Aug 202013
 

Passive voice would mean writing something like “the melon slices, quartered figs and goat cheese are added to the salad.” Why isn’t the person doing the action identified? After all, it will be you.

In every writing class or book about writing, it says: Avoid passive voice. (Passive voice is when you don’t identify the person or thing doing the action. It’s considered lazy and imprecise, everything that recipe writing is not.)

I do my best to remove it when I edit. Yet I read dozens of published recipe instructions like this in Continue reading »

Apr 232013
 

Anthony Bourdain says he never tried to write for readers.

While paging through my copy of Kitchen Confidential recently, a quote from Anthony Bourdain struck me. Here it is, in an interview at the back of the book:

“I don’t get it. When I wrote Kitchen Confidential, my busines model was, ‘I Don’t Give a Shit,’ and I’m trying very hard to keep that as my operating business model. I never, ever think, what will they like, what do they expect, what should I do next.”

Now, I adore Bourdain’s writing. I could argue that he did give readers what they wanted: passionate, colorful stories written with fierceness and humor. Who wouldn’t like that?

But he was writing memoir, not “service writing.” That’s mostly what I do. It’s probably mostly what you do too. This type of writing tells readers how to do something, like Continue reading »

Apr 102013
 

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 best.food@perseusbooks.com 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 Continue reading »

Mar 192013
 

Should writers write for free, for exposure, or for fun? Or maybe all three? Everybody has an opinion, sometimes heated.

An argument about getting paid for online work erupted recently, when a respected journalist blogged about an Atlantic Wire editor who asked to repost a long article online for free.

What’s unbelievable is that just a few years ago, the Atlantic magazine offered him $21,000 per article for original reporting, and now they’re offering him nothing in exchange for “exposure.”

Here’s the scoop from Reuters blogger Felix Salmon:

“The exchange has particular added poignancy because it’s not so many years since Continue reading »

Feb 192013
 

The web has made us impatient about our writing. We think that if we start a blog, it should take a few months to impact thousands, or if we write a book, we should finish it within a year.

I have often wondered how long it takes to create something of lasting value. Now I have a definitive answer from the late Steve Jobs, who knows a thing or two about making an impact: It takes seven or eight years.

Here’s what he told author Brent Schlender, who interviewed him countless times: “I have been trained to think in units of time that are measured in several years. With what I’ve chosen to do with my life, you know, even a small thing takes a few years. To do anything of magnitude takes Continue reading »

Jan 152013
 


Last week, I took part in a Google+ hangout: A free 1.5-hour panel on How to Be a Better Food Blogger with

And it was a blast! This was my second public Hangout on Google+. It was a huge success, with close to 200 participants and more than 400 comments and questions about the session.

If you haven’t seen this video, I hope you’ll watch or put it on in the background while you’re cooking. Typically you’d only have access to a session like this during a conference — for which you would have paid beaucoup bucks — so please take advantage of a freebie. The panelists discuss best practices for bloggers, writing craftsmanship, structuring posts, writing killer titles, and we take lots of questions from the crowd.

I’m still learning how to use Google+, and I don’t have many followers yet. Google hopes it will eclipse Facebook and Twitter as a way of sharing information. What’s different about it is the access to free video. You appear live on a Hangout that’s automatically recorded to appear on YouTube (unless you are charging for it, and if so, you can turn off that feature), and you can invite others to join you.

While it’s fun to do free hangouts and have yet another channel to share content, I’d like to see this medium evolve as a way to make money. I know. I’m so crass. But God knows, we already have lots of opportunities to share our content for free.

Some people are already trying to making money. A pioneering group, ChefHangout, charges for cooking classes. Chef Dennis joined in September 2011, originally one of 24 chefs. To be expected, it has been slow going and some teachers have dropped out.

Dennis’ first class was almost a year ago. His most successful one so far was on paella, with seven people paying $45 each. “It took me a little over an hour to do it. Not a lot of money, but I never left home, and my wife and enjoyed a wonderful dinner afterward,” he concludes. He has another one-on-one class that lets students choose what they want to learn to make. “Those classes can go up to $150 but still are a great value for what they’re getting.”

For me, this medium comes down to video and whether there’s a way to charge for it. Are you active on Google+? If not, why not? If so, do you use it to share content, or do you think there’s a way to make money? If so, what are the possibilities? Let’s brainstorm.

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Dec 112012
 

I know. If we’re going to talk about books, you want cookbooks, preferably with luscious photography. Fine. Here are two lists of favorite cookbooks of 2012 from The Washington Post and The Kitchn.

Now that you’ve got that out of your system, we can get on with today’s post. In the past few weeks I’ve paged through and marked up six how-to books sent to me, at my request, by inquiring publishers. I’m here to report on how or whether they’ll help you improve your writing, freelancing, photography, book promotion and public speaking.

Despite reading an essay on how writers don’t need to read how-to books and attend conferences, I am a big fan of how-to books (and conferences). Whenever I read one, I find something valuable I can immediately use to improve myself. Besides, people learn and progress in different ways. Some read books and practice with exercises. Some take classes and attend workshops. And some just stumble through, learning by doing. That’s what writers always say in interviews, right? “If you want to be a writer, write.” I’ve heard it a hundred times.

Well yes. But some of us need help, encouragement and inspiration. We need to learn from people who have been there or done that. We need new skills, like how to write literary narrative, photograph food, promote books, and pitch articles. So if you’re the type who learns by reading, here’s a handful of books that came across my desk recently:

1. Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling, by Helene Dujardin of Tartlette. Shame on me for not recommending this book as soon as it came out. Dozens of luscious photographs will lure you into understanding how Dujardin works her magic, and how you can do it too. This is a full-color book full of photos that teach you how to set up a shot, find the light, diffuse it, understand non-automatic camera settings, be an effective food stylist and other subjects valuable to food bloggers.

2. Talk Up Your Book: How to Sell Your Book Through Public Speaking, Interviews, Signings, Festivals, Conferences and More, by Patricia Fry. Finally, someone had the courage to join the two topics writers dread most: promoting their books and public speaking. Fry, the author of Continue reading »