Food Writer in Residence Claire Tansey's Tips and Tricks on Food Writing
Our Writer in Residence, Claire Tansey, shares her tips and tricks for food writers looking to get published.
Being a food writer is like being any kind of writer, your subject matter is just different. People who love to eat, cook, read, think and investigate food will never be short of ideas.
If you are interested in becoming a food writer or advancing your food writing, submit your manuscripts by June 7, 2019 and get specific one-on-one edit and feedback as well as suggestions on how and where to pitch your writing.
Here are some more tips and tricks:
Getting published as a food writer
These days, any potential publisher will first look at your online presence, as well as any other writing you have done (from published works to blogs and Instagram). So blog and post like you mean it! Use every post as an opportunity to write something good, edit it into something great, and engage with your audience to gauge their interests. You can also write a long post (Facebook or Instagram) like an article, then boost it (paid) to get more engagement and response.
Find someone who can take a look at your writing for editing and feedback. A good edit can be the difference between getting published often and never getting a callback.
Look everywhere for opportunities to publish: free neighbourhood newspapers; grocery store flyers; and online community pages are just some of the non-traditional places you can get published and start building a portfolio. Offer to write for free at first.
Pitch, pitch and then keep pitching. Do your research, put together a compelling pitch, and follow up. No gig is too small when you're just starting out.
Honing your craft
Great food writers are great writers first and foremost - in fact, they often write about other subjects as well! Stephen King says to be a writer you just need to write every day and read every day. To develop your craft as a writer, sit down for a set period of time every day and write. This can be half an hour or five hours, but it's critical to do it every day to train your writing brain.
As well, read widely, not just food writing but all types of writing.
What is food writing?
There are four basic types of food writing: restaurant reviews; recipes; blogs and social media; and food memoir and other prose.
Restaurant reviews are the first type of food writing that usually comes to mind. The writer eats at a restaurant, one or more times, then writes a review of the food and service. Some reviews use star systems, although that differs between publications.
Typically we see restaurant reviews in city newspapers and magazines, although some national publications include reviews from major cities (for example, The Globe and Mail occasionally runs reviews of Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver restaurants).
One of the pros of being a restaurant reviewer is that you get to eat out all the time. But this can get tedious, since you spend most of your evenings working. As well, it can be difficult to come up with new ways of saying a restaurant is mediocre.
Recipes are another common form of food writing. Recipes explain how to make a dish step by step. They often include an introduction or headnote which explains the recipe's origins, describes tips on making the recipe or entices the reader with a juicy description of the finished dish. We see recipes in cookbooks and magazines, newspapers and advertising flyers, as well as online.
Recipe writing usually requires deep food knowledge, culinary training as well as time in the kitchen for development and testing. There are international standards and expectations for how recipes are written, and it's critical to write the recipe in a way that makes the instructions clear to the reader. A great recipe is a combination of precise technical writing (for the ingredients and steps) and a compelling introduction.
Blogs and social media
Blogs and social media are another great platform for food writing. Anyone can get published by starting a blog or posting on social media. Both are creative and personal and can be the perfect way to practise writing and hone your voice while sharing your ideas and opinions. They are also a great way to engage directly with an audience.
It's important to note that content posted on social media is not owned by the writer and so, in theory, can disappear anytime, while blogs are owned and controlled by the writer.
Food memoir and other prose
The category of food memoir and other prose catches everything else in the food writing world. Memoirs are essays using food as a lens through which to view history (personal or otherwise). They can also be essays about a dish's or cuisine's history, or any prose-form essay about a food topic.
We see this kind of food writing in all kinds of publications, from magazines and newspapers to books and TV.
Stephen King, On Writing.
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird.
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic.
William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style.
Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking.
Ruth Reichl, Tender at the Bone.
Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, The Flavor Bible.
Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking.
The New York Times Food section.