This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Maureen Evans, author of “Eat Tweet: A Twitter Cookbook.” It contains over a thousand recipes, each one conforming to the 140-character limit. I will let Maureen explain all.
Who is Maureen Evans (@maureen) and can you tell us about Eat Tweet?
I’m a Canadian writer and roamer, most recently stationed in Belfast for two years, while I completed grad school at QUB. I am obsessed with both writing and cooking, but until recently, I only saw the former as my “work”. Writing tiny recipes as @cookbook on Twitter was purely recreational, a way to communicate with nerdier friends about my culinary passions. It didn’t hurt that my boyfriend was Twitter’s software architect.
The book has received a great deal of praise, The New York Times calling it the “first great recipe innovation in 200 years.” Did you foresee yourself writing a best selling book when you were studying at university, and how much of what you learned at college come into play?
Fantasies about being a “best selling author” were the stuff of my early childhood. But both my college and master’s degrees were focused on creative writing as a career, which I swiftly learned to be a humble path for most writers — so that my dreams became more middle-of-the-shelf than in-the-spotlight — and all the praise has been a pleasant surprise. The switch away from more “literary” genres of poetry and fiction made it all possible, and I’m happy to say the unexpected form of my cookbook still satisfies my yen for experimental forms of writing.
But no book is written effortlessly. The intellectual work-ethic I gained at university helped me through the long hours and endless weeks it took to write and edit an enormous collection of recipes. My degrees also both demanded a lot of writing and re-writing, openness to the suggestions of others, and diligence in completing final dissertations. Certainly, I learned a lot from, and highly recommend, practice- and project-focused university paths.
How important is the audience, have you found it difficult in getting people to engage and is it rewarding when they do?
In retrospect, the greatest strength of @cookbook is its consistency: it offers a broadly-appealing drip-feed of information into its readers’ busy lives. It never lapses into another tone; I save all other topics besides recipes for my personal @maureen stream (all in haiku, in case you’re interested!), and only very rarely broadcast communiques via @cookbook. The recipe stream was planned that way for my friends, and I simply continued to write it that way as my Twitter following went up, and up again… Meanwhile, I’ve consciously maintained a friendly level of real engagement all along, chatting with anyone who pipes up to say hello, show me a photo of a recipe they’ve prepared, to request a dish, or ask for clarification. There is nothing more rewarding than the fact that the printed book has increased the number of such conversations. It’s really fun!
If you could give one piece of advice to a small business or person venturing into the social media landscape, what would it be?
Focus on something you love doing. Both halves of that simple sentence are important. Focus over time always yields superlative results. Loving what you do pulls you through the long-haul. It enables you to work harder than your competition, and to enjoy even those times when you’re saying to yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Because you’ll have the answer.
That said, opportunities to do the sort of work you love can take unexpected forms, as was the case for me and my cookbook. So, creative openness is important, too.
What’s next for you and Eat Tweet?
Up next, I want to start a blog, to keep up the buzz and start new conversations. The condensed form of the book will make it easy to expound on its subject matter. I’m also currently deciding whether to put the collection of recipes online, making them socially annotatable.
Most people have a book that changed their life, the way they thought or even just how they conducted business, what’s yours?
The Fever, by Wallace Shawn. In “The Princess Bride”, Wallace Shawn plays the evil Vizzini. Turns out he’s also an incredible playwright. The Fever is a monologue on global humanity: the economic interconnectedness that underlies each human life, beneath the easy stories we tell ourselves. It’s a sobering and inspiring play, and continually compels me to consider the global effects of my choices, in business and in life.
Thanks Maureen for answering a few questions. Be sure to follow @cookbook on Twitter for a multitude of tiny recipes or even better pick up a copy of Eat Tweet: A Twitter Cookbook on Amazon.
Stay tuned to find out who the next interviewee is by following @jonnycampbell on Twitter.