Lake Forest’s Jen Lancaster chronicles year as Martha Stewart
BY LILLI KUZMA Sun-Times Media Contributor June 17, 2013 8:09PM
When: 7 p.m., Thursday
Where: Barnes & Noble, 55 Old Orchard Center, Skokie
Info: (847) 676-2230, www.jennsylvania.com
Updated: July 19, 2013 6:19AM
There are household names and then there’s Martha Stewart.
Everyone knows Martha is a domestic goddess. But it was her ability to handle her incarceration following convictions related to securities fraud that inspired best-selling author and Lake Forest resident Jen Lancaster to really “notice” how amazing this woman was.
That realization set the author off on a yearlong journey to emulate Stewart — in everything, of course — but actually earning her own stripes in modern home economics.
“Everyone expected Martha Stewart to fade into oblivion, but she was so brave and strong, and I love how she conducted herself,” said Lancaster, 45. “In my 20s and 30s, I didn’t like her, but I wasn’t doing any homemaking then. About the time Martha went to prison, my husband and I were getting serious about where and how we lived.”
It was the start of 2012, and Lancaster’s husband, Fletch, resolved to grow a beard. So Lancaster resolved to try all things Martha Stewart, from getting super-organized to making luscious butter cream frosting.
Her year of immersing herself in Stewart’s manner of “Living” became Lancaster’s newest book, “The Tao of Martha” (New American Library, $25.95), a hilarious, romp through Lancaster’s life. We visit her junk drawer (“Drawer of Shame”), kitchen, backyard and private parties as she “Martha’s up” her life, all shared with the reader via Lancaster’s distinctive humor. She also makes some serious observations and draws conclusions about the experience, hence the “Tao” of her Martha.
“I discovered that there is a method to her madness, a backbone, and that it’s good to be able to do things yourself,” said Lancaster. “This made me really think beyond myself — in being organized, in being able to create things, to be more tuned in to other people’s needs. I made meals for a sick friend, to freeze and use when she needed. And [this process] got back a part of myself. This was the greatest year of my husband’s life. He works for me, and it made me happy to make things he loved.
“This is a very personal book, something I always strive for, and it’s a return to my being more raw and uninhibited.”
Which means it’s a return to the style Lancaster’s fans enjoy most.
“I’m absolutely influenced by my fans,” she said. Via Facebook interaction about her novel “If You Were Here,” she explained, she’d discovered that her fans were unhappy “because [that novel] was off format and it confused them.”
So “The Tao of Martha” is a return to what fans want in your writing?
“Absolutely,” she said. “And so is my next novel, ‘Twisted Sister,’ which is about sibling rivalry and reality TV.”
The “Tao of Martha” book jacket cover photo is also typical Lancaster. The photo shows her in a white kitchen, wearing an apron over her pink blouse and pearls, head tilted in the same manner as Martha in the framed photo behind her, but looking very non-Martha as she decorates a lopsided layer cake.
“They put the apron on me, and I stuck my hands in the frosting and wiped it across the front.” Lancaster explained. “Someone tossed sprinkles on the frosting.”