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July 21, 2014

Creating Culinary Chaos --- Guest Post by Anna Staniszewski


Author Anna Staniszewski is obviously a great writer --- but her talents don't quite extend to the kitchen. In this post, she explains how she used her own cooking mishaps to infuse some culinary chaos into the list of Rachel Lee --- the protagonist of THE DIRT DIARY and now THE PRANK LIST, who is usually a pastry-making whiz. 


In my writing classes, I have my students think about what their characters most value. Then I encourage them to take those things away from their characters (mwahaha) and see what happens. When I started writing the sequel to THE DIRT DIARY, I decided to take my own advice.

My protagonist, Rachel, loves to bake. So I wondered what would happen if I enrolled her in a pastry class that makes her doubt her baking skills. The instructor of the class points out every one of Rachel’s flaws and the other students seem to be having an easier time than she is. After weeks of that kind of torture, would Rachel start to question if she’s not meant to be a pastry chef, after all?

Not only were the baking class scenes in THE PRANK LIST interesting to write because they challenged Rachel emotionally, but they also gave me a chance to have some fun by exaggerating my own culinary shortcomings.

Unlike Rachel, I’m a pretty terrible cook, so every time I came up with a recipe for her to make, I thought about how it might all go wrong if I were the one in the kitchen. Suddenly, everything Rachel made became lumpy and crunchy and gross. Then I added in a sprinkle of my own kitchen klutziness and --- voila! --- I had some full-on culinary chaos.


Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. Currently, she lives outside Boston with her husband and their crazy dog. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, daydreaming, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series and the Dirt Diary series. Her newest book, THE PRANK LIST, released on July 1st from Sourcebooks. You can visit Anna at