Oct 142014
 
Girl-eating-chips

Are we raising a nation of snackers?

As The New York Times reported recently, “sitting down to three square meals is going the way of the landline.” People now graze throughout the day and some 40 percent of Americans eat only snacks, not meals.

And yet, we still write cookbooks for one-pot meals and recipes for dishes meant to be consumed by more than one, sitting around a table. We still organize cookbooks by appetizers, side dishes and entrees, oblivious to this new development.

I’ve been thinking about how new cookbooks might be organized to address this trend. There would be no sections for breakfast, lunch or dinner, because Continue reading »

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Sep 102013
 

Modern-FarmerPerhaps you’re in a rut, writing for the same publication, and it’s time to branch out? Or maybe you’re comfortable blogging but you’d like to try writing for magazines?

Whatever the reason, it’s always exciting to see a new crop of magazines. Here’s a short list of what emerged recently, followed by tips on how to pitch:

  1. Alo. A Middle Eastern lifestyle and culture magazine with a food section.
  2. ACQTaste (As in “Acquired Taste”). A Canadian journal of food culture and lifestyle, focusing on chefs and restaurants, not necessarily in Canada. A recent issue focused on New York food artisans and chefs.
  3. Cherry Bombe. Here is a bi-annual magazine that celebrates women, high fashion, art and food. Issue one includes articles on food stylist Victoria Granof, pit master Continue reading »
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Jul 232013
 

Virginia Willis does a lot of jobs simultaneously to pay the bills, and because she prefers it that way. (Photo by Angie Mosier)

A guest post by Virginia Willis

A few years ago there was a great outcry when Food52’s Amanda Hesser wrote that she wouldn’t advise any one to become a food writer. At the time I disagreed, but now I find that she has a point.

To be successful as a food writer, I wear many hats. Sometimes, I do work outside food writing because I enjoy it. Sometimes that work is more lucrative. Regardless, all these hats create massive scheduling and financial challenges, but also diversity and stimulation. My small business can be feast or famine, but the jobs are tightly intertwined and I cannot imagine it any other way.

The deal is, it’s just not enough to be a food writer, even a successful one. We may not be starving artists, but very few writers are financially successful.

Here’s what I do as a food writer. It’s a lot but it’s not enough:

1. Cookbook author. My two cookbooks have received much acclaim and even some awards. Using the language of Publishers Lunch, my advances have been Continue reading »

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Jan 022013
 

When I was a magazine editor, part of my job was to design the perfect mix of feature stories that kept readers turning the pages. I would lay out maybe two trend pieces, two service guides, one how-to, a round-up, and a profile, with different lengths for variety.

These types of feature stories are formulaic, and most magazines (newspapers and websites too) rely on them. Once you understand the 10 types of features and how they work, you’ll start thinking of story ideas that fit their molds.

When pitching your feature story to an editor in an email, identify the type, so editors can envision the story. Of course, before you pitch anything, go through the magazine’s features and make sure they publish the types listed here.

It might help to subscribe to magazines you’re thinking about pitching, to ensure your story ideas have merit. So at the end of this post, I’m offering 10 free subscriptions for 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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Nov 152010
 

The most overused word in the food writer's lexicon.

While chatting with Brooke Burton of Food Woolf, she mentioned that L.A. Weekly gave her a list of words freelancing food writers are not to use. She reeled off a few from memory:

  • farm fresh
  • sustainable
  • local
  • yummy.

If I wanted to see a good list, she suggested, I could read these blog posts: Top Ten Foodie Words We Hate: Starting with Foodie, and a follow-up generated by the response to the first article, Part 2. Written by Amy Scattergood, L.A. Weekly’s food blog editor, the list of 20 words mixes fad terms like “iconic” and “mixologist” with bland, boring terms like “offering.”

Brilliant! Somehow I missed this list. I like it because it branches out  from the usual vague adjectives I’m always going on about: delicious. wonderful, and tasty. I’ll add a few more:

  • authentic: a hotly contested word, because no matter where you travel, there is never just one version of Spaghetti Bolognese or Pad Thai.
  • orbs: When tired of saying “grapes,” do not substitute “orbs.” No one talks that way.
  • toothsome: Not sure what this means. Chewy? If so, use a word we all understand.

Now it’s your turn. Which words make you cringe or see red? Do you disagree with Scattergood’s or my choices?

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Oct 122010
 

That's me, barely visible on the left, talking in the demonstration kitchen of Kendall College in Chicago. My book, Will Write for Food, came out in July and I'm still in promotion mode.

At a recent talk at a culinary school in Chicago, I told the audience of food writers about an outrageous request a company made of a food blogger, showing that food bloggers aren’t taken seriously when it comes to pay. A woman raised her hand and asked whether to omit that she is a food blogger when pitching a publication for a story.

“That depends,” I responded. “Are you already established in print?”

She said she was. And then I thought: This woman in the audience is brilliant. Because she will be taken more seriously and offered more money than if she says she is a blogger.

Signing books after the talk. That's Scott Warner on my right, program chair of the Culinary Historians of Chicago, host of my talk.

How do I know this? Print publications sometimes ask bloggers to work for free. And while many print food writers have started food blogs to stay current, saying so might Continue reading »

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