May 302011
 

Last week at a panel on writing at BlogHer Food in Atlanta, David Leite said he never asks his partner to read his drafts.

“My husband cowers in the corner when I ask him to read something,” he confessed. He suggested people find someone else to review their writing, or just read it themselves.

“Do not give it to your partner to read,” he cautioned. “They’ll either fawn over caca or critique everything.”

I took the mic and respectfully disagreed. My husband reads almost every blog post I write. And I’m thrilled that, after 23 years of marriage, he is still willing to critique my work in a constructive manner.

It takes discipline to be just as respectful as he delivers the news, however. I’m still working on that. If I get out my annoyed voice and say, “What are you talking about? Of course readers will understand,” it doesn’t help.

Here’s what Owen reads for in a blog post:

1. Am I talking to myself? Sometimes I assume readers know, and he has no idea what I mean. In the rewrite, I back up and explain a situation or fill in a gap.

2. Is he bored? My post is exciting to me, but I notice if he’s not getting into it. While he is not my target reader, if he finds it difficult to concentrate, I figure out how to pump up the language, make the beginning snappier, or tighten the delivery. (Miraculously, he found this post riveting.)

3. Do long sentences need untangling? Sometimes he trips over them. That lets me know that I need more variety in my sentence lengths, to establish rhythm and interest.

4. Do I have typos, spelling or punctuation errors, or  extra spaces? He’s great at finding them.

I don’t ask Owen to read everything. For a cover story on food writing for the May/June Writer’s Digest (sorry, it’s only available on a newsstand), I enlisted two colleagues, both bloggers and freelance writers, to review a draft for me. I promised to read something for them in return.

Ironically, I realized recently that Owen doesn’t ask me to read his stuff (he writes product reviews for a Mac website as a hobby). When I asked him why, he said I’m too busy editing other people’s work. Sweet!

If you don’t have someone to read your work, try reading it out loud to yourself. And if you do use a partner or spouse for feedback, I’m curious to hear how, or whether, it’s worked for you.

Photo from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Share Button
May 032011
 

Think your readers will make your recipes flawlessly simply because you’ve made them more than once?

Mega-star and cookbook author Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame doesn’t, even though she has worked in the food business for more than 30 years. She still relies on an assistant and her friends when developing new recipes.

In How Easy is That?, Garten says once she’s tested a recipe repeatedly, she hands it over to longtime assistant Barbara Libath. Then she watches Libath make it.

“Every time I do that, I learn something about how someone at home, with only the printed recipe in front of them, might make the dish,” Garten writes. She’s careful not to Continue reading »

Share Button
Apr 262011
 

Are his wares "Perfect for any occasion?"

Yes, recipe writers have to make readers want to rush into the kitchen. And readers need convincing. But must we sell, sell, sell?

I found these 20 terms below in a cookbook I edited recently.

What’s wrong with them? They’re generic. They’re overused. And I feel like I’m getting a sales pitch.

I put my least favorite term (no, not delicious) first. But “Perfect for any occasion” is delicious’s equivalent in value and vagueness. What exactly does it mean? Perfect for a funeral and your kid’s lunchbox? For a wedding or an after-school snack?

I bet the guy in the photo would use this term, if he thought it would work. It’s his job to snow you. But is it your job to snow readers?

Here’s my list of 20 tired sales pitches:

  1. Perfect for any occasion
  2. Minimum of time and effort
  3. You’ll rely on these recipes day in Continue reading »
Share Button
Sep 132010
 

I’ll be in Vancouver, Penticton, San Francisco and Chicago in the next few weeks. Please come by to say hello, or consider attending a conference or event.

  • September 14, 2010
    Book Signing and Talk
    Barbara-Jo’s Books To Cooks
    Vancouver, B.C.
    6 p.m.
    $35 includes a copy of Will Write for Food
     

    I’ll be interviewed by Nathan Fong, food columnist and TV host for The Vancouver Sun and GlobalTV. 

  • September 16-19, 2010
    Okanagan Food and Wine Writers Workshop
    Penticton, British Columbia, Canada
    $650 (Still a few tickets left!)
    This workshop, held during the grape crush in B.C’s wine country, features part food and wine touring and part professional development for food and wine writers. I’m originally from B.C. and excited to be Continue reading »
Share Button
Aug 232010
 

Photo by Heather Lunan

This is the best part of being an author: when your book comes out and you have a signing at a terrific food-centric bookstore like Omnivore Books in San Francisco.

Photo by Owen Rubin

It also helps to have a great interviewer like food blogger Sean Timberlake of Hedonia, who lives in the neighborhood, to make it fun and dynamic. We talked about food blogging, mostly, but also got in a little bit about restaurant reviewing and freelance writing.

Photo by Kirstin Halgedahl

And it helps to have a good crowd. Among those who came out were food Continue reading »

Share Button
Jul 062010
 

Last year, based on the success of the film Julie & Julia, my agent persuaded my publisher that Will Write for Food needed an update. “EVERYONE who has seen the movie wants to write a food blog,” she said, “and Dianne has already been received as an expert on the subject.”

Published in in 2005, the first edition of Will Write for Food needed an update, as it did not say much about food blogs. Back when I wrote it in 2004, the print world ignored bloggers as unproven and unedited. And I had a background in print.

How things have changed in five short years. Now food bloggers are the darlings of the food writing world, and some blogs have higher readerships than national food magazines. Some bloggers have higher incomes than the executive editors of those magazines too. And then there are the blog-to-book deals, the opportunities to write for print, and all kinds of other doors that opened as bloggers blasted into international consciousness by embracing easy blogging software and appearing online immediately. Now, every print publication and most general websites have begun blogs as a way of staying relevant.

A year ago I launched this blog as a way to research my new version of Will Write for Food and to build a platform for its sales. I couldn’t say so because I didn’t want sales of the existing version of my book to come to a halt, so all this time I’ve been waiting to make this announcement.

Meanwhile,  it’s been fun learning how to blog, build an audience, figure out what resonates with readers, and become part of an enormous online community. Along the way, I interviewed the most successful food bloggers, writing a 17,000-word chapter on  food blogging (about 70 pages double spaced) that will answer your questions, inspire you, and provide resources and insider information.

In addition to the new chapter on blogging, the new edition of Will Write for Food incorporates tips on using social media as a freelancer and a blogger; updated info on book publishing, whether traditional or self-publishing; and updated info on the newer, more competitive freelancing market. There’s a foreword by the multi-talented David Lebovitz, a successful food blogger, author and freelance writer and one of the first to champion my book (and note comment from Cooking With Amy, way back then too). You’ll also find insider information based on 75 interviews with the most successful authors, writers, editors, agents (and bloggers) in our business, plus a bibliography of more than 200 books, and a resource guide of magazines and websites that take freelance writing.

I hope you’ll check it out. The new edition is 25 percent bigger, clocking in at around 100,000 words, and the price of $15.95/$20 Canada has not changed. I’ve grown to appreciate the new cover, a departure from the oh-so-journalistic typewriter keys.

My new edition should be in stores by the end of this month, or pre-order it online or at your local independent bookstore. And as soon as it’s out, I’ll be running around the US and Western Canada to appear at conferences and bookstores to promote it, so I hope you’ll come by and say hello.

Share Button