I'm holding back tears as I write this post because I never imagined in a million years that one day my own health journey of chronic illness would lead not only to healing myself but an opportunity to serve others on their path -- through a cookbook.
I've been waiting to share it all with you for almost 2 years now. From the moment I received the email to everything that happened afterward.
An Unexpected Opportunity
It all started on April 27, 2017. It was a sunny day in Seattle and I remember it so vividly as if it were yesterday. Real + Vibrant was just starting to pick up, I had just finished my plant-based professional cooking course, and was making nowhere near a full-time living yet and quickly draining every penny I had ever saved.
I looked down at my laptop and saw an email pop up from Sasquatch Books with a subject line "vegan cookbook." My heart pounded as I read the words from my future editor, Susan Roxborough. She had found me on Instagram and wanted to see if I had ever considered writing a cookbook.
The next day, Susan and I jumped on a call and I immediately knew this was a great opportunity to serve my readers. I can't explain the emotions I felt after putting the phone down that day. Filled with gratitude, I was in pure awe at how the most unexpected opportunities can arrive at our doorstep (in my case, in my inbox) when we least expect it.
Writing the Cookbook Proposal
A week after the initial conversation, I started working on my cookbook proposal. I googled every resource I could find on what a proposal was and how to write one. A cookbook proposal is similar to a business plan, but rather for a cookbook.
The book would be about - you guessed it -- bowls, plant-powered bowls. Bowls that nourish and energize the soul. Buddha bowls had been such an important part of my healing journey, getting me back in the kitchen instead of opting for take-out. This was the book I wish I had when I first started cooking my own food.
I spent a few months writing the proposal and on June 22,
A few weeks later, Susan gave me the awesome news that my proposal had been approved and they were extending me a formal offer for my cookbook! I signed my book deal on August 25, 2017.
It felt like I had just finished the challenging part of the cookbook journey. Little did I know, I was only getting started.
A Journey of a Thousand Miles
As the Chinese proverb goes, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" and so it did. Little did I know the plethora of emotions, life changes, and learning experiences this journey would entail.
It was really hard for me not to share any of this with my community but I wanted to wait for the right moment and I knew it was too early in the journey to share it all with you.
Writing the Manuscript
There are many steps in writing a cookbook and writing the manuscript is probably the most important yet hardest part. It's a long journey, one that requires a lot of hard work, patience, focus, grit, many rounds of reviews, and surfaces a lot of emotions.
One afternoon, I found myself lying on my yoga mat. I had been working on my manuscript for months and my manuscript wasn't anywhere close to being done. Operating on very little sleep, growing a business, dealing with a number of personal life changes, it felt like I had reached my peak.
I rolled out my mat to do some yoga but instead found myself in the middle of a meltdown, wondering how in the world I would get everything done. I had so much work to do, an impending deadline and bills to pay. That's when I looked up and saw Titus looking down at me with so much love. I started chuckling "oh Titus, what would I do without you
You see, writing a book of any sort challenges you in endless ways. It challenges your self-belief, confidence, and forces you to grow in ways you could never imagine. Writing this cookbook is by far one of the hardest things I've done in my life. You can't run too fast in the beginning because you'll only burn yourself out nor can you wait until the end because there's just no way you'll get it done.
But I got it done. Thanks to my incredibly supportive family, close friends, and an incredible publishing team, I somehow reached the finish line. Now it was time to start shooting the recipes.
Photographing 70 Recipes
In my cookbook proposal, I remember boldly writing "each recipe will have a photo." I have personally always struggled with cookbooks that didn't include photos for each recipe. I mean, how am I supposed to know if what I made looked even remotely close to what it was supposed to look like? I hadn't thought about the amount of work that would go into shooting 70 recipes, but it didn't matter as I wanted to put my readers first. This book was for them.
Bowls, Lots of Them!
Fun fact: during the course of writing my cookbook, I purchased well over 40 bowls. Prior to the cookbook, I had just been using a bowl I had purchased from World Market and a golden fork from Target. Those were literally my only "food photography props" along with a cheap roll-out "marble" mat I had purchased on Etsy.
Cookbook Photography Equipment
After my cookbook proposal was accepted and I received my cookbook offer, Susan asked if I would be interested in shooting my entire cookbook. I was ecstatic and honored. Note that just a few months prior, I was shooting primarily on my iPhone but had recently started using a DSLR, an old Nikon. Better yet, I barely knew how to shoot in manual mode.
I knew my current setup wasn't going to cut it for the cookbook so I decided to invest in photography gear. A few weeks before I started photographing my cookbook, I purchased a Canon DSLR (EOS 80D) and a Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 Art Lens. I immediately fell in
During the course of 3 months, I probably took over 4,000 photos for the cookbook. I invested in a high-quality tripod setup, a number of photography backdrops, more equipment, and turned my living room into a full-fledged photography studio. My little apartment is pretty special to me today because this is where I wrote and shot the entire cookbook.
On most days, my kitchen looked like a complete disaster. Filled with bowls, food everywhere. I shot the entire book in natural light so daylight was key. My days would usually start at 5 AM, include daily runs to the grocery store, prepping ingredients, cooking, styling and about 10 solid hours of shooting. The evenings would be filled with hours of cleaning the kitchen, reviewing the photos I took, editing them, and then preparing for the next day. And then I'd do it all over again.
I finally finished all the photos and that's when it truly hit me that I was actually writing a real cookbook - one that would be used by thousands of individuals around the world. And I couldn't be more excited to share my journey with you today.
My cookbook Plant Power Bowls will be published on April 16, 2019 - about two month from now! It contains 70 vibrant and nourishing plant-based bowls to energize and fuel your body. The recipes are arranged seasonally so you can eat the freshest ingredients throughout the year. But wait, there's also a dessert section filled with plant-based ice cream and more!
I did want to emphasize that, while this book is technically a vegan cookbook, it's for anyone who wants to include more plant-based meals in their daily lives.
I can't wait to share more with you in the coming weeks!! Stay tuned and if you already aren't subscribed to my newsletter, this is a great time to do so!
Not too long ago, I was taking multiple prescription medications, searching for relief from debilitating migraines and numerous health issues, and desperately looking for help. Not too long ago, my dad went into cardiac arrest and survived an emergency quadruple bypass. And not too long ago I took a leap of faith and started Real + Vibrant, leaving my corporate career behind.
What I've learned through all of this is that ANYTHING is possible. No matter where you are today, just know that you have the power to change your circumstances. I am so grateful to the Real + Vibrant community for supporting me, those that have been here since my beginning days, and those who have just joined the party. And a heartfelt thank you to Susan and the rest of my publishing team at Sasquatch Books for an opportunity of a lifetime, to serve my readers in a completely new way.