Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Gig in Poor Taste (the Web Magazine)

My first post for Poor Taste (feeding the underbelly) is up -- an exploration of the Oakland (CA) taco trucks.  You can see an archives of my posts and bio here.

It's a fairly new website that has national as well as regional stories.  I was excited to be asked to participate since I was worried that my blog and other freelance food writing was beginning to skew "too Jewish," and I didn't want to lose that multi-ethnic, global vibe, so I am focusing my (approximately) once a month posts on more world food and regional tastes.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Updated Food Writing Advice

Dianne Jacob, author of Will Write for Food, has a second edition out now.
Read some of her tips for aspiring and even established food writers at my main blog, Blog Appetit.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Checking In and Learning to Listen

In July it will be a year since I began my twice a month cooking column for the j. weekly, a San Francisco Bay Area Jewish newsweekly. It has been a learning curve. For example, I kept providing more recipes and content than they could use, thinking that the extra was somehow a bonus for the publication. Instead, I frustrated my editors who never gave me the extra space and were getting tired of having to edit out 300-500 words each column. I finally listened to what the editors were asking for and now regularly come in at abut 570 words including 1 to 3 recipes, which has really sharpened my ability to tell the story and give directions in a minimum of words. I often repost the columns on my own blog where I can tell the story (or give the back story) with however many words I want.

Another lesson learned is that I choose story ideas as if I was the only person covering Jewish food in the Bay area on staff. I'm not, and that's not even my primary assignment -- it is to provide recipes that tie into seasons, events, Jewish life cycle, holidays and or special sections. After one overlap that resulted in a lead rewrite I didn't care for, I learned to ask about what others on staff might be doing on any "news" related food content and adjust my story angle appropriately.

I also try to listen to what commenters (my columns are posted on line) and readers are really saying about the kinds of recipes I'm providing in terms of what they liked and didn't like.

Also, since the column runs with a photo of me, I'm sometimes recognized in supermarkets and told how much my readers enjoy the column, given requests for recipes or taken to task for recipes that didn't interest them or failed. I try to keep this very real audience in mind, but I find I also need to listen to someone else, me. I have a strong vision of what kind of recipes and information I want to feature and while not every column can reflect this, I strive to do so as much as possible. I think it is having this clear idea of what my voice is and what my content should be that has made my column successful and led one editor to email me recently: "you know how happy we are with your columns."

I had assumed so, but it is so nice to see it in words. To me that's like a big thank you for listening.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wishes Do Come True

I have been thinking of myself as a food writer for quite some time now, thanks to the power of visualization, my blog and other website writing, my acceptance as one by others and of course my two publishing jobs (see previous posts).

But now, I really feel like I've made it happen. I am paid now to write two cooking columns a month for the j. Being a news hound from way back, there is such a thrill to being able to see my work in an actual newspaper (ah, the power of print) with a circulation figure I can quote (um, 48,000 a week since you asked).


Monday, January 05, 2009

A New Year -- New Resolutions

Well, I have been trying to visualize myself as a food writer. I can see it, I just can't seem to make time for it!

Here's what I'd like to be able to look back on in 2010:

Two published articles in local or other publications
Increased writing on the web (averaging 2 posts a month other than on my own blogs)
Increase visibility of blog (how to quantitatively measure that to come)
Outline of non-fiction food book or series
Outline of my single subject cookbook
Become more of a go-to resource person for food organizations, food and other publications and others seeking info on areas I have expertise. (unsure how to quantify or if its needs quantification)
Continue and expand pro bono and volunteer role in hunger and other non-profit food-related efforts (? quantify?)

Here's the steps I will be taking in 2009 to see if I can't make it happen:

1. Follow up on leads for writing cookbook reviews.
2. Pick one or two local publications and do informational interviews aimed at discovering some potential story ideas to pitch.
3. Revamp my biggest marketing tool, Blog Appetit to update look, refocus content and to attract more regular readers. (FYI -- my page view count is well over 100,000 now, which is very gratifying.)
4. Put together my notes for my single-subject cookbook idea into a series of articles or posts to start shaping the cookbook proposal
5. To begin research on my non-fiction food-oriented book idea and break it down into manageable segments that I can write as blog posts, articles, etc.
6. To continue writing my monthly food column for Temple Beth Abraham on Jewish or related themes.
7. To continue writing for the Well Fed Network.
8. Contact those I have written for before to stay in touch and inquire about future projects.
9. Look for ways to connect with other food and food writing professionals.
10. Maintain ties to SF Food Bank, Oakland Asian Cultural Center and other non-profit groups and participate in on-line and other events.

That's a lot, I know, but I plan on focusing down on just a few of those at a time.

Here's some of the ways I plan to make some of these items happen:

1. Schedule time every day for writing and or research (30 minutes a day)
2. Schedule time every day for strengthening my blog and ties to the blogging and the food/food writing community (10 minutes a day)
3. Spend a half hour a week brainstorming and working on non-profit ideas/connections
4. Prioritize the above goals and write out a weekly list of what I want to do/need to do in my scheduled times as a reflection of that.
5. Keep a written record of the time spent, where spent, results, etc.

Well, that's it for now. As if that's not enough. I'd love to know any tricks or trips or "to-do" lists you might have about writing, food writing or just organizing your life.

Friday, April 11, 2008

What now?

After the heady experience of the Olive article and the Business of Food publication, I feel empty because the "pipeline" is empty. I miss having something on the horizon. In many ways both of these opportunities fell into my lap, now I need to build on them.

I have some ideas based on my trip to China, maybe I can work up some proposals and find time to follow up and through. (You can read more about my trip to China at Blog Appetit.)

I do want to go ahead with larger projects, too. But, sigh, time only seems to get away from me. I know I need to be more discplined.

I am writing a monthly food column for my congregation. You can read the latest month at the synagogue's website.

I am still writing (a little more sporadically than before) for Well Fed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I'm in a Magazine -- Read All About It

A few months ago a reader of my main blog, Blog Appetit, left me a comment to get in touch. She enjoyed my blog and wondered if I would like to write for a British food magazine. The result is in this month's issue of Olive Magazine, a food magazine published by the BBC.

Olive is available in the U.S., and it is one of my favorite reads, especially for its food travel articles. You can read more about my affection for British food magazines here. You can find Olive in the magazine sections of some larger chain and independent book stores.

The above is a photograph of the pdf I was sent. I participated in a series called "Eat Like a Local" and contributed the write up of my memories of cioppino, the recipe and and photos of the dish and San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. (My son took the photo of me buying the crab.) My article appears on page 111 of the January 2008 issue. (The January issue should still be available here in the States, although the website now features the February issue.)

It was a learning experience having to convert recipe measurements to metric and required some retesting to make sure everything would turn out okay. There were just a few minor word and recipe changes, for example the quantity of the chopped fennel fronds. I had specified 1 tsp. Olive's version advised readers to reserve the all fronds from the fennel and use them without giving a measurement. I'm hoping fennel is sold with very little frond attached in Great Britain!

It was also a learning experience to develop the recipe, writing and photos and send them off and not have final control over them. Everything had to be clear without being in the context of a personal blog. I had some severe word limitations, even for the recipe, and worked hard to make it all work within that context.

Many bloggers have that day dream of someone reading their posts and offering them a chance to write for a wider audience. Mine came true thanks to Olive Magazine.

Olive does not have a link to my recipe, however my Provencal Fish Soup offers some of the same tastes.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Diagnosis is In

Re the below, it was lust.
I'm back to working on my original ideas and am committing to developing a new recipe every week for it. So far I have one keeper and one toss, but it is a more organized approach than I've been taking.

I'm still in love with my other idea, I'm just not IN LOVE, if you know what I mean.

I am also anxiously awaiting my magazine article.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Plans for the New Year and Is it Lust or Love?

Do you have a lot of "intellectual curiosity?" I know I do.

So I get pulled this way and that.

This would be interesting to write about. No, this. No, do both.

I feel like I need to focus in and try to keep focused on one project or area until it is really on track, then I can get other ideas and concepts going.

To do this and to stick to it, I think you need passion for the topic.

But passion for a topic is somewhat like the lust you feel for someone you've just started dating. You really, really like him (or her), but is it lust, infatuation or will it turn into true love? Only time will tell.

And that's my problem. I am resistant to spending time researching, cogitating and thinking only to realize I need to start over, move on and pick myself up and start all over again. Maybe it is my journalism training where you get an assignment, do it, print it and move on to the next one.

Anyway, this is just a long way around saying I had a spark. Will it be an happily ever romance or a one night stand? Don't know, but stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I'm Published!

There was a surprise by my doorstep yesterday -- my very own copy of Greenwood Press' spanking new reference book The Business of Food.

I was one of many contributors to this encyclopedia to the food and drink industries. I wrote entries on pickles, Tabasco sauce, diners, cooking schools, Frieda's Produce, Trader Joe's, cafeterias, diet foods and the business of food on the web. The choice of topics was based on what was still available when I joined the project and my own rather wide range of interest. In all I estimate I wrote about 10,000 -- 12,000 words. (Actually, I probably wrote more than that. All the first drafts of all the entries were longer than their allotted word counts and had to be edited down, sometimes drastically.)

It was a great experience starting with the research, which I truly enjoyed; walking around with the different themes, organizational approaches and the like percolating in my head, coming to clarity to what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it to this particular audience, and then finally the writing, which was an involving and rewarding process.

One very pleasant surprise to me was the author of the foreword -- Marion Nestle, the author of Food Politics and What to Eat. (She is also a professor at my alma mater, New York University.)

My thanks to the publisher and to the book's editors, Gary Allen and Ken Albala, for including me in the project. Gary is a professor at State University College of New York, Empire State College. He is also the author the Resource Guide for Food Writers, among other books. Ken is a professor in food history at the University of Pacific. He has written and edited many books. His newest is Beans: A History.
Photo Credit: Greenwood Press

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Real Gig

Well, they always say do what you love ... I love to write. Taking photos is nice, too, but even when I am being visual I have some sort of narrative.

So anyway, one day a comment shows up on my blog to get in touch with an editor and I do and she really likes how I write and could I please take on this assignment, even though it had a very quick turnaround time. I could and I did and now I am nervously awaiting feedback from a real magazine editor. When I can provide more details I will, but I am just so jazzed.

I've been keeping the writing chops busy with my food blog, some of the Well Fed sites and some "volunteer" food writing for my congregational newsletter. It's hard to make time with my day job and family to really do freelance writing so I am so grateful for my lucky break.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Contacts Lead to Contract

Well I was up for a gig I didn't get (not enough credentials), but I kept in touch and ended up getting a contract for a much smaller job. That's okay, even though my hourly rate ends up being about a $1 by the time you factor in the research, writing and editing. It is the proverbial "foot in the door" and it means I'm a paid food writer.

Friday, May 05, 2006

I Told You So

Yep, I kept my promise.
I sent out a few queries and sent off for some writer's guidelines from different publications. I'm not losing the big mo this time!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Not the Grand Prize Winner

Can you guess who was eliminated today from "Who Will Be the Next Cookbook Author" challenge?
I made it through the prelims, but didn't go the distance for a lack of academic credentials. I know I could have done the research and thought I could provide a compelling, engaging and marketable book that would have presented fresh insights in an engaging way.
Oh well.
The effort was worth it. I am revved up and ready to go.
I will not lose this momentum. I will not lose this momentum.
Perhaps this clear sense of direction is my consolation prize.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Overdue Fines

Overdue update -- really working hard on Blog Appetit and now contributing to Sugar Savvy . I can feel my confidence level rise. I still haven't sent in that query email, but I feel like I might. I also have a lot of blog-related story ideas that maybe might be a go. But will I let timing and fear of taking on more than I can handle hold me back? Tune in for further updates.