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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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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Sep 042013
 

Just thought I’d get your attention. These are pastries from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.

A while ago I decided to start sharing links from my quarterly newsletter.

The post was so successful, ricocheting around Twitter and Facebook, that I’ve decided to post a list after each newsletter comes out.

So, in the meantime, sign up for the Will Write for Food newsletter. You’ll get only four emails per year, with the next one at the end of September. It’s filled with useful info for food 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 112011
 

Associated Press Food Editor JM (Jason) Hirsch.

Many publications and media companies subscribe to the Associated Press (AP), which sends them food stories.

AP produces stories that appear in thousands of newspapers and the websites of television stations, new media companies, and radio stations. J.M. (Jason) Hirsch is the company’s food editor. And the good news is that he assigns food stories regularly to freelance writers.

Hirsch is no slouch himself when it comes to writing about food, having authored High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking and writing the occasional feature for AP. He’s also the author of two blogs: Lunchbox Blues, documenting the meal he makes each day for his 7-year old son; and Off the Beaten Aisle, a blog for the Food Network that he writes as part of his job at AP.

I interviewed Hirsch about his job and opportunities for freelance writers at AP:

Q. How did you become AP’s Food Editor?

A. I was a reporter specializing in crime and juvenile issues. I loved to cook and began taking an interest in food writing. I started doing a column on vegetarian food. Then AP decided food was a big issue around 2000, and it became time for a dedicated food writer. I was given a lot of freedom to pursue great stories, and food became a bigger beat.

When my predecessor retired seven years ago, I was asked to take over as the food editor. Now I have writers across the country who cover food.

Q. What are you in charge of producing each week?

A. We produce a weekly package of stories that covers all facets of food, plus Continue reading »

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Sep 272011
 

Prolific food writer Melissa Clark writes cookbooks, freelance articles and columns, and a blog.

If you looked up the opposite of “slacker,” you’d see Melissa Clark‘s name highlighted in bold.

The prolific freelancer writes weekly recipes for the New York Times and Gilt Taste, among other freelance gigs. She has also written 32 cookbooks. Many are collaborations with chefs including Daniel Boulud, David Bouley, and White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses. Her latest cookbook, out in October, is Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make.

Oh, and in her copious spare time, she takes care of her young daughter and writes a blog.

In an interview, she spoke about her career as a food writer, including advice for those who want to be as successful:

Q. You’d been working as a cook and a caterer in New York. What made you want to become a food writer?

A. I always wanted to be a food writer. I started a catering business when I was in grad school. Food was in everything I wrote. It was my metaphor. This was the 1990s. People knew of restaurant critics and cookbooks writers, but food writing wasn’t a viable career. I felt like I was on an uncharted path.

Q. Is a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in writing a good way to learn about freelance writing and cookbook collaboration? Would you recommend it?

A. No. It’s a good way to find your voice as a writer. People don’t think about that. It’s just as important.

Q. As a freelancer, don’t you have to write the voice of the publication?

A. If you don’t even know who you are and what your voice is, it’s really hard to figure out how to make your voice fit into other molds. Voice has to have a point of view, the perspective that the piece is coming from.

It’s really good to know how to write in different perspectives (first person, second person, third person). You learn all different perspectives when you get an MFA.

I recommend that people take writing classes. It helps stretch you as a writer. It’s really good to challenge yourself.

Q. What was your first big break as a freelance writer?

A. I wrote for websites about food, including once a month for Hearst magazines. I wrote tons of content for Cuisinenet. They paid me real money. I could support myself if I catered on the side.

I also developed recipes for IMP, which put out recipe cards that went out in the mail, where they asked people to Continue reading »

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Aug 232011
 

Freelancer Cheryl Sternman Rule. She's learned how to throw darts that hit the target. (Photo by Paulette Philpot)

When I was a magazine editor, I wondered why freelance writers couldn’t figure out what I wanted. I rejected 95 percent of pitches.

Now that I’m on the other side, I see how difficult it is when you’re an independent writer, on the outside looking in.

At the recent Book Passage conference on Travel, Photography and Food Writing, food writer Cheryl Sternman Rule spoke about why pitching to publications is such an anxiety-producing process. What she said resonated with me, so I asked her to share it:

“As a freelancer since 2004, I’ve spent years both pitching and avoiding pitching,” explains Cheryl. “For me, pitching seems like a dark art. There’s black magic about it that often makes me feel like I’m throwing darts in the dark.

“Editors have editorial calendars, or ideas in their heads for what they’d like to cover. We writers are not often privy to this information. So we shoot story ideas out like darts and hope they’ll hit some mysterious, shrouded target. It’s a tough game to play, psychologically.”

That’s exactly right. You keep throwing until you strike the target, even when you get no feedback. You need a thick skin to be a freelance writer, not to mention an ability to see in the dark.

Meanwhile, Cheryl Continue reading »

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