Pumpkin, Pumpkin: Folklore, History, Planting Hints and Good Eating

Courtesy Amazon.com

Pumpkins are magical. They herald in the autumn; they fulfill our needs to create art related to the season and to celebrate it. We fill them with light to welcome others to our homes, and to provide the way from home to home as we gather treats for the season. We have all kinds of celebrations for them from competitions for the largest or best pumpkin to the best decorated pumpkins to pie baking and pie eating competitions. We listen in awe to their amazing history and laugh at their folklore. We begin to invite friends and relatives to luscious dinners featuring this wonderful orange treat. Pumpkins warm our hearts as the autumn begins to bring the chill air. We invite you into the welcoming pages of this book, and to fill your souls with all the good things you remember, and your stomachs with the most delightful pumpkin treats.

I first published this book in 1986, believe it or not. Publishing was different back then. In case any of you ever get discouraged trying to publish your books, don’t. I went through (no kidding) some 600 publishers in the U.S. and overseas. Everyone pretty much liked it, but they didn’t publish specialized cookbooks so much then, or they were afraid it was too seasonal . I kept careful notes of every letter I sent to a publisher. That was how we did it back then. And if they showed an interest, we had to send them a manuscript to review. It was a ridiculously long process, and expensive too. But in the end result, none of them turned down the book for any personal reason (i.e. you can’t write).

Finally I took a second job to get the book printed, exchanging my work as editor of a small community newspaper in Long Beach, California. I worked at my regular job by day and then went to work after I got off my other job to get the paper out every week, and working all weekend. When I had earned enough to have my book printed (5,000 copies), I took the covers and all the pages, and I held a collating party with friends, who helped me collate it after a potluck dinner in a part of the Old Fort MacArthur, where we had an old barracks building we had rented as a gallery.  There we exhibited the work of some potters my former significant discovered. The building overlooked the ocean in San Pedro, CA. It was an incredible time to be in that town. I had rented a comb binding machine and so we took care of everything, and of course I gave each person who helped me to get it all together a signed copy.

That was just the beginning of the work. I had to schlup the book around to bookstores. Some of them paid me up front and then would get their money back with sales. Others insisted on taking the book on consignment, which meant me driving back to their stores each month to see if they had made sales. And those people put the books out where they wanted them, and that was not where they would get the best viewing and perhaps sales. This was common in those days.

My book was not high priced; I don’t remember what it was, but I remember that by today’s standards it was cheap. And they were more obliged to the big name publishers. So pricing and where your book ended up on the shelves were other things that made selling a genuine challenge. The comb binding was ok. A number of cookbooks were sold that way, but the problem was that without printing on the outside edge, if the book was on the shelf among other books, it would be overlooked. Libraries would not take it because of that. It would be easy to take it out of the library without checking it out legally, and also people would sometimes overlook it because they ignored something with no printing on the spine.

I had a Library of Congress Number besides the ISBN, which is all many self-published  books have these days it seems. Anyway, it would end up in their Books in Print, and that did bring a number of orders. The problem with that was that I had to get them ready to ship, pay for postage, and mail them out for the price of the book plus shipping. That part would have been ok if I had not had to get them ready to mail and get them to the post office each time. So again, it was ending up costing me money to get my own book out.

I can’t remember what the Internet was like, but I had no one to help me promote the book. I definitely do not remember blogs. So I did what I could, and between giving away books to people who were friends and selling what I could, and soon they were all gone. I have one old and really battered copy, but it is a good memory of another time and place and how things used to be.

Life is a joy now related to the books we write and publish. I think the “Print on Demand” publishers have much to help worthwhile authors to get their books out there and in a way that is not environmentally a challenge in that we don’t have to worry about remaindered books. I don’t know if book pirating is still an issue as it was way back when. Seems to me from some of the movies I have seen that countries like China and other parts of Asia have some pretty good writers and producers of film these days, and there seems to be a big market for them now too, so pirating may have slowed down.

Thank you one and all who have been so supportive. It is wonderful the way the bloggers help to support each others’ efforts in publishing. Never give up. Keep writing. Everything today is geared to helping you to succeed. I want to thank my good friends, Leonore Dvorkin of DLD Books.com who does editing, and David Dvorkin, who made my beautiful cover and got the book into print, and handled all the technical chores. And I also want to thank my friend Patty Fletcher, who seemingly never sleeps while she helps us all to get publicity for our books as she works with David and Leonore. They helped my friend, Barbara Williamson and me with our last book, Artful Alchemy: Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating. I love the way the book business is today. It is a true community involvement, and you never have to feel alone the way I did years ago as I did what I could for my book.

The Pumpkins are Here . . .

Kathy Burns had the pumpkin

Photo by Kathy Burns

The sun peaked from behind the clouds.

Autumn was in the air.

The crows sat in the barren trees

Something surely waiting there.

Leaves danced o’r the ground

As the wind began to blow.

Children sensed it coming

From where no one could know.

They sniffed the air with childhood hopes

And pulled their sweaters tight.

Whatever it could possibly be,

They dreamed as children might.

A wagon rumbled down the road

Pulled by an old gray mare

An old man managing the load,

There was magic in the air.

Children jumped happily up and down

The day had come at last.

When the pumpkins came to town.

Happy Halloween!