Monday, January 16, 2012

My First Reading

High Expectations
My expectations for my first reading of Secrets of a Summer Village were really high.  I have a tendency to keep low expectations for everything as a means of avoiding disappointment.  However, this time my expectations were very high because 1) this was my first reading and I didn't know any better, and 2) being the author of an English-language book and not living in an English-speaking country means that there are not a lot of opportunities out there for me to speak.  Oh, and being self-published doesn't help, either.

A few friends recommended that I contact the Munich Readery, the largest second-hand bookstore in Germany which just happens to be in Munich (close to where we live).  They hold readings on a regular basis, I was told, and maybe they'd even host mine.  I contacted them, and established communication with one of the owners, Lisa Yarger.  We went in to meet her one Saturday morning, and I brought her a copy of my book.  The kids sat and enjoyed Lisa reading aloud to children, and I could definitely see myself reading in that cosy environment.  Still, Lisa would need to read the book to make sure it was ok.  Sure enough, she liked it well enough to offer me two possible dates - one in January and one in March.  Being excited, I chose the earlier date.

BIG audience
It was this past Saturday.  In retrospect, I was nervous.  I don't think I slept well all week.  I practiced less than I expected, but the last practice session, on Friday morning, went really well and I wrote lots of notes on the passages I would read (chosen by Lisa, who knows more about this stuff than I do).  Mostly, I wrote: READ SLOWLY, and I underlined words that needed to be emphasized.  Throughout the week, Lisa sendt me updates, telling me how many people had reserved seats.  There were 30 available seats, and Lisa had told me that they've never had a full house before, so I was free to publicize the event to my large network.  By Saturday morning, 37 people had signed up, but Lisa wasn't too nervous because in her experience, there are usually quite a few no-shows. I was very curious as to who was going to come - I knew that some friends and acquaintances had signed up, but not 37 of them.

We had this idea that we'd sell wine by the glass, which Lisa agreed would be fine.  Since we have a side business selling eastern Mediterranean wine (including Turkish wine), it seemed appropriate.  I also offered to bring homemade pogaca, a pastry filled with cheese and parsley.  I spent most of the day Saturday getting ready - making pogaca, making sure I didn't forget my notes, books to sell, the pogaca, wine, wine glasses, a wine opener, a CD (to play when people were entering), and one of my lucky pens (I have a few...).

I was not disappointed.  The evening was a huge success!  I don't know how many people came in all, but definitely more than thirty, as there was no seat for Levent and for quite a few others, who had to stand behind me.  I knew some of the people there, but I didn't know most of them - I was really flattered that so many people would come to listen to me read.  They were a fabulous audience.  They were quiet (I was pretty worried that they'd chit chat and that my voice wouldn't carry).  They laughed in all the right places (BIG relief).  They asked excellent questions when I was done reading (thanks, Levent, for doing a mock interview with me before the reading!), and they complimented me on my reading.  THAT was very unexpected.  I think I've written a very good book, but I didn't expect that people would compliment me so much on my delivery.  Quite a few people bought books and asked for me to sign them (what to write?! not so easy).  Lisa said, and I quote, "for a variety of reasons, it was the most successful event we've ever hosted."  Thank, you, Lisa - it exceeded all of my expectations, too :)

I don't like profile photos, but this will have to do.
Many of the attendees asked for the pogaca recipe, and I told them I'd post it on my blog.  It's my mother-in-law's recipe, and I am 100% sure that it is the best pogaca recipe I've ever tried:

1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup olive oil
teaspoon salt
1 package of baking powder (5 teaspoons)
3 cups flour

Filling & finishing:
1 egg
1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup crumbled cheese (I usually use feta-type cheese, but be creative. Would also be good with grated mozzarella, parmesan, or perhaps even blue cheese)
a sprinkle of dry dill or a few tablespoons of fresh chopped dill
a sprinkle of black pepper

sesame seeds and kalonji/nigella/black caraway seeds
For the dough, mix all ingredients together and knead well for a few minutes. Set aside and let rise 30 minutes or more (up to a few hours is fine)

Prepare the filling:
Mix together parsley, cheese, dill, egg white (save the yolk), black pepper and cayenne.

Break off walnut-size pieces of the dough and form into a ball. Squash each ball in the palm of your hand to form a round of dough. Put in a small amount of filling (a teaspoon at most) and fold over, then seal closed by pressing the edges of the half-moon together. Place pastries onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. They can be relatively close together, as they won't expand much.
When you've filled all the rounds, brush each one with egg yolk and sprinkle with sesame and kalonji seeds (kalonji seeds are black - not pictured here).

Bake at 175 Celcius (around 350 F) until golden - make sure the bottoms of the poaca are also golden in color. If they are still white, they are not done yet.

These look like they are a lot of work, but they are not - that being said, they take much longer to make than they do to eat!

Finally, some pictures from the evening:

Levent, my sweet husband (who inspired the book) and me

The audience, before I read.

The captivated audience (and one lady who is removing her sweater).

Here's Levent with the wine, talking to an audience member.

And here's his business partner, Ralph. 

And here I am, signing a book.  This is one reason I did not just publish digitally.  It is just so cool to autograph a book.


  1. I think your next book should be a suspense novel! I was on the edge of my seat until I reached the Success paragraph. So glad all went well and I loved meeting you through your pics. Book & wine, mighty fine. :)

  2. Congratulations Saskia! I wish I could have been there. I'm so proud of you ol' buddy ol' pal! Your dream of becoming an author has finally come true!