Sam and Kate figured that good writing served with a slice of pie and a shot of whiskey would create an energized atmosphere uncommon at literary events. The contributors, drawn mainly from the west, but not exclusively, responded with surprising, funny, heartbreaking, fantastically written stories and poems. The book will include a smattering of pie recipes and whiskey-centric cocktails. Look here for tasty literary servings.
The following highlights are from an extended conversation with Kate Lebo and Sam Ligon about their anthology, "Pie and Whiskey: Writers Under the Influence of Butter and Booze." To hear the full conversation, click the link above or subscribe to our podcast.
Sarah Aronson: Why not cake?
Kate Lebo: Why not cake?!
Sam Ligon: This goes to the American thing, too, though we didn’t know that at first. Cake’s not American the way pie is.
Kate: I think the thing about cake is that it has been commodified in such a way that you can make a pretty good cake from a box, and just about anyone can make a cake.
Sam: You can make a pretty good cake from scratch that’s also fairly easy.
Kate: Yes, that’s also fairly easy. It’s a little like pizza that way: even bad cake is good, just like bad pizza is pretty good. Bad pie is so bad. It’s a food way that I think really needs to be passed down from person to person. You cannot pick it up off the back of a box! You can’t even really pick it up through a cookbook. Some people can, but a lot of people cannot.
Sam: You can’t even really pick it up.
Kate: Now, hope Sam. Let’s give some people hope.
Sam: Okay, you can pick it up.
Kate: You can totally pick it up. But I think because of that, when people show up with pie it’s a little more rare, it’s a little more special, it’s a little more handmade. In this case--like the way I make it--it’s literally handmade. My hands are in the bowl. You don’t do that with cake, you don’t stick your hands in the batter, though you could and it would feel good to your hand, but that’s not really how you make a cake.
Sam: And Kate’s book, "Pie School," is based on northwest fruit. These are fruit pies, so it’s part of our region too, and that’s really exciting because the fruit we have is so incredible.
Kate: That is one of the things I realized through writing that book. I had taken for granted all the excellent, excellent fruit that we have. And one of the very best things to do with fruit is not mess it up by not doing much to it and just covering it in pastry.
The anthology you’ve released is Pie & Whiskey: Writers Under the Influence of Butter and Booze. And this book has come out in part because you’ve retired from the event?
Kate: No, we have not retired from the event.
Okay, tell me. Is this a hiatus?
Sam: We’re resting.
Kate: Though it does seem like we’re constantly threatening to retire from the event.
That’s true. If you perceive that, that is true. We’re just resting this year. We’ve done like eight of them.
Sam: We did like six or eight in a year.
Kate: Seventeen. At least 56 of them.
Sam: We did like 100 of them. But we were just doing them because we were promoting the book. . . and we were like “This is too much.” We’re both working on other books right now. . . To do one just about kills us. It takes a solid week.
Kate: The logistics of this are intense. I mean, I have pie kits. I have actual plastic tubs of equipment that we drive in. Then we go to a kitchen that we’ve never baked in before where something always doesn’t work and many things always go wrong, and our job is to figure out what’s not going to work and how to fix the things that go wrong.
Sam: And it’s fun!
Kate: It’s really fun. It just takes a lot. So we’re taking a break.
About the Book:
Pie & Whiskey is the tent revival of literary events where writers such as Anthony Doerr, Steve Almond, and Elissa Washuta present original works based on prompts that include the words pie and whiskey. This anthology collects the best of that writing along with new pieces to bring this spirited gathering to the printed page. Pie & Whiskey, the book, is a literary collection of readings presented over the past six years in Spokane, WA, and Missoula, MT, at Pie & Whiskey, the event, run by Kate Lebo and Samuel Ligon. Writers like Jess Walter, J Robert Lennon, Kim Barnes, and ML Smoker were invited to generate new work based on prompts that involve pie or whiskey or both. Sam and Kate figured that good writing served with a slice of pie and a shot of whiskey would create an energized atmosphere uncommon at literary events. The contributors, drawn mainly from the west, but not exclusively, responded with surprising, funny, heartbreaking, fantastically written stories and poems. The book will include a smattering of pie recipes and whiskey-centric cocktails. Look here for tasty literary servings.
About the Authors/Editors:
Kate Lebo is the author of Pie School, and A Commonplace Book of Pie. Her essay "The Loudproof Room" appeared in New England Review and was chosen for Best American Essays 2015. Her poems, essays, and recipes have appeared in Best New Poets, Gastronomica, the Washington Post, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere. She lives in Spokane, Washington.
Samuel Ligon is the author of two novels—Among the Dead and Dreaming and Safe in Heaven Dead—and two collections of stories, Wonderland, illustrated by Stephen Knezovich, and Drift and Swerve. He edits the journal Willow Springs, teaches at Eastern Washington University in Spokane, and is artistic director of the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference. Ligon lives in Spokane, Washington.
*(c)2017 By Kate Lebo and Samuel Ligon All rights reserved. Excerpted from Pie & Whiskey by permission of Sasquatch Books.