I remember when I first heard about Breaking Bread. Contrary to what movies would have you think, the publishing process takes at least a year, sometimes two or three. When I started at Beacon in September 2021, we were already abuzz about our summer 2022 list—publishing speak for “forthcoming books.” Our director and the book’s in-house editor, Helene Atwan, brought Breaking Bread up in an all-staff meeting. She talked about how two years-long friends, Debra Spark and Deborah Joy Corey, gathered up to seventy essays from renowned and beloved food writers for the collection. Esteemed writers themselves, Spark and Corey edited the collection alongside Helene, and a beautiful, moving collection about food, hunger, and family was born. The first thing that came to my mind upon hearing about it was a tea towel. How perfect for the comfort-food vibe, right?
Book marketers are always looking for creative ways to engage bookseIlers and readers. I was fresh out of grad school, where one of my final classes was about book marketing. My mind was awash with fantastical marketing swag, and the tea towel was just the latest wacky idea. But fast forward a few months, and I was officially the book’s marketer, which meant I could bring my foodie dreams to life.
I spent two years in bookselling, so I knew a tote bag was out. Publishing is flooded with totes; after all, what’s better for carrying our book hauls than a literary bag? Booksellers didn’t need another one, though I must confess I toyed around with the idea of a market tote. I do love a good farmer’s market bag. I kept thinking about what would make the book stand out because I wanted to do it justice. I wanted booksellers to fall in love with it as I had. It was my job to get it out there, yes, but I also truly enjoyed it. When I first read the manuscript, I curled up on my couch with a mug of hot cocoa, and drank in the wisdom, love, and passion from the writers’ stories. I wanted booksellers to feel that, too.
And so, the Breaking Bread bookstore tour was born.
I started with the idea of a “picnic box.” Deborah Joy Corey, founder of Blue Angel, graciously donated a box of Maine maple syrup—which pairs deliciously with coffee, by the way—and I ordered some Walkers shortbread cookies. I had our freelance designer, Liping Lin, create a gorgeous print of Wesley McNair’s poem featured in the book, “The Rhubarb Route.” I designed recipe cards around some of the contributors’ recipes, and yes, I even designed a tea towel. All of this, along with an advanced reader copy of the book, was packaged neatly in a box, ready to be hand delivered to bookstores across Massachusetts and Maine.
I had a dedicated Breaking Bread corner of my apartment staged to prepare the boxes. My colleague, Avery, came over, armed with fresh donut holes from Union Square Donuts, and helped me put them together. Then came the fun part: planning visits to bookseller friends, new and old. I packed up my dog, Zora, who would keep me company on the drive and would be fawned over by all who met her and mapped out my mini-road trip.
The first stop was at Porter Square Books, Boston edition, where I dropped off a box to my friend and former colleague, Katherine. She later tweeted about it and talked about the book on our local radio station, WBUR. When we worked together, her specialty was (and still is) yelling about the best books she’s read, so it’s extra special to have her on board. After that, I was off to All She Wrote Books in Somerville, an intersectional feminist, queer bookstore owned by my good friend, Christina. Then I traveled to the Book Shop of Beverly Farms, where I delivered a box to Hannah Harlow and her team, and bought a copy of In Praise of Good Bookstores. (When in Rome . . . ) Next up was Copper Dog Books to meet my pals Meg and Vickie for the first time in person.
Zora was thrilled to meet them and to snuggle with the plague nurse plush I bought on the car ride home later. And then, on an impulse truly unique to my brand, I drove the extra hour or so to Maine to drop in on my friends at Print: A Bookstore. As an aside: Please do yourself a favor and go buy their sweatshirt, which is worth every single penny; it’s the softest thing on the planet and is most definitely my favorite article of clothing.
That was just day one.
My next adventure took Zora and me to Wellesley Books, where she met a sweet poodle-mix friend and preened for the camera. They featured her as the “Dog of the Week” in their newsletter, and really, just look at that pose! I have a model on my hands.
We popped into Newtonville Books and the Brookline Booksmith, the latter of which had been my local indie during grad school. I’ll admit that, at first, it was a bit strange being on the customer side of the desk, but it was amazing to reconnect—or, for some, connect for the first time—with booksellers in person. Everyone I spoke with, from Christina at All She Wrote to Lorna, Rebecca, and Peter at Wellesley Books, was excited for the book. Nick at Newtonville Books shared the sweetest (pun intended) post on Instagram, featuring the ARC and the syrup.
After months of planning and designing, it was beyond fun to see these “picnic boxes” in booksellers’ hands. It was important to me that the contents would be useful, but also that those who received them would really see how special the book is.
Royalties and net proceeds from the hardcover sales will be donated to Blue Angel to support the good work Deborah Joy and her team are doing in their community. And the book really is a balm for the soul, something I think we all need a healthy dose of after weeks, months, years of distressing news cycles.
About the Author
Brittany Wallace is a sales and marketing assistant at Beacon Press. She joined Beacon in 2021 after completing her master’s in Publishing and Writing at Emerson College. Previously, she worked as a bookseller and magazine buyer at a Boston-based independent bookstore, and before that, she was at Barnes & Noble. She also has several years of experience editing at an online magazine, where she curated the fiction and nonfiction sections. When she’s not working, Brittany is likely hiking in the forest while listening to a true crime podcast telling her to stay out of the forest. You can find her yelling about books and her dog on Twitter @thebooseller.