Get Out Your Best Food Writing and Apply

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You’ve thought about entering. You mean to apply. But somehow the deadline goes by and you haven’t sent in your best stuff.

This year will be different, because I’m giving you lots of notice. The deadline to send your best pieces of writing to The Best Food Writing anthology for 2013 is May 1, 2013. Your writing must have been published between June 1, 2012, and May 31, 2013. (If your piece will appear after May 1, email editor Holly Hughes, at to warn her it’s coming.)

So think about it. Sift through your work to see what stands out and what has relevance for a wide audience. Hughes considers book excerpts, articles and blog posts. She has published The Best Food Writing collection since 2000, and it’s now a prestigious place to be recognized.

To get an idea of what Hughes likes, read the stories published in previous editions. Doing so always gives me a thrill. I recognize names of friends and colleagues and enjoy the mix of famous and new writers. There’s variety in these well-written stories, so you’ll never be bored. You’ll find a piece on Spam, one on truffle hunting, and another on Chinese take-out, to name just a few.

As the sole judge, Hughes worked as a travel book writer and editor at Fodor’s and Frommer’s, and before that wrote educational materials for high school English classes. She’s also been a judge for the James Beard Awards. I asked her about the submission process:

Q. What do you look for?

A. Pieces must be well-written, which also means perfectly spelled, grammatical, and copy-edited. That’s not always easy for bloggers who don’t have the luxury of a copy editor. I look for pieces with a clear beginning, middle, and end. I also look for pieces with some relevance beyond a single recipe or restaurant dinner. Local is good, but only if it can be meaningful to a wider audience as well. I definitely am looking for an engaging voice and clear point of view. There should be some human interest beyond just food and cooking technique. The most important criteria: the piece should make me hungry.

Q. What’s the best way to submit?

A. I actually prefer electronic submissions, although I will take hard copies if that’s all a writer has. The mailing address is Best Food Writing, c/o DaCapo Press, 44 Farnsworth St., Boston MA 02210. It’s best to send the actual book if you’re submitting a book for me to choose an excerpt.

Q. Do you charge a fee?

A. There’s no fee to submit, and I don’t mind getting two or even three different pieces from a writer. Since I organize the book into various categories, it sometimes helps to have options.

Q. Are blog posts as eligible as traditionally-published pieces?

A. Blog posts are certainly taken seriously. The only problem is that they’re often shorter than full-fledged magazine articles, and we do try to have pieces of at least 1,000 words.

To get around that, bloggers could submit two or three blog posts connected by a common thread (similarly, we’ve occasionally combined a couple of short newspaper columns into one piece). Cookbook essays qualify, as well as headnotes — although a 1,000-word headnote might overpower its recipe!

Q. Anything else applicants should know?

A. The piece will be reprinted without photos or illustrations. Many blogs depend on their photography to tell half the story; it helps to print out a plain text copy and read it without photos to make sure it still has the requisite impact.

So there you have it. Now I hope you’ll get going and find at least one piece that will delight her.

To enter, email Holly Hughes at An attachment in Word or a PDF is fine. Entries are open to writers outside the US. The snail mail address is listed above.

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P.S. The International Association of Culinary Professionals announced its cookbook award winners last night. Congrats to all the winners and nominees, who included former students and clients Jun Belen, Nancy Singleton Hashisu, and Michael Procopio. I was an editor for The Back in the Swing Cookbook, which won Best Health and Special Diet book.


  1. Susan Cooper says

    This is way cool. I’m not sure I have anything that would/could stand out in the food side of my blog but I’ll certainly take a look. Thanks for this. It gives me some thoughts about what else may be out there. :)

    • diannejacob says

      You are most welcome. The publisher says they’re already getting an uptick in submissions as a result of this post, so I hope you’ll join in.

  2. says

    Thank you Dianne for the timely nudge. Of course, I’ve read the books but never knew if it was self-nominated or referred. Going to take the leap and send some of my immigrants’ food stories from Oakland Magazine. Cross your fingers.

  3. says

    I love this series of books ~ I’ve discovered terrific writers through the stories in each year’s volume. Thanks for the encouragement, I think I’ll just have to send a story in!

    • diannejacob says

      Sorry, no. I don’t think this is unusual for anthologies of previously published work. If you were to write something new for a collection, that would be different.

  4. says

    Thanks for the information. I am fairly new at food writing and have not yet submitted my work anywhere. I have a culinary story I would like to share and will submit it and roll with the punches. Do submissions need a cover letter?

    • diannejacob says

      Your work needs to be published before it can be submitted. If so, she did not mention a cover letter, but it couldn’t hurt.


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