Happy Monday to everyone! I hope all the dads out there had an awesome, memory-making Father’s Day with their kids yesterday!
Yesterday was a bitter sweet day for me, as it was my parents’ anniversary, as well as Father’s Day. I’m so happy that they’re together again and yet I miss them, both, so much! Since my dad passed away in the fall of 2014, Father’s Day has become one of those days when I miss my dad more immensely than others! Like any daughter might feel, he was and will always be my hero! Thus, being that yesterday was Father’s Day, I want to share with you an old, satirical editorial that Mom wrote about Dad called “Father’s Day (or) the King and I!” Below is a photocopy of the article, which I found in Mom’s June 1974 newsletter issue.
There weren’t many things that stumped my mom more than understanding my dad’s love of football. However, Mom was always perplexed to come up with an easy answer for people, asking her advice on how to write and publish a cookbook or to start their own newsletter. My mom often wanted to create an easy, step-by-step plan to give people. However, there was no one-size-fits-all answer; not even based solely on what was Mom’s own experiences, hard work and involvement.
Other than 3 of the most commonly known, basic steps – (1) write about what you know best, (2) know who your target audience is and, (3) follow through or sell it to them – Mom could never come up with a more detailed outline that could cover all the multitudes of possibilities involved in writing a newsletter or book. Mom believed that only the trials and tribulations of experience could be the best guides by which to set and accomplish one’s goals.
Similar to some advice that Mom once gave me for writing to capture my audience’s attention and doing it in the first sentence or two, Stephen King said, of “opening lines”, in an interview by Joe Fassler (July 23, 2013) in The Atlantic magazine:
‘There are all sorts of theories and ideas about what constitutes a good opening line. It’s a tricky thing, and tough to talk about because I don’t think conceptually while I work on a first draft — I just write. To get scientific about it is a little like trying to catch moonbeams in a jar…But there’s one thing I’m sure about. An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.’
Instead of composing a “How To…” guide for writing and publishing, Mom wrote “our family story” in her book, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989); in hopes that it might help inspire someone else. Here is a patch-work quilt of excerpts from that book – excerpts which Mom wrote on the subject of creating your own newsletter or book…
FROM MY MOM’S MEMORIES…
THE EXPERIENCES WE’VE ENCOUNTERED in building this family enterprise of ours, this cottage industry…has occurred while distributing recipe secrets through radio broadcasting and newspaper exposure and our own publishing efforts. If someone can benefit from our experiences, all the better. Mostly, though, this is just a story of our family, our five children…and how we made a dent in the hard shell of the publishing industry. – Gloria Pitzer, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 2)
At least once a week…I am asked how I got into this business, how it all started and how somebody else can write their own book [or newsletter] and get it published. If there were a formula for our kind of success…I would be happy to share the information…
The experiences that comprise the success and longevity of our Secret RecipesTM include some very wonderful people who have gone out of their way to make it easy for us to present our work to the public…[those were some to whom I’ve started addressing “thank you” notes in my last couple of blogs…among others yet to come.]
Over the years, it has been, not a job, but a joy to continue investigating the secrets of the food industry, combining this information and recipes with the logic of the heart, the food for thought as well as food for the table. It continues to arouse interest and delight in, both, our readers and radio listeners all over the country, as well as the world! – Gloria Pitzer, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, pp. 14-15)
If someone were to copy our so-called “success”, I could give them no blueprint for that condition. Each one of the little steps that we had to take to develop the kitchen table activity into a professional business operation, are like the grains of sand that the oyster requires to form a pearl. – Gloria Pitzer, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 25)
With…writing and marketing, it’s all based on individuality, on experience being the best teacher and on having a responsive audience…it also begins with a sale. You have to know to whom you will be directing your material and how you will be meeting their needs. Nobody can tell you HOW to do that – you either know or you don’t! If you don’t know how to talk to your reader, you’re like a lighthouse without a light!
You have to let your light shine – and part of the preparation of communicating with your readers is to know how to talk to them, what they need from your [books or] newsletters that will enrich them or make their lives better. – Gloria Pitzer, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, pp. 43-44)
Believe me, it’s not easy, putting out your own [book or] newsletter; and it is foolish for anyone to believe that there is a blueprint…to follow that will promise instant success. – Gloria Pitzer, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 48)
IN THE BEGINNING…
In 1973, Mom wrote and self-published her first cookbook, The Better Cooker’s Cookbook. It was a collection of recipes that she had developed, tested and originally published in Cookbook Corner, a recipe column she wrote and syndicated to newspapers for over 5 years prior. Mom laughingly called her collection the “reluctant-cook-budget-tested” recipes.
I’d like to place a big “THANK YOU” note, here, to Bob Talbert (RIP) of the Detroit Free Press fame, along with our condolences to his surviving family and friends. Mom often talked about his helpful boosts in getting her name out to his readers with the wonderful plugs he gave her products. Bob Talbert and Mom had a delightful friendship over the years, and she was quite saddened by his passing in 1999. Bob mentioned Mom’s first cookbook in one of his 1973 columns, where he referred to it as being great “…for a buck-and-a-half-and-a-belly-laugh” per page!
At that point, as Mom’s collection of recipes grew – recipes which she developed and tested initially from requests made by her readers and, then, from the radio listeners of Bob Allison’s Ask Your Neighbor show that she was beginning to know – she decided, rather than writing another cookbook, she’d start writing a monthly newsletter. Mom called it Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter (1974) and referred to it as a “compendium of fact and fancies…the almost-magazine – not quite a newspaper – that can build into a book.” Mom also knew exactly who her target audience was and instinctively saw how to sell it to them!
When Mom made mention of her newsletter during one of her frequent call-ins to Bob’s radio show to answer a listener’s recipe question, he was immediately enthralled to know more about it and how his listeners could get it.
The first few cornerstones, in the building of Mom’s Secret RecipesTM empire, were her fellow journalists, as well as radio talk show producers and their hosts. My mom mailed out advertising fliers that she designed and complimentary copies of her work to every one of whom she could think to promote her talents. The unique niche Mom carved out in the food industry in the mid- to late-1970s, when she dared to embrace the fast food and junk food fare that all the nutritionists were warning the public against consuming, grabbed the public’s attention by storm!
Mom constantly found innovative ways to sell her creations through a lot of business cards (placed everywhere and anywhere allowed) and promotional mailings for radio talk show programs, the wire service, newspapers, magazines and even television that catered to her same focus group (along with a follow-up note or phone call). Mom’s newsletter and her ensuing collection of self-published cookbooks seized the interest of people, all over the country and internationally, as there wasn’t anything else on the market like them!
The History of ‘Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes NewsletterTM’ can be found at https://therecipedetective.com/2019/01/21/the-history-of-gloria-pitzers-secret-recipes-newsletter/. Long story, short version… Originally, Mom’s newsletter was a small (5.5” x 8.5”), 3-ring binder-style publication that could be collected, volume by volume, to form a book. Mom called the “almost-book, almost-magazine” Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter. It boasted 12 back-to-back pages per issue, laid out in the style of a patchwork-quilt and stuffed full of food for the soul, food for thought and food for the table. In addition, there were kitchen, cooking and household tips; plus, humorous quips and satirical cartoons! Furthermore, the early issues included a “Reader’s Swap Shop” and a “gardening tips” page.
‘Every issue is like getting together for coffee with friends!’ SM – Gloria Pitzer
Over the decades, the newsletter evolved with the changing times – the subject matter never ran low of ideas to cover, as more and more chain restaurants surfaced with specialty dishes that people wanted to know how to imitate at home, and new “convenient” grocery products were constantly being developed and introduced by various food companies. Mom added restaurant reviews and her radio show schedule to the newsletter issues, eventually eliminating the “Reader’s Swap Shop” and “gardening tips” page.
Along with the changing eras, the name of Mom’s newsletter changed slightly a few different times, as well as the size, number of pages and amount of issues printed per year. Plus, of course, the cost grew with inflation too. To put it in perspective, in 1974, according to DollarTimes.com, the United States minimum wage was $2.00 per hour; which is an equivalent to $10.88 per hour in today’s, 2019, economy.
At times, when Mom was over-busy, authoring new cookbooks, she opted to place the newsletter into retirement for a few short periods of time. But, because of her love for the writing and consistent contact with her audience, Mom would always come back to the periodical, reincarnating it in a new format – much like the “retirement saga” of football-fame’s Brett Favre. Wow! I think I just channeled my dad there!
Among Mom’s things that I have now, I found an original layout for her 1999, 25th anniversary edition of the 1974 newsletter collection, in a 60-page, large (8½ x 11-inch) format book filled with over 250 recipes and her usual added flair that had always set Mom’s books apart from the rest. I’d love to hear from anyone who still has old copies of Mom’s newsletters or any of her books! Please write to me at: [email protected] and include your memories of my mom!
IN CLOSING… since yesterday was also National Fudge Day, below is a photocopy of Mom’s imitation for fudge like Disneyland’s and Disneyworld’s famous product, which she shared on one of her “free recipe samples and ordering information” sheets in 1996 or 1997 (I haven’t found a copy of it in any of Mom’s books that I have, but it may have originally appeared in one of her newsletter issues that I don’t have)…