On Friday I took delivery of the printed copies of my first book ‘SwitchBitch: My Journey of Transformation from Sour to Sweet!’, a reprint and edited version of the book I launched in December. Last week ‘SwitchBitch’ was listed on Amazon as an eBook, with encouraging first sales.

It almost feels unbelievable to me that I only wrote the first words of ‘SwitchBitch’ six months ago, a learning curve for me as a virgin book writer. I have written close to 4000 Blogposts in the past ten years, but this was a whole new ballpark.

‘SwitchBitch’ tells the story of my physical transformation, losing 45kg in a period of a year, over an 18-month relationship with Graham Goble, leading to me being able to wear dresses again for the first time in almost thirty years, and in reducing from a clothing size of XXL/24 to Small/12. It also brought my Diabetes Type 2 back under control, my blood sugar level stable now at the normal level of between 5 – 6. My shoe size has reduced, due to no longer retaining water in my feet. Part of the physical transformation has been due to dancing to DJ René Tanguy on Sundays at La Parada Constantia Nek, as well as at the sister Bree Street branch on Friday evenings. 

‘SwitchBitch’ also documents my first steps of a Spiritual Transformation, from the proverbial ‘Bitch’ due to my honest and sometimes harsh restaurant reviews as well as my staff and supplier management relationships, to a kinder and softer as well as more feminine Chrissy.  I made peace with my mother in a Magic Mushroom ceremony, and very recently with my two sisters too. I  attended Silent Retreats, and I discovered my Self-Love in ending my relationship with Graham, a week before I left for Apricale, where I wrote ‘SwitchBitch’ in three weeks. It was the first time that I ended a relationship, and it still feels good. I did not slide back into the Black Hole of depression, as I had done for twenty years when my son’s father left us. 

I also have created a section for an autobiography, dedicated to my son, so that he should learn more about our German background, my life in growing up in Wellington, and about my relationship with his late father. My mother and her sister both suffered from Alzheimer’s, and we are sorry that we did not manage to document my mother’s life story, before it was too late, especially as she had so much family history in her head. My father had luckily written his memoir, at the age of 83 years. 

Part 3 of ‘SwitchBitch’ contains restaurant reviews over the 18 month relationship period with Graham, not all eating occasions shared with him. The reviews of World’s 50 Best Restaurants I ate at in New York, in London, in Paris, and in Menton in July 2016 and February 2017 are included, as are the other Michelin Star restaurants I ate at in New York, in Wales, and in Munich.  Local restaurant reviews include Pierino Penati, The Pot Luck Club, The Shortmarket Club, SOURCE in Hermanus, Four Cousins in Robertson, Karoux in McGregor, and of course the infamous Spek & Bone owned by Chef Bertus Bully Basson! The list of restaurants from which I am banned is included in ‘SwitchBitch’.

A highlight of my eating career has been my discovering JAN restaurant in Nice, the best South African restaurant in the world. Its owner Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen (left) and I first met in June 2015, when I flew to Nice especially to have lunch at the restaurant, then holding two Michelin knives and forks, a precursor to a Michelin Star rating. The first Michelin Star was bestowed upon the restaurant in February 2016, and has been awarded again in 2017, and at the beginning of this month. I have been fortunate to eat at JAN a further two times in 2017. Chef Jan-Hendrik has been at the centre of my transformation, unknowingly, in that I met Graham at the launch of his second book in March 2016. Chef Jan-Hendrik also introduced me to Apricale, his favorite relaxation place in Italy, and to the Apricus Locanda B&B, where I stayed for five days in 2015, and then for three weeks last year, to write SwitchBitch. It was the perfect location to write ‘SwitchBitch’, with lovely August summer weather, a pool to refresh in, and no shopping or eating distractions. 

In the process of writing and self-publishing ‘SwitchBitch’ I have learnt so much about myself and about book publishing:

#. Given that I can write Blogposts of up to around 2000 words, this was the length of a chapter. Given that I write Blogposts almost every day, I could write 20 chapters over 20 days, being disciplined in staying ‘home’ and writing my daily chapter. That was the sum total of the book, easily achieved with the structure of a Content list, which I had set up before leaving. Then I was allowed to swim in and tan at the pool. I feared that I could get bored with writing, but it never happened. 

#. So much became clear to me about Graham during the writing process, and how he had used me for financial gain during our relationship, extracted from me in the most charming but dishonest manner. 

#.  I was not disciplined in doing the edit of ‘SwitchBitch’ straight after returning back home, seeing the procrastinator in me. This held up the book completion. I had ‘writer’s block’ in not getting the final book title, having a number of different options, but none being perfect. I’m not sure how ‘SwitchBitch’ came to me, but it was special friend Stuart Bailey (right) who suggested the ’Sour to Sweet’ description of the transformation, but extending beyond this to cover restaurant reviews too. 

#. It was Stuart too who nudged me as to the completion date of ‘SwitchBitch’, in response to which I set the launch date as 20 December last year, coinciding with my birthday, and I hosted an 18th (my new age) birthday and book launch dinner. 

#.  One definitely needs to have other eyes look at one’s book, and provide honest feedback. It was Stuart who suggested that I create a Part 3 for the restaurant reviews, which I had previously chronologically interspersed with the Graham story, which interrupted  the story flow, he said. The type size had to be enlarged, I was advised, I too struggling with it during the proofreading. Long-time friend Jenny Stephens suggested that I add photographs to the book, the empty left hand pages at the beginning of chapters being a perfect place in which to add them. 

#. I was lucky to have been recommended to Tandym Print for the professional and less costly printing of the book, compared to Wizardz, which I used for the first print run, and the book grew from 267 pages initially to 488 pages. The company specializes in Print on Demand, allowing one to print additional copies at minimal additional cost per copy. 

#.  Tandym Print’s Mike White recommended me to Barbara Müller of New Voices Publishing Services, who held my hand as she does for self-publishing book writers. She increased the type size, used the same typeface throughout, redesigned the front and back cover, allocated the ISBN number, created a bar code at the back of the book for sales purposes, and assisted me in listing ‘SwitchBitch’ on Amazon. 

#. I learnt about copyright, in using a photograph of an Angel painting I own by Hannetjie de Clercq, and she kindly gave me permission to use it for the front cover. 

Last, but not least, I feel tremendous pride in having written and published my first book, planned as one of a Trilogy, with ’SwitchBitch’ 2 covering the Camino, which I am walking in May/June. I am traveling to Apricale straight after, to write the book. ‘SwitchBitch’ 3 will cover learning to dance the Salsa in Havana, and the Tango in Buenos Aires, in October/November this year. I am grateful for all the support and love which I have received on this journey. 🙏

SwitchBitch: My journey of transformation from Sour to Sweet!’. R200. Available on Amazon.com, or by emailing me at chrisvonulmenstein@gmail.com Half of the proceeds of the book sales goes to StreetSmart, a restaurant-funded charity to uplift street children. 

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein