On the menu today — Debra Moffitt, who stopped by to whet our appetites for her new book. Oh, and to dish about pie, too, of course!
Debra, what have you been cooking up for readers? Can you tell us a bit about your new book, and how it came about?
Only Girls Allowed begins a four-book series called the Pink Locker Society. Three BFFs in 8th grade learn they have been chosen to run a secret website. Their job? To answer questions from other girls about puberty and middle school life.
The girls in the book are fictional, but the book series was inspired by very real girls who emailed me at KidsHealth, where I’m an editor. Girls have LOTS of questions about growing up. When we launched the Pink Locker Society website, I invited girls to send in their questions. So far, I’ve received 25,000 of them!
How about your favorite pie-in-the-sky moment as a writer? Have you had one of those “I never dreamed it would really happen to me” moments that was special to you?
Having a book published is a huge thrill, but it’s been really exciting to watch girls interact on the website’s blog. They’re so energetic and bubbly and earnest. In other words, there’s no shortage of exclamation points or words spelled out in all caps.
I take questions that girls submit (What should I do about my crush? When can I wear a bra?) and publish them on the blog so other girls can give advice. It’s heartwarming to see all the caring suggestions girls make. And it always knocks me out when the girl who asked the question in the first place writes in to say THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!
Has there ever been a moment in your career when you had to eat humble pie? (I did, big-time, when as a fledgling author I showed up at a major chain bookstore for what I thought was just a signing and found to my chagrin was educator night – dozens of shining faces looking at me expectantly, and I hadn’t prepared a talk…)
Most definitely. I was a newspaper reporter from age 16 until 33 so, until then, I had zero experience writing fiction. I had confidence in my writing, though, and joined a well-known fiction writers’ workshop in Philadelphia. I worked hard on my first short story and I imagined the workshop’s moderator would adore it.
My night came to read an excerpt and get critiqued by him and the rest of the class. No one adored it. I got feedback – reams of it. The moderator wrote me an entire page of notes in very small handwriting. My workshop mates had questions – troubling questions. Where was the conflict? What was at stake? Where were my insights? What about the emotional payoff for the reader? I was clueless. But the criticism was intended to be helpful and, eventually, I started asking myself those questions as I was writing. I learned fiction is not for sissies and I would have to work harder.
Now let’s REALLY talk pie. What’s your favorite kind? Do you have a favorite pie memory? How about the recipe you’re sharing – can you give us a little background on it?
I am probably your only contributor who doesn’t like pie.
Say it ain’t so, Debra!
I’m much more of a cookie girl (which is probably why my favorite pie is my mother-in-law’s peanut butter ice cream pie with graham cracker crust.)
But my husband and three sons LOVE traditional pies and clamor for them, so I learned to make them. I learned slowly. Especially when it came to the crust. My grandmother, now 93, is a virtuoso of pie making. When I was in my 20s, I complained to her that I just couldn’t do it. When I tried, the pie dough would tear and shred and stick to the rolling pin. She seemed especially concerned when I told her I swore like a sailor during the crust-making process.
“Did your mother give you the recipe with vinegar in the crust?” No, she had not! So that prompted my grandmother to share her Never Fail Pie Crust recipe. It’s an easy-going pie crust that wants to be your friend. It works with any filling, but I’ll share the blueberry pie version in honor of my grandma Helen.
In her younger days, she’d head into the woods of northeastern Pennsylvania with an armload of coffee can pails. She’d come out loaded down with wild “huckleberries” – small, sweet, and a powdery midnight purple. Then she’d work her magic and create a knockout pie. It was shared around her kitchen table after Saturday evening Mass. And everyone washed it down with cups of high-test coffee from her silver bullet percolator.
Blueberry Pie with Never-Fail Pie Crust
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups shortening
6 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups fresh blueberries
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
- Wash berries.
- Spill sugar and flour over berries. Toss and coat well. Set aside.
- Combine flour and salt.
- Add shortening. Cut in well.
- All at once, add ice water, egg, vinegar, and sugar.
- Mix until a smooth dough forms.
- Roll into 3 or 4 balls. Place in a Ziploc bag in freezer for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Roll out pie crust onto waxed paper.
- Place bottom crust in pie pan
- Add berry mixture.
- Cover with top crust. Use a knife to cut slits to let out the steam.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees and bake until crust is brown and pie filling is bubbly.
As part of an ongoing celebration for a pair of pie-related books of mine that debuted this fall (“Babyberry Pie” and “Pies & Prejudice” – learn more here), I started a pie-of-the-month club to showcase new books by friends and colleagues.
Other recent “pies” include Jane Kurtz, Toni Buzzeo, Lisa Schroeder, Jennifer Ward, Susan Blackaby, Jennifer Jacobson, Frederic Hunter, Kimberley Griffiths Little, Stephanie Burgis, Andrea Beaty, Susan Fletcher, and Amy Schwartz. Be sure and drop by again soon, because I’ll be continuing to serve up more stellar books by some of my favorite authors and illustrators.
Oh, and pie is on the menu, too, of course. Pie is ALWAYS on the menu here on my blog. Enjoy!