For your new book, Always Put in a Recipe and Other Tips for Living from Iowa’s Best-Known Homemaker, you had to winnow through thousands of your “Up a Country Lane” columns. How in the world did you make a final selection?
It all started when my publisher, Tim Craig, asked me to find some of my favorite columns to put in the Valley News Today newspaper in 1999 for the 50-year anniversary of writing my column. By the time I had chosen a few to reprint, the idea came to me that I just might have a book.
So I started with those columns, and then I continued to sift through the back columns. It turned out to be a much larger task than I had expected. Let’s see, 62 years (which is what I finally researched) at 52 weeks a year is 3,224 columns! I had the advantage of the fine Iowa Women’s Archives resources, for they have gathered my columns all these years and digitized them in a form for researching.
But it was harder than I expected to choose. I found waaaay too many I liked—it took some doing to winnow them down. Then I decided I couldn’t just plop them into a book. I had to edit them, correct errors (yep), and make them better in some cases.
Even when I thought I had the book finished I discovered, with suggestions from the UI Press, that I had too many columns. Their eagle eyes thinned the manuscript down and tightened it up and made it better. I plan to look at the ones that got left out and see if they just might, someday, make another book.
Evelyn Birkby is the author of Always Put in a Recipe and Other Tips for Living from Iowa's Best-Known Homemaker, as well as Up a Country Lane Cookbook and Neighboring on the Air.