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 »

Aug 282012
 

Food memoirs are shaping up as “quests” these days, quite tidy and well organized. If you can master the form, there’s room for your story.

But first, as always, you’ll have competition from chefs, who are still writing traditional memoir. Typically, these books bore me (except for Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential). But then I read Blood, Bones & Butter, an adrenaline-fueled memoir of Gabriel Hamilton’s relentless ambition to make good food and find love. It won the Beard award for Best Writing & Literature earlier this year.

Like Bourdain, Hamilton has the writing chops to craft an exceptional story. Lest you think these two were both just chefs when penning their memoirs, The New Yorker published Bourdain’s first story, and he had Continue reading »

Mar 202012
 

Endorsements give your book credibility and can boost sales. They provide third-party validation that your book is worthwhile, and as a result they are so much more powerful than any publicity that comes directly from you.

Yet many writers are bashful about asking for them, or they ask the wrong people. Here’s how to make the most of the opportunity:

1. Think about endorsements at the proposal stage.

As a coach, I like to get the process going at the book proposal stage, even though doing so sometimes strikes fear in the writer’s heart. “How can I ask someone famous to endorse my book when I haven’t even written it yet?” they counter.

No problem. Just ask if they will agree to review your book for a possible endorsement, when it’s ready. That makes it easier to say yes, because they’re not committing to writing a positive blurb from now. And it gives your proposal more weight to have these commitments up front.

While writing my proposal for Will Write for Food I emailed cookbook author Deborah Madison (met her at the Greenbrier), restaurant reviewer Michael Bauer (I had interviewed him for my sample chapter on restaurant reviewing), and literary agent Lisa Ekus (I knew her professionally). I explained that I was writing the book and would be honored to include their names in the proposal as potential endorsers. I explained why I thought they were a good match for the book. All agreed.

Another kind of endorsement is the foreword. This is a larger commitment, where someone writes an essay inside the book, instead of a sentence or paragraph. Often publishers pay Continue reading »

Apr 042011
 

I asked former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl this very question last week, after a talk she gave at Stanford University.

Turns out that the James Beard awards, the so-called “Oscars of food writing,” launched a new humor category and nominated an anonymous tweeter called Ruth Bourdain.

This fictional character’s rain of raunchy tweets mash up Ruth Reichl and bad boy Anthony Bourdain (That’s Bourdain’s face and Reichl’s hair in the photo), often satirizing Reichl’s lyrical tweets in Bourdain’s sardonic tone. She mimics his humor, shock value and swearing.

There’s been lots of hand-wringing in the press about this nomination, because RuBo is anonymous. Also because the category is for a journalism award. I mean, are tweets journalism?

Reichl said she “loved the idea” of a humorous food writing category, and that Ruth Bourdain “wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago,” because of Twitter. Both Reichl and Bourdain are rooting for her to win. Reichl said she suspects RuthBourdain is a man. She’s dying to see whether this Continue reading »

Nov 092010
 

You know that secret smile you carry around after reading a good book? Especially one that makes you laugh and ponder the food world we love so much? I just finished Anthony Bourdain’s memoir, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food, and I’ll be smiling all day.

He’s toned down the macho swagger I staggered through 10 years ago in Kitchen Confidential, but he’s still writing about his man-filled, foul-mouthed food world. Expect brutal honesty about what constitutes exciting restaurant food, why we should cook and what, no-holds-barred opinions on selected food writers and chefs, and dirt on restaurant reviewers who suck. In this self-deprecating, thoughtful memoir, Bourdain also looks back at his life and how he got to be so lucky to be a best-selling author, dad, and world traveller with a TV show.

You can’t help but laugh out loud, and often. After consuming an elaborate tasting menu at Per Se in New York by the chef he respects most, Thomas Keller, he writes:

“But look across the seat at the woman with you. Do you really think she’s breathlessly anticipating getting back to your apartment to ride you like the Pony Express? Or do you think it far more likely that (like you) she’s counting the seconds till she can Continue reading »