Oct 072014
 

PaulaPanichA guest post by Paula Panich

Fueled by frustration and a manuscript of unpublished culinary essays with recipes, I spent two years writing letters to agents.

Silence.

Only one wrote back with regrets: She hadn’t heard of M.F.K. Fisher.

Fit to be tied, I swore I’d never write again. Then I thought: The literary magazines! Why not make a game of getting published?

Hundreds of small magazines buzz under our radar. These publications—some print, some online, are known as literary magazines and journals. They’ve been quietly present since Continue reading »

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Sep 302014
 
John Kessler 1

John Kessler explains how he gets repeat assignments.

Freelance writers like John Kessler are rare — the kind of writer editors can count on, who  can tackle just about any story and come through at the last minute.

John is the full-time dining columnist at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. On the side, he freelances for Garden & Gun, Food Arts (recently deceased), GQ, and has written for Cooking Light and Every Day with Rachael Ray.

What does it take to be the writer editors call upon? Kessler has ideas:

Q. Do you pitch new publications or do editors come to you?

A. My best work always comes from magazines where I’ve Continue reading »

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Feb 182014
 
Bonnie Benwick

Recipe Editor Bonnie Benwick at the Washington Post is open to pitches. (Photo courtesy of Deb Lindsey.)

Bonnie Benwick, deputy food editor and recipe editor at the Washington Post, is obsessed with good recipes. She tests and edits a slew of them every week for the paper’s Food Section, and wrote the Post’s first cookbook.

She also manages a crew of 30 testers, sometimes makes dishes at home for the photo shoots, and is not above running around town to find a prop or ingredient for a dish.

We met on e-mail, when she told me she was reading my book, Will Write for Food, while on vacation! More recently she interviewed me on cooking smarter, and after discussing my rant on not specifying the amount of salt in recipes,  she wrote this feature article: ‘Salt to taste,’ taken with a grain of regret. Here are her thoughts on what makes a good recipe for the Washington Post, should you wish to pitch her:

Q. Where does the Washington Post get its recipes ?

A. It’s a mix. I choose some from new cookbooks, some come from Continue reading »

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Dec 242013
 
Carolynn-Carreno

Freelance writer and cookbook collaborator Carolynn Carreño, with her beloved dog Rufus. Do you notice that, like her advice, this photograph tells a story that is uniquely hers?

A brainy freelance writer, high-end cookbook collaborator,  and three-time James Beard journalism award nominee, Carolynn Carreño blogs  atCarolynn Carreno.wordpress.com and the Huffington Post. I tracked her down for this frank and wide-ranging interview about food writing and her own path to success: 

Q. You come across in your bio and writing as a totally food obsessed person.  Did your  writing come from that obsession?

A. Definitely. I had no intention of being a food writer. I started before blogs, and being a food writer was for stuffy old men who worked for Gourmet. I couldn’t relate to a lot of food writing because I thought it was for people who travelled and stayed at fancy hotels.

I was writing mostly for Seventeen magazine, lots of personal essays. Food started to make its way into my stories, through my family. Then I pitched a story about my dad, who had a restaurant, to Colman Andrews at Saveur. He got back to me 13 months later.  He said he was interested in Continue reading »

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Nov 262013
 
ChrisYing_2013

Lucky Peach editor-in-chief Chris Ying. (Photo by Jami Witek.)

Lucky Peach, the two-year old quarterly that has already won a Beard award, contains personal essays, taste tests, rants, recipes, photo essays, and fiction. But there the resemblance to other food magazines ends.

A recipe might be written in haiku, stories are illustrated in rock poster or tattoo parlor style, and swearing appears often. A feature article might run 20 pages. Josh Ozersky of Time magazine says Lucky Peach is “powered by the fiery ardor and violent attachments of its presiding spirit,” whatever that means.

I disliked Lucky Peach at first because of the overwhelming boy’s club atmosphere, but I do appreciate the irreverence, the new subjects, and the writing quality. So I was thrilled when Lucky Peach editor-in-chief Chris Ying agreed to be interviewed. The former publisher of McSweeney’s, Ying cooked his way through college at fine dining restaurants and Mission Chinese Food:

Q. How did Lucky Peach come about?

Lucky-Peach-Issue-1A. Dave (Chang), Peter (Meehan) and I had met a year before we started Lucky Peach. We worked together on a small project for McSweeney’s, writing about food, and we were looking for a new way to collaborate. Peter and Dave came up with a curated, single-subject user-driven TV show/ap, but we ended up collecting way too much info, so they thought, ‘What if we could also make a literary food journal?’

The app didn’t pan out, but we made the magazine, and it’s become our mainstay. Dave and Peter have been editors, developing themes, content, what to cover, and assignments.

Q. Are David Chang and Peter Meehan still involved?

A. Peter and I are basically partners. Peter is running the magazine, assigning the stories. I make more magazine-y decisions, like where things appear, what to cover, and assigning Continue reading »

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Nov 052013
 
Mark-Rotella

Mark Rotella, senior editor of Publishers Weekly, edits Cooking the Books newsletter, which includes 8 to 10 cookbook reviews.

Mark Rotella, senior editor of Publishers Weekly and editor of the Cooking the Books newsletter, hires cookbook reviewers for PW’s newsletter, which carries 8 to 10 reviews per month.

(The pay is $25, and there’s no byline. If you’re interested, see info at the bottom of this interview.)

The reviews are aimed at bookstore and library buyers, so reviewers rarely test a recipe. The cookbooks Rotella selects are mostly from big names. I spoke with him about what makes a good cookbook review and why:

Q. What is the most important question to ask yourself when approaching a new cookbook for review?

A. See if it lives up to what it purports to do.

I tell my reviewers not to review the book on what they want it to be, but whether the author or publisher has accomplished what they set out to do, and whether they do it well. I usually cut out the part where the reviewer says I would have liked it better if they did this, except when ingredients are hard to find, or when the book needed an index or resource section.

PublishersWeeklyQ. How do you do see if it delivers on its promises? 

A. You’ve got the title and subtitle. You make sure all the information is there, and you figure out what’s different about this book and why would it stand out. Flip through to see how it’s laid out and what it feels like.

Q. How important is it to read the book from cover to cover?

A. That’s a good question. I expect Continue reading »

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Oct 122013
 

YourWayMyWayMy client said she didn’t want to write for the magazine any longer. she thought  the editor had distorted her article, and she worried about what would happen in future pieces.

I listened from the other side. I was a magazine editor for years. I rewrote and reworked my writer’s stories in every issue. One guy wanted to go over every single edit, including grammatical ones. He didn’t last long. Most of the other writers just accepted my work, and they were the ones I hired over and over.

So when do you shut up and when do you say something, when an editor changes your piece in ways that make you crazy? From an editor’s standpoint, I have five suggestions:

1. Analyze the changes. Most edits are tweaks to tighten and enliven the piece, improve clarity, or to better reflect the voice of the publication. You might not like them, but you can live with them. Learn from the edits so you can do a better job next time.

2. Pick your battles. If an editor changed the meaning or emphasis of your work, or inserted inaccurate material, you have a case.

3. Be polite and thorough. In an email, make a clear argument with up to three points of disagreement. Don’t call and don’t make accusations. If you write down how you would like the sentences rephrased, it’s easier to cut and paste.

4. Accept change graciously whenever possible, and move on. This guy did not, which is what inspired me to write this post. Obviously, he had a point and an axe to grind. Don’t blast your story all over social media unless you want editors everywhere to wonder if you will be difficult.

5. Decide whether to keep writing for the editor. The freelancer I coached decided not to pitch more stories, because she felt resentful. That’s the right decision, because her attitude would come through. I have had disagreements with editors as a freelancer too, but we worked them out and continued working together. I’m not saying I’m right — maybe I just have a higher tolerance for changes, having been on the other side.

(Photo courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Thanks to Sally Prosser for alerting me to the post.)

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 Posted by on October 12, 2013 at 2:10 am