Drum roll, please.
I’m thrilled to reveal the cover of my brand-new book, Taste and See.
This is an aspiring foodie’s search for God among butchers, bakers and fresh food makers. Because I believe God is a foodie who wants to transform your supper into sacrament.
I took the Psalmist’s invitation to taste and see God’s goodness literally.
My mission was simple: I’d study a handful of biblical food images and explore their deeper meanings. Since I was no food expert, I’d also spend time with people who knew these foods intimately, those whose lives and livelihoods intertwined with deliciousness.
This expedition took me to the Sea of Galilee to fish, the farm belt of California to pluck figs, and Yale University to bake fresh matzo with an expert on ancient grains. I’d descend 420 feet into a salt mine in Utah, graduated from a Steakology 101 course in Texas, and traveled to a remote island off the coast of Croatia to harvest olives.
During this journey, my eyes were opened wider than my mouth as I discovered a God who uses food to usher his people into greater freedom. This was true of the Israelites as much as it is true of us today.
In the process, I was stretched and grew as a writer, a researcher, and a Bible teacher. I want to take you behind the scenes to share some of the hard-won writing lessons of my journey.
1. Never stop growing as a writer. Taste and See reminds me of a book I wrote almost a decade ago called Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey.
Back then I wanted spending time with those prune, shepherd, farm, and manage in order to explore agrarian themes of Scripture. The resulting book and Bible study changed the way I read the Bible forever.
I’ve drawn on what I learned from writing that book to write this one. Over the years, I’ve continued to grow as a writer. I hope you will, too. What you read probably won’t be the best thing you’ve ever laid eyes on.
Um. That’s never been my promise.
My promise is that I’m committed to grow and experiment and stretch myself to become the best writer I can be. That means I will take risks, and some aren’t going to succeed.
Yet I’m committed that that every book I write is better than the last.
That’s a promise every writer should make to readers.
2. Build a book map but hold it loosely. One of the principles I love to teach in the Write Brilliant Academy is the importance of book mapping. This means that when you sit down to write, you have a clear, focused plan. You know your audience, you know their needs, and you serve them through your words.
When it came to writing Taste and See, I knew the foods I wanted to explore. I also had a good idea that a chapter on fruit would talk about fruitfulness, and a chapter on fish would focus on provision. Then I went on this Biblical adventure and talked to those who harvest and catch and farm, and they ruined my chapter maps and revolutionized my spiritual understanding. Everything I thought I knew about the Bible and food turned upside down. I found myself asking, Why has no one told me these things?
I’m thankful I had a book map, but I had to hold it loosely. I’m especially thankful for Jonathan Merritt who coached me through our original plan and then helped me recognize the better one I suspect God had in mind all along.
3. Research becomes richest when combined with experience. You can read the Bible. You can research the Bible. Like me, you can spend a thousand hours scanning academic periodicals or dozens of hours interviewing experts. You can even write the first draft, but something magical sparks when you touch, taste, see, listen, and feel firsthand.
I studied the global history of figs and bread, but something shifted when I visited a fig farm and kneaded dough containing ancient grains.
Whatever you’re writing or researching, find a firsthand experience. Sit in a counselor’s office. Teach from the pulpit. Hang out with a shepherd. Spend time in the headquarters. Sit in on the meetings. Visit the farm. Invite yourself to the classroom. Serve those you most want to reach. Then take fast and furious notes, photos, and videos. Your mind will grow fuzzier with time than you thought possible. But your records of the experience will bring your ideas alive for your readers.
4. Great communication with your editors will save you. I’m grateful for an incredible acquisition editor, Carolyn McCready, as well as my long-time editor and friend Angela Scheff. I’ve known these gifted women for almost 15 years.
They both know that one of my diehard writing principles is never miss a deadline. Yet as I interviewed various farmers and food-makers for this book, some simply weren’t a good fit. I visited three bakers before finding “the one.”
I travelled to four dairy farms before deciding the chapter on milk is better served by a chapter on cheese which will need to wait until a future project. All the interviews expanded my knowledge-base, but also slowed the writing of the book.
Yet I believe great communication with your editors will save you. I let them know when an interviewee lacked the content I needed or cancelled after a long trip due to a flood. I also let them know that a last-minute trip to Israel was needed to explore the ancient roots of the food I studied.
The communication proved particularly helpful when I had to make the call to share the news that I was going to miss the deadline. Together, we reworked the timeline and I found grace and a few weeks to write a better book.
When you’re writing, let your editor know of your progress sooner rather than later—especially if you encounter a delay.
You can find Taste and See available for pre-order on Amazon. You’ll be able to embark on the adventure and savor the insights into Scripture on January 22, 2019.
And if you too have a story inside of you that you know God is calling you to write, then join Jonathan Merritt and me in the Write Brilliant Academy. This week, we have a free, 3-part mini-course available for you to jumpstart your writing today. You don’t want to miss it because your words will transform lives, and we want to help you do it.