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