Cari Wyman, 24, has the elegant title of Director of Food Design and Development at one of New York's newest restaurants, Healthworks! (She's also a partner.) An avid cook since her teens, Cari studied art and illustration at the Parsons School of Design and then went to work as a saleswoman for a lingerie manufacturer. "We used to order lunch from the deli around the corner," she recalls. "The food was horrible! We threw half of it out." She started bringing plastic bags of ingredients for salads and, with everyone sampling her lunch, Cari became unofficial salad maker for the office. In the meantime the president of her company was planning Health-works!, where salads would be the specialty. Invited to audition for the job of salad maker, Cari prepared 10 samples and was hired. She insists that her salads have to look as good as they taste. Her five staffers carefully wash and cut the vegetables and fruits before she and a chef assemble the daily menu of five choices—such as Fruitworks, turkey Bombay, whole wheat pilaf, salami Odyssey and Atlantis shrimp.

Garrett Epps, 27, wrote his first novel in a Roanoke, Va. shack with no stove or indoor toilet. Chickens next door woke him at 6:30 every morning and he would stare at the ceiling and think, "If I don't finish my book, I'll be living like this the rest of my life." With that motivation, Epps, a former editor of the Harvard Crimson, has now published The Shad Treatment, which is about Southern politics. The novel was chosen as an alternate by the Book-of-the-Month Club. Epps, the son of a Richmond attorney, worked on two local newspapers before quitting to spend two and a half years on his book. "As a reporter I saw how blacks, the poor and outsiders were not given their full democratic rights," says Epps. "In my development of 'Mac' [the main character], I wanted to show how painful it is to be on the wrong side of a very powerful and intolerant social structure." Though some Richmond citizens think they recognize the novel's characters, Epps says, "Southern people accept what you do and don't take it personally. They simply say, 'Well, that's ole Garrett, and that's his way.' "