“Make sure you let your yeast bloom.”
When I started planning my book launch a few months ago, I did not imagine saying these words to my readers.
But COVID has turned everything upside down. And all my plans for getting this book out into the world and into the hands of readers had to change. I don’t know when I’ll be able to meet readers in person again (something I really miss!), so I had to come up with creative ways of engaging people.
Now, every Thursday evening, I’m making challah from scratch on Facebook Live while answering writing- and book-related questions (in between those about baking). I call it Kneading and Reading — and it’s doing so much more for me than just marketing.
Releasing a new book is nerve-racking. So is having no idea what the state of the world will be a month from now. So is trying to teach your eight-year-old Grade Two Hebrew when you yourself don’t speak the language. . . When I bake challah, I revel in the routine. I feel confident. And when people send in their questions and we have a conversation, albeit virtually, I don’t feel like I’m doing this alone. I feel like I’m surrounded by readers and bakers in my kitchen.
I know I’m lucky. My family is healthy. We have a home in which to stay. We have income. We have each other. I have amazing support from my publisher as we navigate this strange world together. No one has a pandemic plan for launching a collection of short stories in their back pocket, but we’re finding ways to be creative.
I roll out dough strands and get ready to show a six-strand braid.
“You twist and then bring to the middle. Twist and middle.” It’s a complicated braid, but I show it every week because it gets easier with practice. We’re about ten weeks into this COVID shutdown, and I feel a little more calm, like at least in our house we’re more settled into this new routine. “Next week we’ll try babka,” I promise, and then I remind everyone to buy my book from their favourite bookseller. None of this is what I expected, but as the weeks go on, it seems to get a little easier with practice.