonoma …. The next morning I met Mr. Butler for breakfast. I told him I was having a hard time with moving to New York. He said "Ok, Here's what we'll do. You come to New York 2 or 3 times a month, stay in the hotel and get used to the city. Things will happen that you can write about and the rest of it you can just make up. Nobody cares if the stories are true or not! Just give it 2 more days and write a few stories while you're here." I said "But all of my stories are true except for the ones I write on April fool's day. And if I give it 2 more days it will be April 1st and everybody will know that I made this one up!"

Early April fools!!!!!!!!!!

God's like that: He loves to hear us laugh, he loves to see us with friends, he loves to see us enjoy our kids. Do something fun this week, make God laugh…

Anybody want to go to New York … I'm kinda hungry …


Cooking 220 - 2 pans, 2 burners, 20 minutes:

When I was growing up my mom made Shrimp Creole all the time. Except she got it from the frozen food section, heated it up and poured it over minute rice.. Here's the real thing from Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen … It's easy

Shrimp Creole

3 1/2 pounds of raw Shrimp

2 1/2 cups of shrimp stock or water

Canola oil, olive oil…

2 1/2 cups of finely chopped onions

1 3/4 cups of finely chopped celery

1 1/2 cups of finely chopped green bell pepper

4 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tsp minced garlic (dried is ok)

1 bay leaf

2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp white pepper

1 tsp red pepper (Cayenne or Chipotle = better)

3/4 tsp black pepper

1 1/2 tsp Tabasco

1 tbsp dried thyme

1 1/2 tsp dried basil

3 cups finely chopped tomatoes (one 28oz can, Hunts)

1 1/2 cups canned tomato sauce (Hunts)

2 tsp sugar

5 cups of cooked rice (we'll do this last)

If you have shrimp with shells, you can make shrimp stock. Peel the shrimp and put the shells in a pan and cover them with water. Add some "shrimp/Crab boil" if you have it. Bring it to a simmer and let it cook for 45. Pour it through a strainer. You need 2 1/2 cups. If you have too much stock, boil it down to 2 1/2 cups. If you don't have enough add enough water to make 2 1/2 cups ..

Heat 4 tbsp of oil in a 4 qt pan (a big iron skillet works great). Add 1 cup of the onions and cook till light brown … about 10 min.

Add the rest of the onions, the celery, bell pepper, and butter and cook for 5 min.. Until the bell pepper is tender.

Add the garlic, bay leaf, salt, peppers(red, white, black) and stir well.

Add Thyme, Tabasco, Basil and 1/2 cup of Stock/water .. Cook for 5 min. scraping the bottom of the pan.

Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10 min, scraping the bottom of the pan.

Stir in the tomato sauce and simmer for 5 min.

Add the remaining 2 cups of stock/water and the sugar and simmer for 15 min.

** At this point you could stop, let this cool and put it in the fridge and finish it the next day. Just bring it back up to a simmer and continue..**

While this simmers, make the rice
To make the Rice: Put 2 cups of rice in a pan and add enough water to cover the rice by 1 inch. (about the length of your middle knuckle on your finger). Add 1/2 tsp of salt. Bring it to a simmer and turn you burner as low as it will go. Cover the pan and cook for 18 minutes. Check it and stir it about half way through. When it gets close to the end check it more often. If it gets done before the 18 min take it off. Now stir in 2 tbsp of butter …
Turn the heat off under the sauce and add the shrimp. The shrimp will turn pink and plump in 5 to 10 min… you're done!

To serve: Put some rice in a bowl or plate and spoon shrimp and sauce over … Get a big hunk of bread and you're ready…

If you have leftovers, just mix the rice and sauce together and put it in the fridge… it gets better and better …



Posted by Mack Oates at 11:34 AM