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Monday, March 18, 2013

The Soup Vixen writes of Soup and Such

by Julie

"There ain't a body, be it mouse or man, that ain't made better by a little soup."—Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

At one of Nevada SCBWI’s mentorship retreats, I made some soup—cheesy enchilada chowder. That’s the soup that earned me my monkey moniker of “soup vixen.” Honestly, when I first saw the nickname, I thought, “Oh, no—I’m no soup expert.” I just followed a recipe—no art in that, right? But it’s grown on me, this nickname. I try like heck to make soup, and I’m going to live up to my title. Cue the crackers.

Broccoli cheese? Cioppino, anyone?
A few things I understand now about soup (ahem, here’s where I go all “metaphor for writing”) :

Before trying to make soup myself, I ate a lot of soup. Still do. French onion, gazpacho, crab bisque, mushroom barley... This is good in that I have learned how amazing soup can be. I know what’s possible. And I’ve learned, too, what not so good soup tastes like. Knowing the difference is not much of a comfort when my own soup isn’t working out so great, but I'm glad I can tell the difference anyway. It means I can get it there.

The thing is--make soup anyway. Start with a memory, start with a recipe, or go soup rogue. We need all kinds.

Sweet corn, red peppers, onion, and beans! It's a start!
Ingredients matter. Put stuff in that you love—some classic, some fresh—whatever stirs your heart.

Simmer for ages or boil it quick—it gets there both ways if you keep fanning the flames.

Invite cooks into the kitchen--ask your favorite folks to try a sample. Benefit from their expert palates. Nothing beats a potluck.

Be prepared to throw out whole batches, but don’t stop cooking. You're learning.

Don't skimp on the revision. Season, skim, puree—whatever it takes. There’s real art in seeing the promise in what isn’t quite there yet.

This batch is ready for some cheese! Where are the tortilla chips?
Share. It makes it all worth it. Especially if they come back for seconds.

The older I get, the more I appreciate soup. I love that there are so many soups—comforting ones, hearty ones, intriguing ones, spicy ones. There is a soup for everything that ails or aches or itches. And making soup is a worthy pursuit. I'm honored to be in the kitchen with you, honing our recipes.

So, back to the stock pot with you! 

"Obviously any fiction is going to be a combination of what is invented, what is overheard, what is experienced, what is experienced by people close to you, what you are told, what you have read, all mixed together into this kind of soup which, like any good soup, at the end you cannot really distinguish the ingredients." --David Leavitt
And here's a link to that cheesy soup! Make it your own!


  1. I love me some Cheesy Enchilada Chowder right now! This is so cute Julie, I love this post and your sense of humor...when I read your blog, i hear your voice reading it to me. A great Metaphor for what we do.

    1. What kind thoughts, Craig--thank you. Glad to have shared kitchens with you and lolling forward to more table talks!

  2. This part is so true: "Be prepared to throw out whole batches."

    Sometimes, it's the best thing for our writing...er, soup. Because those tossed away batches aren't total wastes! We learn a lot from mistakes. Or, at least, I do. :) And I make plenty!

    1. I refuse to believe you are capable of a bad batch, Amy!

  3. To my favorite, the one and only, Soup Vixen: love your post so much! Thanks for yet another great analogy. Off to make myself inspirational soup! :)

    1. Thank you, dear Nathalie! I can't wait to feast on your work! ;).