Erica Bauermeister Biography
Erica Bauermeister is the author of The School of Essential Ingredients (Jan 2009), a novel of eight students and their cooking teacher, set in a restaurant kitchen. Her non-fiction work includes 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader's Guide and Let's Hear It For the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. She received a Ph.D. in literature from the University of Washington and has taught at both the U.W. and Antioch. Her love of slow food and slow living was inspired during the two years she spent living with her husband and two children in northern Italy. She currently lives in Seattle with her family.
The following is from her website:
I was born in Pasadena,
California in 1959, a time when that part of the country was both one of the
loveliest and smoggiest places you could imagine. I remember the beautiful
arching branches of the oak tree in our front yard, the center of the patio that
formed a private entrance to our lives; I remember leaning over a water faucet
to run water across my eyes after a day spent playing outside. It's never too
early to learn that there are always two sides to life.
And two sides to the country -- when I was nine, we moved to the east coast,
with all its history and old, atmospheric houses; then when I was 15 we moved
back to (northern) California. College was in Los Angeles again -- not because
of Los Angeles, but because I fell in love with Occidental College and its
campus (must have been the trees).
I have always wanted to write, but when I read Tillie Olsen's "I Stand Here
Ironing" in college, I finally knew what I wanted
to write books that took what many considered to be unimportant bits of life
and gave them beauty, shone light upon their meaning. The only other thing I
knew for certain back in college, however, was that I wasn't grown up enough yet
to write them.
So I moved to Seattle, got married, and got a PhD. at the University of
Washington. Frustrated by the lack of women authors in the curriculum, I wrote
500 Great Books by Women: A Reader's Guide with
Holly Smith and Jesse Larsen and Let's Hear It For the
Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14 with Holly Smith. In the
process I read, literally, thousands of books, good and bad, which is probably
one of the best educations a writer can have. I still wrote, but thankfully
that material wasn't published. I taught writing and literature. I had
Having children probably had the most dramatic effect upon
how I write of anything in my life. As the care-taker of children, there
was no time for plot lines that couldn't be interrupted a million times in the
course of creation. I learned to multi-task, and when the children's demands
were too many, we created something called the mental hopper." This is where
all the suggestions went -- "can we have ice cream tonight?" "can we go to
Canada this summer?" "can I have sex when I am 14?" The mental hopper was where
things got sorted out, when I had time to think about them. What's interesting
about the mental hopper is that when something goes in there, I can usually
figure out a way to make it happen (except sex at 14).
And that is how I write now. All those first details and amorphous ideas for a
book, the voices of the characters, the fact that one of them loves garlic and
another one flips through the pages of used books looking for clues to the past
owner's life, all those ideas go in the mental hopper and slowly but surely they
form connections with each other. Stories start to take shape. It's a very
organic process, and it suits me. So when people say being a mother is death
for writers, I disagree. Yes, in a logistical sense, children can make writing
difficult. In fact, I don't think it is at all coincidental that my first book
of fiction will be published after both my children are in college. But I think
differently, I create the work I do, because I have had children.
It's been almost thirty years since I first read Tillie Olsen. My children are
now mostly grown. I've been married for twenty-five years to the same man; I've
lived in Italy; I've stood by friends as they faced death. I've grown up a bit,
and my mind has turned back, happily and naturally, in the direction of
So look for the next book, just published by Putnam in January of 2009.
The School of Essential Ingredients is about
a group of cooking students and their teacher, in a school held in the kitchen
of Lillian's restaurant. It's about food and people and relationships about
taking those "unimportant" bits of life and making them beautiful.
This biography was last updated on 02/01/2009.
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