Dec 262012
 

Nancy Hachisu makes rice bran pickles in her Japanese farmhouse. Photo by Kenji Miura. (Courtesy of Nancy Hachisu)

When I met Nancy Singleton Hachisu in Mexico in 2010, I was taken aback by the sight of another woman in her 50s at a food blogger camp.

Over our week together, more surprises came. Nancy had moved to Japan to teach English 22 years earlier, married her English conversation student —- an organic farmer, and raised their three boys in the Japanese countryside, living and working on their farm.

My head was spinning. How did a blond white woman from an upscale California neighborhood live in rural Japan with her family and mother-in-law, where there were no others like her? Plus, she spoke Japanese with ease, established an English immersion preschool near her home, and cooked traditional Japanese meals with her husband. How did she do all this with such gusto?

Fortunately, now there’s a 400-page cookbook to explain, called Japanese Farm Food. (Disclosure: I helped Nancy with the book proposal.) A hefty hardcover with a spine wrapped in indigo cloth, the cookbook features stunning photographs of Nancy’s food, family, and life on the farm and off. Personal essays make the book almost memoir-ish, but in a no-nonsense, affectionate way, not confessional or nostalgic. Simple vegetable-forward recipes are based on seasonal fresh produce from the family farm, flavored with classic ingredients such as miso, sake and soy.

Nancy began her writing career in 2008, with two magazine articles published in Japanese about Slow Food and Alice Waters. A year later, she took Stanford Continuing Studies writing classes and started a blog called Indigo Days at the encouragement of fellow writers, about Continue reading »

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Dec 182012
 

Every once and a while, I hear resentment. Someone’s to blame about why food writers aren’t paid well for their work.

Whose fault is it? Here are the three most common scapegoats:

  1. Writers who have partners who work. These writers don’t care if they make a living wage because they don’t need the money. They might not work full time or care what they’re paid.
  2. People who work full-time and write about food as a hobby. They will probably never make food writing a full-time career. And they don’t need the money because they have jobs, so they write for free or for little pay.
  3. Hobby bloggers. They write for free or little pay too, because they’re thrilled to be Continue reading »
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Oct 302012
 

My workshop earlier this month at Ba Ba Reeba in Chicago. (Photo by Anjali Pinto)

Work comes to me in the wackiest ways, and I’m grateful for all of it. Most recently, I donated a copy of Will Write for Food and an hour of consulting time to a fundraiser at Purple Asparagus in Chicago. The winner was Jasmine Huffman, marketing manager of Lettuce Entertain You (LEY), a group of 85 nationwide restaurants with corporate offices in Chicago.

Instead of taking the hour for herself, Jasmine hired me to come teach about food writing in a three-hour workshop. Class met at Cafe Ba Ba Reeba, a hot Chicago restaurant I have tried to get into and failed. We talked about food writing on Twitter and Facebook, how to connect with customers, and for our first exercise, we shot cell phone photos of food.

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Discussing cropping with VP Sue Chernoff (Photo by Anjali Pinto)

Yes, as part of my varied career, I studied photography in journalism school and was once a newspaper photographer. It was fun to run around and help people with Continue reading »

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Oct 092012
 

Eight-time Beard award winner Colman Andrews, now at the Daily Meal.

When a PR query from The Daily Meal appeared in my inbox, I jumped at the opportunity to interview the website’s accomplished editor about today’s food writing scene.

I was not disappointed. Below, you’ll see that Andrews is honest about how hard it is to be a freelance food writer, and why he feels fine about not paying for content.

I’ve been a fan of Colman Andrews since interviewing him for the first edition of Will Write for Food in 2004. Saveur magazine, which he cofounded in 1994, remains my favorite national food magazine. Andrews was its editor-in-chief from 2001 to 2006.

Now Editorial Director of The Daily Meal, Andrews has had a long career as an editor, author and writer. He’s an eight-time James Beard Award winner, most recently winning Cookbook of the Year in 2010. Here’s what he says about today’s food writing scene:

Q. You’ve done a lot of restaurant reviewing in the last few years. Is there enough work for freelance restaurant reviewers today?

A. It’s become crowd sourced. The power of Yelp reviews. There was just a study in the American Economic Journal about how a difference of half a star in a Yelp rating can make or break for a restaurant.

The issue there is whether there’s a place for a professional restaurant critic anymore. Would people rather Continue reading »

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Aug 072012
 

I coached a new book author recently who was invited to speak at a conference. After I offered congratulations, she said the conference organizers didn’t bring up money and she wasn’t sure how to ask.

I suggested she ask, “What’s your budget?” It’s polite, it puts the onus on the conference organizers, and it gives the impression that you might be flexible about the amount.

If I could only suggest one piece of advice, though, it would be something I have Continue reading »

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Jun 052012
 

I have a theory I need you to confirm. I’m thinking that the days of giving away free content are waning.

I’m talking about when a website or media person wants to repurpose a blog post or asks you for free content in exchange for “exposure” rather than cash. As a result, you’re supposed to get more traffic and prestige.

If you’re not sure what I mean, here’s a website that asks for free recipes, and here’s a website that gets bloggers to post content for free.

I’m not saying it’s wrong. It seems to make sense to provide free content when:

  • You already published the blog post and a website wants to recirculate it
  • You want to be published outside your blog to grow your platform
  • You perceive the site to be prestigious.

(Where it’s not so cool, however, is when someone Continue reading »

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May 232012
 

Mark Scarbrough (Photo by Lucy Schaeffer)

I’ve been on a career counseling jag lately. With bloggers asking me how they can “monetize” their blogs at every turn, and established food writers lamenting the lack of work, I’m looking for ways to generate income on all food writers’ behalf.

Ever wanted to become a spokesperson, to supplement your writing? Lots of food writers do it, and some have been very successful. Here’s an interview with two writers who have taken that path.

Mark Scarbrough, with partner Bruce Weinstein, has published 21 cookbooks at six publishing houses with over three-quarters of a million copies in print. They have been national spokespeople and developed recipes for The U. S. Potato Board, JIF, Smucker’s, The National Honey Board, and Bacardi. In 2010, the California Milk Advisory Board sent them on a two-week, ten-city tour to promote their book Real Food Has Curves: How to Get Off Processed Food, Lose Weight, and Love What You Eat.

Amy Sherman is a San Francisco-based writer and recipe developer. The publisher of the award-winning food blog Cooking with Amy, she has also blogged for Epicurious, Glam and writes frequently for Cheers and Gastronomica magazines. She is the author of Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Appetizers and WinePassport: Portugal. Amy has been a spokesperson three times for two brands.

1. Let’s start with a definition. What is spokesperson work?

Mark: Bruce and I consider ourselves to be spokespersons whenever we Continue reading »

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