Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Jessica Porter

Comedienne. Teacher. Macrobiotic Cook.
Author. Hypnotist.

I was in the market for a healthy, vegetarian, easy-to-make-recipes sort of cookbook when I stumbled upon The MILF Diet by Jessica Porter. The book went onto my wish list as I considered others. But then my teen son clued me in on what the acronym means: Mother I’d Like to F***.  Hmmm, I pondered, is this a book I want on my kitchen shelf?

Controversy over this title seemed to erupt over night. Public relation events were cancelled.  And Jessica’s been busily defending her title, accompanied by many supporters.

A hype-ish hum rang in my ears. That frenzied, feverish pitch prompted me to contact Jessica, who currently resides in Santa Monica, California, to get the scoop.


What were you like as a kid?

I was shy and pretty sensitive.  But then, at age 11, I realized I could make people laugh.  I remember the exact moment, and it changed my life completely.  I was at summer camp, telling a story to a couple of friends, and they just lost it with laughter. 

Time sort of slowed down in that moment of revelation.  I saw that I could connect with people in a special way, and still maintain my solitude, if I wanted it. 

What did you imagine yourself doing for a career?

Around the same time as my “I can make people laugh” epiphany, I started taking acting classes, and that became a real passion.  I co-hosted a national radio show in Canada from (ages) 14 to 16, and did a lot of theater in college.  I even went on to study acting at NYU’s graduate school for Acting, so I expected that I would be an actor.  


But after a year of NYU, and a couple of years of practicing macrobiotics, I dropped out of the acting program.  I had a strange internal conflict. Pretending to be another person, and digging deeply into my life—and issues— just didn’t jive.  I had to choose one over the other, so I chose to star in the “play” of my own life. I needed to find out who I was before I could really throw myself into a career, and macrobiotics was hell-bent on revealing my true self, so I surrendered to it. Happily those pursuits—self-exploration and acting— are much better friends now. 


Are you a comedienne first, dietitian/cooking teacher second or of equal measure?

Well, you can’t take the funny out of a funny person, so maybe comedienne will always come first.  I truly believe funniness is genetic.  I’m not a registered dietitian, so that’s out.  I like to think of myself as a teacher, one who is in the business of inspiring people.  I’m not the greatest cook in the world, and I’m sure lots of my kitchen techniques would be considered horrendous by real chefs, so I concentrate on inspiring real people to make real changes. 

‘The MILF Diet’. How’d the title come about?

 I’ve always liked the term “MILF” and lots of my friends do too.  It may be vulgar, but I don’t find it offensive.  I mean, is it really a big surprise that men want to have sex with women?  Don’t most straight women—either consciously or unconsciously—spend a lot of time and energy trying to be more sexually attractive to men?  I guess I’ve just never been upset by the “F” word.  I’ve slung it around myself. 


In fact, I think the acronym “MILF” appeals to many women because it allows them to connect their maternity with their sexuality, which sort of collapses our culture’s Madonna/Whore complex… I know that might sound a little academic, but words have resonance, and power, and I think that “MILF”—to those women who embrace it—carries a lot of energy. 


So in contemplating this book, I thought about all the women I knew who had eaten macrobiotically for ten, twenty, sometimes thirty years.  And they all had this beautiful poise; they were calm, and centered. And, without exception, they were really chill about their sexuality.  They were comfortable in their bodies.  Not slutty.  Not neurotic.  Just relaxed.  And I thought that was really beautiful.  They were MILFs!   


This is your second book, right? How are sales doing compared to your first book?
Well, technically it’s my third.  In 2008, I collaborated with Alicia Silverstone on her book, The Kind Diet. That was a big writing project, of which I am very proud. 

In terms of comparing my first book to my third, it’s too early to tell how the sales of The MILF Diet are going, because it’s just come out. But I expect this book—after it gets over this initial resistance in the market—to have a much, much wider reach than my first book, The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics.  That book was both defined, and limited by, its title. The number of people interested in macrobiotics, per se, is rather small.  That book has sold about 60 or 70 thousand copies, which is fantastic for a niche book, but doesn’t make it a huge bestseller. 

What I’m proudest of is that Hip Chick has really brought a lot of people—especially young women—into macrobiotic philosophy, and that can change a life.  That’s where the satisfaction lies. 

What has surprised you the most about the reactions to the title?

Frankly, I’m surprised by all the pushback we’ve been getting about the title.  I expected many individuals to reject it, but I didn’t expect to not be able to get media coverage because of it.  We’ve pitched it to lots of television shows, and it’s amazing how many have balked at the title.  They love the book, but can’t cover it on the air. 


I was booked on Access Hollywood to do a cooking demo, but then NBC’s Standards and Practices department canceled it.  I find that weird.  I mean, I’m a woman, wanting to use this moniker for myself and other women, and we’re getting denied. 


“Go the F**K to Sleep” is fine.  “S**T my Dad Says” was a TV show, for goodness sake! And “MILF” has been used on many network shows, like 30 Rock, Damages and Hot in Cleveland (“GILF”, in that case), and this book about whole foods is getting the puritanical cold shoulder?  I really didn’t expect that.


But maybe the Madonna/Whore complex is alive and kicking because I don’t think it’s the “F” that bothers people in “MILF”; I think it’s the “M”.  We don’t want to associate mommies with the urgent, lusty act of “F”ing.  That’s just too rude.  And that’s exactly why I wrote the book.  Women are whole!  We want to pack a school lunch AND have a quickie!  This is not Victorian London… at least I didn’t think it was! 


How and why did you get involved with macrobiotics?

I got interested in macrobiotics because I had an eating disorder.  I was hyper-interested in food, and my weight.  Macrobiotics always seemed like the gold medal diet at the Olympics of eating.  An impossible sort of ideal, really.  And then, after attending my first macrobiotic class at 22 or 23 years old, I think my spirit took over; the part of me that longed for wholeness, for deep healing, was very attracted--and has remained attracted--to macrobiotics ever since.  It is a comprehensive philosophy and yet totally practical in its application.  I have never come across a problem, or a symptom, that either macrobiotic food, or macrobiotic thinking, couldn’t address.  It has satisfied me on every level for over 20 years now.  That’s not common in the diet world. 

What has been most fulfilling to you in terms of life in general?

I love spending time with family, especially as my nieces and nephew grow up.  I love teaching and inspiring people to experiment with whole foods.  That is really my mission in the world, I think.  

I love acting. That’s just a whole other trip— stepping into a character’s consciousness.  It’s a wonderful escape from the limits of my own personality. 

I’ve been the hypnotist at 55 births, and I find that incredibly deep and satisfying.

I LOVE meditation. 

On the lighter side, I love just gossiping on the phone with a girlfriend, being a geek at Hip Hop dance class, or seeing the latest good movie. 

What are your goals/expectations for 2013?

 I really want to get this book out into the world.  What’s neat about any book is that it has its own DNA, or personality, and a good book can do a lot of the work itself, by crawling into the mind of the reader.  But first, it needs to be pushed into the hands of people, and I think I’m going to be spending a lot of time doing that pushing this year.  But that’s cool. It’s a pleasure, and like I said before, it’s really my mission, so it feels pretty effortless. 

I would love for (The MILF Diet) to sell very well, not just for my career’s sake, but so that the whole macrobiotic/whole foods word gets a bigger reach.  The world, and our current American culture, is experiencing some serious decay, on many levels, and feeding ourselves better food is one of the most powerful and fundamental ways to strengthen our humanity, our connection to one another, and to the planet.  That’s not some yuppie luxury.  It’s a necessity. 

#MILF #Macrobiotic #JessicaPorter #Cookbook #Comedian #Diet


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Author. Teacher. Overall cool person...

“How can we tell if our writing is crap?” That was the question I posed to Jennifer during her inspiring writing workshop: Examining the Middle Grade and Young Adult Novel in Progress. She laughed – well, guffawed really – and then said that all writers write crap. That books come out of revising our initial drafts. “I can,” she later admitted, “probably identify six to eight drafts for each story.”

This hard-working writer and teacher resides in Cumberland, Maine, with her husband, Don O’Grady. Together they have a Brady-Bunch-style family of four young adults.


Jennifer’s web site: http://jenniferjacobson.com

What were you like as a kid?

I was the oldest in my neighborhood, so was a bit of a bandleader – always leading kids in games of some sort.  I organized circuses and dance recitals. (Never having had a dance lesson, I made everything up.) At school, I was awkward (not a cool bone in my body) and often a loner. In all situations, my imagination saved me.


As a child, what did you imagine yourself becoming?

A teacher.  There was never any question.


How long have you been teaching?

I’ve been teaching all my adult life.  I’ve gone from teaching very young children to teaching teachers how to teach writing (say that three times fast).  I’m lucky to visit classrooms and work with students of all ages regularly. 


What's your favorite teaching moment?

When students, who believe they are not capable writers, discover they can compose written messages the world wants to hear.


You've taught children and now teach adults. What's the biggest difference?

There’s very little difference. I sometimes have to remind myself that adults need the same things to learn well: opportunities to reflect, to practice, to be reminded of what they’re doing well.  The mistake most teachers make (myself included) is talking too much.


You combine teaching and writing and you say one enhances the other. How so?

When I write and make new discoveries, I share those insights with my students.  When I work with students, I’m constantly reminded of human nature, insights that help me with characterization.


Which book of yours did you enjoy writing the most?

Working on my newest book, Paper Things, feels more like play than work.  It's a story about eleven-year-old Ari who accompanies her older brother when he ages out of foster care. I would happily go on writing this book forever.


Is there a publish date for ‘Paper Things’?

The spring of 2014 from Candlewick.


Which book of yours is your favorite?  

I love Small as an Elephant.  I grew most as a writer while working on this novel.


How so?

Because my editor requested so much more in the way of setting with Small as an Elephant, I grew in my understanding of the importance of physical detail and how it can effectively portray emotion. Formerly, I believed that details came solely from an author's imagination, but with this book I learned to get out into the world and observe more.


What is your biggest writing challenge?

My biggest challenge is creating characters who emote. I grew up in a Yankee family where one didn’t show emotions. It took me a long time to learn to how to process feelings quietly and on my own, and now I need to learn how to let my characters' lives be messier.


What is your biggest writing joy?

My biggest joy is when I tap into a vein of truth.  I know that it’s good news when I’m crying as I write.


During the workshop you mentioned that your childhood was bleak, but that you rarely pull from those experiences for your writing. Why not?

I should have said this better.  Actually, I do pull from my childhood all the time, just not in a literal way.  For example, I was never physically abandoned by my family, but I experienced the sense of isolation that Jack (Small as an Elephant) feels when he’s trying to make his way alone.

My early family life was filled with contradictions; there were joyful moments imbedded in that unpredictable, chaotic, often lonely time. I’m afraid that I’m not yet a strong enough writer (or person) to convey the balance of love and dysfunction that existed in my home.


I believe that in any hardship endured, there is something positive that comes from the experience. Do you think that's true?

Absolutely. I escaped difficult times by creating stories: stories with my dollhouse, stories with paper dolls, written stories, and even by recreating an entirely different family/social life when I went off to summer camp.  I didn’t realize it until recently, but stories—the ability to imagine other possibilities -- has always sustained me.


Do you have any advice for teachers?

When it comes to writing, always respond to the message before the conventions. We write to be heard. 

Point out what students are doing well – like anything, we learn to write better when we feel partially successful.

Do you have any advice for writers?

As you write, ask yourself, “Is it true yet?  Is it true?”


Any 2013 resolutions?

To take more writing risks –that is, to ignore my highly opinionated internal editor – especially on first drafts.