Saturday, May 7, 2011

How I got my book deal

I've been working in the area of food and sustainability for the past 5 years running communication campaigns for CHOICE, the UN's International Trade Centre in Geneva and the Al Gore Climate Project.

No matter what campaign I worked on, every road kept bringing me back to food - and our lost connection with the food we eat, where it comes from and how it is grown. I began realising that we could no longer be passive consumers of food but needed to become producers of some of own food as well if we were going to tackle the food shortages some countries were already experiencing.

And just because we live in a city it doesn't mean we can't grow some of our own fresh produce. From allotments, to community gardens to balconies, it's extraordinary how productive a small urban space can be.

So began my Edible Balcony adventure which I have been documenting on my blog Saucy Onion since early 2009.

Then a chance meeting with the head of Penguin Australia's Illustrated Books Publishing Director Julie Gibbs gave my humble experiment a much more significant platform.

We were both at a wonderful private dinner in Sydney late 2009 given in honour of Carlo Petrini - the head of the International Slow Food Movement.

Rather than wine or flowers, I'd brought Carlo a basket of fresh produce from my balcony featuring carrots, beetroot, basil, mint, rosemary and rocket.

My 'vegetable bouquet' was certainly a conversation starter. Julie was fascinated

I told Julie that despite my recent poor performance on Celebrity MasterChef  my balcony garden had reignited my interest in food and how it is grown and I thought it would make a compelling book. Julie said she was interested, and gave me her card.

The next day I got to work on a 10-page brief outlining the content of my book - a year of growing  vegetables and herbs on my balcony and the recipes I would use them in.

A week later I was having lunch with Julie at Botega restaurant in Surry Hills when she suddenly announced that Penguin's Lantern imprint would love to offer me a book deal. Well I almost choked on my pork belly! I couldn't believe what I was hearing!  My first book!

Things moved very quickly from there.

Julie recommended the wonderful Alan Benson as my photographer and within 4 weeks we began the year-long project of growing, photographing and cooking 50 herbs, fruit and vegetables. From summer, to autumn, through winter and spring we captured all the ups and downs of life on the Edible Balcony with the most luscious photography you've ever seen.  Alan is a genius. I hope to give you a few sneak peeks of the book during the next few months.

Well, all that was way back in 2009. The book is now finished and soon off to the printers.

It will be launched in late October 2011 and available in bookstores from November 2011.

For a glimpse here's the cover and a few pages from The Edible Balcony book on the pdf of the Lantern catalogue (arrow to page 21).

I'll keep you updated with all the latest news about the book over the coming months.

It was such an enjoyable and satisfying book to write. I hope you'll enjoy reading it when it comes out.


  1. Great news! BTW I didn't think you performed poorly on Masterchef..and I loved watching you on The Circle recently.

  2. Thanks Ann-Maree. Very kind of you to say so. Hope to meet you at an Edible Balcony book event in your neck of the woods. best, Indira

  3. If I understand this correctly from our last conversation, I played a small part inspiring you to do this book. If so, does that mean I get royalties? (I'm happy with peanuts.) :P

  4. Dear Dann,
    You were indeed part of the inspiration for the book.In exchange for your peanuts I am expecting flattering reviews in your zine and on your blog. x

  5. How I love Carlo Petrini and now for a whole new reason! I'm so glad that you'll be able to showcase that just about ANYONE can grow their own produce!

  6. Thanks Liss for all your support and encouragement during the past two years. One of my Saucy regulars! Your garden and your gardening tips have been source of ongoing inspiration to me. And yes Carlo is my hero too. x Indira

  7. Congratulations

    I know you've worked incredibly hard on this.

    Can't wait to get my copy.


  8. Thank you Philster for all your encouragement during this project. I think you were one of the first people to 'get' what I was trying to do with this book. thank you, thank you xIndira

  9. Wow - this is wonderful! I've really enjoyed your edible balcony posts and will look forward to the book come November. Congratulations!