Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Writing is a piece of cake for Judith Fertig...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Julia Shapiro
Today, novelist and cookbook author Judith Fertig is here to talk about the power of story. Her debut novel, The Cake Therapist, was published last week and Berkley has THREE copies to share with some lucky US readers! Just looking at the cover makes our mouth water for the story inside.

Judith Fertig grew up in the Midwest, went to cooking school in London and Paris, and now lives in the Kansas City area. Described by Saveur Magazine as a "heartland cookbook icon," Fertig debuts a new novel that engage the mind, the heart, and all five senses—and celebrates cookbooks that reflect her love of bread, baking, barbecue, and the fabulous foods of the Heartland. 

Her food and lifestyle writing has appeared in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Vegetarian Times, Natural Awakenings, Better Homes & Gardens, Saveur, Country Living, Cooking Pleasures, Family Fun, Coastal Living, Southern Living, La Vie Claire, Spaces Magazine, and Cooking Light. Her work has appeared internationally in Country Homes and Interiors (London), The New York Times, and The London Sunday Times

Judith has appeared on the Food Network and many TV and radio stations. She gives talks across the country, blogs, tweets, and posts on Facebook. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, The Kansas City Barbeque Society, The Kansas City Novel Group, and IACP. (Bio adapted from Judith's website.)

You can learn more about her at her website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter

Synopsis of The Cake Therapist:
Claire “Neely” O’Neil is a pastry chef of extraordinary talent. Every great chef can taste shimmering, elusive flavors that most of us miss, but Neely can “taste” feelings—cinnamon makes you remember; plum is pleased with itself; orange is a wake-up call. When flavor and feeling give Neely a glimpse of someone’s inner self, she can customize her creations to help that person celebrate love, overcome fear, even mourn a devastating loss.

Maybe that’s why she feels the need to go home to Millcreek Valley at a time when her life seems about to fall apart. The bakery she opens in her hometown is perfect, intimate, just what she’s always dreamed of—and yet, as she meets her new customers, Neely has a sense of secrets, some dark, some perhaps with tempting possibilities. A recurring flavor of alarming intensity signals to her perfect palate a long-ago story that must be told.

Neely has always been able to help everyone else.

Getting to the end of this story may be just what she needs to help herself.
(Courtesy of Judith's website.)

The Power of Story

As a food writer, I’ve know that flavor tells a story. The golden sweetness of fresh-picked corn evokes a hot and humid Midwestern summer. Sour, pickled tastes imply a frugal mindset and a cold climate, a need for a sharp flavor to perk up winter-blah meals.

When I began to write my debut novel, The Cake Therapist, I still wanted flavor to tell a story. This time, I endowed my pastry chef heroine with a special ability. Claire “Neely” Davis would be able to “read” people as flavors. Flavor as a hyperlink to a feeling. And a feeling as the heart of a story.

And we all have one. Or several.

Our stories can powerfully guide us through life, or just as powerfully hold us back.

Neely gives her customers the flavors they need to get in touch with their stories and move through life. And she finally glimpses the hidden story behind a rogue flavor that has tormented her, bringing closure and a measure of healing to a family. 

That’s how story can work in fiction.

And here’s how it can work in real life.

The Power of Story on the Emotions

Revealing our stories can help us feel worthy and connected. “Each of us is a constantly unfolding narrative, a hero in a novel no one else can write,” says Lissa Rankin, M.D., a practitioner of integrative medicine in Ojai, California.  “And yet so many of us leave our stories untold, our songs unsung—and when this happens, we wind up feeling lonely, listless, out of touch with our life’s purpose, plagued with a chronic sense that something is out of alignment. We may even wind up feeling unworthy, unloved, or sick,” says Rankin,

"Telling your story—while being witnessed with loving attention by others who care—may be the most powerful medicine on earth,” Rankin says.

The Power of Story on the Physical Body

James Pennebaker, currently Professor and Chair of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, is one of the pioneers in the mind/body benefits of story, which he explores in Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions. In the late 1980s, Pennebaker was consulting with the Texas prison system and discovered an interesting phenomenon. Suspects were given polygraph tests that measured their own physical responses, such as heart rate, to the answers they gave. When they were lying, their physical symptoms showed increased heart rate. But when they finally confessed, their bodies relaxed. 
“Our cells know the truth,” writes microbiologist Sondra Barrett, PhD., in Secrets of Your Cells.  “Our physiology responds to what we’re thinking, including what we don’t want people to know.” When we are afraid to tell a story and keep it in, “our cells broadcast a signal of danger,” she says. “Molecules of adrenalin (along with stress hormones) connect with receptors on heart, muscle, and lung cells—and in the case of long-term sustained stress, immune cells.” We then experience increased heart rate, tense muscles, shortness of breath, and lower immunity.  “When we release the stories and feelings that torment us, our cells respond with great relief,” she adds, and “become havens of safety once again.” 

What if we tell ourselves the wrong story, as a character in The Cake Therapist does, with almost disastrous consequences?
The Power of the Wrong Story

I will always be overweight. My partner doesn’t love me. I’m stuck here.

Our thoughts are simply a shorthand version of a longer life story, says Byron Katie, author of  Who Would You Be Without Your Story? Katie has traveled the world with the program she calls The Work. It's a simple four-question process we can use to examine the story we've been telling ourselves. By questioning our stories, turning them around, and crafting new and more truthful ones, we can change our lives. “The cause of suffering is the thought that we’re believing,” she says.

It’s the power of story.

Thanks to Judith for a thought-provoking post and Berkley for sharing her book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US only. Giveaway ends June 15th at midnight EST.


Janine said...

Taking naps with my cats is therapeutic for me

susieqlaw said...

Watching the ocean at the beach

Unknown said...

Hearing ocean sounds and feeling the sun on my face.

Erin Kathleen said...

Scrapbooking...love looking back AND getting organized!!

Letty Blanchard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Letty Blanchard said...

A couple of things are therapeutic for me: baking and card making with music playing in the background while I'm creating!!

traveler said...

Taking long walks in the sunshine. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Suburban prep said...

I like to knit and I love to take walks in the evening after dinner.

Linda Kish said...

Hanging out with my dogs works for me. They "empath" answers to me.

jpetroroy said...


Patty Degmetich said...

Besides reading my other is crocheting :)

Bonnie K. said...

Seeing and hearing the ocean waves is therapeutic for me. If I can't get to the ocean, then it's listening to classical music.

bluedawn95864 at gmail dot com

cpr040304 said...

Taking naps is therapeutic to me. I feel refreshed after my naps.

Charlotte said...


Cher B said...

Going for a run each morning really helps me to feel centered and more energetic, the treadmill doesn't work, has to be outdoors! "The Cake Therapist" sounds wonderful and it also sounds like someone we could all use in our lives. Thanks for the chance to win!

Sheena said...

Baking is very therapeutic for me:)

Patricia said...

Yoga because it can be calming and invigorating, whichever you need at the moment.

Susan Roberts said...

Walking and aerobics

Anonymous said...

I am a huge film buff, so I love watching quality, indie films. All the arts are therapeutic for me.


bn100 said...


Grandma Cootie said...

Taking long walks and listening to Old Time Radio.

Holly said...

Gardening and decorating and watching Parks and Recreation.

holly_109 {AT} hotmail {DOT} com

Book Blogging Mom said...


rubynreba said...

Hanging out with my grandchildren.

Nova said...

i love to take a walk or bake something!

Shelby N. said...

Watching tv with my dogs on my lap is relaxing for me. They are little cuddle buddies. :)

Rhonda J G said...

Nice shower, then hot chocolate and movie!

Annette Herbst said...


Terri. said...

A long walk...