108: 5 Teens Get a Publishing Deal on First Book

Junior Chef – Healthy Kids, Healthy Eating

Today’s guests are five kids who have been part of writing a book – and successfully published it!

The authors, Katie Dessinger, Anthony Spears, Abigail Langford, Paul Kimball, and Will Bartlett, are between the age of 11 and 15 and hail from various states in the US (California, Florida, and Michigan), as well as Canada. They are the sons and daughters of healthy food bloggers who came together to publish a cookbook by kids and for kids. 

Their book Chef Junior is written to inspire other kids to cook while fostering a sense of independence. 

Today, they talk about their book-writing process, what it means to write your passion into a book, about food, and why this cookbook came to be. 

What We Discuss with the Authors of Chef Junior:

  • Some challenges they’re addressing in the book (ex. meal planning, allergies, knife skills)
  • Recipes they’ve contributed to the book
  • The writing process and challenges
  • How their peers reacted to them having published a book
  • Advice to aspiring writers

[01:20] Inspiring Other Kids to Cook

A lot of people graduate high school, go into college and into the world, but they still don’t know how to cook and fend for themselves. It’s very important for people to learn how to be independent.

It’s not just cooking. It’s the idea that because you know how to cook for yourself, you don’t have to depend on other people as much. 

[02:24] What Each of Them Focused On in the Book

Will wrote a section in the book about meal planning to make sure no food goes to waste. There are several kinds of planning you could do. You could cook for your whole entire week of meals in one day, or you could try to get some recipes and then try to use the different ingredients so you can use everything in your fridge. 

Katie has a section on substituting for people who have allergies. She has had some struggles finding recipes she’s on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. So she had to figure out a way to make recipes available. And writing this chapter was personal for her. She felt she was able to open the door to people who may not have felt they could be a part of a meal they really wanted to see.

Paul did a chapter on knife skills which can really open the door to a whole range of cooking skills and stuff you can make. Paul remembers using a chef’s knife to crack the pit out of an avocado when he was in fourth grade.

Abbie wrote about how to do different techniques in the book including measuring, how to use the blender, food processor, cheese grater, and separate eggs. She made sure not to over-explain things to kids and just make things as simple as possible.

[07:17] Recipes They’ve Included in the Book

Will’s favorite recipe is the avocado quesadilla because it’s easy, simple, and delicious. Abby’s favorite recipe is the pesto pasta while Paul loves the Margherita pizza. Katie loves her no-bake cookies and seeing that her mom loved it motivated her all the more.

[11:06] The Writing Process

The process started with their parents who met up and bounced ideas off each other until they had this idea of the kids writing their own cookbook. They began creating coffee recipes that adults love. Soon enough, they got a cookbook deal.

One of the challenges they’ve had is the overlapping of recipes but they used this as an opportunity to explore more recipes they could add to the book since they’ve already worked on so many. 

[14:48] How Their Peers Reacted to Them Having Published a Book

Their friends were actually surprised they’ve already written a book at their age. As for Katie, what she thought was just a figment of her imagination to see her name on a book has actually been realized.

Passion is something anybody can have. It’s just a matter of what you decide to make of it and if you have enough of it, then you can do anything.

[18:50] The Future of Writing

Will is open to writing another book and is considering something under the dystopian genre. Abby, on the other hand, has already finished the first draft of her first dystopian novel which she hopes to publish sometime soon.

Katie has always loved fiction. And now that she has already done it, she feels she can do it again. She admits being one of those people who thought she couldn’t do it but she would like to make it happen again. 

Finally, although Paul hasn’t thought about writing another book, he did like the experience of it. What he and his friends like to do is put ideas together on Google Documents where they’d start writing a chapter and a half and then move on to another new idea. 

[23:11] Their Pieces of Advice to Aspiring Authors

Abby: It doesn’t matter if your idea is perfect. It doesn’t matter if you have experience or not or if you’re not great at grammar. If you keep making excuses for yourself, then you’re never going to start and your dream will never come true. So just start and if your book is awful, the least you have got are some words on the page. And then you can fix it and can go from there. 

Just start.

Will: There’s always somebody out there that wants to hear you and your voice and what you think. 

Never get discouraged.

Katie: You may come out with something awful but you have to learn from it and don’t let it discourage you. Let it be more like a first draft. Then envision a book that someone else has written and think you can get there if you do your best. 

Learn from your mistakes.

Paul: Share it with people and let them help you make it better. 

Episode Resources:

Chef Junior by Katie Dessinger, Anthony Spears, Abigail Langford, Paul Kimball, and Will Bartlett

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