Food, Glorious Food! (or how a plate of brownies can transform a book signing!)

I expected to love book events when I became an author. I am an outgoing person who loves to meet people. It’s one of the reasons I  love teaching, and  — believe it or not — waiting table. (I waited table at Howard Johnson’s and a place called Hart’s Turkey Farm restaurant so it was all about chit-chatting with your tables.) So book signings, readings and workshops seemed like they would be  just as much fun.

It turns out I enjoy some of it. I like readings and workshops a lot. It’s the straight up signings that I find really, really difficult. Why?

One word: sales.

In a reading or a workshop I’m offering something for free: my words, my stories, my  ideas on how to write or teach. By looking at the audience’s faces, I can see that what I offer is worth something. But signings are a different story. I want something from them — I want them to buy my book. Instead of offering, I’m asking. It’s much harder to ask than to offer.

So that’s why I brought brownies to my last signing. As a member of the Class of 2k9 — a group of debut YA/MG authors — I came up with a recipe that  fit with my book. (Not easy when you consider that two foods mentioned are moldy cheese and the smoked moles the dwarves eat.) I call them Hoysta’s Root-Flour Brownies and include igredients like badger butter and quail eggs. I’ll put the recipe at the end of this post (with substitutions), but you can also find it and others at the Class of 2k9 website ( At the King Of Prussia Borders bookstore last weekend, I showed up at my signing with a big bowl of Hoysta’s brownies. (I used a hand-carved bowl my son made — looked dwarf-ish.)

The signing was transformed. Instead of sitting there essentially saying, “Hi, do you want to buy my book?” I was saying, “Hey! Do you want a brownie?” I had something to offer. And let’s face it: who can say no?  All kinds of conversations opened. I chatted with one guy about our favorite NPR interviewers. A group of teens was amazed to learn that I was a teacher as well as a writer and (cough, cough) pastry chef. I met a girl named after Kiing Arthur’s Queen Guinevere and a guy who does a lot of fantasy writing on a game site called  I also sold a few books. 

I once had a professor who insisted on having a shared meal once per semester with her seminar classes. Sharing food together transforms a group, she said. It brings people together and opens them up to each other in new ways. People have broken bread together for centuries. A plate of brownies will do in a pinch.

Hoysta’s Root-flour Brownies with Badger-cream topping


  • 1 C badger butter (substitution: 2 sticks butter)
  • 2 C sugar
  • 2 C root-flour (substitution: 2 C all-purpose flour)
  • 2/3 C light, powdery soil (substitution: 2/3 C cocoa)
  • 8-10 quail eggs (substitution: 4 chicken eggs)
  • 2 dwarf-size handfuls of walnuts, chopped (2 handful equivalent: 3/4 C)
  • (Hoysta’s recipe does not call for vanilla, but root-flour has a slightly different taste than all-purpose flour. To mimic Hoysta’s recipe, it is useful to add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.)

 Cooking Instructions:

  1. Melt butter in 9×13 pan in 300° oven.
  2. While butter melts, mix sugar, flour and soil(cocoa)
  3. Add melted butter and mix well.
  4. Add eggs, vanilla (if you choose to use it) and walnuts. Mix. It will be thick as cold mud!
  5. Bake 1 hour in the pan you melted the butter in.


Take warm brownies and top with Badger-cream flavored with sand (substitution: coffee ice-cream) or flavored with gravel (Rocky Road ice cream).

Eat and enjoy!


~ by ellenjensenabbott on September 17, 2009.

One Response to “Food, Glorious Food! (or how a plate of brownies can transform a book signing!)”

  1. Great post, Ellen. Nobody can resist free food!

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